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    #1

    "What" about?

    Can I use "what about" to ask an opinion of someone on something? As in:

    I like soda, and what about you?
    = Do you like it? What do you like?

    Yesterday I played basketball. What about you? = what did you do?


    I'm asking because I learned that how about would be the proper way, but I've seen many non-natives and even english teachers (not natives again) saying what about in this context.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by anreak; 27-Jul-2008 at 03:04.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: "What" about?

    Quote Originally Posted by anreak View Post
    Can I use "what about" to ask an opinion of someone on something? As in:

    I like soda, and what about you?
    = Do you like it? What do you like?

    Yesterday I played basketball. What about you? = what did you do?


    I'm asking because I learned that how about would be the proper way, but I've seen many non-natives and even english teachers (not natives again) saying what about in this context.

    Thanks.
    They mean the same. "How about you" is perhaps more polite, if you're unsure in a situation. If used too abruptly "What about you?" can elicit the reply "What about me?"

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: "What" about?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    .... "How about you" is perhaps more polite, if you're unsure in a situation. If used too abruptly "What about you?" can elicit the reply "What about me?"
    Generally, questions beginning 'What...?' can be regarded as impolite. You don't ask a stranger 'What's the time?' You ask 'Could you tell me the time?' or something like it - 'I wonder if you could tell me the time?' or [much less formally] '[Have you] got the time?'. But even in this last case, you're giving the person addressed the option of saying 'Sorry, my watch has stopped' or 'Sorry, I left my watch at home this morning' rather than saying '[I can see you've got a watch. I need to know and I am more important than you, so my need outweighs any problem you may have. You have no option. You must tell me:] what's the time?'

    And children are often taught not to say 'What?' when they have misheard. Alternatives like 'Pardon', 'Sorry?', 'Could you repeat that', 'Sorry, I didn't catch that' or even informally - 'come/say again?' are often preferred.

    I suppose sticklers for 'correctness' might say that 'how' asks about a verb 'How did you do/feel/react...?' and 'what' asks about a noun - 'I was given a gold watch; what were you given?' [rather than 'what about you?' in the same case]. But most native speakers I know don't regard 'What about you?' as in any sense 'wrong'. (In fact, I remember hearing a song in the '50s called 'I like it, how about you?' and thinking it sounded strange - perhaps American; in those days, and given my limited experience at the time, I regarded 'What about you?' as the natural form of words.)

    Here's what the BNC says:

    WORD 1 (W1): WHAT ABOUT (3.89)
    WORD W1 W2 W1/W2 SCORE
    1 YOU 466 151 3.1 0.8
    WORD 2 (W2): HOW ABOUT (0.26)
    WORD W2 W1 W2/W1 SCORE
    1 YOU 151 466 0.3 1.3

    See more here: [Davies/BYU] BYU-BNC: British National Corpus


    b

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    #4

    Re: "What" about?

    Thank you guys for taking the time to answer!

    I think I understood the politeness issue but not the exact meaning of each sentence. Could you kindly check this out for me?

    I like soda, what about you? = What do you like?
    I like soda, how about you? = Do you like it?
    I'm feeling great, what about you? = How are you feeling?
    I'm feeling great, how about you? = Do you also feel great?

    Thanks again.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: "What" about?

    They all sound fine to me.

    b

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