How to Answer ‘How Are You’ and ‘What’s Up’ in English

‘How are you’ and its other variants such as “How are you doing today?” or if you’re in the south “Hey, how y’all doin?” are a few questions that English speakers ask at the beginning of a conversation. You hear them multiple times daily. These questions are simple tools to find out if there are any interesting topics to discuss:

You’ve undoubtedly heard these questions, but you might be confused about how to answer. But before that, let’s first understand a person’s intent behind this question.

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What is the purpose Behind ‘How are you’?

‘How are you’ is a way to greet. It’s not the question usually meant or interpreted as a searching enquiry after the person’s health or an enquiry into your state of affairs.

When someone pops ‘how are you’, they don’t want to know what’s going on in your life. It just a plain-vanilla greeting, which requires an equally plain-vanilla, though quick, response such as ‘good’ or ‘fine’.

The good. The bad. None of that.

So next time someone shoots ‘how are you’re at you, don’t launch into your tale of woes or the big prize you won last week. The other person doesn’t want any of that.

How to respond to ‘How are you’?

You’ve undoubtedly heard these questions, but you might be confused about how to answer. Here’s a list of standard answers to them:


A: How are you?

B: I’m fine. How are you?

This is a straight, simple answer. However, if you don’t say anything else, though, it might be a signal that you don’t want to continue the conversation.

Not bad.

A: How are you?

B: Not bad. What about you?

This sounds more friendly reply than just saying “fine”.

Fine, thanks.

A: How you are?

B: Fine, thanks?

This is a formal answer usually said to someone you don’t know, like a waiter asks how you are, at a restaurant.

Very well, thanks.

A: How are you?

B: Very well, thanks.

However, a lot of English speakers don’t usually care or know about this, but a grammatically correct person might answer this way. Technically, an adverb should be present in the question “How…?” The person who does are “by the books” types are the people who insist on using the grammatically correct form of language.

Pretty good.

A: How are you?

B: Pretty good.

One can answer “Good” or “Pretty good” is the person who doesn’t care as much about grammar. It’s more casual and much, much more common.

Great! How are you doing?

A: How are you?

B: Great! How are you doing?

Such kind of response is very excited, enthusiastic. If you want to carry on with the conversation, it’s always good to ask a question back to the other person.

I’m hanging in there.

A: How are you?

B: I’m hanging in there.

This answer makes it usually sound like you are having a tough day and want to speak a little bit later.

I’ve been better.

A: How are you?

B: I’ve been much better.

A: What’s wrong?

B: I just found out that I’m actually being laid off.

People often give a positive answer to the question “How are you?” If someone gives a negative answer like this one, it usually means that you want to tell the listener your sad story. So they’ll usually ask what’s wrong:

Other Variants of ‘How are you?”:

How it’s going?

This is an almost similar question to

“How are you”. The answers discussed all the above work for

“How’s it going?”.

Here’s another answer that is provided to

work for “How’s it going”, but not for

A: “How are you?”

B: It’s going quite well.

This is a friendly, courteous answer that’s

suitable for and acquaintances, coworkers and clients that you haven’t seen

quite in a while.

What’s Up?

This question actually means “What’s

happening in your life?” But one can choose not to answer honestly against

their interest. People who don’t want to start a long conversation with someone

can use one of these conventional responses:

Nothing much.

A: What’s up?

B: “Nothing much. Just getting ready for

Xavier’s graduation.”

This is the most common answer for those who

I want to share something interesting, that’s happening.

Not a lot.

A: What’s up?

B: “Not a lot. Just getting ready for

Xavier’s graduation.”

It’s just a bit more fresher than

“Nothing much” another not really common answer because it’s a little

less common response.


A: What’s up?

B: “Nothing.”

This is more to-the-point response, and it

might make you seem a little rude or angry.

Oh, just the usual.

A: What’s up?

B: “Just the same old same old.”

Answer this way as a response to ‘Whats Up’, if you do mostly the common and same things each day.

This phrase means that you’re doing the same

things every day, and you’re a little bored of it.

Oh gosh, all kinds of stuff!

You can answer this way if your life has been

hectic and exciting lately.

The Difference Between ‘How are You’ and ‘What’s Up’:

“What’s up” or “How are you” both of these phrases can be used to send the social message that you are making a friendly greeting. In other words, they can be used phatically.

Used, so both phrases mean the same, but the social etiquette of each may differ. In general, “How are you” is formal, always polite, but perhaps a bit too stiff for close acquaintances in any casual context.

Although ‘what’s up’ is used interchangeably with ‘how are you’, it’s not the same. When people say ‘what’s up’, they mean what’s going on.

‘Good’ or ‘great’ is not the appropriate answer to ‘what’s going on’ (they’re appropriate for ‘how…’)

“What’s up” is informal and may be viewed as lacking in respect or gravity.

For instance, if you are being introduced to the Secretary-General of the Army for the first time and say, “What’s up, Sam,” you are likely to be thought a boor.

If you are happy to see your sister for the third time this week, you might well say, “What’s up today.”

Of course, these phrases can also be used non-phatically. For example, if you have just been in a car wreck and a cop asks “how are you,” he is asking about your sense of physical wellbeing rather than sending a friendly greeting. And the question “what’s up” would make no sense in that context at all.

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