In my Chinese class we’ve recently had a chapter quiz. I missed the following question:

Translate “He looks like Guan Gong” into Chinese.

My response: 他看关公一样。

Teacher’s correction: 他看起来像关公一样。

So my question is why is my response grammatically incorrect?

Both answers translate the same in Google Translate, but why is the “看起来” needed?

  • 2
    Don't trust google translate.
    – fefe
    Apr 25, 2019 at 2:25
  • user expects google translate to correct wrong Chinese submitted for translation? It seems google is programmed to make a guess as to the intended meaning, and return correct English.
    – user6065
    Apr 25, 2019 at 4:43

2 Answers 2


V+起来 indicates that V is used as 感官动词(sense verb), like look/smell/sound/taste/feel in English

He looks like Guan Gong

If you think about it, "He" is not the subject of the action "look", he doesn't look at anything

A clearer example is:

This flower looks beautiful and smells sweet

A flower doesn't have eyes and nose, look and smell are sense verbs here, so the translation is:

这朵花看起来很漂亮, 闻起来很香

Also, V+上去 is same as V+起来


Your problem is not the grammar, but the vocabulary.

看 means "look", but only in the sense of "to look at", not "to look like". 像 means "to look like" / "to resemble".

So "He looks like Guan Gong" can be translated as:


So why 看起来 ? Maybe the teacher wanted to keep the 看 because that's what you used. 看起来 here is an adverb that means "seemingly" / "seems to".

他看起来像关公 He seemingly looks like Guan Gong.

The 一样 is not necessary here, but gives the sentence a nicer rhythm.

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