The Grammarphobia Blog

Is this “how” a howler?

Q: My wife was asked about some proposed changes to a friend’s kitchen and replied, “I like it how it is.” Her friend thought she should have said, “I like it as it is,” or “I like it the way it is.” But I feel “I like it how it is” is probably a colloquialism and OK. What is your verdict?

A: Not guilty! Your wife used “how” in a perfectly legitimate way.

Ordinarily, “how” is an adverb. But it can also be used as a conjunction meaning something similar to “as” or “however” or “in whatever manner or way.”

Both Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) include this usage in their entries for “how.”

The word is a conjunction in examples such as “I like it how it is,” “Serve dinner how you wish,” “Do it how you prefer,” “Make the drinks how you like them,” and “He told us how he took up farming.”

This usage isn’t colloquial at all – it’s standard English! And that’s how it is.

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