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Can we use "What are you like?"?

According to Longman dictionary we can ask "What is (s)he like?". I want to know if we can also use this for "you". Because when I searched it in the internet, everybody said that's an idiom.

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    Are you asking for a physical description or a description of their personality?
    – John Feltz
    Oct 17, 2016 at 14:16
  • It depends on context. In a context such as a job interview, one might be asked: "How would you describe yourself?"
    – Vlammuh
    Oct 17, 2016 at 14:17
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    What are you like? would be grammatical but unusual. Unless the conversation were specifically about personality and demeanor, in a job interview, say, we wouldn't ask a person to describe themselves using that question. Tell me about yourself is very open-ended and could elicit information about a current job, or educational background or training, or the place the person calls home, or what they like to do for a hobby or for entertainment, etc.
    – TimR
    Oct 17, 2016 at 14:26
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    @TRomano: Dunno about AmE, but in BrE "What are you like!" [she said] is a fairly common exclamation, used in much the same way as "Ooh you are awful!" [but I like you!] Oct 17, 2016 at 15:01
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    @FumbleFingers: Can't say as I've ever heard it used that way stateside.
    – TimR
    Oct 17, 2016 at 17:17

2 Answers 2

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It would be odd and possibly rude to ask someone, "What are you like?" because, presumably, they're standing right there and can answer more specific questions. So you can open with something like:

Tell me about yourself.

And then follow up with more targeted questions:

What kinds of things do you like?

What do you do for fun?

What are your interests?

What do you do for work?

Are you single? Married? Seeing anyone? Children? How about the rest of your family?

And so on. Of course there are many personality tests that ask someone to select words or phrases that describe them. Some examples of the language used at the start of these tests:

Describe yourself as you generally are now, not as you wish to be in the future.

Describe yourself, as you honestly see yourself, in relation to other people of the same sex and of roughly the same age. Your spontaneous answer is usually the most accurate.

For each statement choose the response that best represents your opinion of yourself.

Personality tests are impersonal (it's just you and the computer) and voluntary, so it doesn't feel intrusive. Otherwise if someone corners you at a party and asks "what are you like?" it feels more like an interrogation than polite interest.

This is, of course, cultural and may vary from place to place and person to person. I've been in conversations with people from other cultures where these kind of direct questions are perfectly fine and indicate a true desire to know more about me.

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    +1 for "Tell me about yourself," which is a widely-accepted, idiomatic alternative to the grammatical but jarring "What are you like?"
    – J.R.
    Oct 17, 2016 at 15:12
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@Andrew gave the right answer. I would find it very odd indeed if another native speaker of English were to ask me "What are you like?" I would have no idea how to answer. I suspect the same is true in most languages.

on the other hand, if I know a woman and a friend asks me "what is she like?", that's a little different. it would still be kind of lame, but I would take it as "what kind of person is she?" still, I would probably respond by asking "what do you mean?"

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