Proper Uses & Differences of How About…? & What About…??

Regrettably many of us don't know exactly how, when and where to use these two interrogative phrase

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Today in this article we discuss some practical usages of two widely used interrogative phrases how about…? and what about….?. We will also show you what are the differences between them.

Both the interrogative phrases have frequent uses in our day to day formal and casual communication. But regrettably many of us don’t know exactly how, when and where to use them.

Meanings, Uses & Differences of how about…? and what about….? : 

In terms of use, there is not that much difference between how about? and what about? If you look very carefully, you will see that their meanings vary slightly. In some cases, their use has no difference. We will get into it later.

First, let’s discuss when and where to use how about…? We usually use this interrogative phrase to make suggestions or offer ideas, invitation to do something (actions). Simply we use it to suggest an action and it expands the possibilities of actions in contrast to what about which restricts. Look at the following sentences :

A : How about going to Dhaka Zoo today? (Suggesting an action to do or an idea)
B : No, I usually do not like watching animals like kids.
A : Then how about going to TSC at DU? (another action suggested as the first one refuged. With this, possibilities of actions or suggestions widened)
B : Oh! That would be cool. (second suggestion or idea accepted).

See the examples below : 

I have taken two day off from office. Wondering what should we do?
A : How about we clean the house?
B : No, no way. I would like to do something interesting or enjoyable.
A : How about seeing a movie? ( We could say what about seeing a movie or simply what about a movie? It does n’t make any difference as we already mentioned in cases the two are similar)
B : Really that sounds cool. I am agreed.

N.B. : Here note that How about…? is usually followed by the -ing form of the verb or by a pronoun and infinitive (look : How about we clean…?)

Now we will discuss when, where and how to use what about…? We usually use this interrogative to bring objections or potential problems from a plan or idea into consideration or notice. In other words, simply we use it to express negative point or raise objection to a plan or idea or potential problems out of it.

Also you have to note that what about restricts, rather than expand, the idea or plan. Look at the following sentences :

A : Let’s go to theatre this weekend. (Making a suggestion or proposal)
B : What about the English speaking class on Saturday? (Bringing a potential obstacle to the idea)
A : I think there is no problem. Just talk to the concerned person over the phone and set a fresh date later in the week. Or hopefully u can recover it in a later class. Or if possible reschedule the class. Ok.

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N. B. : Note that What about…? is usually followed by a noun or noun phrase. ( see : the English speaking class on Saturday) That means What about…? can’t take a full sentence like What about we see a movie?” is wrong. Instead u can say What about seeing a movie? or What about a movie?

However, as we mentioned earlier, in some cases, both the use of how about? and what about…? means the same. See the following sentences :

1. How about you? and what about you?
2. What about playing cards? And how about playing cards? (Both have same meaning)

Look at the following sentences also :

A : How have you been?
B : Fine but a bit busy with work. How about you?
A : oh! Also fine. I am quite free. Spending almost leisure time with family.
C : Where do you work now? Or who do you work for? Or what do you do now?
D : oh! I am in self business. I am running a fashion outlet. What about you?
C : I am in corporate sector. Working at a multinational company.
D : That’s great. Thank you.

Note : In asking same type of questions, please use the same interrogative phrase. As for example : If one asks a question using how or how about…?, then reply with the same interrogative.

Finally, remember that applications of how about…? and what about….? are simple but tricky. So you need to practice more and regularly to get familiar with them. Good luck!

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