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Is it wrong to say

How beautiful a girl she is!

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It's a somewhat unusual, even poetic, choice, but it's perfectly grammatical.

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It does not look natural to me.

What a beautiful girl she is!

looks better. That's because exclamation mark here talks about the degree of beauty she has. In other word, it is intensifying the adjective. When you are talking about that girl's beauty, you intensify the degree using 'what' and not 'how'.

Using how for the adjective beautiful is okay if you are asking someone and you have not seen the girl. Suppose your friend has seen a girl and you are asking...

How beautiful is she? ~ Yeah! She's very beautiful.

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  • That last question would be worded: "How pretty is she?" or "Is she beautiful?" (or maybe, "How beautiful is she?" – though that version sounds a bit unnatural and forced), but not "How beautiful she is?" – J.R. Aug 29 '14 at 8:39
  • @J.R. What about changing the adjective? How tall is she? Is it still unnatural to your ears? And again, the question is about how or what especially with an exclamation mark, which I tried to address. Also, how would you frame the same question (How pretty is she?) after replacing she with a girl? – Maulik V Aug 29 '14 at 9:04
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    Part of it depends on context. "How tall is she?" seems natural in the right conversation. Note that the last part of your answer, though, reads, "How beautiful she is" which might get by as an exclamation (though it would sound quite outdated, I think), not "How beautiful is she" which might pass as a question. The first part of your answer is quite good, but the last part makes me scratch my head and pray that you'll either fix it or delete it. – J.R. Aug 29 '14 at 9:42
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"Look at how beautiful she is!" and "Just look how beautiful she is!" sound natural to my (American) ear. I imagine one of these scenarios:

  • A woman (on maternity leave) brings her baby in to the office, and her colleagues "coo" over the baby.
  • Relatives "cooing" over a baby that has just been brought home from the hospital.
  • A prospective mother-in-law "gushing" to her friends and/or relatives about her son's girlfriend.
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