how come



US English, 1848,[1] probably from older forms such as “How comes it that... ?” and “How did it come to be like this?”[2]

Compare West Frisian hoe kom (how come), Dutch hoe komt het (how come it; why).


  • IPA(key): /haʊ kʌm/
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how come

  1. (idiomatic, informal) Why; why is it; for what reason or purpose?
    How come you didn’t leave when you had the chance?

Usage notesEdit

“How come” differs from “why” in that the word order of the question is the same as that of a statement. Compare:

You didn’t leave. (statement)
How come you didn’t leave?
Why didn’t you leave?




  1. ^ Eric Partridge (2005) , “how come”, in Tom Dalzell and Terry Victor, editors, The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, volume 1 (A–I), London; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN.
  2. ^ Hegedűs, Irén; Fodor, Alexandra (2010): English Historical Linguistics 2010: Selected Papers from the Sixteenth International Conference on English Historical Linguistics, p. 179.