What if.. How about (if)

“What if” is used in three ways:

  1. when considering (worrying about) possible trouble in an unfamiliar situation
  2. in a small child’s imaginative statement
  3. 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

Examples:

  • 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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