'How big this cake is!' 'What a' (Exclamation)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by 8769, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. 8769 Senior Member

    Japanese and Japan
    When you see a very big cake on the table just in front of you, which, #1 or #2, below, would you be likely to say?
    1. What a big cake this is!
    2. How big this cake is!

    A friend insists that #2 is not natural. I feel #1 and #2 are both grammatical and natural English. Grammar books at hand give these two types of exclamatory sentence: “what a ‘noun’” pattern and “how ‘adjective’” pattern.

    I’d appreciate it if you would give any comment.
  2. kitenok Senior Member

    Hi 8769,
    Choosing from the constructions you suggest, my most likely response would be "What a big cake!"
    My impression is that the "How + adjective" construction is no longer active in American English. It would certainly be understood, but a native speaker would produce it only in fixed phrases or with a sarcastic tone.
  3. Madrid829 Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    US English, Great Lakes area
    I agree with kitenok.

    I often use and hear "how", but it almost always starts with something else. For example, "Look how big the cake is!"
  4. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    The above comments go for BE too. I'd be most likely to simply say "What a big cake!"
  5. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    In AmE, we do say "How nice!" "How sad!" "How sweet [of you]!" "How awful [for you]!"

    If there is a pattern here, it appears to be that we use "How ...!" with the adjective alone, but "What a ...!" when we name the thing being described.
  6. meetmeinmontauk New Member

    English - USA
    That cake is huge! Wow, what a big cake!
    In theory, I guess you could say "how big this cake is etc" that but it just isn't very natural/common...
    Cagey has it right as far as I can see.
    "How cool is that!?!"
    "How funny are you!"

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