15

If I want to ask about the weather today whether is cold or hot, worm or cloudy or foggy, rainy or snowy etc. What should I choose of these two (or may be there's another way)?

"What's the weather today?"

or

"How's the weather today?"

What's the appropriate choice for the mentioned need?

7
  • 3
    To my ear, "what's the weather like today" sounds more natural than "what's the weather today".
    – littleO
    Jul 25, 2018 at 20:34
  • @littleO Thank you. Are you American or British? Jul 25, 2018 at 21:23
  • I'm American, I probably should have mentioned that.
    – littleO
    Jul 25, 2018 at 21:24
  • Interesting. Thanks. It would be helpful to see also a British point of view. Jul 25, 2018 at 21:25
  • 2
    Compare "how's your steak|what's your steak", "what's your new car|how's your new car". "What" is asking for a description of what kind of thing it is, "How" is asking for an evaluation of its merits. Jul 26, 2018 at 11:50

5 Answers 5

25

Both can be fine. While the first focuses more on the objective description of the weather, and the second focuses more on someone's subjective opinion of the weather, the answer can go either way, depending on how the listener chooses to interpret the question.

Examples:

James: What's the weather out there?
Phil: It's miserable.
James: No, I mean what's it like? Warm, sunny, rainy ...?
Phil: It's hot, humid, and totally miserable.

James: How's the weather out there?
Phil: Sunny, some clouds, relatively cool.
James: So it's nice?
Phil: Yes, it's nice.

For this reason, I wouldn't worry too much about it. You can always clarify your question if you want to know something specific.

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  • 2
    +1 because I think we're both singing from the same hymn-sheet here. Jul 25, 2018 at 16:43
  • 1
    Phil seems like he's bad at understanding the thing you outlined in your answer...
    – Nic
    Jul 25, 2018 at 17:48
  • 2
    @NicHartley I assume that, at least in the first example, Phil is too focused on his subjective experience to comment on the objective experience. :)
    – Andrew
    Jul 25, 2018 at 17:53
  • not familiar with that first usage in AmE. I have heard "what's the weather like?"
    – Jake
    Jul 25, 2018 at 18:15
17

They're both perfectly natural. Arguably some people might think the what version is more appropriate when the speaker is specifically interested in knowing what the weather actually is (or perhaps will be, later in the day).

Conversely, the how version might be more likely if what the speaker wants to know is how the addressee feels about the weather.

Expanding on the above, I suspect the "frequency of occurrence" of the how version (relative to the what version) would be higher in the context of telephone calls. If you're talking to someone who's far enough away that "their" weather is likely to be different to whatever you're currently experiencing, you'd have more reason to ask what they think of their weather.

But if you're talking to someone who's actually with you, you probably wouldn't be asking what the current state of the weather is (you can see as well as them whether it's raining or not). And if you're asking What is the weather [forecast for] today?, that would rarely be phrased using how.

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    There’s also the sarcastic/joking “How’s the weather up there?” to comment on how tall someone is (or how’s the weather up there {on your high horse/in your ivory tower/etc.} ) I don’t think “what's the weather” would work as well in that context, because “how” sort of emphasizes the inaccessibility/distance from the speaker’s perspective.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 26, 2018 at 18:07
8

I agree with both the other answers about the relative usage of the two forms you've mentioned. I will add one more possibility:

Often when I'm deciding what to wear for the day I'll ask my spouse to look at his phone and tell me what his weather app says. In that case, I'll usually use some variation on

What is the weather supposed to be today?
What is the weather going to be (like) today?

or just

What's the (weather) forecast for today?

In this case, I'm not talking about the weather right now but rather the (expected) conditions throughout the day.

2

To me "What is the weather today?" is a very unnatural sentence. At least in my recent memory, I've never heard a native English speaker say that.

As others have mentioned, the what version conveys a more scientific tone, while the how version conveys a subjective tone. As a result, I think you would be more likely to use what to discuss forecasts and how to discuss the current weather. However, you will also hear "What's the weather like today?" and I would say this like/what pairing is semantically equivalent to how.

I'm an American English speaker (from California), so I would be curious to see if other people who use the phrasing "What's the weather today?" come from a different area, because it sounds so unnatural to me (though of course it's grammatically correct).

1
  • I grew up in California, though I've lived on the East Coast more than 20 years now, and find what's the weather today unexceptional. In my idiolect it's essentially equivalent to what's the weather like today? or what's the weather forecast for today? depending on context, as with a recent breakfast exchange with my roommate, with the blinds still closed: Are you riding to work? / That depends; what's the weather today? / Rain again. / I guess I'm taking the Metro then. / No, the Metro is flooding. Take an Uber.
    – choster
    Jul 26, 2018 at 23:23
2

As an English man I have just come across this phrase in a foreign school teaching children English. I have to admit I have never heard anyone say or use the phrase, "What is the weather today ?". In England we would say, "What is the weather like today?" or " What is the weather forecast for today?". I hope that helps.

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