Today’s English expression: How so?


Today’s English expression comes from a group discussion lesson on hobbies!

Here’s the expression:

“How so?”

“How so?” is an extremely efficient and useful expression used to truncate a lengthier question when repeating the full sentence would be cumbersome.


For example:

A: “This dress makes me look fat.”

Instead of saying

B: “How does that dress make you look fat?”

Person B could shorten that to:

B: “How so?”

You may have noticed that this pattern works the same way as “I (don’t) think so.”


A: “Do you think it’s going to rain tomorrow?”

B: (long answer): “No, I don’t think it’s going to rain tomorrow.”

B: (shorter, more natural answer): “No, I don’t think so.”

So rather than having to repeat the entire sentence, we can just substitute it with “so” and the other person will understand what we mean!  Pretty cool, huh?

Here’s nother example of how to use it:

A: “I think it’s going to be difficult to memorize all of this for the test.”

B (long answer): “How do you think it’s going to be difficult to memorize all of this for the test?”

B (shorter, more natural answer): “How so?”

Whew!  Isn’t that easier?

This expression is a little tricky, though, because how can mean several things.  It can mean:

  1. To what degree (ex: how tall are you?)
  2. Using what method (ex: how do you study English?)
  3. In what sense or way (ex: how is studying English hard?)

The expression “how so?” uses the third definition of how.

So “How so?” means “In what way/sense is that so?”

Going back to the first example, the conversation might go like this:

A: “This dress makes me look fat.”

B: “How so?”

A: “It’s really tight around my waist.”

Another example:

A: “This textbook is confusing.”

B: “How so?”

A: “The vocabulary is too hard, and there’s too much grammar.”

You may have noticed, the main purpose for this expression is asking the other person to elaborate, or to explain more.

For an example of this, watch this short scene from the movie “Mallrats”.  There are two characters in this scene, Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel Superheroes and Brodie, a guy who just lost his girlfriend.  Brodie is a really big fan of Stan Lee!  Watch as he asks Stan Lee to elaborate on why he created the Marvel Superheroes characters:

I hope that’s helpful!  If you have any further question, don’t hesitate to comment, or shoot me a tweet!


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