Archive for November 15, 2010

the difference between words: look, seem, sound, feel


In English, we often use the words “look”, “seem”, “sound” and “feel” to describe our feelings about certain situations, but sometimes it is confusing as to which is the appropriate one to use in each situation. That’s what I’d like to write about today.

Let’s start with the easiest one: “look”. We use “look” when talking about something that we can physically see with our eyes. For example:

I saw a picture of Bill’s new house. It looks really nice.

This looks like a really expensive restaurant. I think we should go to another place.

We use “seem” when talking about a situation that we have experienced for a very short time and we want to give our impression of it. For example:

I only talked to the new manager for a couple of minutes, but she seems really nice.

I’ve only just arrived in this city, but it seems like a really good place to live.

We use “sound” when we are listening to another person talking about a certain situation and we want to talk about our impression of it. For example:

A: My new boyfriend is so sweet and romantic. Last night, he took me out for dinner to an expensive French restaurant.

B: He sounds wonderful.


A: My new apartment has three bedrooms, a big kitchen and there’s a great view from the balcony.

B: It sounds like a great place.

Finally, we use “feel” when talking about the physical or emotional feeling something gives us. For example:

I love going to a hot spring. The hot water feels so good and relaxing.

I really like this restaurant. It feels like a place that I used to go to in my hometown.

So, as you can see from the examples, we can use these words by themselves or they can be followed by the word “like”. The difference is that we say “look” + adjective, and we say “look like” + adjective + noun or “look like” + noun. The same pattern is true for each of these words.

Sometimes, the pattern is a little different, especially when using “sound” or “look”. In these cases, the pattern is “It sounds/looks like” + noun + “be” verb + adjective. For example:

A: I have to work overtime until 11:00 p.m. every night, and sometimes I work on the weekends too.

B: It sounds like your job is really tough.

Did you see the reading list for this course? There are so many books on it! It looks like this course is not going to be easy.

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