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I've asked a question on HOW COME and found out that a question like "How come that it is possible?" is more like a dialectal variation or an older form that few people consider as natural.

Now, I've got another question.. What's the difference between these two sentences below?

a. How come is that possible? / b. How come that is possible?

As far as I know, HOW COME requires its following sentence not to be inverted, while WHY necessitates the inversion. The sentence as in (a) thus confuses me now.

Is there any difference in usage between the two sentences? Thank you in advance.

  • You answer your own question when you mention inversion... – oerkelens Jan 19 '15 at 8:22
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    Actually there is inversion--but not where you expect it! "How come" is the modern, idiomatic descendant of the obsolete "how comes it", which is inverted from "how it comes". And what is "it" that comes? "That it is possible". With some extra words it is possible to make this fully modern English: "How does it come about that this situation is possible?" ("To come about" is a still-used idiom for "to happen", where once "to come" was enough.) – Tim Pederick Jan 19 '15 at 13:57
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As far as I know, HOW COME requires its following sentence not to be inverted, while WHY necessitates the inversion.

Yes, that is correct. So it is completely normal that your sentence (a) confuses you, because there, you do use inversion after how come.

The standard statement is:

That is possible.

A question with why:

Why is that possible?

So indeed, you use inversion of is and that.

Question with how come:

How come that is possible?

As you said, no inversion.

If you do use inversion after how come, the sentence will be ungrammatical.

  • OK, so the sentence with inversioin is ungrammatical? I asked this question since I have seens so many occurrences of "How come is that?". Thanks! – colormysoul Jan 19 '15 at 16:03
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    @colormysoul: yes, I cannot think of a context where "how come is that?" would be considered grammatical by any native speaker. However, since inversion is a common cause of problems for native speakers of other languages that do not have this phenomenon, it is a very common mistake by learners and non-native speakers. Unless, of course, you are referring to: "How come? Is that really true?", where you have two separate sentences! – oerkelens Jan 19 '15 at 16:09
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How come is that possible?

How come that is possible?

How come? is an idiom, which is used to ask as to how or why something has happened.

The first sentence is not idiomatic, whereas the second one is correct. It's believed that "how come" is short for "how did it come about that" or "how is that". So we don't use an auxiliary after "come". Instead, we use it after the subject.

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