“What / why / how on earth?”

What on earth…?

How on earth…?

Why on earth…?

You can use those expressions when you are extremely surprised, confused, or angry about something. It just means — tell me what is going on. What is happening? Why/how did that happen? Explain it to me.

Related expressions:

What in the world is going on?

What in the wide world is going on?

Examples:

• What on earth makes you think that?

• How on earth did this happen?

• Why on earth didn’t you tell me before?

“On earth” is an idiomatic way of intensifying the words what, where, why, etc. for emphasis.

Compare these sentences:

“What makes you think that?” is a simple request for information.

What on earth makes you think that?” implies “What reason could there possibly be in the whole world for you to think that?”

 

 

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