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We can ask about the weather as in: what's the weather like? And food as in: what's the food like?

If you've bought some cookies and you want to ask your children whether they found them tasty or not, how do you ask them using the word like? Do you informally say: What 's the cookies like? OR what are the cookies like?

I could say did you find the cookies yummy? But I want to check whether like is used or could be used.

One more thing, informally I could say there's people at the door. Using is with plural in informal speech is okay. Is it the same here with cookies!?

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    Most people who say "there's people at the door" would never say *"there is people at the door". That construction is exceptional, and you shouldn't conclude that "using is with plural in informal speech is okay" using it as evidence. – snailcar Jan 3 '14 at 9:21
  • I probably ask the children: Do you like it? or Is it good?, after their first bite. – Damkerng T. Jan 3 '14 at 9:41
  • I meant by using like as a non-verb. The idea is to know whether you can extend the what's the food like to other things. – learner Jan 3 '14 at 9:49
  • @learner I think asking What's it (the cookies) like? is not quite the same to asking What does it taste like? (or How does it taste?). After they had their first bite, I probably ask them with a question that has the word taste, to be specific about the taste. – Damkerng T. Jan 3 '14 at 10:27
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    @DamkerngT. - "What's the cookie like?" is just fine; there's more to a cookie review than good taste. "It tastes good, but it's a bit dry," or, "It's soft and chewy, but rather bland," or, "It's not bad, but I prefer a bit more 'bite' in my gingersnap," are all valid ways to answer the question. If it's a chocolate chip cookie that's especially well-made, my answer usually goes something like this, "Oh, my, it's great! Get me a glass of cold milk, and I'll be in heaven." – J.R. Jan 3 '14 at 10:35
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What's the cookie like?

(that works when the answer for one cookie is likely to extend to the entire batch), or ask:

What are the cookies like?

The subject and verb should agree.

Incidentally, for mass nouns, you would use the "is" version, as you alluded to in your question:

What's the beer like? What's the rice like?

However, suppose you had a question about both the steamed rice and the fried rice at a restaurant. In that case,

What are the rices like?

would be a valid way to ask. And if a microbrewery offered several different varieties, and you knew your friend had tried several of them:

What are their beers like?

is a good way to indicate that you're wanting a review of more than one brew.

  • I'm not quite sure about the beer (and confused too). I once heard (but couldn't remember from where) that beer is countable (as in a bottle of beer) in some dialects and uncountable in others. To be on the safe side, I think I'd stick with What's the beer like?, even after having a few bottles of beer. (Though I'm not sure that I can still speak English properly by then. :-) – Damkerng T. Jan 3 '14 at 10:48
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    @Damk - It's a matter of context, not dialect. If I'm at the bar ordering beer for me and my three friends, beer is countable, of course: "I'll have four beers, please." But if you're referring to the drink itself in a more generic sense, you can use it as an uncountable noun, as in: "You've had too much beer to be driving," or, "I really enjoyed my beer at the baseball game; the day was warm and beer was ice cold." (That last example works, even if I had two beers at the game, because I'm using the word beer as an uncountable noun.) – J.R. Jan 3 '14 at 11:02
  • @DamkerngT. Maybe you're remembering this exchange on ELU, but the corpus evidence doesn't seem to agree with the assertions made about BrE there. I checked GloWbE, and a few beers was almost twice as common in GB and IE than in the US. – snailcar Jan 3 '14 at 20:45

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