How is "how" used in "Room on the Broom?"


Hi, I recently bought the book "Room on the Broom" for my son and while I was reading with him I recognized that the word "how" is used in a way in which I didn't understand the meaning. Here's the lines: "How the cat purred and how the witch grinned, As they sat on their broomstick and flew through the wind. But how the witch wailed and how the cat spat, When the wind blew so wildly it blew off the hat." In these lines how is used as an adverb in affirmative sentences. Isn't how supposed be used in a quesion when it is used as an adverb? Is this ok because this is rather poetic than formal? I'll appreciate any advice or opinion.

how grammar edited Sep 28 '12 at 05:38 T Uchimura New member

1 answer


Yes, it is rather poetic, but hopefully I can explain how it is used.  It is actually being used as a conjunction that means "the manner in which."  Here are a few examples that might make more sense to you.


He taught me how to drive a car.

This is how you iron a shirt.

I don't know how I got here. 


In your son's book, the pictures help to describe the manner in which the cat purred or the witch grinned. 

link answered Sep 28 '12 at 05:22 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

Thank you very much Patty for your helpful comment. I also came up with the question that if "how" is used as a conjunction isn't it supposed to join two (or three) phrases or clauses, such as "He taught me/how to drive a car." I'm afraid in this book the word "how" doesn't work as a connector. Rather I thought if they just eliminated the word it would make more sense, like "The cat purred and the witch grinned, as they sat on their broomstick." Do you think that by adding "how" the author wanted to put a poetic tone?

T UchimuraSep 28 '12 at 05:52

We add the word "how" in this usage to invite the reader (or listener) to imagine just how much the cat purred and the witch grinned. It implies that there was a significant amount of purring and grinning. That cat and witch must have been quite happy. To eliminate the word, as in your example, removes the indication that there is a certain amount - how much.

Patty TSep 28 '12 at 07:27

I am diagramming "how" as an emphatic adverb modifying "purred" and "grinned". I can't seem to make the word a conjunction. Help me with your argument. . .

TolleySep 28 '12 at 14:23

Well, don't laugh. (okay, I hear you chuckling.) You know I don't remember diagramming at all. On occasion, I am uncertain what to call a word, so I look it up in the dictionary. It's a reliable source. The dictionary describes how as an adverb only in asking questions. Then it describes it as a conjunction and gives examples similar to the ones I gave. So, I went with it.

Patty TSep 28 '12 at 18:39

This is a good example of why I don't like the automatic title of "expert" based on points. I'm not an expert, but I do fairly well on most occasions.

Patty TSep 28 '12 at 18:44

I looked up some online dictinaries. and Merriam Webster both list it as a conjunction in the samples I gave. Oxford does not. But it does offer what I think may be the right answer. "To introduce an exclamation: How remarkable!"

Patty TSep 28 '12 at 19:14

Okay, so I'm not far off base, then. I've been called a lot of things, and expert is rare. I've stopped paying attention to points. So convoluted. I appreciate your research.

TolleySep 29 '12 at 00:34

I appreciate both of you for your research and comments! How fortunate I am to have answers from two experts.

T UchimuraOct 01 '12 at 15:07

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