2

What's the difference between:

  • What a rude person you are!
  • How rude you are!
  • How rude of a person you are!
  • How rude of you!

Which one is correct? Please give me some elaboration so I can understand, thanks.

  • All of your choices are equivalent in meaning, and all are "correct" save the third. The construction ADJ + "of a" + N is idiomatic in some spoken dialects of AmE, but it is considered incorrect grammar by the authorities. You could say instead "How rude a person you are!" – P. E. Dant Jun 20 '17 at 20:01
  • Please wait a day or two before accepting an answer, even if you receive a good one right away. For why this is usually wise, read here. – Ben Kovitz Jun 20 '17 at 22:16
  • "How rude of a person you are" is not British English. The other three are correct, but with slightly different meanings. (1) implies that you are habitually rude. (4) is referring to a particular incident where you were rude. (2) could mean the same as either (1) or (4). – alephzero Jun 21 '17 at 1:15
5

So ultimately, these sentences are all equivalent, as P.E. Dant said in a comment above. However, there are some VERY slight nuances between some of your sentences, nuances that most people wouldn't actively acknowledge, but might color one's interpretation when hearing it.

What a rude person you are!
The use of "what" and "a person" here, makes this an assertion of holistic rudeness. In this case, you're saying that it isn't simply their actions that were rude, but their entire being is rude. This is severely harsh.

How rude you are! and How rude of you!
Using "how" and "are" or "of you" makes this more about their current action(s). It's less an assertion of poor character as above, and more an assessment of their behavior at the moment. This is less severe an indictment, and implies that they should fix their behavior.

How rude of a person you are!
Not grammatically correct (unless you remove "of").

EDIT: "What" is related to something's existence whereas "how" relates to what something does. This is the major difference that I attempted to outline above. I felt like this addition might make it clearer.

  • "How rude a person you are" would be grammatical, or at least idiomatic, though. – Andrew Jun 20 '17 at 20:21
  • @Andrew True. Edited. – Nathan Young Jun 20 '17 at 20:23
  • "what" intensifies the noun phrase "a rude person," while "how" intensifies the adjective "rude." Though the semantic result is approximately the same, using "what" is more usual than using "how" whenever a noun is present. A similar case is that of "such a rude person" and "so rude a person," where the former is more usual than the latter. – Gustavson Jun 20 '17 at 23:37
5

Luckily, the difference is quite easy to sort out.

What + noun phrase:

What a rude person (you are)!

What a beautiful day (this is)!

How + adjective or adverb:

How rude (you are)!

How beautiful (this is)!

How quickly they grow up!

Except for adverbs, these must be followed by an inverted verb + subject if you use a verb at all.

As @Rhythmatic wrote in his answer, you can certainly paraphrase using the other part of speech for a different feel. The following are functionally equivalent:

How obedient he is!

What an obedient child he is!

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