Difference between How About You and What About You

Key difference: ‘How About You’ and ‘What About You’ are two questions that are often asked in order to inquire or find out about the other person. Both phrases are actually often interchangeable. Additionally, both can also be interchanged with just ‘you?’ Generally, ‘how about you?’ tends to carry to a more laid back implication to it. Furthermore, a general rule of thumb is that ‘how about you’ is usually used when asking about feelings, emotions, or anything personal, while, ‘what about you’ is used when asking about objects or places.

‘How About You’ and ‘What About You’ are two questions that are often asked in order to inquire or find out about the other person. They are generally used as a follow-up question to the one previously asked by the other person. For example: How are you doing? Quite well actually, how about you?

Both phrases are actually often interchangeable. Additionally, both can also be interchanged with just ‘you?’ For example: ‘What have you been up to?’ “Nothing much, what about you?” Or “Nothing much, how about you? Or “Nothing much, you?” Each one of these responses is acceptable.

Still, there are some instances, where it is more appropriate to use one or the other. In these instances, interchanging the how or what may lead to the sentence sounding off or weird or even just plain wrong.

Generally, ‘how about you?’ tends to carry to a more laid back implication to it. It expands, rather than restricts, the possibilities. Whereas, ‘what about you?’ tends to imply that there is an objection or potential obstacle into consideration.

Let’s consider an example:

“We are going to go see a movie tonight. How about you?” This implies that we are going to go see a movie, and that you are welcome to join us.

“We are going to go see a movie tonight. What about you?” In this instance, this can be taken to mean that we are going to go see a movie, but the speaker is just generally or politely inquiring about what the other person is doing that night. There is no implication of an invitation. After the inquiry, an invitation may or may not follow. 

Furthermore, a general rule of thumb is that ‘how about you’ is usually used when asking about feelings, emotions, or anything personal, while, ‘what about you’ is used when asking about objects or places.

For example:

“I’m getting bored staying in the house all day. How about you?” This is talking about the person feeling bored. As it is a feeling and it is personal, ‘how about you’ is used.

“I’m bored. I’m going to play a videogame. What about you?” This is about the person playing a game, which is an object. Hence, ‘what about you’ is used.

Basically, ‘how about you’ is slightly more positive or upbeat than ‘what about you’, which is just a flat inquiry without a hint of the speaker’s emotion. However, none of these rules are hard and fast, which means that it is generally better to use the one that sounds right.

Further examples:

  • How are you? I am great, how about you?
  • How are you doing? Pretty well, how about you?
  • Are you hungry? Yes, how about you?
  • Did you like your Christmas gift? Yes, I loved it. How about you?
  • What did you get? A bicycle, what about you?
  • Where are you going for your summer vacation? Nowhere, what about you?
  • How many books did you buy? Five, what about you?

Image Courtesy: reichslieder.com, sylvianickerson.ca

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