“What if” is used in three ways:
- when considering (worrying about) possible trouble in an unfamiliar situation
- in a small child’s imaginative statement
- to make a suggestion
1. when considering trouble in an unfamiliar situation
Example – Situation: Daughter is beginning college.
- What if they don’t like me?
- What if I can’t do the work?
2. in a small child’s imaginative statement
- What if the sky were pink?
- What if elephants flew?
3. to make a suggestion
Note: “What if,” when used in this way, and “how about (if)” are interchangeable.
Situation: Planning each person’s participation in a school project
Bill: What if I write a summary of chapter one?
Joe: Yeah, and I could illustrate your writing.
Bill: Bob and Sue, what if you do the same for chapter two?
Bob and Sue agree.
Sue: That sounds like a plan!
“How about” and “how about if”
Note: “How about”, “how about if” and “what if” have the same meaning and are used interchangeably.
Situation: Two people are planning a picnic
Bob: How about if I bring sandwiches.
Sue: Okay. How about I bring something to drink.
Bob: How about we meet in the park at 1:00.
Sue: That sounds perfect.
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