How can I differentiate 'why' and 'how come'?

Tenacious Learner

Senior Member
Spanish
Hi teachers,
'Why' and 'how come' both asks for reason, don't they?
How can I differentiate them in the following question? Are both possible?

How come/Why did they get their boat back to the island?
Because two people in another boat towed their boat.

Thanks in advance.
 
  • Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    >> 'Why' and 'how come' both asks for reason, don't they?

    Indeed, yes.

    >> How can I differentiate them in the following question?

    Why did they get their boat back to the island?

    How come they got their boat back to the island?

    nb. the boat question is a strange question to ask, by the way. Are you sure you mean 'For what reason did get their boat back to the island?'?
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    The boat question is a strange question to ask, by the way. Are you sure you mean 'For what reason did get their boat back to the island?'?
    Yes, Because they arrived to that island to have a picnic. The person who was supposed to tie the boat up didn't do it properly and the boat was in the middle of the river. They had to wait until two people in another boat towed their boat back to where they where: on the island.

    Is it better to use only 'how' as dadane suggested? :eek:Oops, it has been deleted by him.

    I didn't know that 'nb' means 'note well; take notice'. Thanks.

    TL
     
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    dadane

    Senior Member
    English-London
    What you are asking is 'how did they get their boat back to the island'?. I was going to say that you cannot replace 'how' with 'why' and retain the same meaning, this is, of course, nonsense, you can. However, this would not be the 'standard' way of saying it.

    Edit.
    The usage of 'why' meaning 'how' is idiomatic and will drag us off topic, I just had to correct my previous statement to allow for it.

    So, choosing a different and less ambiguous example:
    "Why did you go out so early this morning"? does mean exactly the same as "How come you went out so early this morning"?
     
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    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    What you are asking is 'how did they get their boat back to the island'?. I was going to say that you cannot replace 'how' with 'why' and retain the same meaning, this is, of course, nonsense, you can. However, this would not be the 'standard' way of saying it.
    Hi dadane,
    OK. Thanks. Then, I have to look for another question in order to get, 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat'.

    TL
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I see. So is the answer to the question "Why did they get their boat back to the island?", "Because they didn't want to be stranded?"? (Cross-posted)
    Hi BfN,
    Thanks for yours too. No it isn't. It's 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat'.
    Another word that I didn't know 'stranded'. Though now I do. ;)

    TL
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    There's something not quite right here, TL. :(

    This --> 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat' --- is not the/an answer to this --- > "Why did they get their boat back to the island?"
     

    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    Hi teachers,
    'Why' and 'how come' both asks for reason, don't they?
    How can I differentiate them in the following question? Are both possible?

    How come/Why did they get their boat back to the island?
    Because two people in another boat towed their boat.

    Thanks in advance.
    As Beryl have shown, The questions are to be as follows.

    1. Why did they get their boat back to the island? :tick:

    2. How come they got their boat back to the island? :tick:

    The word order of the second sentence isn't in the usual style that a question consists.

    The reason for that is that "how come" means not only "why" but also "why is it that" so an affirmative sentence can follow it.
     

    defghi

    Member
    American English
    Hi,
    Thanks, but Beryl has just said that that one is wrong, hasn't he?

    TL
    Both of lapdwicks questions ask for the reason they took their boat back to the island. Your proposed answer tells us the method they used to get their boat back to the island.

    Why did they get their boat back to the island? Because they didn't want to be stranded on the ocean.

    How did they get their boat back to the island? By having two people in another boat tow their boat.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    1."How come they got their boat back to the island?" - "Two people in another boat towed them".
    2. "Why did they get their boat back to the island?" - :confused: Do you mean "Why did they want their boat back?" - "Because they were stranded." Probably not.

    I suspect Beryl is telling you that question 2. doesn't say what you want it to say. I think you are trying to make it mean "How did they get their boat back to the island?" In that case, the answer will not begin "Because ..."

    Dadane's post #4 makes a good distinction:
    "How come you went out so early this morning?" doesn't say "How did you go out so early this morning?." It means "How did it come about", or simply "why".
     
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    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi defghi,
    Thanks for your reply and questions! They really fit with those answers.
    Then, to obtain 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat' as an answer none of my questions work at all.:(

    TL
     

    dadane

    Senior Member
    English-London
    The question is, what exactly are you looking for, are you trying to find sentences which match the answer or trying to demonstrate the interchangeability of 'why' and 'how come'? Either the answer has to change or the questions have to change.

    Cross-posted
     

    defghi

    Member
    American English
    1."How come they got their boat back to the island?" - "Two people in another boat towed them".
    2. "Why did they get their boat back to the island?" - :confused: Do you mean "Why did they want their boat back?" - "Because they were stranded." Probably not.
    Sorry if I confuse things, but I think the answer to "How come they got their boat back to the island?" is also "Because they were stranded"..
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Am I right in thinking that you have an exercise that involves finding a question the answer to which is 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat', TL?
     

    defghi

    Member
    American English
    Hi defghi,
    Thanks for your reply and questions! They really fit with those answers.
    Then, to obtain 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat' as an answer none of my questions work at all.:(

    TL
    Not really, since "because" answers a why, but the rest of the answer is telling us a how.

    You could maybe say, "Why were they able to get their boat back to the island?", "Because two people in another boat towed their boat."
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    1."How come they got their boat back to the island?" - "Two people in another boat towed them". Situation: The people who were isolated on the island were like that because one of them didn't tie the boat up properly, so the boat was in the middle of the river. That's why two people who were on a boat rowing on the river had to towed the boat back to the island where the isolated people were.
    2. "Why did they get their boat back to the island?" - :confused: Do you mean "Why did they want their boat back?" - "Because they were stranded." Probably not.
    No, that's not the answer I'm looking for.
    I suspect Beryl is telling you that question 2. doesn't say what you want it to say. I think you are trying to make it mean "How did they get their boat back to the island?" In that case, the answer will not begin "Because ..." That's were I'm wrong.
    Hi velisarius,
    Sorry. Have I explain myself clearly this time?

    TL
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Not really, since "because" answers a why, but the rest of the answer is telling us a how.

    You could maybe say, "Why were they able to get their boat back to the island?", "Because two people in another boat towed their boat."
    Hi defghi,
    Thanks! That's the right one! :thumbsup:
    Or, :rolleyes: 'Why could they get their boat back to the island?", "Because two people in another boat towed their boat."

    TL
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Am I right in thinking that you have an exercise that involves finding a question the answer to which is 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat', TL?
    Hi BfN,
    Absolutely right! And I wrongly thought mine were right. I've just wanted to find out what the differences were in my original questions.

    TL
     
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    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Sorry if I confuse things, but I think the answer to "How come they got their boat back to the island?" is also "Because they were stranded"..
    Hi defghi,
    You didn't confuse things at all. Each answer that I get here makes me think. That's the important part. :)

    TL
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    The question is, what exactly are you looking for, are you trying to find sentences which match the answer or trying to demonstrate the interchangeability of 'why' and 'how come'? Either the answer has to change or the questions have to change.

    Cross-posted
    Yes. I'm trying to find a sentence that matches, 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat', and I thought mine were right. Now I see that they aren't. I though mine could be interchangeable. I just didn't know why.

    TL
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Am I right in thinking that you have an exercise that involves finding a question the answer to which is 'Because two people in another boat towed their boat', TL?
    Hi BfN,
    Absolutely right!

    TL
    :idea:Here's a tip for next time you post: let us know the details of your exercise in post#1 ... it's part of context and background, believe it or not.:idea:

    This is not a particularly well thought out exercise, in my view.

    Anyway, here's a specimen question to which that up there could be the answer.

    "Why didn't their boat simply float away into the distance, leaving them stranded on the island with their hamper?" :)
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    :idea:Here's a tip for next time you post: let us know the details of your exercise in post#1 ... it's part of context and background, believe it or not.:idea: I promise I will. I'm really sorry.

    This is not a particularly well thought out exercise, in my view. I can clearly see it now.

    Anyway, here's a specimen question to which that up there could be the answer.

    "Why didn't their boat simply float away into the distance, leaving them stranded on the island with their hamper?" :)
    Hi BfN,
    Thanks for your help once again.

    TL
     

    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    This is the problem I was try to avoid earlier, both meanings can work. ;)
    I don't think it is.

    Although a question with the term "how come" seems to be regarding the manner of the action, it is not indeed.

    Why are you happy. Because I am at home today.

    How come you are happy. Because I am at home today.

    How come you are happy. = What is the reason that you are happy.
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    The word order of the second sentence isn't in the usual style that a question consists.
    2. How come they got their boat back to the island?


    Hi lapdwicks,
    Thanks! I can see that with ‘how come’ there is no inversion of the noun and the verb and the structure is maintained like a sentence.

    TL
     
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