While talking to myself the other day, I noticed something odd.

We have the five W words and the H:

  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Who
  • Why
  • How

I've heard three of these words said with "some" at the start:

  • Somewhat
  • Somewhere
  • Somehow

But I've never heard "somewhen", "somewho" or "somewhy". If when, why, and who, are the same type of speech as what, where, and how, why don't we put "some" before the former three?

  • Maybe you're expecting more patterns than exit.
    – Xanne
    Jun 18, 2017 at 6:42
  • That may be a duplicate of the question, but there's no useful answer there. Jun 18, 2017 at 16:05
  • LIke most Why questions about language, a complete answer is "because that is how it is". You can sometimes speculate, or even demonstrate how it came to be, but there is no answer to why it came to be.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 18, 2017 at 17:47
  • 2
    somewhen: sometime; somewho: somebody; somewhy: ??? Jun 18, 2017 at 17:52
  • @PeterShor Maybe somewhy: for some reason.
    – 1006a
    Jun 19, 2017 at 7:23

1 Answer 1


Good observations. A few additions ...

First, they're Wh-words, not just W-words. The wh part goes back to Proto-Indo-European relative/interrogative root *kʷo- and shows up in Latin as well as in all the qu-words and -phrases we've borrowed, like quantity, quality, and question.

Second, you missed a few. As well as who, what, where, when, why and how, there's also which and whether. Not to mention old paradigmatic variants like whence and whither, which are pretty rare in use these days.

Third, some is not the only word they can occur with. Consider any, which alternates with some in many contexts:

  • Did you see some people there? ~ Did you see any people there?

So besides somewhere, somehow, and somewhat, there's also anywhere and anyhow. And then there's everywhere and elsewhere. It looks like locatives have the most fun, since where combines with the most words. Combinations like *somewhen, *anywhat, *elsewho, and *everyhow -- while understandable -- just don't exist in English.

  • 1
    I can attest somewhen attests in English sci-fi (and sappy country music).
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 18, 2017 at 17:34
  • American SF, too. It's unavoidable when you're dealing with imaginary dimensions. Jun 18, 2017 at 17:36
  • 1
    I meant English as in the language, not the stoic people from that weird little island. I'm American.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 18, 2017 at 17:47

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