Sunday, April 1

How, What, So, and Such

In English, we use some expressions (i.e. How, What, So, and Such) to express a high degree or an intense feeling.

For example,

1.       How cute!

2.       What a gentleman!

3.       It’s so fast!

4.       I’ve never seen such a small puppy!

From the experience of a learner, it’s confusing when to use each of them - and how.

OK. Before anything else, we should divide the four expressions into two pairs: (1) How and What, (2) So and Such.

The first pair, How and What, talks about the special quality of a thing or a person. This means that something or someone is above ordinary. So, something or someone makes you feel strongly  - whether positively or negatively.

In short, the special thing/ person makes you feel really happy/ angry/ excited/ upset etc.

For example,

1.       How stupid!

2.       What a waste!

3.       How interesting!

4.       What a fashionable dress!

The difficult part about How and What is that they have very similar meanings, but they are used in different ways. 

From now on, please remember these structures:

How + Adjective


What a + Noun

Needless to say, you need your Vocabulary skill to use them. You should know not only (A) the meaning of English words but also (B) the kind (Noun or Adjective etc.)

If you have the wrong knowledge of Vocabulary, you can’t use How and What properly.

For example, you should make sentences like these: 

1.       How + cute/ + funny/ + graceful/ + cheap/ + dangerous/ + lazy/ + careless etc. (Adjective)


2.       What a + liar/ + playboy/ + shame/ + stupid mistake/ + handsome boy/ + exciting movie etc. (Noun)

You can use either How or What a, just make sure that you don't mix up their structures. 

As you can see from our examples above, after the expression “What a,” you can add a “Noun” or “Adjective + Noun.

In fact, the combination “What a + Adjective + Noun” is very common.

What a Noun vs. What a Adjective

Like I said, What will be followed by a Noun while How will be followed by an Adjective. That’s why the structure “What a + Adjective” is wrong and impossible.

If you really wanna use an Adjective, you need to use How -- not What.

But students usually make this mistake (What a + Adjective) because they misunderstand the example sentences that they hear.

For example, they hear this sentence:

What a wonderful view!

This sentence is correct. But the student concentrates on the word after What. Based on the example, the student thinks that the word that follows What is the Adjective wonderful.” As a matter of fact, this isn’t true.

In our example, the word that follows What is the Nounview.” The Adjective there is just a kind of extra word.

The rule is still the same: “How + Adjective” while “What a + Noun.”

IN SUMMARY, you can use “What a” in 2 different ways:

1.       What a + Adjective + Noun

Ex. What a smart student!/ What a wonderful gift!/ What a soft bed!/ What a strange picture/ What a stupid mistake! etc.

(This is the more common and easier way. Coz it’s easy for students to combine an Adjective and a Noun)

WARNING: Just don’t forget the “A”.

2.       What a + Noun

Ex. What a crybaby!/ What a moron!/ What a tease!/ What a bum!/ What a pain!/ What a party! etc.

(This is a bit hard because you have to make sure that your Noun already has a special meaning. For example, with the Nounsgentleman” and “playboy,” we don’t need to add Adjectives anymore, right? We can use Nouns like these alone, without Adjectives)  


If you use a Countable or Uncountable Noun after What, this is also important. Because you can’t use the article “A” if you have an Uncountable Noun.

For example,

1.       What a soft bread! = X

2.       What a cold weather! = X

3.       What a sweet music! = X

4.       What a lovely furniture! = X

It’s better to remove all the Articles:

1.       What soft bread! = Ok

2.       What cold weather! = Ok

3.       What sweet music! = Ok

4.       What lovely furniture! = Ok

So vs. Such

To be continued…


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