“How are you?” is one of the most common greetings in English, but replying to this simple question naturally can be rather challenging for English language learners. This is because the way to reply to “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” depends on who you are talking to and the situation you are in. Below we will show you how to answer “How are you?” and respond when asked this question by native English speakers. Let’s Get Started.
“How Are You?” Reply – Formal
When asked “How are you?” by strangers, people you work with, or acquaintances who you don’t know very well, it is best to reply with a formal or more polite answer. This is because in these situations the person doesn’t actually want to know how you are doing that day, but rather they are just asking to be polite.
Asking “How are you?” is a cultural greeting in the United States and England, and often the person asking this question isn’t expecting an honest answer. They just want to greet you in a polite way. So, if you were to tell them exactly how you are doing that day then you would be revealing too much personal information and would create a rather awkward conversation.
So, when asked “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” in these situations, it’s best to reply with a short answer. Here are some common ways to answer:
The most common way to answer “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” is to simply say “Good”. Even if you are not doing particularly well that day, it is still common to answer “Good” as this is a positive and polite response.
If you feel this answer is too short, you can say “Good thanks.” or “Good thanks. How are you today?”. In this way, not only are you giving a polite response, but you are also thanking them for asking you and enquiring how the other person is.
Another way to respond to “How are you?” is to say “Fine” or “I’m fine.” This answer is not as positive as “good” but still conveys a positive message that you are feeling good enough today.
This response is often taught in ESL textbooks and classrooms in the form of “I am fine, and you?”. Although there is nothing wrong with this answer, it can sound a little robotic. So, you can try “I’m fine thanks. How are you today?” or something similar to sound a little more natural.
If you want a neutral way to reply when someone asks “How Are you?” you can answer by saying “Okay.” Although not as positive as “good” and “fine”, responding with “okay” is still a somewhat positive answer. It implies you are not feeling bad in any way.
Just like “okay”, the response “Not bad” also has a neutral feel and is a common way to reply to “How are you?”.
As you can see, all of the ways to respond above are not about expressing your real feelings or how you are actually doing that day, but rather are about giving a positive and polite response.
“How Are You?” Reply – Casual / Informal
When a close friend or family member greets you and asks “How are you?” you can be honest and answer how you are actually doing that day. Perhaps you’re having a bad day and want to tell someone about it. Or maybe you’re having an amazing day and you want to tell your friend just how great it is. Here are some common ways to reply to “How are you?” in casual/informal situations:
If you’re having a really good day, you can respond with “Great!” when your friend or family member asks “How are you?”.
I’m Stressed Out.
On days when you’re really busy and feeling that the pressure is getting too much, you can answer “I’m stressed out.” when asked how you are.
Not So Good
If you’re having a hard day or a hard time and it has you feeling a little down, you can reply with “Not so good.” when you’re asked how you are. You can then go on to tell your friend or family member why you’re feeling that way.
I’ve Been Better
If you want to tell your friend that you are not feeling your best, you can respond with “I’ve been better.”. Your friend would then likely ask why or what’s wrong with you to find out why you feel that way.
Once you have responded to the question “How are you?” it is common and polite to go ahead and ask the other person how they are. Here are some example dialogues showing how to ask and answer “How are you?” in English:
A: Hi. How are you?
B: I’m good, thanks. How are you today?
A: How are you today?
B: Not bad. And yourself?
A: How are you?
B: I’m good, thanks. And you?
A: How are you?
B: I’m fine, thanks. How about you?
“How Are You?” Variations
Here are some common variations of “How are you?” that you might be asked when somebody is greeting you:
- How’s it going?
- What’s up? (informal)
- How have you been?
- What’s going on?
- Sup? (American English)
- Y’alright? (British English)
- What have you been up to?
- You good?
Responding To “How Are You?” Naturally
This is such a common greeting that if you are immersed in the English language or regularly speak with English native speakers, you will get plenty of practice responding to this question. The important thing to remember is that if you are responding to this question with people you are not particularly close with, then you should just respond with a short positive response (“good”, “fine”, etc). With people you are close with you can respond in more detail and talk about how you are actually feeling.
So, if you are an English language learner and want to learn how to respond to “How are you?” naturally, then our advice is to go out and greet as many people as you can in English and practice, practice, practice. You will soon learn how to respond in a natural way, and you might even make some friends, too.