What’s the difference between ‘seem to’ and ‘look like’?


What’s the difference between ‘seem to’ and ‘look like’?

‘Seem’ and ‘look like’ are quite similar as they are used when stating that someone or something appears or resembles something else.

For example, a daughter could look like her mother and/or seem like her mother. Or a painting looks like another famous painting or it seems like there are similarities between the two paintings.


There is a slight difference between the two words though, if we are told that the daughter looks like her mother, we can infer that the mother and daughter have similar physical appearances. On the other hand, if we hear that she seems like her mother, we might think that they have similar personalities or behave similarly.


From the example above, we can see that if something looks like something else, there is a visual factor involved. Whereas, we rely on our own impression if something or someone seems like something else.

If you can imagine meeting a new colleague or classmate. From talking to him/her, your first impression of the person may be that he/she is friendly, intelligent, rude or shy, for example. From this first impression, you may think that this new colleague or classmate seems like a nice person or they seem standoffish.

You didn’t come to this conclusion from their physical appearance but from how that behaved or acted in front of you.


Aside from the visual factor, using ‘look like’ is a lot more definite or certain compared to ‘seem like’, this is because impressions can change or different people perceive things differently, this isn’t usually the case when it comes to the physical appearance of someone or something.


Here are some examples of the two words being used in sentences:

  • “The new real estate agent seems like a good fit for the agency, he addresses our clients professionally, never loses his patience with them, takes their needs into account and has built rapport with the team.” the manager told his boss.
  • “Have you seen the architectural plans for the new offices?” the employee asked his colleague. “Yes,” he responded, “it looks like something from the future, I’m not sure how it will fit in with the modest buildings in this part of town”.
  • “I met my bosses husband after the meeting yesterday. He looks like George Clooney but I was disappointed once he started talking, he seemed like an arrogant guy and wouldn’t listen to anybody else’s plans or ideas” she told her friend. 
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