I'm a English learner who studies syntax. I often refer to English corpus such as COCA to learn natural uses of English. Then, I found some sentences involving "how come", followed by "that" and a sentence, for example, as following:

How come that you have such good English? / How come that you eat hot food in hot countries?

I have thought that those correct sentences of how come should be like "How come you have such good English", where "that" is omitted.

I want to know how native speakers feel about those sentences that involve "that" between "how come" and a sentence. Are they correct? Is there any difference? Or, are they a sort of error-like ones?

Thank you.

2 Answers 2


"How come that..." is not good English. To my (American) ear, this use of "How come" sounds like a literal translation of the Spanish phrase "Por qué". This use of "How come" is natural for many American English speakers who are also native speakers of Spanish. It is not natural for most other American English speakers.

Your two examples would sound more natural (to me) as:

How did you learn to speak English so well?

Why do people eat hot food in hot countries?

  • Interesting. But I believe that a more literal translation of porqué would be "for what". neither "por" nor "que" means anything like "come". So the tendency of native Spanish speakers to use this English phrasing needs to be attributed to something else. Jan 13, 2015 at 23:42
  • 1
    I can't see "how come" as "literal translation" of Spanish "por qué" (= why), unless you consider that "how come" means exactly the same as "why". "how come" is more likely to mean "cómo" or "cómo puede ser" or "cómo se explica que". more than a mere question, the expression implies surprise or confusion. Feb 9, 2018 at 5:02

It looks to me like an older form of the phrase.

How come that = how has it come to happen that...

Perhaps the "that" has fallen out of usage later on.


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