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This dictionary page lists many options for appearance: http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/scripts/wordsearch.php?level=0

現象, 跡象, and 表面 all seem like good candidates.

1) Which one is the most common one to use when translating appearance in Mandarin?

2) Which one is the best for Cantonese?

3) Which one is the best for Don't judge things by their appearance? 看事情不要看現象? This one seems common, but doesn't 現象 translate more into phenomenon? Wouldn't 看事情不要看表面 be better?

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1) Which one is the most common one to use when translating appearance in Mandarin?

2) Which one is the best for Cantonese?

外= exterior ; 表 = surface

外表(surface) is the most common one when you meant appearance of someone or something. It is the same in Mandarin and Cantonese

外貌(outer look), 外觀(outer view), 表面 (surface) can also translated to 'appearance' .

  • '貌' means 'face' -- '外貌' is more suitable for describing the 'look' of someone or something possess.

  • '觀' means 'view' -- '外觀' is more suitable for describing the 'view' that someone or something provided to the viewers

  • both '表' and '面' means surface -- '表面' is a compound word for 'surface', , therefore it can also mean 'appearance' by extension

3) Which one is the best for Don't judge things by their appearance?

'表面' and '外表' are both perfect in this context

  • 看事情不要只看表面

  • 看事情不要只看外表

現象 mostly means 'phenomenon' and 跡象 mostly mean 'sign'. neither is good fit in this context

  • Thanks again for the detailed explanation! BTW are you an editor for CantoDict? There seems to be an error on the pinyin for 植. Should be second tone, right? cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/characters/2286 – Crashalot Oct 28 '18 at 21:45
  • @Crashalot I am not an editor for CantoDict because the owner of the site has been absent for years. No new editor can be added. The site is due to expire next year. Some of the users want to prevent it from going down, we are currently building a back up site. – Tang Ho Oct 28 '18 at 22:02
  • How are you planning on getting the data? – Crashalot Oct 28 '18 at 22:07
  • The current editors have a way to get it. – Tang Ho Oct 28 '18 at 22:08
  • our forums is here reddit.com/r/CantonesePlus – Tang Ho Oct 28 '18 at 22:16
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There’s a common idiom that expresses not judging people by their appearances:

人不可貌相

Oxford defines this as:

don't judge by appearances

and gives the full phrase as its example sentence:

人不可貌相, 海水不可斗量。
As the sea cannot be measured with a bushel, so people cannot be judged by their appearances.

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The sentence you gave: 看事情不要看表面 is a good sentence and it concisely expresses what you want to say. 现象 can also mean appearance, for example ABC gives the sample sentence:

光凭现象做判断
guāng píng xiànxiàng zuò pànduàn
judge according to appearance only

but phenomenon is still the most common usage.

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Another word you might want to know is: 长相, which explicitly refers to one’s physical appearance, looks and features.

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appearance can be translated differently according to the context. In general, I will interpret it as 表象 or 表面现象. 表象 can be construed as 表面现象. E.g. Behind the appearance, what do you see? // 在这样的表象背后,你有看到了什么?

Your example can be:

Don't judge things by their appearance. // 看事情不要看表象。

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