“How About You” vs. “What About You”: Complete Guide (12 Examples)

It’s commonly accepted that “how about you” and “what about you” are similar phrases that are used interchangeably. However, there’s more to it than that, and it’s important to understand all the differences between them, so you know when to use each one correctly.

What Is The Difference Between “How About You” And “What About You”?

“How about you” should be used when asking for a more specific intention or means from the person you’re talking to. “What about you” should be used when asking for a general statement about you. Both are interchangeable, but “how” is generally more specific.

What Is The Difference Between "How About You" And "What About You"?

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, “how” means “in what way, or by what methods.” When we ask someone “how about you,” we’re asking what methods (or, more specifically, what manner) they’re thinking of doing something.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, “what” is “used to ask for information about people or things.” This shows that it’s the more general of the two interrogative pronouns when we ask, “what about you.”

It might also help for you to take a look at this graph to see the differences in usage between the two phases. While most people consider them to be interchangeable, “what about you” is the more popular choice of the two.

how about you vs what about you historical development

Incidentally, both phrases have grown at a very similar rate, according to the graph. It shows that both phrases are used to the same degree, and it mostly comes down to personal preference about which one you’d prefer.

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What Is The Meaning Of “How About You”?

So, let’s go over the more direct meanings of the two phrases. We’ll start with “how about you,” which is considered the more specific question of the two.

“How about you” means you’re asking for someone’s manner or means about a particular event or thing you just mentioned. It’s often used to encourage someone to join you for something if they’re available.

We use “how about you” in a more friendly manner because we usually want to get to know what a person is up to. Often, we’ll ask someone we’re interested in getting to join us for something.

  • I’m going home in five minutes. How about you?

In this example, we’re saying that we’re ready to go home. “How about you” is asking someone whether they’re ready to go too. Generally, we mean that we’d be happy to go as far as we can with them (if you live in different houses, you might not be able to go the full distance).

It’s a way to open up communication that potentially helps two people figure out their plans together.

Is “How About You” Grammatically Correct?

While the phrase isn’t the more common of the two we’ve mentioned already, does that mean it’s incorrect?

“How about you” is grammatically correct and works as a standalone question without any more words needed. “How” is the subject of the sentence, and “you” is the object. We use “about” to connect the two because it is a preposition.

The question follows all of the correct grammar rules we need to form a coherent question. You don’t have to worry about including any extra words to try and make it fit.

On its own, “how about you” works really well.

Example Usage

Let’s go over a few examples of when to use “how about you” in a sentence. As we’ve mentioned previously with the graph, it’s the less common of the two, but it still gets a wide amount of usage.

  1. I’m going home in a bit. How about you?
  2. I fancy takeout. How about you?
  3. I’m visiting the theatre tonight. How about you?
  4. I’ve never seen The Lion King. How about you?
  5. I could really do with a beer. How about you?

With these examples, we can see the more direct meaning of the phrase “how about you.” We’re asking someone whether they’d like to join us in one of the things we’ve mentioned.

To help you understand it slightly better, let’s break down one of the examples.

  • I could really do with a beer. How about you?

In this case, we’re stating our own intention that we’d like to drink a beer. We use “how about you” in this case to ask them whether they’d like to join us in drinking a beer. It’s a good way to set up a rapport with someone.

In this example, if we said, “what about you,” the implication is that we’re asking what someone else might want to drink, rather than directly asking them to join us in drinking a beer.

What Is The Meaning Of “What About You”?

Now let’s check out the more popular question of the two, “what about you.”

“What about you” means you’re asking someone for general information about themselves. We usually use it when we don’t want someone to join us for an activity but instead are interested in what they’re going to get up to next.

That’s the most important thing to remember about the question. It’s seen as more general and usually doesn’t come with an invite, unlike “how about you.”

How Do You Use “What About You”?

We’ll finish with a few examples using “what about you” so you can see what we might ask.

  1. I have to go to visit my parents this weekend. What about you?
  2. I’m dying for a hot dog! What about you?
  3. I’ve got plenty of time. What about you?
  4. I love dogs. What about you?
  5. I have three kids. What about you?

As you can see, “what about you” is asking for a more general response. We’re not often encouraging anyone to join us on anything; we’re simply asking for a question to be answered about themselves.

We’ll break down another example to demonstrate this.

  • I have to go to visit my parents this weekend. What about you?

At first, we state what we’re going to be doing. We’re “visiting our parents” in this example. We then ask “what about you” to ask for general information about what someone else is going to be doing this weekend.