English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In a short interview where people were introducing themselves I saw something that grammatically sounds erroneous. Is the use of How's things instead of How're things a kind of expression or a simple mistake?

David: Hi. I’m David.

Rachel: Hi. I’m Rachel. Pleased to meet you.

David: Likewise. How's things?

Rachel: Great thanks. And You?

share|improve this question
How's/Where's/Here's/There's + plural noun is exceedingly common in speech. How's your mom and dad? / Where's my keys? / Here's your keys. / There's two pizzas in the freezer. – Dan Apr 24 '11 at 14:45
up vote 12 down vote accepted

It is an idiomatic expression, fairly common here in the Midwestern USA, at least; it is equivalent to "How are things going?" or "How are you?"

share|improve this answer

I've tried running this through my head to hear what I actually say, and what I wind up with is either "how are things" or "how's everything", both of which agree in number. However, I'd regard "how's things" as an acceptable alternative in informal speech, if it's generally used in your region. In a more formal context (a job interview, for example), I would avoid any of these constructs in favor of "how are you".

share|improve this answer

Some idioms do break the usual rules. They're called ill-formed idioms or extragrammatical idioms. How's things is one; it's in a colloquial register, in my opinion - you wouldn't use it in a scientific paper, for instance. It's us is a similar 'wrong agreement' idiom, widely accepted in almost every register. There are many extragrammatical idioms breaking various 'laws', for instance:

all of a sudden

by and large

curiouser and curiouser

dog eat dog

fight tooth and nail

for free

it never rains but it pours

lead someone a merry dance

look daggers at someone

more fool you

swear blind

writ large

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.