I’m sure one of the very first things you learned to say in English was, “How are you?” People will probably ask you this question A LOT! It’s really easy to answer, but there are a few things to remember. Here’s how to feel comfortable answering this question, every time.
1. “How are you?” is Simply Another Way to Say Hello — Here’s How to Answer
Most of the time, we use this question as a polite way to say hello, and you don’t need to say anything about how you are really feeling. Say one or two positive words, thank them for asking, and ask them the same question. Any of these answers will work almost all of the time:
“Great, thank you. How are you?” (very positive)
“Good, thanks, and you?” (positive – this is the most common answer)
“Fine, thanks. How are you?” (a little less positive – I’m okay)
Your answer will depend on the person who is asking, and how well you know them.
2. “Hi, Boss, how are you?”
If you are in a business situation, you might be saying hello to your boss or colleague, or meeting someone for the first time. You need to answer briefly, but in a positive way. “Great!” “I’m doing really well, thank you,” or “Fantastic!” are all good ways to answer. They will tell the other person that you are enthusiastic and ready to work. You might be shaking hands, too. Here’s how that conversation might go:
Mr. Brown: Good morning, Mr. Mendoza. How are you today?
Mr. Mendoza: I’m good, thanks. And you?
Mr. Brown: Great, great, thanks. (shaking hands)
Two things to notice here:
- The answer is short and positive, even if you have had a terrible day.
- Many times, people will answer with the word “good.” Good is an adjective, and can describe you, so it’s okay to use with the verb “to be.” You can also say “I’m doing well.” Well is an adverb, and it describes how you are doing or feeling.
3. How to Answer “How Are You?” When Meeting Strangers and Other Formal Situations
If you are talking to a waiter, a cashier at the checkout, or if you’re being introduced to a person in a casual situation, your answer can be a little different. Let’s look at a sample:
Cashier (as she checks you out): Hi, how are you today?
You: Fine, thanks. It’s a beautiful day.
Some things to notice here:
- “How are you?” is just a way of greeting someone in a polite way.
- Don’t say anything personal. For example, don’t tell the cashier that you are buying medicine because your child stayed home sick from school today.
4. How to Answer “How Are You?” When Hanging Out With Friends in Casual Situations
Your friends will probably ask you the very same question, but It might sound a little different! You might hear:
How’ve you been?
How are you doing?
How’s it going?
Here’s the nice thing – when you are with friends and family, you can tell the truth! If you are talking to people who care about you, you can tell them that you’ve had a bad day, or that you feel tired.
One thing you still shouldn’t do is answer with a complete description of some medical problems you are having. If you are talking to a friend, you can offer more information if they ask (and if they are your friend, they probably will!) Here’s a conversation between friends:
Marta: Hi, John! How are you?
John: I’m fine, maybe a little tired. I need some more coffee.
Marta: Oh, I’m sorry. Did you sleep well last night?
John: Not really. I had a headache when I went to bed, and I still have it this morning.
A couple things to see:
- The question is the same! “How are you?” works for both formal and informal conversations.
- The answer is more personal, but still doesn’t give much information. If your friend wants more information, they will ask you.
So, How Are You?
Remember, “How are you?” is usually just another way to say hello. If you smile and say “Good, thanks,” you’ve successfully answered the question.
And extra points if you also ask, “How are you?” in response!
Now, what if you hear a different question? For example, many native English speakers will ask you “How have you been?” instead of “How are you?” So how do you answer that question? Find out in this lesson (click here)!