AIM: To understand the meaning and use of question forms with how and what ... like.

INTRODUCTION: In the back pain case, the doctor asks the patient for information about the general state of different things/situations. The expected response is a general evaluation.

How’s the situation at home? – It’s hard because I’m a working mum. But we’re coping OK.
How’s your relationship with your husband? – Yeah, it’s OK.
The doctors never mentioned ‘How’s physio going?’ or anything.

This can be contrasted with questions about description of things/situations (their characteristics or appearance). In this case, the expected response provides some detail.

What’s the pain like? – It comes and goes. It’s worse when I’ve been sitting for a long time.
What does the leg look like? – It’s very swollen and red.
What does the baby’s cough sound like? – Just like a dog barking. I think he’s really sick.

Consider these pairs of questions and responses.

How’s the pain? – It’s actually not too bad today, almost bearable for once!
What’s the pain like? – It’s sharp and sudden, like being stabbed with a knife.

How’s the wound? – Awful.
What’s the wound like? – It’s a fairly deep cut about 10cm long.

How is he these days? – Well, he has his ups and downs but generally he’s fine, all things considered.
What’s he like? – Well, he’s a born optimist, always looking on the bright side.

INSTRUCTIONS: For this phone conversation between Steve, who has a knee injury, and his doctor, drag and drop the answers from the box below so they match the corresponding questions.

How’s your knee today, Steve?
What does it look like?
What’s it like at the moment?
And what’s the pain like?
On a scale from 0 to 10, how’s the pain right now?
And how do you feel?

Please answer every question before continuing.

FOLLOW-UP : The next activity explores other question forms using the word like.