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In this sentence

Don't worry about ( what / how ) others may think of you.

I think "what" is the answer, but I do not know why I cannot use "how" in this sentence.

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    You can use either form. They're equally idiomatic. Apr 30 at 7:06
  • There's very little semantic difference between the two. It's essentially a free choice.
    – BillJ
    Apr 30 at 16:06
  • "Don't worry about how others may think of you" is a meaningful and entirely grammatical sentence, but I suspect that it is far less common in everyday use than "Don't worry about what others may think of you." A Google Books search turns up zero matches for the former and eleven matches for the latter, which is hardly overwhelming. But a GB search for the shorter phrase "worry about how others may think" yields just three matches (one verifiable), while a search for "worry about what others may think" draws ~120 verifiable matches along with a seemingly truncated number of unverifiable ones.
    – Sven Yargs
    May 11 at 1:04

1 Answer 1

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"How" is associated with manner, means, circumstances.

  • How can he think if he has a headache?
  • How can he think this is right if he knows there is an error in the reasoning?

"What" concerns the object upon which the action is carried out.

  • What do you explain by means of this diagram?
    I explain the numerical relation between A and B. (what is being explained)

  • How do you explain the relation between A and B?
    I explain it (what) by means of a diagram (how).

Thus, as when you think something about someone, "something" is a grammatical object for the verb "think", it follows that "what" is the proper word. In this case, the manner in which people think about someone else is not a usual concept, but you can find a telling example with a different sense of "think".

(ref.) How did you think about going to the newspaper office? What prompted you to do that?

Note that you can replace "how" with "what" and you do say a different thing.

  • What did you think about going to the newspaper office?

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