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Once I used "pretty good" as a reply to one of my friends' question "How are you today?", I was under the impression that the "pretty good" will weigh much more than just "good", means "very good" or "awesome".

But after a quick conversation with her, I got to know that "pretty good" has a flavor of sarcastic, thus it might mean "what a busy day!" or "Too busy to be good." in that specific context.

Is that a good practice to reply with "pretty good" to the question "How are you?", and expecting no sarcastic meaning conveyed?

If the answer is no, then can I use "pretty good" if I had got a sore throat for all day long?

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It basically just means "mostly good" or "fairly good" or "somewhat good." It definitely isn't "more than good," though. edit: I agree with Hellion. –  advs89 May 21 '11 at 2:41
    
I would think there is a cultural bias too. Viz "Not too bad" in British English –  mplungjan May 21 '11 at 6:19
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3 Answers 3

The precise meaning of “Pretty good”? Good, to an imprecise degree.

I wouldn't say it has a flavour of sarcasm, but a flavour of “more or less”.

So when you answer “good” then everything is well and truly definitely good but when you say “pretty good” you're just less than sure about the well and truly definitely part. “Pretty good” is more non-committal.

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It all depends on how it's said. "Pretty good" as a response to a question can mean anything from "really awesome" to "so-so" to "not so hot" or even "could be better" — you just have to have an ear for it.

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I see. Does the same thing happen to "good"? I have to have en ear for "good" since it can mean anything from "really awesome" to "so-so" or even "could be better"? –  Jamie May 21 '11 at 3:12
    
@Jamie: To a lesser extent, yeah, but a reply of "good" will usually mean just that, unless it is used as a non-committal response. Often it is just an obligatory response, without any actual informational value. –  Robusto May 21 '11 at 10:01
    
I would add what you've mentioned in your comment to the answer. The fact that it's an obligatory response to a social cue is important. –  dwjohnston May 12 at 1:22
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"Pretty Good", to me, means that things are going basically as expected / hoped, you have nothing major to complain about but nothing major to exult about either. It's a very middle-of-the-road sort of response.

"Good" generally means that you are happy about something, or perhaps are just feeling better than average overall even if you don't know exactly why.

"Very good" and "great" and "awesome" almost always have some specific thing that really went surprisingly well for you to cause such an elevated level of happiness.

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protected by tchrist May 12 at 20:35

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