What difference, if any, is there between "how charming she is" and "how she is charming" in the following?

John understands how she is charming / how charming she is.

I'd appreciate your help.

4 Answers 4


The version

John understands how charming she is.

is about how much charm she has.

The version

John understands how she is charming.

is about what makes her charming or why they call her charming.

  • 2
    Or the second version means that John understands how she's casting spells. Aug 30, 2018 at 21:38

The other two answers are both correct, even though they are slightly different.

Why? Because "He noticed how she is charming" is ambiguous.

It can either mean:

He noticed that she is charming (Tᴚoɯɐuo's interpretation)


He noticed in what way she is charming (Alex_ander's interpretation)

With no other context clues (like the text going on to describe the specific ways in which she is charming), I'd say the first is the more likely meaning a native speaker would infer.

The other version ("John understands how charming she is") isn't ambiguous, it always refers to how much charm she has.

  • 1
    Ah, but her charms are many.
    – TimR
    Aug 30, 2018 at 19:00
  • I would consider the use of "how" instead of "that" as somewhat informal. I agree it is the more likely interpretation, because someone writing formally would probably have avoided the ambiguity of "how" altogether.
    – David K
    Aug 30, 2018 at 20:51

how she is charming

refers to the fact of her being charming.

how charming she is

refers to the degree of her charm.

He noticed how the ladder was wobbly.

He noticed how wobbly the ladder was.

The first refers to the fact that the ladder is wobbly. The second refers to the degree of the ladder's wobble.


John understands how charming she is.

What this is saying is that John is coming to the realization that the girl is really charming. That is, he now understands that she is beautiful and attractive to a high degree. The word why is an adverb and it can have many different usages, but in our case here it talks specifically about the extent or degree to which the girl is charming.

John understands how she is charming.

In this example, we're saying that John has no problem understanding why or in what way people find or think that the girl charming.

I think this still needs more clarification, so, please take a look at the following examples:

You will never understand how good chocolate truffle cake is unless you try it yourself!

The only way to understand to what degree chocolate truffle cake is good is to actually taste it.

I don't really understand how PCs are good. On the contrary, I think they are total crap compared to Mac computers! (This is just an example to make a point. I'm not trying to be offensive or anything like that.)

Here, I'm saying that I don't understand why people think that PC computers are good. In what way are they good? I think that Macs are way better.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .