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Sorry if it's a trivial question, but when someone uses what's up as a greeting I have no idea what they want to hear. What are the possible answers and what does this question mean exactly?

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Related point: The correct response to someone going "waaazzzzzaaaaap!?" is to punch them in the face. Hard. – Seamus Sep 3 '10 at 16:19
"Nuthin'. What's up with you." See the movie "The Sweetest Thing" for details. – Tim Sep 23 '10 at 19:36
Most of my friends would say ‘not down’. Hackers don’t take well to being asked meaningless questions to which honest answers are not just unexpected, but expected not to be given. It confuses and annoys us. – tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 18:44

10 Answers 10

up vote 26 down vote accepted

“What’s up?” is a greeting whose meaning is mostly irrelevant in that the asker doesn’t want an answer to the literal question which means something like “What is new?” or “What’s happening (right now/in your life)?”.

The simplest response if you don’t have information you want to share immediately with the asker is probably just to say something like “not much”, “not too much”, or “hey (man/dude)”. If you’re offered “what’s up” in response to a greeting of your own, you should read it as a request for you to proceed to the content part of what you want to talk about.

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I usually prefer the standard "not much" answer, but occasionally go with the very casual "How's it hangin'?" question in response. This is only done among close male friends and never in a business or formal setting. The "it" in the question is a veiled reference to the penis (American English). Non-native speakers should probably never use "How's it hangin'?" in response to "What's up?". For those wondering why I left the ending 'g' of of "hanging", the reason is that is is a casual response and don't make the effort to enunciate it properly. – ssakl Sep 4 '10 at 3:01
Imo, any answer that contains a verb is appropriate. Not meaning imperatives, of course. – Wolfpack'08 Sep 24 '13 at 10:46

"Not much, how about you?"

Unless, of course, you are in the midst of something exceptional.

It's just a greeting meaning "What is happening?", and a reply that nothing's happening means you're fine.

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+1 No news is good news. – Kris May 16 '12 at 9:01

Depends on the tone in which it's asked - with the right tone, it can be synonymous with "What's wrong?", where, with a less concerned tone, it's more of a "How are you?". I'd reply very similarly to either.

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That is an expression that has about as much meaningfulness as "How are you?" or "How's it going?" All, including "What's up?" are used as greetings. Now, each can be taken literally where someone may want to truly know "how you are", particularly if you've been sick, for instance, but all those terms are very commonly used along with the traditional greeting words, "Hi, "Hello", "Hey".


What's up? - "Not much, how about with you?"

How are you? - "Fine, and you?"

How's it going? - "OK. How's it going with you?"

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It used to be asked only when the person addressed seemed to be in some kind of trouble. Some people, I believe, now use it as a simple greeting. I've never been greeted in this way myself, so I can only speculate that the reply might be something like 'Yeh, I'm good.'

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Barrie: What's up? (I'm honored to be the first to greet you that way.) BTW, you're correct, in the U.S., "What's up?" isn't too far removed from "How ya doin'?" Both are often used as informal greetings, and something as simple as a quick nod might work as a valid reply. It depends some, too, on which part of the country you're from – some places consider these more of a conversation starter than others, a fact that was brilliantly depicted in this commercial. – J.R. May 16 '12 at 15:26

If you want to be unconventional, you can reply "the sun" or "me, barely." That usually gives people pause.

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Don't do that.. – Michael Haren Sep 10 '10 at 17:46
@Michael Haren- doesn't it depend on the context? I might not try this with say, my boss. But the sarcastic responses like "the sky" or "helicopters" or "gas prices" work perfectly well with friends. – cobaltduck May 16 '12 at 14:19
@Wade: Perhaps – but such responses can also sound very stale and juvenile before too long, and can be grating at times, even among friends. – J.R. May 16 '12 at 15:17

To directly reply to "What's up?" (as a rhetorical question), "'sup" does the job. (American)

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  • Not much, what's up with you?
  • Oh, the usual.
  • Hey!
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All said with the same emphasis and cheerfulness as your questioner exhibits. – StoneyB Nov 29 '12 at 18:42

You can respond using this (pick one):

Thank God, I am doing well (or: Unfortunately, I'm not doing so well today, or: Everything is in order, or: Not much, et al.).

I think it is acceptable as well to reply back with the same greeting:

How are you doing (today/tonight/this morning/this afternoon/this evening)?

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How's this answer wrong? – Kris May 16 '12 at 8:56

"Stuff, y'know." (The same stuff keeps happening like it happens all the time. You already know what kind of stuff.)

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