A lot of students ask me about directness in English. Generally, Americans tend to speak their opinions and thoughts directly. Sometimes, however, we prefer the indirect approach. This indirect way of speaking happens when we disagree or have the opposite opinion of what was just said. As well, we like to ask for reasons in a more indirect way. Today, I’m going to teach you about the phrase how come, which is a more casual and indirect form of the question word, why.
We use how come in place of why in a conversation. Here are some examples:
- George: I can’t go to Elaine’s party tomorrow.
- Jerry: How come?
- George: Because I have to work late.
Here’s another example:
- Dan: Would you like some more coffee?
- Jenny: No thanks. I’m trying to cut down.
- Dan: How come?
- Jenny: Because my doctor said too much coffee is not good for my stomach.
We also use how come in place of why in a question. The English grammar for a usual why question is Why + is/are/do/does (etc) + subject + verb/object. The grammar pattern with how come is easy. Just use how come + sentence. Have a look at these examples:
- Why is George late?
- How come George is late?
- Why did Jack miss the party?
- How come Jack missed the party?
- Why are you going there?
- How come you are going there?
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