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How About You vs. What About You: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 5, 2023
"How about you?" is often used to ask for someone’s opinion or preference, while "What about you?" commonly inquires about someone's situation or condition, both being informal and colloquial.

Key Differences

"How about you?" is a colloquial phrase that typically serves to inquire into someone's opinions, preferences, or desires. It tends to pivot a conversation toward the other individual’s choices or likes, aiming to garner their viewpoint or predilections. Conversely, "What about you?" is commonly utilized to steer the discussion towards the other person’s status, actions, or circumstances, providing an avenue for them to share personal updates or states.
In practical conversational settings, "How about you?" might be used to casually involve the other person’s preferences after sharing one’s own. For instance, one might say, "I’d like to have pizza for dinner. How about you?" On the flip side, "What about you?" might navigate toward the person’s circumstances or actions, such as "I’ve been working on this project lately. What about you?"
"How about you?" thus acts as an informal means of extending the dialogue, providing the opportunity for the other person to share their own likes or dislikes, essentially holding the conversational door open for their input. Whereas "What about you?" extends a similar conversational courtesy, it does so by inviting insights into their activities or current state, subtly shifting the topical focus towards their happenings or well-being.
The distinction might seem nuanced, but it is present in colloquial American English, where "How about you?" naturally aligns more with a check on preferences or opinions. In contrast, "What about you?" leans slightly more towards exploring the individual’s actions, situations, or conditions, albeit with a broadly overlapping usage in casual conversations.
It’s pertinent to note that while "How about you?" and "What about you?" have these subtle connotative differences, in many everyday dialogues, they might be used interchangeably. Language is dynamic, and its application can be flexible, especially in informal settings where rigid adherence to subtle connotative differences is not strictly observed. Both phrases serve to involve the other person in the discussion, albeit with slightly varied undercurrents.

Comparison Chart

Typical use

Asking for preferences or opinions
Inquiring about situation or activities

Example sentence

I like coffee; how about you?
I'm a teacher; what about you?

Contextual leaning

Leans towards opinions/preferences
Leans towards status/activities


Sometimes used interchangeably
Sometimes used interchangeably

Conversational function

Aims to learn the other’s likes/dislikes
Aims to learn about the other’s situation

How About You and What About You Definitions

How About You

A phrase querying someone's preferences.
I prefer hiking; how about you?

What About You

A phrase inquiring about someone’s situation.
I’m doing well; what about you?

How About You

A colloquial method to ask for someone's choice.
I'm ordering a burger; how about you?

What About You

A dialogic way to learn about someone’s current circumstances or activities.
I'm studying for exams; what about you?

How About You

A conversational tool to involve the other person's preferences.
I enjoy reading mysteries; how about you?

What About You

An informal query about someone's activities.
I work in marketing; what about you?

How About You

An informal way to seek another’s opinion.
I think it's a good movie; how about you?

What About You

A friendly probe into someone’s status or actions.
I’m headed out for a walk; what about you?

How About You

A friendly inquiry into someone’s desires.
I'd like to go to the park; how about you?

What About You

A colloquial question regarding another’s condition.
I’m feeling tired; what about you?


What does "How about you?" typically inquire about?

"How about you?" generally asks about preferences, opinions, or desires.

Can "How about you?" and "What about you?" be used interchangeably?

While they have subtle connotative differences, they are often used interchangeably in casual conversations.

Is "What about you?" utilized to ask about situations or activities?

Yes, "What about you?" commonly explores the respondent's situations, actions, or conditions.

Is "How about you?" considered formal English?

No, "How about you?" is regarded as informal and is common in colloquial English.

Is "How about you?" used globally in English conversations?

Yes, "How about you?" is widely understood and used in English-speaking countries worldwide.

How common is the usage of "How about you?" in American English?

"How about you?" is very common in American English and widely used in casual conversation.

Does "What about you?" inquire more about an individual’s current state or activities?

Correct, "What about you?" tends to ask about someone's activities, status, or circumstances.

Can "What about you?" be used to ask about feelings or emotions?

Yes, "What about you?" can be used to ask about someone’s emotional or physical state.

How might "How about you?" be employed in a discussion about preferences?

It could be used like: "I love horror films, how about you?" to ask about the other person’s film preferences.

Can "What about you?" be used to inquire about professional or academic status?

Absolutely, e.g., "I’m an engineer; what about you?" asks about the other person's profession or studies.

How does "What about you?" function in social settings?

"What about you?" acts as a polite and informal way to show interest in the other person’s life or activities.

Is it polite to use "How about you?" in conversational English?

While informal, "How about you?" is typically perceived as polite and inclusive in casual dialogues.

Is "How about you?" ever used in formal writing or speeches?

Rarely, as it’s largely regarded as colloquial and is typically reserved for informal contexts.

Is "What about you?" acceptable in written communication?

It's common and acceptable in informal written communications like messages or emails among friends.

Can "How about you?" be used in professional settings?

It's usable but tends to be more common in informal or friendly professional interactions.

Is "What about you?" typically followed by a question mark in writing?

Yes, "What about you?" is a question and should be followed by a question mark.

Can "How about you?" introduce a new topic in a conversation?

It generally reflects back on a topic already introduced, asking for the other person's view or preference on it.

Can "What about you?" imply concern or care in a conversation?

Often, yes. Asking "What about you?" can indicate interest in the other person's well-being or activities.

Can "What about you?" be seen as inquisitive or nosy?

In most contexts, it’s seen as polite, but depending on tone and context, it could be perceived as inquisitive.

Is "How about you?" more focused on garnering opinions?

Yes, "How about you?" typically leans towards asking about likes, dislikes, or opinions.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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