I know how and why are different, but in certain situations it seems like the same answer would work for both of them. “How is the boy so big?” “Why is the boy so big?” Would the answer to both of these questions be something like “he has been eating a lot.” or would there need to be two different answers. “How is the man so tall?” “Why is the man so tall?” Would these have similar answers too?


3 Answers 3


The questions How? and Why? only have similar answers where the reason for something is the cause. This is the case for a question like "Why is the boy so big?" — he has eaten a lot, or he has a growth hormone disorder, etc.

For a question pair like

Why did you go to the stadium?
How did you go to the stadium?

the answers are quite obviously different.

  • You could compare "What is that?" and "Who is that?" which might have the same answer, e.g. if you're peering at shapes in a photo, but in general are looking for different kinds of answers.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 11:21

When how is followed by a situation or state (in particular, when it is followed by is/are) it generally means "How does it happen that...?" or "How is ... allowed?", and in that sense it is more or less the same question as "Why...?". This may be because it does not make much sense to ask "In what way" of a state or situation.

When it is followed by an action or activity, it generally does not have that meaning, (though it sometimes can have) and does not then have the same meaning as "why?"


As MW states, one meaning of "how" is:

for what reason, why

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