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When my coworker in the US asks me "How are you?" I usually answer "I'm fine", but the last time I told him "I'm good" and he replied "I'm glad to hear that".

It looks like "I'm fine" means "I'm OK" but not quite good as "I'm good".

What is the difference between them and if the score of happy is 10, what is the score of "I'm fine" and "I'm good"? (higher score means happier)

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10 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

In common usage, "I'm fine" is a generally positive way of saying "There's nothing particularly wrong"; yet it also means that there isn't anything superlatively right, well, or good.

"I'm good", however, is a positive assertion that your personal situation and the events surrounding it are supererogatory compared to your usual state of being. That is, by describing your state of being as "good", you suggest that your personal situation is definitively satisfactory, in all respects.

Basically, "I'm fine" means "I'm OK", "I'm getting by with no problems", and so on, while "I'm good" suggests "I'm happy", "I am currently aware of how well I am, and how well my life is going", "I'm satisfied, content, and am quite enjoying myself", etc.

You can think of it this way:

"Are you sick? You look pale, and weak."

"No, I'm fine! Please, stop worrying about me!"

versus:

"Are you sick? You look pale, and weak."

"No, I'm good! I've actually been working out indoors, recently, and I may be pale, but I'm certainly not weak. I feel great!"

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Agreed, but in addition it's interesting to note that if someone asks you "How are you?", the answers of "fine" and "good" mean the same exact thing (which is "there's nothing going on with me I have a reason to talk to you about, but thanks for going through the ritual of politeness") It's funny how much of a difference adding the "I'm" makes, because it tells the person asking you you're actually trying to answer the question instead of giving a polite return. –  Jeremy Sep 14 '11 at 5:37
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@Jeremy: Do you mean, if answer is just "fine" or "good", it's exactly same but if it's "I'm fine" or "I'm good" they have a different as in this answer? –  Anonymous Sep 14 '11 at 6:18
    
@Anonymous: Yes, that's what he means. As in this situation: How are you? Ans: Good. This is the same meaning as in the exchange How are you? Ans: Fine. –  Kyle Pearson Sep 14 '11 at 6:34
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I'd add that there's a lot of regional differences here, from colloquialisms that are hard for outsiders to understand ("suckin' diesel") to different tendencies to use words like good, fine, etc. for different states. Some places good and fine are pretty much synonymous, and some it's a stronger assertion. –  Jon Hanna Jan 20 '13 at 23:58
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Although the OP specifically mentions the US, it's worth mentioning that this also has a bit of US/British variation. "I'm good" to my (Brit) ears sounds a bit American, although its use is becoming increasingly common on this side of the pond. I think it's related to the increasing use of "good" instead of "well" in some informal contexts e.g. "How did you get on at the interview? I did good, thanks".

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Yes indeed. Over here "I'm good" still means "I'm the opposite of evil" as opposed to "I feel good", strictly speaking (although some beg to differ: motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/…). –  Waggers Sep 14 '11 at 9:19
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"I'm fine" means the same as "I'm well". I.e. I'm not ill.

"I'm good" means that I am morally sound: for instance, I do good deeds, I think good thoughts.

This latter meaning is being used more and more to mean "I am well".

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To expand on this answer, "How are you?" is really an enquiry about your health, which is why some people make the distinction between "fine" and "good" as an appropriate answer, but in practice - as has been pointed out - it's usually a ritual greeting said with no real interest in the answer. –  nnnnnn Sep 14 '11 at 13:00
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In UK English, "I'm fine" is the standard reply to "How are you?"

"I'm good," means I am well behaved. A child is likely to say this.

I cannot comment on American English - I had never heard of "I'm good" being used as an alternative to "I'm fine" until I came across this forum.

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Um, this is not a forum. –  tchrist Jun 17 '13 at 17:59
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In the context of a greeting such as "How are you?", which is typically asked in a ritual manner and the asker is not usually interested in the answer, any positive response is equivalent.

"How are you?"

"I'm fine", "I'm good", "Fine, thanks", "Fine", "Good", "Good, thanks", etc etc

When your coworker then said "I'm glad to hear that" it probably also carried no significant meaning. I'm pretty sure your coworker did not decide that you were better than any other day, and instead said something positive as a response.

These greeting type situations are very formulaic and you can confuse people if you take the words on face value instead of as a greeting.

Now, if your coworker is specifically asking about your health or the state of your project/business/life, etc, and actually wants a legitimate status update, he may make a distinction between "fine" and "good", but to many people these words will be so similarly shaded that you'd do better to pay attention to the manner in which the word is said than to the word itself.

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I'm fine tends to be a more neutral way of saying how you are, like you're not good and you're not bad. Also, I've noticed that if a person is upset but they don't want to say it, they'll say "I'm fine" instead of "I'm good" to cover it up, especially if they normally say something other than "I'm fine". It kinda keeps the person from completely lying and saying they're doing good when in reality it's the opposite, but they're also not coming out and saying "I'm feeling horrible right now and need a hug".

Good seems to make it so you're actually happy about your state of being. Fine is just saying you're not having an amazing day, and you're not having a horrible day. It's just normal without being overly good or overly bad.

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it appears to me that to make it clear the above answers are fine but the last one is good so there is a difference of +1 when you say i am good and fine can be taken as Q: how are you A: not bad, ( which means he is fine only and the +1 is missing at this very moment which could have made him answer i am good.)

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Besides what others have already pointed out, "I'm fine" may sound like "I know you are not genuinely interested in me, so here is my formal response to your greeting" and "I'm good" may sound like "I'm actually feeling good." There can be numerous reasons why you would choose one of the responses, irrespective of your real feelings or state of health. The listener may have no interest in your real feelings, but if she has, "I'm good" would definitely sound better to her than "I'm fine".

Sorry if I confused you more. The relationship between the two persons, the situation in which the conversation happened, the accompanying tone and body language, and many other things can contribute to the meaning of a sentence or expression.

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I've noticed that the younger generation use "I'm good" instead of "I'm fine" simply as something new, to ring the changes from what might be termed "Oldspeak" into something of their own.

For my money, "I'm fine" in answer to the question "How are you?" indicates that the respondent is fine in terms of fine health. "I'm good" seems to indicate being good in a moral or behavioural way. Possibly used in a wrong sense here, but language being a living, developing thing, no harm done !

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Are you talking about UK or US usage - or somewhere else? As some of the other answers mention, the usage does vary across the pond, and maybe within the US as well. –  TrevorD Jun 21 '13 at 23:20
    
I think the expression started in the United States and arrived in Britain via TV, media etc. –  ron Jun 22 '13 at 14:40
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