Difference Between How and What

Both the terms ‘how’ and ‘what’ are interrogation words that are used for asking questions or interrogating something. A sentence that has interrogative words like how and what signals a question.


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Let us understand the difference between the two terms in detail.

How vs What

The difference between the two terms, ‘how’ and ‘what’ is that they are used for answering different questions. They can be used in the same sentence but will have different meanings. ‘How’ indicates the degree of something that has happened whereas ‘What’ indicates the purposes for which it has happened.

How vs What

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We can use ‘How’ in different sentences as an adverb, noun or conjunction. Usage of the word in different sentences are, How are you doing these days?

This is a question where a person is asking about someone else’s condition. How was he injured? It shows how much did the injury happen.

The word ‘What’ can be as a pronoun, noun, adjective or adverb. It is used before a noun and shows the real nature of something.

Incase of asking for the price of something they will say What is the price of this dress? We can use the word to know information about a thing or a person.

Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison  How What 
As an idiom Can be used in a sentence which begins as (Here’s how ….) this is specifically used while raising a toastTo know something for example-
What is an idiom ?
Adverb To know the degree for example –
How hurt is she? 
To know the purpose for example –
What was Ajay doing last night? 
Noun  To ask a question which shows concern for example –
How did you know you loved him ?
To show true nature of something for example –
What is the education sector doing these days? 
Pronoun   How are you doing these days?It can be used to make any request, for example –
Pardon me! what did you say
Conjunction  Used for showing the manner or way in which something has been done, for example –
He did not know how to solve the question.
They teach me what they can

What is ‘How’ ?

The word ‘how’ can be used as an adverb, a conjunction or a noun as well. Is the term used to refer to a situation in which or by what means an attempt is made to highlight a situation?

As a compound, it can be used to indicate a condition or method. It is also used in the sentences in which we want to indicate the situation in which it occurred.

An example of how the adjective is used. There may be different situations-

In what ways? For example, how did she fall?
How much? For example, how was he injured?
In what situation? For example, how is she?
Want to know the effect or meaning? For example, how can he understand the concept?
How we can use other conditions –

The specific way in which a title or name is used. To find out the quantity or price etc.

The term can also be used as a combination in a sentence where we want to know how an event happened or any other situation.

What is ‘what’ ?

We can use the word in many ways, such as –

As a pronoun – It is used to indicate some information about a person or source. For example, what is his name? What are those animals?

To inquire about any purpose or significance. For example, what is sick money?
Request to repeat the information. For example, sorry, what did you say?
To ask the price. For example, what is its value?
Who. For example, we give you back what we promised you.
Some. For example, let her say what she wants.
An existing person or object. For example, they are what we expect from them.

It refers to adding or following something else. For example, should he play or what should he do?

Exclamation point. For example, what coincidence? When used as a noun, it showcases the true nature of something.

Main Difference Between How and What

  1. When ‘how‘ is used as a conjunction it shows how anything has happened whereas, and the word ‘what’ is used to know what can be done.
  2. In form of a noun, ‘how‘ is used to show concern and ‘what’ is used for showing true nature.
  3. When used as an adverb the former tells the degree and latter tells the purpose.
  4. Both the words, ‘how’ and ‘what’ are interrogative words which are used for answering different questions
  5. As an idiom, ‘how‘ can be used for raising a toast and ‘what’ can be used to know about something or someone.
Difference Between How and What
  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1964-07405-001
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-010-1120-4_9
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