‘How Do You Think’ or ‘What Do You Think’: What’s the Difference? You might be saying to yourself, “The difference is obvious. They’ve just changed a word.” While this is definitely true, changing just one word in a phrase can totally change the trajectory of a sentence, or in this case, a question.
In a hurry? Here is a short overview of what you’ll learn:
These phrases are the prime example of how one word can totally change the meaning of a sentence or question. ‘How’ and ‘What’ are question words commonly found among others such as ‘Who,’ ‘When,’ ‘Where,’ and ‘Why,’ which are all used to determine and clarify facts. Knowing which of these questions words to use, how they work, and how to answer them will prepare you for future writing projects.
So what is the difference between these two phrases, aside from the obvious?
To help differentiate between the two, it’s best to consider what is being questioned by the question word.
Another thing to keep in mind with these phrases is that they can function as sentences or questions by themselves but are often found as parts of larger sentences as well. But to break down these phrases, let’s look at ‘How’ vs ‘What’ to clarify things.
It can also mean or be:
The word ‘What’ belongs to a variety of parts of speech, and the meaning/context will change depending on which you use.
As a pronoun, Oxford Languages defines ‘What’ as:
As a determiner, Oxford Languages defines ‘What’ as:
As an adverb, Oxford Languages defines ‘What’ as:
Phrases with ‘What’
As you may have gathered, both phrases are grammatically correct, but they will yield different outcomes. The phrase ‘What Do You Think’ indicates that the questioner wants to hear the opinions of others, meanwhile ‘How Do You Think’ indicates that the questioner wants to hear the way the thoughts of others are formed.
Here is an example of how the different phrases would interact with the same context:
Given these phrases are typical questions, below you’ll see some example questions to get a feel for the variety of contexts these phrases cover. You will also see how using ‘How’ vs ‘What’ affects what questions you can ask to accurately uncover information.
While expanding vocabulary and learning new elaborate words is important, having a good grip on small, building block words is key to mastering written and spoken English. Knowing the difference between ‘How’ and ‘What’ will help you clarify the precise purpose of your questions and allow you to seek as much information as possible.
Want a quick recap of what you learned?
Learning question words and knowing how to use them properly can be tedious at times, but once you master them you’ll also master the English language. Confusing words can be frustrating to navigate, but our other articles can help you tackle them with ease and also help you build your grammatical arsenal. Don’t forget to pay attention to context, and remember that one small word can totally redirect the meaning of a sentence or question.
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