We use this question to ask for a description of something or somebody. In this question, the word "like" is not a verb. It is a preposition.
Here is an example of using "like" as a verb. You probably already know this.
A) What does your wife like?
B) My wife likes golf, painting, and romantic comedy movies.
Here is an example of using "like" as a preposition. When we use "like" in this way, we are asking for somebody to describe a noun.
A) What is your wife like?
B) She is tall, beautiful, and smart. What + be verb + subject + like?
A) What is she like?
B) She is cool and funny. You will like her.
A) What are your coworkers like?
B) They are very serious people, but they are kind-hearted.
A) What is the hotel like?
B) I heard it is very nice. It is new and has a big swimming pool.
A) What is your husband like? And, what does he like?
B) He is really funny and nice. He likes to spend time with me! And golf.
We can change the "be verb" to the past tense to ask for a description of something in the past.
A) What were you like when you were young?
B) I was very quiet and a good student.
A) What was Korea like 40 years ago?
B) Korea was a very poor country 40 years ago. It has changed a lot.
A) What was this company like 10 years ago?
B) It was small and everybody knew everybody. Now, it is a huge global company.
A) What was he like when you first met him?
B) He was really shy, but he has changed a lot since then. Bonus Tips and Points
1. It can be hard for English learners to hear the difference between "like" the verb and "like" the preposition.
The key thing is to listen to the second word of the question.
If it is a "be verb", then "like" is being used as a preposition and we need to describe something.
A) What is
B) She is cool.
A) What are
B) They are scary.
A) What was
B) It was beautiful.
If the second word is the verb "to do", then "like" is being used as a verb.
A) What do
B) I like sports.
A) What does
B) She likes art.
A) What did
you like when you were young?
B) I liked playing video games. Real-World English Conversations
A) What were you like when you were a boy?
B) I was quiet and shy.
A) Really? What happened? You are not like that at all now.
B) I know. I changed a lot when I was in my 20s. What were you like?
A) I was kind of bad. My parents said they couldn't control me.
B) I can imagine that. Was your brother like that too?
A) No. He was the angel of the family.
B) Did you both like the same things?
A) Not at all. He liked science and acting, but I was into skateboarding.
B) Wow! I guess you two aren't alike at all.
A) True, but we care about each other a lot. Study these free English lessons to improve your English speaking. If you learn these common sentence patterns well, then your English speaking will improve greatly and you will be able to have fluent conversations in English in the near future! Study the lessons well, practice using them at home and in real life, and make sure to come back to review the material so you do not forget.