“What about you?” versus “How about you?”
Many times, people get confused about the usage of the phrases How about you and What about you as both phrases look correct and even elicit similar response. Then which phrase should be used when?
The following sections will outline the difference between How about you and What about you and help you make the correct choice in a sentence.
What About You
What is used as a pronoun, determiner and interjection. For example, “what is the price” or “what, no bread?”.
Similarly, what about you in a sentence prompts for a definite response.
For example, “I am going for tuition after school. What about you?”. Here, you do not expect the person to be going to tuition. But you are curious about what he/she will be doing instead.
How About You
How is used as an adverb or conjunction. For example, “how did he get hurt” or “she does not know how to hold a bat”.
How denotes feelings, manner, conditions, effects and so on.
Similarly, how about you expects a response that details the conditions and feelings. For example, “I am going for tuition after school. How about you?”. Through this you want to know if the other person is also coming for tuition. Will he/she accompany you?
What about you draws a specific answer without caring for the nitty-gritties. Through How about you, you want to know all the details.
Usage of ‘How About You’ and ‘What About You’
Generally, What about you is used more often than how about you, whether it is in American English or British English.
A search for how about you on Corpus of Contemporary American English gives a frequency result of 1011, whereas what about you shows a frequency of 1426.
Similarly, a search for how about you on British National Corpus produces a result of 76 whereas what about you shows a usage frequency of 199.
By plotting, what about you and how about you on Google Books Ngram viewer, you will see that the use of what about you is more popular than how about you.
As you can see there is certain overlapping during the 1900’s, which means the terms can also be used interchangeably. For example, the following sentences are completely accurate whether you use how about you or what about you.
“I am fine. How about you/What about you?”
“I am working. How about you/What about you?”
Though How about you and what about you can be used interchangeably most of the times, do not use this adage as a rule of thumb. Choose the phrase according to the context and what sounds natural.
How to Make the Right Choice
In order to know which phrase sounds natural it is imperative that you listen and read a lot. You need to manage yourself to be in a listening mode always. Whether you are listening to a TV weather report or watching a Hollywood movie, listen to what is being said.
Similarly, by reading different types of literature you learn the correct usage of a phrase.
If you are unsure about which phrase to use, then it is always safer to just add “and you?” at the end of your sentence. For example, instead of saying “I am going to the market. How/What about you?”, simply say “I am going to the market, and you?”
Bottom Line – How About You vs What About You
There is not much difference between the phrases How about you and what about you. Many times they can be used interchangeably. What is important is the naturalness of the sentence. Choose the phrase that you think sounds more natural in a sentence.