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E.g.

  • I'm going straight home after work. How about you?
  • I'm going straight home after work. What about you?

They both seem to work interchangeably, but there feels like a subtle difference and I can't quite pin it down.

Similar but a little bit different from "How about" vs. "What about", the same arguments do not apply because we are always referring to "you".

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2  
I think it is a duplicate of "How about" vs. "What about". The original applies just the same if the following word happens to be "you". –  FumbleFingers Mar 9 '12 at 22:07
    
Hahaha, I don't even bother with how or what about anymore, I just add a , you? Like: I'm going straight home after work, you? –  henryaaron Mar 9 '12 at 22:19

3 Answers 3

As a native English speaker, I feel they have different implicit meanings. Without knowing the context, this is how I interpret them:

  • I'm going straight home after work. How about you?

    I'm going straight home after work, which I assume you are also doing, would you like to accompany me as far as it is possible to travel together? Or, can I give you a lift?

  • I'm going straight home after work. What about you?

    I am going straight home after work. You are not invited to join me, and I am not interested in doing anything with you, but I expect you will not be going straight home and I am curious where you are going instead.

John Lawler put it excellently in his comment above: "'What about you?' requests a statement about you in general, while 'How about you?' requests a response about your manner, means, or condition."

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From my point of view, if the difference between what about and how about in general is slight, the difference between what about you and how about you is even slighter. They are certainly interchangeable, as you mentioned, but I would go so far as to say that their common usages are semantically indistinguishable.

In point of usage, Ngrams shows a slight preference for What about you:

COCA shows 770 instances of how about you, the vast majority of which are in the proper context (a few are in the form of how about you do so-and-so), and 1002 of what about you, all of which that I saw were in this context. BNC has 78 versus 202, an even more marked difference.

Disclaimer regarding Ngram chart: see this meta post for important info on this internet resource.

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Corpus research might show them to be used in different contexts. –  Barrie England Mar 9 '12 at 18:38
    
I'd conclude that the Ngram shows them used "roughly equally." For one, the lines intersect in three places; for another, even the seemingly-huge lead in developed over the past 30 years equals a mere .00000985%, roughly - a barely detectable amount. More generically, a different Ngram shows that, since the dawn of the 20th century, what about is getting used more often than how about - how about that? –  J.R. Mar 9 '12 at 19:18
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I don't see a systematic difference, of any sort. This seems to be one of those (very common) situations where one arrives at the same semantic spot via different metaphoric routes, producing near synonymy in many contexts. What about you? requests a statement about you in general, while How about you? requests a response about your manner, means, or condition. This leaves room for lots of personal preferences, presumptuous proscriptions, and zombie rules, to say nothing of actual sociocultural variation. –  John Lawler Mar 9 '12 at 19:55

As I see it, "you" is the other, so to avoid all the various implications here mentioned and well thought through, I would say "I am going straight home after work. " and leave it at that.

A long life has taught me that it can be unwise to give options.

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I take it the OP is being conversational... –  Andrew Nov 4 '12 at 11:03

protected by RegDwigнt Feb 1 '13 at 21:06

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