How vs What: Difference and Comparison

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

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

Key Takeaways

  1. “How” is an adverb that asks about the manner, method, or process, while “What” is a pronoun inquiring about the identity or nature of something.
  2. “How” questions seek explanations or descriptions, whereas “What” questions focus on specific information or facts.
  3. “How” inquiries lead to detailed responses, while “What” inquiries generate concise, factual answers.

How vs What

“How” is used to ask about the manner or way in which something is done. For example, “How do you make a cake?” or “How did you get here?” “What” is used to ask for information about a thing, an object, or an action. For example, “What is your favourite colour?” or “What time is the meeting?” 

How vs What

We can use ‘How’ in different sentences as an adverb, noun or conjunction. Usage of the word in other sentences is, 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.

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

In case 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 To know something, for example-
What is an idiom ?
To know the degree, for example –
How hurt is she? 
Adverb To know the purpose, for example –
What was Ajay doing last night? 
To ask a question which shows concern, for example –
How did you know you loved him ?
Noun  To show the true nature of something for example –
What is the education sector doing these days? 
To show the 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, conjunction, or noun. Is the term used to refer to a situation in which or by what means an attempt is made to highlight a problem?

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

how 1

What is ‘what’?

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

As a pronoun – It is used to indicate 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?

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

what

Main Difference Between How and What

  1. When ‘how‘ is used as a conjunction, it shows how anything has happened, and the word ‘what’ is used to know what can be done.
  2. In the form of a noun, ‘how‘ is used to show concern and ‘what’ is used to show true nature.
  3. When used as an adverb, the former tells the degree and the 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

Reference

  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1964-07405-001
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-010-1120-4_9

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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