Answering "How are you?" Questions (#1)
casual and polite greetings
are often followed
(or combined with) questions which ask about
Responses to these questions
according to the formality of the
In formal situations, the
typical question is "How do you
do?" and, in American English,
the response is generally
the same: "How do you
do?" This response
falling intonation and is not really intended as
an answer to the
question. Instead, it's a kind of "ritualized"
response: no truthful
answer is expected. If an answer is
given, however, what's expected is
"Very well, thank you."
(Because the speakers in a formal
situation normally don't
have a friendly relationship, any other
a negative one--would
person who asked the
"condition" question uncomfortable.)
In polite (but not formal)
situations, "condition" questions
generally some variation on "How
you, [name]?" / "How are you, [title]?"
/ etc.) The expected
answer is some variation on "Fine, thank
thank you" /
thanks" / "Well, thanks" /
etc.), but if the
persons asking and
answering the questions know
a neutral or even a negative answer is
are you today?
So-so. / Not bad. / I've been
Not very well. / Not so well.
/ I've been better. / etc.
In such a situation, the person
probably say "I'm sorry" or "I'm sorry
to hear that" or
"That's too bad" and expect some comment
on a neutral
negative response, but a long description of
other person is not
"fine" is not
Casual / Friendly
In casual or friendly situations,
"condition" questions may
be answered positively, neutrally,
or negatively. Normally
the question is answered without adding "thank
to the answer:
it going? / How're you doing? /
How's everything? /
How's by you?
Great! / Terrific! / Wonderful!
So-so. / Not bad. / I can't
Terrible! / Awful! / Really
In friendly or casual situations
(since the two
each other well), it's appropriate to discuss why
to feels the way she / he does--whether
neutral, or negative.