Is it improper grammar to say 'how come' instead of 'why'?
Popular Opinion- Technically it would not necessarily be
wrong but many English teachers and professors prefer why because
it is more mature-like and understandable without sounding like a
Answer- Although it is not improper, to use "how come" it
in the place of "why" is an American idiom that some
teachers would like to eliminate. It is most often used today in
informal speech, even though it appears in educated journals in the
19th century. It is a shortened version of the phrase, "how does it
come to be..."
"How come", in its proper usage, differs from "why" in that "how
come" is factive, whereas "why" is not. "How come" presupposes its
complement; "why" does not. Anastasia Marie Conroy of the
Linguistics Department at the University of Maryland discusses
these and other differences at length in her article The
Semantics of How Come: A Look At How Factivity Does It
To further illustrate the above, the question, "How come I have
to stay after school?" indicates that the speaker wants to know the
reason that they must stay after school. On the other hand,
the question "Why do I have to stay after school?" could mean the
same thing or that the speaker would like to know why he or she
should stay after school, as in "Why do I have to stay after
school (when I can get my work done at home)?"
Yes it is improper. Example: "How come I have to stay after
school?" to "Why do I have to stay after school?" You can see the
difference. The reason one must speak fairly good English (not all
the time and we can get sloppy when relaxed) is when you get out in
the business world. A well-spoken person always stands out and
sounds much more educated than they actually may be.
How come is never acceptable in English English.
There's nothing wrong with how come? It is somehat
colloquial, which isn't a problem.