Comparing "xiande" and "kanqilai"
Both 显得 (xiǎnde) and 看起来 (kànqǐlái) have meanings in English like "to appear to be" or "seems like," but their connotations are pretty different.
显得 emphasizes objectivity
显得 is used for objective descriptions and comparisons. Therefore, if you want to say that something is not very good, you can use 显得 to emphasize your objectiveness. It can be a "tactical" way to talk.
A + 显得 + B + Predicate
- 这样 穿 显得 我 比较 成熟 。Dressing like this makes me look more mature.
- 那样 吃 显得 你 很 没 礼貌 。 Eating like that makes you look not very polite.
- 这么 做 会 显得 你 很 小气 。 Doing it like this makes you seem stingy.
- 那样 说 显得 她 很 笨 。 Talking like that makes her look stupid.
- 这 种 颜色 的 衣服 显得 你 的 脸色 不 好看 。 This color of clothing doesn't go well with your complexion.
看起来 emphasize subjectivity
看起来 is the opposite in that it emphasizes subjectivity, paying close attention to how the observer feels.
Subj. + 看起来 + Predicate
- 你 今天 看起来 很 高兴 。 You seem very happy today.
- 这个 餐厅 看起来 不错，我们 可以 试试。 This restaurant doesn't seem too bad, let's try it out.
- 她 看起来 有 点 生气 。 She seems a little angry.
- 你 的 衣服 看起来 挺 贵 的 。 Your clothes seems expensive to me.
- 你 女朋友 看起来 像 我 的 中文 老师 。 Your girlfriend seems like my Chinese teacher.
- A: 你 今天 看起来 很 苗条。You seem very slim today.
- B: 可能 是 这 件 衣服 显得我 很 苗条 。 It's probably these clothes that makes me seem that way.