Home » English Vocab and Grammar » How Are You Doing? How to Introduce Yourself in English
By Rebecca Thering Last updated: July 23, 2022
How Are You Doing? How to Introduce Yourself in English
Want to avoid awkward conversations with native English speakers?
Then its time to make sure you know how to react when someone asks How are you?
Sounds easy, right? Dont you just tell people how you feel?
Keep on reading to see all the possible answers and reactions to How are you?things you never learned in ESL class or during your self-study.
- Formal Answers to How Are You?
- Who are acquaintances and strangers?
- Greetings for acquaintances and strangers
- Not bad
- All right
- Grammar point: Good vs. well
- Responding and continuing the conversation
- Informal Variations of How Are You?
- Informal Answers to How Are you?
- How to Practice Responding to How Are You?
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Formal Answers to How Are You?
Your answer to the question How are you? depends on who asked you the question. First, well look at what to say when people you dont know or people you dont know very well ask how you are.
This first section will give you some formal (more polite) answers to How are you? You will use these when youre talking to acquaintances and strangers. Of course, you can use these with anyone you speak to, even family and close friends.
Who are acquaintances and strangers?
Acquaintances are people that you know, but dont know very well. This could be someone youve met just once or twice, perhaps a friend of a friend, an old classmate that you were never really friends with or a man who works at the local grocery store.
When you see an acquaintance somewhere, its polite to greet them. If you both know each other but dont say anything to the other person, its somewhat rude (bad manners).
You will often encounter acquaintances in your everyday life, but also in your professional life at work. In these situations, it is essential that you know how to talk to these acquaintances at work properly.
People that you dont know or have never met before are called strangers. A stranger could be the cashier (the person working at the check-out counter) of a supermarket, the receptionist at an office or someone sitting next to you on the bus.
So, when one of these people (an acquaintance or a stranger) asks how you are, what should you respond?
Greetings for acquaintances and strangers
First, let me tell you something important: This person doesnt want to know how you actually are that day. Theyre just being polite.
In the United States, Hi, how are you? is almost a cultural greetingits how we say hello. If you say this to an acquaintance or stranger, you probably arent really interested in their true answer. Also, the person youre greeting wont answer honestly, because thats just how it is in this society.
So, in these situations, its best to give a short answer. You usually wont share how you really feel. Here are some common answers and what they mean:
As an ESL teacher, this is the answer I hear most often from non-native speakers.
Be careful, though! Fine often means that youre not completely all rightsomething could be wrong.
The tone you use when you say this word makes a difference. A shorter, higher-pitched Im fine with a smile will mean you actually are okay. If you sigh, say it slowly and use a lower tone of voice, Im fine could mean the oppositeyou arent fine at all.
Lets look at an example of how fine has a somewhat negative meaning, in a different situation:
Sally: Oh, sorry. I ordered the wrong coloryou wanted red!
Kate: Its fine. Well just use blue. Theres no time to order red now.
As you can see, Kate said, Its fine, when it really wasnt fine at all. Sally ordered the wrong color! But the word fine is often used to mean good enough. Its not great, but it will work.
The same thing happens a lot when asking how you are. If someone is fine, often theyre not great, but theyre good enough.
Try this: next time youre watching an American sitcom in English, listen for the word fine and think about if its used in a positive, neutral or negative way.
This answer can sound either more neutralor slightly positive, depending on yourtone. If youre not bad, it means that things are okay.
Responding that youre all right is neutral, but usually more positive than fine. And just like the first two answers weve seen here, your intonation (pitch of voice, high or low) can change the meaning slightly (a little).
Im all right has a positive vibe (energy) if each word is higher in tone than the previous word. When said this way, each word is held a bit longer than the previous word, too. Overall, the phrase is spoken a bit slowly.
To make a more neutral-sounding answer, Im is the highest pitched word, all drops in tone and right goes up a step, but is lower than Im. The words are spoken more quickly than in the previous example.
Ask a native speaker to say this phrase, or listen for it in context while watchingAmerican movies.
The most common answer that I hear and say is Good. Its a positive, polite and common response. You might not actually be feeling too goodwhen you answer Good, but for an acquaintance or stranger its a normal answer to give.
Saying Good is grammatically correct if you mean that youre happy and pleasant!
Why did I need to bring up grammar with the word good? Its important because native speakers often confuse the word good with well. Lets state each words usage more clearly.
Grammar point: Good vs. well
Good is an adjective, which means it describes a noun (person, place, thing). For example:
My son is a good boy.
I want to read a good book.
I know a good restaurant.
You did a good job.
In response to How are you? the response good is an adjective describingmyself. I am good. Its a correct response, grammatically.
(Note: The verb are comes from the infinitive to be, which is a linking verb. This isnt an action verb, which is part of the reason why people get confused.)
Well, on the other hand, is an adverb. That means it describes a verban action. It describes how you do something. For example:
You did well on the exam.
He plays sportswell.
My voice teacher saidI sing well.
Well can also be used as an adjective, but only when youre specifically talking about health. Well means healthy when its used in this way. Heres an example:
Sally: I heard you had the flu, how are you?
Kate: Im well.
So where does it get tricky? If someone asks How are you doing?, grammatically you should answer Well. This says Im doing well. Since doing is an action verb, we need to use the adverb well to describe that action.
But most native speakers will still answer with the single word Good. Youll hear it regularly in speech, and people actually might think it sounds funny/wrong to say Well. Even so, if someone asks How are you doing? then its grammatically correct to say Well.
Responding and continuing the conversation
After you say your quick answer, its polite to add a thanks afterwards. After that, you can ask the other person How are you? You donthave to say thanks first, but its always nice. Its most polite to ask the person how they are in return.
Here are some fullresponses to How are you?:
Good, thanks. And you?
Not bad. How are you?
Im good. And yourself?
Im fine, thanks. How about yourself?
Now youre ready to go out in the English-speaking world and greet others. But what about when youre talking with good friends or family?
Before you think about how to answer, you need to know that the question may be more informal than How are you?
Here are some other ways to greet and ask How are you? when youre with a close friend or family member:
Informal Variations of How Are You?
- Hows it going?
- Whats up?
- Howve you been? (How have you been?)
- What have you been up to?
- Whats going on?
Until you become familiar with these questions, youll have to pay attention to which question was used. Why?
Well, if someone asks you Whats up? it doesnt make sense to answer Good. The common answer is Not much, followed by a return Whats up with you?
Note: What have you been up to and Whats going on? can be answered in the same way. You might replace the Whats up with you? with Whatsgoing onwith you? if you want to match the original question.
Informal Answers to How Are you?
When were talking with close friends or family members, well answer the question differently. Its time to be honest.
When talking with your friends, parents or siblings (brothers and sisters), its okay to tell them how you really feel. Maybe youll answer Im fine with a sigh at first, and then your friend will ask you Whats wrong? Then you cantell him or her exactly whats bothering you.
Here are some more words you might use to describe how youre really feeling when talking with these closer friends:
Exhausted When youre really tired. Maybe you didnt sleep well or worked outside all day. If you dont have any energy, use this word.
Okay Heres another quick, neutral answer like fine or all right. Depending on your tone when you use this response, your friend might ask Just okay? as a follow-up. This means they think something is wrong and want to know whats going on in your life.
Frustrated When youre annoyed, or something keeps going wrong, you could be frustrated (annoyed). You may be frustrated when you cant get your computer to print or when your co-worker makes the same mistake over and over.
Busy If you have no free time because you have lots of things to do, say youre busy!
Stressed out When youre busy, its possible that you could also be stressed out. Feeling stress (pressure) is a negative feelingthat can happen when you have too much to do (often things you dont want to do) and not enough time.
Worried Use this response when youre concerned about a problem. When youre worried, you think the result to a situation could be bad but you dont know how to make it okay, or you dont have control of the situation so instead you think about it a lot. For example, someone who just lost their job will probablyworry about money and finding a new job.
Ive been better When there is something wrong, you can use Ive been better as your first response. This will lead your friend or relative to ask you Whats wrong? or something similar.
Great Weve seen lots of neutral and negative responses, but hopefully there are many times when you feel excellent! When youre better than good, say youre great.
Excited Heres another very positive response. If youre looking forward to somethinglike a concert next week, spending time witha good friend or getting a puppysay youre excited! Then you can tell your friend or relative why youre excited.
How to Practice Responding to How Are You?
I bet you never thought that How are you? could be so complex. But dont get stressed out! Remember that there are two main situations with this greeting: talking to people you know and people you dont know. The closer you are to someone, the more specific you can be about how you are feeling.
With some practice and seeing real-life examples, you will soon be comfortable with the How are you? greeting.
Because its so common in the English-speaking world, watching movies and TV shows can be a great way to learn all the nuances of the phrase.
If you dont feel ready for material at such an advanced level, consider trying FluentU. It takes clips from all kinds of English content (like commercials, speeches and TV shows) and turns them into language lessons.
Each video comes with interactive subtitles so you can follow along and check the meaning of any word with just a click. Plus, you can search for specific words or phrases to see videos where they appear.
You can even make a flashcard deck for greetings then practice them with the quizzes on FluentU. And if youre on the iOS or Android app, youll get a chance to practice speaking words out loud before you use them with a real person.
Then, itll be time to take your knowledge to the streets! Say hello to as many people as you can and see how they answer your How are you?
Once youve mastered this question, you might be so happy that youanswer perfect to the next person who asks how you are!
Rebecca Thering is a freelance writer and editor who has taught Englishin Spain, South Korea and France.She offers online lessons, editing services, a supportive learning community and more for English learners at English With Rebe.
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