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I want to know the meaning of "山田さんはどんな風にしていましたか。" and understand the grammatical construction. Does it means "How Yamada looked like ?" or "In what way Yamada did it?" ?

For this example, the reply of that question about Yamada in my textbook is "元気そうにしていました。"

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  • You need to add more context (eg. more lines before and after the one you're asking about). You should also specify what specific part in the sentence that is troubling you and how do you think you understand it atm. So please add more details to it, so you can have better quality answers as well. – Felipe Chaves de Oliveira Apr 7 at 15:25
  • I added some context if this can help you to help me. – Poulp Apr 8 at 12:15
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First, understand the simplest form of the expression:

こんな風に

like this

When you are teaching Origami, you would say:

Fold it like this.

こんな風におります。

So, the expression by itself does not speak to health, appearance, folding, or flavor. Quite simply, "like this". So it depends on what follows.

夏には、こんな風に 着飾ります。

In summer, you can dress it up LIKE THIS.

Now, let's make the statement above a question.

夏には、どんな風に着飾りますか?

How do you dress in Summer?

Notice how it became simply "How".

Now, let's get back to your original.

山田さんはどんな風にしていましたか。

This is a conjugation of する(do) in progressive tense.

So, in the end it's quite literally:

How was Yamada doing?

Since it does not specify what it is about, it could be anything.

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In the case of example, it means "How Yamada looked like ?". (Without context, "山田さんはどんな風にしていましたか。" can mean both of them.)

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To be honest the whole thing sound a bit weird, maybe I'm just lacking experience, but here's what I think.

どんな風に

This part I've mostly seen in things like "How?" or "In what way?". So, with the help of the reply "元気そうにしていました", did help a lot, it seems to me that it just means "How was Tanaka doing?", "He was doing well".

I made a mistake here ”山田さんは元気にしていましたか?” (don't use)

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    If Yamada has terminal cancer, no onewould ask “is he healthy” 元気にしていますか. But they might ask how he’s doing. – A.Ellett Apr 10 at 23:50

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