I've found that 长 (zhang, as a verb) is always translated as 'to grow'. However There are cases where 长 is much better translated with 'to look like'. Here are two examples:

  • 我长得像我爸爸. (I look like my father.)
  • 他长什么样? (What does he look like?)

While the first sentence could be read as 'I grew into looking like my father', such an interpretation can not be made for the second sentence. 'What does he grow like?' seems too far fetched to be reasonable, especially because it is in present tense, so it can't be read as 'What did he grow up to look like today?'.

I checked multiple sources (namely: pleco, leo.org, mdbg.net, dict.naver.com, dictionary.writtenchinese.com) and they all translate it with 'to grow'.

  • 1
    Hint: 像 is the character which means likeness, and your second sentence is an abbreviation; the full sentence is 他長得像甚麼樣子.
    – dROOOze
    May 3, 2020 at 16:55
  • 1
    I get the angle of the question, but "bodily growth outcome" = "appearance" doesn't feel that far-fetching, either.
    – NS.X.
    May 3, 2020 at 18:00

2 Answers 2


It's true; a lot of sources don't mention looks. I'm not sure why. But, here is one that does:


(of a person) to look; to appear (e.g. beautiful)

Also if you have Pleco, you can check out Tuttle, their definition includes:

grow to be, look

A lot of resources are more likely to put this definition under 长得.


to look (pretty, the same etc)

This is likely to be because you'd be hard-pressed to find 长 by itself talking about looks with a 得.


It is 像 that means "look like".


I grow to be like my dad.

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