What is the Difference Between What and Why?

In the English language, the questions “what” and “why” can be used in various ways. They vary, however, in how they have been used and the kinds of solutions they are looking for. When something is being questioned, or an explanation is needed, the word “why” is employed. However, it has many more applications than the other inquiries, “what” is also a question.

The difference between what and why is that “why” requests a justification or explanation for something. The word “what” is used to inquire about objects and deeds.

Let’s understand the basic meaning of what and why.

Definition of What?

Definition Of What

“What” is a situation or an event. “What” asks for a fact, definition or description.

  • What is your name? (Needs a fact)
  • What is the speed of air? (Needs a fact)
  • What time are we going to leave tomorrow? (Needs an explanation)
  • What could he do about it but lose more sleep?? (Needs a fact)
  • What future plans did he have?

Usage of What

Usage Of What

1. Conjunction

When referring to an unspecified or unknown situation, you use what after some words, particularly verbs and adjectives.


You can picture what it would be like to speed 30mph into a brick wall in a car.

Are you aware of what those morons have done?

2. Convention

When you ask someone to repeat something they just said because you didn’t hear or comprehend it correctly, they typically respond with “What?” The question “What?” is less formal and more casual than questions like “Pardon?” and “Excuse me?”


She said, “They could paint this area.” What, he questioned.

3. Interjection

We use the word “what” to show surprise.


What! Do you also want Saturday off?

Definition of Why?

Definition Of Why

If a fact-based explanation cannot be given, the question “Why” is either an esoteric one or the reason why the circumstance or event occurred.

Asking “why” seeks an explanation, which often presents as a cause-and-effect relationship.

  • Why did you walk to school? (Demands an explanation)
  • Why do you ask such a simple question? (Wanting an answer)
  • Why did the child cross the street? (Tell me about the child)
  • Why did you cut down my wood? (Asks for a justification)
  • Why don’t we all travel to Texas once more? (Wanting explanation)

Usage of Why

Usage Of Why

Why can be used in many ways in a sentence rather than a simple question:

1. Adverb

The word “why” is used as an adverb in the sentence.


  1. I don’t know why.
  2. It is clear why.
  3. This is why.

2. Conjunction

When discussing the reasoning behind anything, we use why at the beginning of a clause. We can use why as a conjunction to connect reasons and sentences.


  1. He could still not provide any new information about why the elevator might have become stuck.
  2. I can’t understand why they don’t want us.

3. Exclamation

When someone is surprised, shocked, or angry, they will often begin a sentence with the word “why.”


  1. Why, this is simply a standard vegetable soup.
  2. Why, the weather today is pleasant!

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Difference Between What and Why?

The basic difference between what and why are given below:

The main difference between what and why is based on the information provided in response to each question, or more specifically, the answers they are looking for.

The primary difference between what and why is that “what” asks for a specification, and “why” asks for an explanation.

Another difference between what and why is “what” is a question, but it has many more uses than the other inquiries. “What” can mean a variety of things in various situations.

On the other hand, “why” is used to ask about something or to seek an explanation for a circumstance. 

What Vs. Why

What and why are the most used questions. These questions help us understand more about what we are, our surroundings, our world, and our universe. 

It is a function of human reasoning, the result of our natural curiosity and desire to know the answers to all of our inquiries. Our continual curiosity is one of the traits that has aided in our species’ growth and evolution.

The comparison between what vs. why is given below:


  • When you need specific details about something you don’t know, use the word “what” in your questions.
  • When used as an interrogative, what can be a question word: which object, circumstance, occurrence, etc.
  • What can be used to request information about a certain identity, number, quality, etc.


  1. What exactly were you expecting me to say?
  2. What if she starts to run once, we’re in the field?
  3. What are you doing there in the snow, standing there?
  4. What was his strategy?
  5. What kind of breakfast would he prefer?


  • We use the word “why” to understand why certain things occur or occur in a certain way. It is an inquiring way of asking to understand anything clearly.
  • We use “why” when we need to understand the root causes, motivations, thoughts, and contributing elements. So, we need to say something to ask that. Such a need has always existed.
  • The word “why” is used to inquire about a cause, goal, etc.


  1. Why are you late, for instance?
  2. Why do I keep getting these things?
  3. What motivates her decision to join us?
  4. Why didn’t he respond to her query?
  5. Why drew you here?

What is the Difference Between What and Why?

Highlighting the main difference between what and why in the following table:

The word “what” requests a specification.The word “why” is used to inquire about a situation.
“What” is a situation or an occurrence.“Why” is either the explanation for why a situation or event occurred.
Example: What is this used for?Example: Why do you use this?


The primary difference between what and why is that what is used to learn about something or to describe a thing or situation, whereas why is used to know why something has happened. 


What – What did you purchase from the market?’ I bought a lot of toys and chocolates for my son.

Why – Why did you attend the party?’ My friend invited me to participate in the party at her home.

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