Suppose you’re chatting with a friend. They’ve asked about the best part of your week, and you’ve just finished explaining the perfect morning you had last Wednesday. Now you want to know about the best part of their week. In this case, is it correct to ask, “How about you?”
It is correct to ask “How about you?” to reciprocate a question that someone asked you after you answered it. When you ask, “How about you?” you’re giving the initial question back to the other person so you can hear their ideas, experiences, or opinions about the topic.
There are other contexts where you can use “How about you,” such as making a polite request. Here, we’ll explore the meaning and usage of this phrase, and we’ll look at several examples of it in action!
What Does “How About You” Mean?
When it’s standing alone as a question, “How about you?” shows reciprocation in a conversation. This means you ask the other person to explain their own ideas, opinions, or experiences about the current discussion topic.
So, if someone asks, “How about you?” they’re asking you about your own thoughts on whatever topic you’ve been discussing together (source).
“How about you” can also be the beginning of a polite request. In this case, the phrase doesn’t have a question mark directly after it. Instead, “you” becomes the subject of a question, and the question shows the request or suggestion that the speaker is making (source).
You can start a polite request with “How about” and then choose any subject to continue the request; however, “you” is a prevalent subject if you’re addressing someone directly.
How Do You Use “How About You”?
People often use “How about you?” to reciprocate the question, “How are you?” You can also use “How about you?” to ask about someone’s status, state, or opinion just after they’ve asked about yours.
Let’s look at this example conversation:
- Mark: Hi Sally! How are you doing today?
- Sally: I’m doing well, how about you?
- Mark: I’m also fine, thanks!
In the example, you’ll see that both friends gave similar answers in tone, length, and topic. When we use “How about you?” we expect the other person to mirror our own answer. This doesn’t mean they should necessarily give the same answer, but they should talk for about the same amount of time on the same subject.
You can also use “How about you” to start a question that contains a polite request. You should use the simple form of the verb (also known as “verb 1”) after the phrase “How about you” when you’re making a polite request.
For instance, suppose you ask your little sister, “How about you put on your pajamas?” Here, you kindly request that she wear her pajamas, and you signal that it is almost time to sleep. It’s a strong suggestion that gives her an idea of what you want and expect from her.
How Do You Answer “How About You”?
When you answer “How about you?” you’re actually answering the first question you initially asked the other person. You’re continuing with the same topic of conversation, but now it’s your turn to share what you’re thinking!
Suppose you asked your friend, “Have you seen any great movies lately?” They replied and described an excellent movie that they watched last week. Then, they turn to you and ask, “How about you?”
They’re giving the question back to you because they want to know if you’ve seen any great movies lately. So, your answer should mirror theirs. You’ll explain your opinion or experience about the same topic; in this case, you’ll talk about a movie you’ve watched recently.
Usually, your response should match theirs in length and level of detail. For example, imagine you asked, “How are you today?” and they answered, “I’m fine, thanks. How about you?” You shouldn’t reply with a long answer; it’s enough to say, “I’m fine too.”
When Can You Use “How About You”?
You can use “How about you?” to reciprocate a question. This means you are giving the other person’s question back to them. Of course, you should answer their initial question before asking, “How about you?”
You can also use “How about you?” toward another participant who hasn’t shared their opinion yet. For example, if you meet two friends for coffee and ask them about the best parts of their week, you can ask the second friend, “How about you?” once the first has finished sharing.
If you are a service worker, you can ask “How about you?” to each member of the same group when it’s their turn to give their order. So, for example, if you are the barista at a coffee shop and three friends are ready to submit their order, you can say, “And how about you?” to the next friend after taking the first’s order.
Yet another context in which you can use “How about you” is in a strong, polite suggestion to someone: “How about you calm down here for a minute while I sort this out.”
Using “How About You” in a Full Sentence
You can use this phrase as a complete question. If “How about you?” comes with the question mark, it’s already a full sentence. However, if you wish to make a strong suggestion, then you need to add details to the end.
If you’re using “How about you” to start a polite request, then you should use verb 1 (or the simple form of the verb) to explain the action you’re requesting or suggesting.
For instance, suppose you and your brother are bickering over who will pay the bill. You can suggest a solution like this: “How about you pay for the movie tickets, and I pay for the dinner?” You’re making a clear suggestion, but using the “How about” formula solidifies your good intentions in the solution.
When Not to Use “How About You”
“How about you?” as a tag question can contain subtle nuances. For native English speakers, it’s more common to hear “How about you?” when they’re talking about thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or opinions.
Native English speakers prefer “What about you?” when they’re reciprocating questions about more concrete things like objects or locations. So, if your friend asks, “Where will you be spending Christmas?” you can reply and then ask, “What about you?” This is because you’re asking about a concrete location.
But if your friend asks, “What are some of your best Christmas memories over the years?” you can ask, “How about you?” after giving your answer. This is because your childhood Christmas memories and their corresponding emotions are abstract ideas.
Of course, you shouldn’t stress too much over this distinction because it is a highly nuanced preference; most native speakers probably don’t even recognize this pattern in their daily lives. Similarly, they aren’t likely to notice if you use “What about you?” for an abstract idea or “How about you?” with something more concrete.
To learn more about this distinction, check out our article Is It Correct to Say “What About You”?
What Can You Use Instead of “How About You”?
The most common alternatives to using “How about you?” include “What about you?” and “And you?”
We often use “How about you?” as a response to some version of the question “How are you?” Since this is a typical daily question, it’s a good idea to have several different responses, so life doesn’t get too
Here are other popular ways to ask, “How about you?” after someone asks, “How are you?”
- How have you been?
- What’s new with you?
- How is everything with you?
For more about keeping the conversation going, check out our article Is It Correct to Say “How Is Everything Going”?.
If you want to ask “How about you?” quickly and efficiently while texting or messaging in an informal setting, you can use the abbreviation “HBU?” You may also see this abbreviation with all lowercase letters (“hbu?”) or without the question mark (“HBU” or “hbu”).
“How about you” is one of several ways to start a polite request. A polite request expresses the same desire or suggestion as a direct imperative sentence, but the grammar of the sentence gives it more formality.
For example, you can tell your colleague, “Wait here, and I’ll bring the photocopies.” This suggestion is clear, and your colleague can easily understand what you’d like them to do.
However, when you say, “How about you stay here, and I’ll bring the photocopies,” the whole suggestion becomes more polite and formal. Even though these two sentences have essentially the same meaning, the second example seems more polite to native English speakers.
Here are a few other ways to make polite requests and suggestions; we based all of them on the imperative sentence “Open the window.“
- How about you open the window?
- Could you please open the window?
- I’d really appreciate it if you would open the window.
- Would it be possible for you to open the window?
- Would you mind opening the window?
- Would you be willing to open the window?
Notice how many of these examples include modal verbs, such as “could” and “would” (source). Remember, we always use the simple form of the verb (or “verb 1”) with a modal. That’s true for these polite requests that include modals, as well!
Some other formulas for polite requests use a different form of the verb, such as the gerund form (verb+ing) or the infinitive form (to + verb 1). So pay attention to the formula you need when you make a polite request, and be sure you’re using the correct verb form!
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Using polite requests when speaking and writing is a great way to make your English sound more natural and native-like. It also brings a new level of formality to your communication, which can be helpful in professional and academic settings.
“How about you?” is a way to reciprocate a question during a conversation. It shows the other person that you want to hear their ideas, opinions, and/or experiences about the topic of discussion. It also helps to keep conversations going.
Remember, reciprocating in conversation is a great way to build and maintain friendships and connections. Simply asking, “How about you?” is the perfect way to open the door to more conversation and better understanding between you and the people around you!