So it is said that if you find after 怎么, the sentence represents 'How', and if you find after 怎么, the sentence represents 'Why'.

  • How : 你怎么来的? "How did you come?"
  • Why : 你怎么来了? "Why did you come?"

I'd like to more specifically see how this can work with , and and also the difference between them in such cases.

Thanks in advance.


I just can't find how 的 gives the meaning of 'How' with 怎么, since normally 的 implies 'of/conclusive(是-的)' rather than 'How'.

Thank you so much.

  • Looks like you already got it...to be honest
    – Mou某
    Aug 7, 2014 at 7:20
  • I'm not sure what I understand the 'more specifically see' part...
    – NS.X.
    Aug 7, 2014 at 8:11
  • @NS.X. I am learning the 的 part for better grammar understanding. 的 seems to be used in many ways to emphasize/embellish a sentence that I write. I just can't find how 的 gives the meaning of 'How' with 怎么, since normally 的 implies 'of/conclusive(是-的)' rather than 'How'. Thanks.
    – Dean Seo
    Aug 7, 2014 at 21:03

1 Answer 1


Usually "how" is 怎么 and "why" is 为什么,so you can easily know whether people are asking you "how" or "why".

But in this sentence, 怎么 is used to express "why" instead of 为什么. This is because, besides wanting to know the reason, the person is expressing his or her surprise. Sometimes people use this to show more surprise than their desire to know the reason. 你怎么来了?actually means "I'm so surprised that you've come! Maybe you can tell me why."

Yes, 了/的 is the key to recognize "how" and "surprise + why" when you meet 怎么. Sometimes there's 了的 at the end of the sentence and it means "how" because it's ended with 的. Example: 你是怎么把他杀了的 means "how did you kill him?" And when you read a sentence ended with 了, you're sure it expresses "surprise + why".

When listening, however, you can differentiate the two just by hearing the first three characters in the sentences. When expressing "how", the speaker accentuates 怎么; when expressing "surprise + why", the speaker emphasizes 你.

If you read such sentences ended with exclamation marks, you can be sure that the sentences are showing a strong surprise.For example, 你怎么来了!shows a stronger surprise than 你怎么来了?,and 你怎么来的!means "surprise + how".

  • I appreciate it. Is the 的 in this case different from the 是-的 phrase in a functional way? I think this was what I really wanted to ask.
    – Dean Seo
    Aug 7, 2014 at 20:52
  • what do you mean by 是-的 phrase in a functional way? can you give an example?
    – OhLook
    Aug 8, 2014 at 19:13
  • How does 的 mean 'How'? 的 is used to emphasize or make clear a statement that has happened. When I take a look at 的 in a dictionary, I don't seem to find the word even contains anything simiral to 'How'. So something must happen when 的 is combined with 怎么, because 的 does not basically imply 'How' at all. Thanks in advance.
    – Dean Seo
    Aug 9, 2014 at 1:26
  • 1
    Right,的 doesn't mean "how" at all. What means "how" is 怎么. 的 in this sentence just suggests that something's already happened. 你怎么知道的 indicates that the person being asked has already known something. When you use 怎么 without 的, you're talking about something yet to happen. Example: 我该怎么得到她的芳心? How should I win her heart? 我怎么才能到达南极?How can I get to Antarctica? 怎么使用这个软件? How do I use this software?
    – OhLook
    Aug 9, 2014 at 3:22

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