Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between How and Why

How vs Why

“How” and “why” are both used for interrogation. They might have answers which are related closely to each other, but “how” one answers, “by what way or method,” and “why” one answers and “the reasons” need to be examined. For


How is a cake baked?

This question needs to be answered by showing the method how it’s baked; whereas,

Why is a cake baked?
Answers a question which asks about the reasons or circumstances why a cake is baked or needs to be baked. They have absolutely different answers and cannot be confused with each other.
If we look into the English dictionary meanings and usages of these two words, they have many differences, but the main difference is in the questions they answer. Let’s understand them with the help of some examples and their dictionary meanings.

Usage as an Adverb

By what manner? For example, How did it happen?
To what degree? For example, How hurt is he?
In what condition? For example, How is she?
What is the meaning or effect? For example, How should he understand her actions?
The way to use a name or title. For example, How should one address the queen?
The price or the quantity. For example, How much are the apples? How do you sell bananas? (By numbers or by weight?)

Usages as Conjunctions

The manner in which, for example, She could not understand how to do it.

Condition, for example, She does not mind how you do it, just do it right.
However, for example, She can sing how she likes.
That, for example, He told everyone how he could do anything.

Usages as Idioms
“How” is used in many idioms like, Is she sad? And how! When used as a toast, we use “Here’s how.” There are many other usages.

Usages as an Adverb

For what purpose? For example, Why didn’t he behave well?

Usages as Conjunctions

For what cause or purpose? For example, Nobody knows why she is going away.
On which account? For example, The condition why he did not go is not known.
Certain reasons for which, for example, That is the reason why she returned.

“Why” is used as a noun in certain cases. For example, The whys of children are never ending.
“Why” is used to express surprise and sometimes hesitation. For example, Why, she took all the balloons!

“How” and “why” are both interrogative words, but they answer different questions. “How” answers questions like “by what method?” “to what degree?” “in what condition?” and many more. Whereas, “why” answers questions like “for what purpose or reason?”

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  1. “Why questions” are a search for explanations.

    Answers to “how questions” serve as candidates for potential explanations.

    Therefore, answers to “how questions” can be used to judge to what degree “why questions” can be answered to satisfaction.

    That is, if we don’t know answers to “how questions” (mechanisms), we will not have answers to “why questions”.

  2. Great answer, gahnett!

  3. Thank u i understand better now

  4. What about when ‘why’ is used to ask a ‘how’ question? For example, ‘why is the sky blue?’ isn’t really a question of motive or reason, it’s really asking, ‘how does the sky come to be blue?’, or ‘how do I come to perceive the sky as blue?’ Is this a mistaken use of the word ‘why’, or an overlap in meanings between ‘why’ and ‘how’? Or does it suggest some underlying assumption that someone (God perhaps?) has some reason or motivation for causing the sky to appear as blue?

  5. Please thank you all ..but I am still confused…I am asked why are you applying for the scholarship …and how will this scholarship benefit you .. please help me

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