“How come?” is a very, very common English expression that is important to learn. It is used all the time, but many textbooks and teachers don’t teach it, because it is informal. In this simple video, I will teach you what “how come” means, how to use it, and when to use it. After watching, take the quiz at https://www.engvid.com/how-come/ to make sure you’ve got it!
Hello. My name is Emma, and in today’s video I am going to teach you a very important expression for conversation. That expression is: “How come?” It’s a very popular expression you may see in movies, on TV, or in conversation with English speakers. But it’s a very good one to know because we do use it a lot.
So, what does “How come?” mean? Okay, well, first I have a question for you. I have here two sentences. “Why did you miss your plane?” and “How come you missed your plane?” What is the difference in meaning between these two sentences? Maybe you already know. Okay? So take a guess. The difference in meaning is actually they mean the same thing. “How come?” is another way to say “Why?”. It’s just a little bit more informal. Okay? So if you’re writing, you’re going to use “Why?”, but if you’re speaking you can use both. Okay? “How come?” is informal, it’s an informal way to say “Why?” And so, by informal, I mean you use it with your friends, with, you know, people you’re talking to on the street, but you wouldn’t use it in an essay. Okay? Or for school.
Okay, so: “How come?” means: “Why?” So, when we’re asking: “How come?” what we’re asking about is… we want to know why something happened or the reasons why something happened. Okay? So, for example: “How come you missed your plane?” You know, a reason might be: “Oh, I was late getting to the airport” or “I slept in.” Okay? So these would be the answers to a question like: “How come?” So, a lot of the time, teachers will ask this question. “You were late for class today. How come?” That means the teacher wants to know why you were late for class. So now let’s look at the grammar of “How come?” and how we can use it in a sentence.
Okay, so again, “How come?” is an informal way to say: “Why?” So, we often use it in conversation. Now let’s look at the grammar of “How come?” and how we make a sentence with “How come?” So, I have here: “How come”, which is at the beginning, and then we have plus the subject. A subject is… It can be: “I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, “they”, “we”, or it can also be a thing, a place, or a person, but it’s the doer of a sentence. Then we have the verb. So, for example: “play”, “take”, “listen”, “sing”, “eat”, these are all verbs. And then finally we have an object, which comes after the verb in regular English sentences and usually those can be people, they can be places, they can be things, so these are the objects. If this is confusing, let’s look at some examples, maybe that will help.
So, for example: “How come you”-is the subject-“take”-is the verb, and the object is-“the bus”? “How come you take the bus?” This means the same thing as: “Why do you take the bus?” So, here I actually have this written: “Why do you take the bus?” And you’ll actually notice “How come” is easier in terms of grammar than “Why”. If you look here: “Why do you take the bus?” you have this word, here: “do”. Okay? In other sentences we say: “Why does he” or “Why didn’t he”, but there’s always something like: “do”, “does”, “did”, “didn’t” here with “Why”. And a lot of students forget to put this here. A lot of students will say: “Why you take the bus?” But this is not correct English. For “Why” we always need something here. Now, the nice thing about “How come” is you don’t need this. Okay? If you look at “How come”, if you can make an English sentence: “you take the bus”, you can change this into “Why” just by adding “How come”. So, the structure of this is just like a regular English sentence. We have the subject, the verb, and the object, and then we just add “How come” at the front of it.
So let’s look at another example: “How come Toronto isn’t the capital of Canada?” So, again, we have: “How come”, we have “Toronto” which is the subject, we have “isn’t” which is the verb, and we have “the capital”, which is the object. So, if you want to make a regular sentence, I would just say: “Toronto isn’t the capital”, we can just add “How come” to this, and then it becomes a question, meaning: “Why isn’t Toronto the capital?”
“How come John didn’t come?” Okay? So here we have “How come” at the beginning, “John” which is the subject, and “didn’t come”, because it’s negative form we have “didn’t” here, so this is the past, past tense. “Didn’t come” is the verb. Okay? This sentence doesn’t have an object. Not all sentences in English need objects. The main thing is that you have a subject and a verb. Okay, so that might be a little confusing for you.
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