How to Answer the Question “How Have You Been?”

How-to-Answer-the-Question-“How Have You Been?”

Hi! I’m Vanessa from Go Natural English. How have you been?

Recently, Gabby and I taught you how to answer the question, “How are you?” Today we’re going to teach you something similar.

How to Answer the Question “How Have You Been?”

Did you notice that I asked “How have you been?” Many students know how to answer the question “How are you?” But they don’t understand when native speakers ask them “How have you been?” We’ll talk about the difference between “How are you?” and “How have you been?” We’re also going to provide lots of examples and a quiz!

The Pronunciation Can Be Confusing!

When you look at this question on a piece of paper, you see “How have you been?” But when we talk, we actually speak fast and we use contractions. “How have you been?” becomes “How’ve ya been?”

You can also say “How’s he been?” instead of saying “How has he been?”, or “How’ve they been?”. Try to practice this as much as you can. You’re going to hear this all the time!

Important Questions to Learn

“How are you?” and “How have you been?” are both very important questions. Why? Because they’re greetings! If you don’t know how to tell somebody how you’re doing, then the conversation can’t really continue. You could answer both questions by saying “Not too bad,” or “So far, so good,” or just “Great!”

So What’s the Difference?

The difference is that “How are you?” is in the present tense. I want to know how you are doing RIGHT NOW.

“How have you been?” is the present perfect tense. It means that I want to know what you’ve been doing since I saw you the last time. I know you, but I haven’t seen you for a while.

Here’s an example. Maybe you have a friend who has been sick for two weeks, and you haven’t seen him. When you see him again, it would be appropriate to ask him, “How have you been?”

You could also say “How are you?” using the present tense. But because you care about your friend and you knew he was sick, it would be better to ask “How have you been?” He can respond by saying “Oh, I’ve been great,” or “I’ve been feeling much better.”

Here’s another example. I see Gabby almost every day. When I see her, I don’t ask “How have you been?”, I ask “How are you?” We only ask “How have you been?” if we haven’t seen someone in a week or more.

More Ways to Answer “How Have You Been?”

Are there different ways to answer this question? Sure, there are!

You can use the continuous form of a verb in your sentence. Just add -ing, and that will make your sentence sound better and give the person more information about how you have been.

More examples, please!

I have been feeling fantastic recently.
I have been working a lot.
Oh, I have been sleeping a lot lately.
I have been studying a lot lately.

A Way to Keep the Conversation Going

Here’s a sample conversation between me and my cousin. I haven’t seen her in a month.

Vanessa: How have you been?
Cousin: Oh, I’ve been working a lot.
Vanessa: What have you been working on?

This is a really great way to keep a conversation going.

Conversations with Gabby and Vanessa

Gabby: Vanessa! It’s been so long! How have you been?
Vanessa: I know, Gabby, I haven’t seen you in months. I’ve been traveling a lot lately.
Gabby: Lucky you!

Vanessa: Good morning, Dr. Wallace.
Gabby (Dr. Wallace): Good morning.
Vanessa: How’ve ya been? I haven’t seen you since my last yearly checkup.
Gabby: I’ve been busy working. You’re my twentieth patient today.

Gabby: Vanessa, I just saw you post a photo with Alyssa and Laura. How’ve they been? I haven’t seen them in ages!
Vanessa I haven’t seen them in forever, either. They said they’ve been doing great. They were actually doing some shopping with their brother, Mike.
Gabby: Oh, Mike! How’s he been? I haven’t seen him in a while, either.
Vanessa: He’s also doing really well. He’s been trying to purchase a new home.

Time For a Quiz!

How well do you understand what you’ve learned in this English lesson? See if you can answer these six questions:

  1. What is a more natural, native way to say “How have you been?”

This is about pronunciation. Try saying it out loud to yourself a little faster, using a contraction. The answer is “How’ve ya been?”

  1. What is a faster, more native way to say “I have been…”?

Instead of “I have been…”, say “I’ve been…” Using contractions will help you sound more native.

  1. If I am meeting you for the first time, is it appropriate to ask, “How have you been?”

No. Remember, this is a question for people that we already know.

  1. When someone asks you,”How’ve you been lately?”, is it correct to answer, “I’ve been feel great!”

It’s not correct, but why not?

Remember, with that verb feel we need to put -ing at the end. “I’ve been feeling great lately.” “I’ve been working a lot lately.” “I’ve been busy studying these days.”

  1. You see your co-workers every day. Is it okay to ask them how they’ve been every morning?

I hope you said no! “How have you been?” is for when you want to have a conversation with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

  1. You return to work after a week-long vacation, and you see your co-worker. Can you ask, “How have you been?”

Yes! This would be the perfect time to use the present perfect form of the question. You haven’t seen them in a week. They might want to have a conversation about your vacation.

How Did You Do on the Quiz?

Let us know in the comments below. And tell us how you’ve been! We care about you, and we want to grow our relationship with you.

If you learned a lot from this post, you might want to also read this post about how to answer the question, “How are you?” Thanks for learning English with us! Check out all our new YouTube videos and we’ll see you next time at Go Natural English!

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Picture of Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

About the Author
Gabby Wallace is the Founder of Go Natural English, where you can quickly improve your confidence speaking English through advanced fluency practice. Even if you don't have much time, this is the best place for improving your English skills. Millions of global intermediate - advanced English students are learning with Gabby's inspiring, clear, and energetic English lessons. Gabby has a Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Boston University and 20+ years experience helping students become fluent through her online courses and membership program.

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