how come

Discussion in 'English Only' started by i heart queso, Apr 22, 2007.

  1. i heart queso Senior Member

    San Francisco, California
    English, Canada
    Hi folks,
    I was wondering if 'how come' to mean 'why' is proper English. I saw one post that said it was poor English. Is the 'proper' version 'why's that?'?

    A: No, I didn't end up going.
    B: Ah, how come?
     
  2. Coppard New Member

    England, English
    You could try "how so?" which is a more formal version of "how come?"
     
  3. chazzabum Member

    Hull, UK
    English, England
    I'd probably say 'why is it that...?'
     
  4. Marty10001 Senior Member

    Dublin
    Ireland/English
    It is conversational and a bit slang - more formal might be "why not?"
     
  5. chazzabum Member

    Hull, UK
    English, England
    How come? = Why not?

    But if you were to use how come in a sentence... it would depend alot on the context, but there is always a better way of saying it... usually just 'why' will do..

    e.g. How come you've got more than me? = Why do you have more than me?
     
  6. kenny4528

    kenny4528 Senior Member

    Taipei
    Mandarin, Taiwan
    I have seen a paragraph indicating ''How come'' is a shorten form from a clause ''how does(did) it come that''
    Is that true?:confused:
     
  7. mplsray Senior Member

    I can find no source which I trust on the Web which explicitly gives that as the origin, although it seems logical enough.

    (While researching the matter, by the way, I learned that the greeting How! used in movie Westerns when American Indians and whites great each other is derived from an actual Indian word, Hau!, a greeting in Lakota and Dakota.)
     
  8. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English
    Hi,

    how come. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Retrieved April 22, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/how come

    how so? How come is short for how did it come about that and dates from the mid-1800s; how so, short for how is it so or how is it that , dates from about 1300.

    I may have lower standards; I find this source credible.
     
  9. mplsray Senior Member

    It's a credible source, and one which I have cited before. It simply didn't occur to me to consult it.
     
  10. i heart queso Senior Member

    San Francisco, California
    English, Canada
    Thanks everyone. :)
     
  11. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    It means "Why?" or "Why not?", depending on the context.
     
  12. brilliantpink Senior Member

    Ottawa
    Canada, English
    We say "how come" all the time for "why?" or "why not?" But it is not used in formal written English.
     
  13. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I the USA, I hear "how come"; I rarely hear "how so".

    The few times I have heard "how so?" it was from an Englishman.
     
  14. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I'm familiar with both "how come" and "how so" but to me they don't mean the same thing.

    -The party's been canceled!
    -How come?

    -I think that's different.
    -How so?
     
  15. roxcyn

    roxcyn Senior Member

    USA
    American English [AmE]
    Yes, I use that phrase, so since there are speakers that use it and since people posted a dictionary entry I would say it is okay to use it. Have a nice day.

    Pablo
     
  16. mrr5052 Senior Member

    American English
    Does anyone know why Americans (in the Northeast, at least) say "how come" instead of "why" sometimes? I do it myself and I know it's wrong.

    e.g. "How come you did that?"
     
  17. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I've no idea, MRR. I can tell you, however, that people in the northwest of England (including me) say it too:)
    It looks like it's used all over the English-speaking world:)

    (I've merged your thread with an old one on the same subject, MRR).
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2009
  18. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    It's not wrong - it's just idiomatic:)
     
  19. eli7

    eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian (Farsi)
    Greetings,
    I wonder if I can use "how come" in this situation:

    A: Do you live with your family?
    B:How come? ...> meaning that why do you ask.
     
  20. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hello eli

    No, I'm sorry, you can't use "How come?" To mean Why do you ask?:(
     
  21. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I agree: "How come?" would not be understood as "How come you ask?" here.
     
  22. eli7

    eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian (Farsi)
    Thank you :)
    Then, something must happen beforehand so that we can use "how come", right?
    Can it happen in this situation:
    A: I forgot the number!
    B: how come?

    A: He broke his leg.
    B: how come.
     
  23. Juhasz Senior Member

    English - United States
    I have no problem with Q: "Do you live with your family?" A: "How come?" This sounds like typical, informal American English.

    As for the latter questions, the first situation ("I forgot..." "How come?") sounds like perfectly natural informal American English.

    The second situation is pretty strange. Remember, we use "how come?" to mean "why?" So, "He broke his leg." "How come?" means why did he choose to break his leg. Since purposefully breaking your own leg is a pretty uncommon situation, you would probably want to use "How?" instead of "how come."
     
  24. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Both of those work for me in BE. They suggest the meaning of 'How or why did that happen?'

    So, in the broken leg example, it would equate to asking what the person had been doing at the time to result in the broken leg: it wouldn't suggest to me that he/she had done it deliberately.
     
  25. eli7

    eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian (Farsi)
    Thank you all :)
    DonnyB, what about this one? Does it makes sense to you as a British native speaker?

     
  26. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    No: it sounds odd as a response to a question. It would make more sense as:
    A: I don't live with my family now.
    B: How come? ...> meaning = 'why have you moved out?'
     
  27. eli7

    eli7 Senior Member

    Tehran; Iran
    Persian (Farsi)
    Thanks a lot all :)
     
  28. semeeran Senior Member

    Indian Tamil, India
    A: I don't live with my family now.
    B: How come? You have you moved out?
    Can we say like this?
    Thanks.
     
  29. Florentia52

    Florentia52 Modwoman in the attic

    Wisconsin
    English - United States
    You can ask "How come?" in this situation, though we might also ask "Why not?" instead.
     

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