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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
"How about...?" and "What about...?" Are they the same?
Monday July 15th 2013
Question
"How about...?" and "What about...?" Are they the same?
Answer

Question

When do we use What about…? and How about…?,  especially in questions?  – terin86, Philippines

Answer

Thank you for the great question! These two expressions, How about...? and What about...?, are informal question starters that can be used in many of the same ways, as shown below. 


Same uses

1. How about…? and What about…?  can be used to ask whether someone/something is included:

  • “We're all going to the beach.” “How about Kenny?” 
  • “The apartment has one bedroom, two bathrooms, a big kitchen, and a living room.” “What about closets?

 

2. How about...? and What about...? can be used to make a suggestion about what can be done:

  • “We'll need to talk about this again.” “How about meeting next week? “ 
  • “It's too early to call her now." "What about sending her an email message?"

 

3. How about...? and What about...?  can be used to ask someone to respond to what you just said: 

  • I like skiing and hiking. How about you? 
  • I like skiing and hiking. What about you?
  • Everyone else is coming. What about you? 

 


Distinct uses

There are also some distinct uses of How about…? and What about …?, or uses that are not shared between them.

1. Only How about...? can be used to ask someone to give you something, or to ask someone if they will do something:

  • How about a couple of dollars until payday? [=can you loan me a couple of dollars until payday?]
  • How about offering me something to drink? [=will you offer me something to drink?]

 

1. Only What about...?  can be used to ask what should be done about something:

  • “You can throw this one away.” “What about the others?" [=what should we do about the others?][
  • What about people who can't afford health insurance? 

 

 

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