Difference Between How and Why

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 14, 2023

       

Difference Between How and Why

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Introduction

The similarity between 'How and Why' is that- they both belong to the Adverbs category in the Parts of Speech. Therefore, let's first find out what the parts of speech are because according to me, Parts of Speech are the core of English Grammar. 

Parts of speech comprise 8 categories:

  1. Noun - The words used to name people, places, animals, ideas and things are known as Nouns. The kinds of Nouns are Proper, Common, Abstract, Material, and Collective Nouns. Singular Nouns and Plural Nouns are also types of Nouns. For example- I have a book. Sam is singing. The bangles are made up of Gold.
  2. Pronouns - Pronouns substitute the nouns in a sentence. Pronouns can be reflexive, possessive, relative, and indefinite pronouns. Examples- My mother is sleeping. Her book is lost. reached home late at night. 
  3. Adjectives - They are the words that describe the noun in the given sentence. They give information about the subject in the sentence. Example- Richard is happy today. Your red dress is very pretty. Her teacher is very angry with her.
  4. Preposition - Prepositions are used to show the position of a subject or object in a sentence. They are placed before a noun or a pronoun. Example- Alex's daughter is hiding under the bed. My brother will meet me near the school building.
  5. Conjunctions - They get used for linking one part of a sentence to another to form a meaningful sentence by joining them. For example- Jane could not attend the party because she was sick. My mother was cooking and I was studying. 
  6. Interjections - Interjections convey intense emotions or feelings. For example- Wow! What a brilliant piece of art. Alas! You must have felt pathetic.
  7. Verbs - Verbs are the doing words in a sentence. They are also called action words. Examples- She is dancing. He is running a race. My friends visited me last month. 
  8. Adverbs - Adverbs provide information about verbs or adjectives in the sentence. There are many types of Adverbs, let’s look at a few.
  • Adverb of Manner - It describes how an action is being performed. Example- Jessica reads silently.
  • Adverb of Degree - They express the extent or degree. Example- They are almost working.
  • Adverb of Time - It describes when the action happened. Example- I will come tomorrow.
  • Adverb of Purpose - They describe why something is happening. Example- Since you are praying, I'll call you back.
  • Interrogative Adverbs - When, Why, Where, How, and What- are used to introduce a verb. Example- Why are you yelling? 'Why' (adverb) is used for asking the reason for 'yelling' (verb).

'How and Why' belong to the Interrogative Adverbs. They tell us about the verb in the sentence. We shall learn more about them in detail in the given article.

How vs. Why

How and Why are two of the most generally used words of the English language for asking questions. The main difference between the two is that, 'How' is used to know the manner in which something has occurred, whereas 'Why' is asked to find out the cause of the happening.

In simple words, 'Why' expresses surprise and the person asking the question is inquisitive in knowing the reason behind a particular behaviour or a happening. When a child is asking how to do something, he is interested in getting a demonstration to learn the process. When he uses why, he wants to know why something happens the way it does.

For example- Why are coming late? Here, we want the person to give reason for coming late. How did you come? In this sentence, we want to know the way he came. These two interrogations have totally different meaning. Therefore, will have different answers too.

Difference Between How and Why in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonHowWhy
Meaning‘How’ is a word that is used to ask about the process, method, or manner in which something occurs.‘Why’ is used to ask about the reason, purpose, or cause behind an action, event, or situation.
Other usesHow is also applied to asking the extent or degree of an action.Why can be used for expressing irritation or aggravation on something.
ExclamationHow can be used in an exclamatory sentence. Example-How nice of her!Why cannot be used in exclamatory sentences.
Interjection‘How’ can be utilised in the interjection form. Example-How! This can never happen.‘Why’ is not used in Interjection forms.
Assertive ExamplesI remember how they fight every time they meet.They asked how they could help.There were reasons why she came back.I don’t know why Roy behaves like that.
Interrogative ExamplesHow was she dancing?How did Max help her when she was ill?Why did she behave like that?Why does Sam remember everything?
Main motiveThe main reason behind using ‘How’ is to know the manner of the action.The main reason for using ‘Why’ is to know the reason for the action.

What is ‘How’?

'How' is an adverb used to ask the manner or way something is done.

For example- How did you meet him? 

Uses of How

As an Adverb

  • To ask the way or manner and by what means something happened.

Some Examples-How did you meet her?

How are you going to complete your work?

  • To ask the extent or degree.

Some examples-How damaged is the truck?

How much did you learn?

  • To ask whether something is successful or delightful.

Some Examples-How amazing was the party?

How did they dance?

As a Conjunction

  • To ask manner or the way something happened.

Some examples-He could not figure out how to talk to her.

He will show you how to load the website.

  • To know about the manner, condition, or way in which something happens.

Some examples-Be careful how you act.

He did not know how he should sing.

In Exclamation

  • Used to convey surprise, pleasure, etc.

Some Examples-How nice of you to help!

How unlucky of you!

Idioms with How

  • How about.....?

 - used for asking for information about somebody/something. 

Example- I do not want it. How about you?

- used for making a suggestion

Example- How about having some tea?

  • How can/could you? 

-used to indicate that you think somebody’s behaviour is inadequate or are very surprised by it.

Example- You betrayed us! How could you?

  • How come....?

 - used to say you do not comprehend how something can occur and would like to have an explanation.

Example- I think you owe me money. 

How come?

Examples of How

  • It's marvelous how they finished the bridge so quickly.
  • How do you cook this recipe?
  • The book tells the story of how the country attained freedom.
  • Be careful how you talk to your boss.
  • How rarely do I go there!
  • How can make fun of him?
  • How does one address the Prime Minister?
  • He can't figure out how to solve the puzzle.
  • How about making this painting more colorful?
  • How can you not care about her?
  • How sweetly she sings!

What is ‘Why’?

'Why' is used to ask the reason or purpose behind an action. The motive or the cause of the verb in the sentence is denoted by 'Why'.

For example- Why were you talking about Peter?

Uses of Why

  • 'Why' is used to know the reason or purpose behind an action.

Some examples-Why did she quit her job?

Why were you laughing so loudly?

  • It is used to give a suggestion or to say that a procedure of action is unnecessary.

Some examples-Why don't you call her instead of messaging?

Why don't you try it yourself?

  • Used to express irritation or aggravation on something.

Examples- Why don't you mind your own business?

Why should I always repeat myself?

  • It is also used for giving reasons or justifying a choice.

Examples-I thought this is the best option and that is why I did it.

There are many reasons why I can't attend the party. 

Idioms with Why

  • Why not? - for making or agreeing to a suggestion.

Examples-Why don’t you call her?

Why don't you hang out with her?

  • Why ever? - used in questions for expressing surprise.

Examples-Why did you never tell us about your accident?

Why were you so worried yesterday?

Examples of Why

  • Why is she shouting at Roy?
  • Why was Sam absent yesterday?
  • This is the reason why I don't trust everyone easily.
  • Why don't you go out to refresh yourself?
  • Why don't you do your homework every day?
  • Why does she scold you all the time?
  • This is why she missed the bus.
  • Why don't you try the red shade of lipstick?

Main Differences Between How and Why (In Points)

  • ‘How’ and 'Why’ have slight difference in their parts of speech. How can be used as an Interrogative adverb and conjunction whereas, ‘Why’ is used as an Interrogative adverb and relative adverb. For instance- ‘How’ is used to connect clauses. He can design it how he likes.
  • 'How' is also applied to asking the extent of action.

For example- How much did you lose?

'Why' can be used for expressing irritation about something.

For instance- Why are you behaving like this?

  • ‘Why’ is not used in Interjection forms. On the contrary, ‘How’ can be utilised in the interjection form.

Example- How! I did not this expect out of you.

  • 'How' can be used to ask if something is delightful or fun. For example- How was the birthday party? 

On the other hand, 'Why' can be used to give a recommendation. For instance- Why don't you follow your parents' advice?

  • 'How' can be used to greet. Example- How is your day going?

‘Why’ is not a greeting word. It is not possible to use it in asking a question as a greeting form. One cannot ask- Why is your day going well? 

  • 'How' is generally used to ask the way in which something has happened, to the extent something has happened or the condition of something. ‘Why,’ on the other hand, is used to ask about something, or to question for an explanation about a situation. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is important to know that incorrect usage of a word can make or break the true meaning of a sentence. It can lead the sentence in a wrong way or in a way not intended. For instance, if we take the example of 'How ' and 'Why', their incorrect usage can change the intent of the question that is being asked by someone.

Let's say there is a question- How was your day? 

It is clear that we want to know about the day of that person, if it went well or not. But if interchange the interrogative adverb, the sentence will become-  Why was your day? 

Now, this question can very easily be taken in the wrong way. It is like we are asking a person about the reason for his/her existence. One may get beaten up for this.  

Therefore, knowing the difference between words and understanding their proper usage is essential for mastering any language, not just English. Well, the above example must have explained to you the meaning of 'How' and 'Why'.

So, 'Why' is used to enquire about the cause of a certain action(verb). Why did you beat him? This question demands to know the reason behind him getting beaten up by you.

On the other side, 'How' is used when one wants to comprehend the manner of an action that took place or is taking place at that point. How does she sing so well? In this question, the way of her good singing is being asked; a compliment is given indirectly.

Hopefully, this article has cleared your wish-listed concept of the difference between How and Why and at the same time has given you more information regarding their several uses and varied examples. These Interrogative adverbs are significant for clearing the basics of English Grammar. As mentioned earlier, they both come under the Parts of Speech, which is like the basic building block of our vocabulary.

References

  • https://www.dictionary.com/browse/how
  • https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/why_1?q=Why

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