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

How are you and What’s up are so commonplace. We’re posed the two questions multiple times daily. How to respond to them?

How to reply to how are you?

Before coming to the response, let’s quickly understand the intent behind the question, which many don’t understand.

What does how are you actually mean?

How are you is a way to greet. It’s not 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. The good. The bad. None of that. This expression is a plain-vanilla greeting, which requires an equally plain-vanilla, though quick, response such as good or fine (more on it follows).

So, next time someone shoots how are you 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.

Looking for more conversations and introductions? Here are few:

With the meaning behind, let’s come to reply to the question. You can reply in few ways, four of which are:

1. ‘Great’

X: How are you?

Y: Great. How are you?

Or

Y: Great. And you?

Or

Y: Great. How about you?

However, if you’re in a formal setting, you may add thank you to your response.

Great. Thank you. How are you?

2. ‘Good’

X: How are you?

Y: Good. How are you?

Or

Y: Good. And you?

Or

Y: Good. How about you?

People also say I’m good instead of Good.

Great and good, both, are positive responses and show that you’re in good spirits.

However, people often say these expressions just for the sake of it – completing the greeting loop. They may have recently lost job or suffered other catastrophic setback, but they would still say great or good and quickly pass by. Only in few cases, they’ll speak the truth (covered in point # 4). So, learn to take these phrases with a sack-load of salt.

3. ‘Fine’

When you say I’m fine or Fine, you don’t sound positive. You mean things are OK, and you don’t want to discuss any further.

However, keep in mind that the tone and facial expression while responding say a lot about how things are at your end. If you respond energetically, fine would mean things are fine. A droopy voice though would indicate otherwise.

4. ‘Not so good’

Not so good is not positive. Loud and clear.

You’ll typically respond with this expression to people with whom you’re comfortable sharing not-so-good experiences because you’re also expected to share why you aren’t so good.

X: How are you?

Y: Not so good.

X: Why? What happened?

Y: Stressed out at work big time. More work than I can handle and a bad boss to deal with.

People often narrate the reasons for being not so good in their first response itself without being asked by the other person.

Variants of how are you

You won’t always hear how are you though. Some of its variants are:

1. Good morning! How are you today?

2. How are you doing today?

3. How is it going?

You can respond to these expressions in the way you respond to how are you.

How to reply to what’s up?

Again, let’s first look at the intent behind what’s up.

What does what’s up actually mean?

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.

Great or good is not the appropriate answer to what’s going on (they’re appropriate for how…). Here are few ways you can respond to what’s up:

1. ‘Nothing much’

X: Hey, what’s up?

Y: Nothing much. I’m just preparing my shopping list.

Nothing much means there isn’t anything exciting going on at the moment. After saying this expression, Y then mentions something mundane – preparing shopping list. In case, Y wasn’t doing even that, s/he could’ve finished at just nothing much.

2. ‘Just the same old thing’

If you’re doing something that you regularly do, you can also say:

X: Hey, what’s up?

Y: Just the same old thing.

And if you want, you can go on to add what regular work you’re doing at the moment. Note that nothing much is a generic expression – it’ll go with regular or non-regular things – and therefore will fit in here as well.

3. Mention what you’re doing

However, if you’re busy with something new or different, you can state what you’re doing:

X: Hey, what’s up?

Y: Busy with a new project these days.

Reciprocate through you tell me

You can also ask the other person as to what’s going on in their lives, but you don’t do that by repeating what’s up. Here is a way:

Y: Nothing much. I’m just preparing my shopping list. You tell me?

You tell me does the job.

Variants of what’s up

You may hear few variants of what’s up such as what’s happening and what’s new. Their response would be similar to the response to what’s up.


Featured image by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

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