Simply put, the question “what’s it like?” or “what is it like?” asks for a comparison or more details that help the other person understand someone or something better. Usually, the person asking the question has no information about the topic or person at that moment and wants to learn. For example:
A: What’s Alicia like? I’m going to meet her for the first time tomorrow.
B: Oh, she is such a sweetheart. She has the kindest heart of anyone I know. You are going to love her!
A: What is Germany like? I dream of visiting Munich someday!
B: It is a wonderful country with a fascinating culture. I had so much fun seeing the parades and festivities at Oktoberfest last year.
Since “it” is a pronoun, you can assume that you and the speaker are already talking about this topic. For example, if person A and person B are talking about Germany already, you can simply ask “What’s it like?”
“What’s it like?” can also be used to refer to an experience. To make the question more clear, just add more details to the question. For example:
What’s it like living in Montreal?
What’s it like being a millionaire?
What’s it like learning English as a second language?
You’ll also find that this question can be useful when it comes to job interviews. When your interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?“, you can ask them for more information about their experience by saying “What’s it like to work here? What is the day-to-day activity like?”
Occasionally, English language learners sometimes mix in phrases from their native language and end up asking “how is it like?” instead, but that’s grammatically incorrect. You can, however, ask “How is life in Germany?” which is very open-ended and allows the person replying to share any details they’d like!
Author: Katy Lia, Cambly Tutor
If you’d like to keep this conversation going with Katy, give her a call on Cambly or make a reservation with her here: https://www.cambly.com/en/student/tutor/Katy%20Lia