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

    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

    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

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

    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

    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.

  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

    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:)

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