What's the difference between?
How about that?
what about that?
because I heard them used in the same contexts.
Yes. They can be used in the same way. But in AmE, meaning can depend also on where the stress is placed. For example, "How about that?" can/could mean the speaker is looking for agreement or reaction about some impressive event or action. "How about that? can/could mean the speaker is referring to some object and is looking for an opinion about the object. On the other hand,"What about that"? can/could mean the speaker is looking for an opinion about some previously mentioned subject. And "What about that?" is the same as described above for "How about that?"
Last edited by billmcd; 21-Apr-2010 at 16:47. Reason: typo
Good afternoon, nasneemspring.
(1) You and a friend are on a bus.
A very old lady gets on the bus.
None of the young people stand up for her.
They continue to sit in their seats.
The elderly lady has to stand.
You turn to your friend and say, "How about that!!!" ( = Can you believe
it? What's wrong with young people today?)
(2) TOM: I want to visit my aunt, but she lives 500 miles away, and I don't have enough money for the bus fare.
YOU: Well, you could get a job and make some extra money. What about that? (= what do you think about THAT idea of mine?)
TOM: No way! I'm too lazy to work. I'll just write a letter to auntie.
Good morning, tasneemspring.
(1) Thank you for your excellent question.
(2) As another poster pointed out in his excellent post, the meaning of these phrases can change, depending on how you pronounce them.
(a) If you study that poster's comment carefully, I think it will be of enormous help. (It certainly was for me.)
(3) Personally, if I had been on that bus, I would have said to my friend: How about THAT!!! = Isn't THAT outrageous!
(4) Could I have used "What about that" in the bus example? Well, maybe like this:
I: Look at that, will you! No one is standing for the lady.
MY INSENSITIVE FRIEND: What ABOUT that?
(a) In other words, my friend is like those young people who are not standing up for the lady. My friend doesn't see anything wrong. So he says (with complete sincerity): What are you talking ABOUT? Everything looks fine to me!!!
Have a nice day!