My family is made of Chinese natives while I am bilingual. My dad sometimes asks me questions like “你的老师是什么样的人?” before lightly chastising me that the askers of such questions usually want to know their appearance first. Today, this has happened... for the last time!! I want vindication!1! >:(

I'm fairly sure that just like the English expression "What is one like?", this Chinese expression mostly and perhaps only asks about one's personality. Is that true? Or am I mistaken?

  • I think this is just communication problem. Tell your dad you don't want to be pressed to describe others' appearance. Or maybe he finds your response disorganized and want you to organize it by describing appearance first. In any case, "什么样的人" is a very generic phrase that can be responded with any interesting aspect of a person. Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 22:29
  • To reply to "What is this friend of yours like?" just state what this person does for a living. As long as this person makes an honest living, your parents won't care about what he looks like or how is his personality
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 22:55
  • The person he asked was someone we all trust, though he doesn't know much about them. I changed the person asked about but the question remains the same. I'm more interested on the language side as I couldn't find any search results.
    – Aaron Liu
    Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 23:22
  • 1
    I'm afraid the language side is simply, "depends on context." Click this link to search the BCC corpus for "怎/什么样的人". You will see sentences that refer to both appearance, personality, and other aspects, e.g. "匈多么想早一点看看这是个什么样的人 !", "他甚至没有仔细看看对方是什么样的人", "我是一个什么样的人,陈揖怀不明白,你不应该不明白。" Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 0:27

1 Answer 1

  • 你的朋友是什么样的人?- What kind of person your friend is?

As a concerned parent, the father was meant to get some information on your friend such as - "Is he/she a male or female and how old is he/she?", "What does he/she do for a living?" or "What social behavior does he/she demonstrate normally?"

  • 你的老师是什么样的人?- What kind of person your teacher is?

It sounds like your father is uncertain about something, or the values, he taught you, and questioning his qualifications.

If your father was interested in knowing more about him/her, including appearance, he should be more specific in his question and say:

  • 你的朋友老师是男還是女? 年紀多大啦? 長的怎麼樣? 是什么样的人?
  • Since everyone is fixating on "friend", I've changed the wording to "instructor", which is how the question was originally asked. I didn't want to give away that part of my personal information, but welp...
    – Aaron Liu
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 1:16
  • It still requires information on what activity is the instructor instructing. If it's yoga, then of late this activity has been accused of propagating Hinduism; if in swimming or gymnastics which may involve physical contact. So, as a concerned parent, the question “你的老师是什么样的人?” may take on certain loaded inquisition? So, as commented, context is the key. Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 1:38
  • “of late this activity has been accused of propagating Hinduism” That’s one of the most ridiculous reasons I’ve heard recently, lol. She teaches English and I later got context that he was wondering what motivated her to give me a grade of 99/10 (should’ve been 9/10). He still maintains that the questions requires you to also answer about appearance.
    – Aaron Liu
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 14:25
  • @AaronLiu In this case it probably just has to be chalked up to an individualism of his mindset to feel that way, which is not a rare thing to see in any language.
    – zagrycha
    Commented Jan 9 at 9:39

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