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When someone asks, "How are you?" are you supposed to answer, "Good," or "Fine," and ask back?

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I was wondering, is it Off Topic if I post something about ENGLISH way although you used the "American-English" tag? –  Alenanno Apr 23 '11 at 18:36

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes. Depending on where you are in the English-speaking world and on your relationship with the other person, you might reply with any of the following:

  • I'm fine, thank you.
  • I'm good. You?
  • Doing great! And how are you?
  • Good. Doing okay?

Certainly, several other possible permutations. No response at all would be considered rude anywhere. Just saying, "Fine," in response without a "thank you" or a reciprocal question would also be considered brusque, standoffish or rude; or the asker may simply conclude you are in a bad mood. The first response is the norm in places or cases where the respondent does not deem it polite or appropriate to respond in kind with a "How are you?"

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Thanks, I used to always answer without asking a reciprocal question. –  David Apr 23 '11 at 18:31
+1. I would add that asking "How are you?" directly back is also considered rude in most places as it implies you are ignoring the question you have just been asked. Although this does appear to be common practice in the US. –  mikera May 18 '12 at 2:10

Situations where it is appropriate to reciprocate:

  • meeting a friend in the street
  • speaking to a colleague at the watercooler
  • a conversation with an acquaintance at a social event

Situations where it is appropriate not to reciprocate:

  • visiting the doctor
  • when asked by a shop assistant
  • being greeted at a formal social occasion
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A question inspired by this answer Is it always appropriate to reciprocate when asked “How are you?” –  mrm Jul 17 '12 at 16:15

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