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I got some email from a stranger that contains:

I hope this email finds you well.

So what does "find you well" means here? Does it mean "Are you well" or "The email find the right guy"? I'm a little confused here.

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To get the latter meaning, try "I hope this email finds you nicely." –  jwpat7 Jul 12 '12 at 17:07
    
jwpat7, would prefer something like "I hope this email is received by the right person." or "I hope this email is correctly directed." Hard to use 'well' in this context. –  Alex Feinman Jul 12 '12 at 17:27
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If I'm uncertain that I'm reaching the correct person, I usually say, "If I've reached the wrong person, please let me know or forward this mail to someone more suitable." It's better to make an explicit request than to insinuate. –  Derrick Coetzee Jul 12 '12 at 18:21
    
@Alex, Derrick - my previous comment is facetious. Re "It's better to make an explicit request than to insinuate", I think what's best too often depends on context for that always to be so. –  jwpat7 Jul 13 '12 at 0:16
    
@jwpat7, make sure to use the facetious font style. :P –  Alex Feinman Jul 13 '12 at 12:48

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

It means "I hope this email arrives at a time when you are well (healthy, happy, etc)"

In other words, "I hope you are doing well." It is not a question, it is just offering nice wishes.

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Tes for the first sentence but the second has a different meaning - the first really implies health the second is not complete means to me doing well at something –  Mark Jul 12 '12 at 16:56
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It's also a spam marker, since nobody ever uses it except in the most highly formal styles, which spammers often try to emulate. –  John Lawler Jul 12 '12 at 17:15
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@mark No, it's conventional to say "I hope you're doing well" meaning that the person is getting along in life in general: healthy, happy, financially secure, whatever. You can, of course, talk about someone "doing his schoolwork well" or "doing well in his investments" or any number of other specifics. But "hope you're doing well" is a common idiom. –  Jay Jul 12 '12 at 20:11
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@Jay, Mark: I think doing well has essentially the same sense in all such usages. In the absence of any associated context identifying some particular field in which one might be "excelling", the default is indeed "life in general". And, as any Fule Kno, the most important thing in life is health –  FumbleFingers Jul 12 '12 at 20:43

At first it seems like he hopes that the email reaches the concerned person. But on second thought, it depends on the content of the rest of the email—whether it's spam or from a friend. It could also mean that email would make you feel well.

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kmote gives the correct sense of well as used in the expression, and John Lawler points out that nowadays it's highly formal (tending to pretentious).

However, this usage of find with object and secondary predication (the adjective well) is quite commonly used:

we ... found him well and in high spirits

I found him well and hearty

I had found him well and looking forward to release

they found him well and in good heart

they found him well and flourishing

I found him well and hard at work

I found him well and every thing all right

(Google search for "found him well"; all above in first 10 results in my search; slightly tidied)

Notice that well does not appear alone in these predicative structures: either it is coordinated, or 'him well' (the last example) is. It would not be wrong without coordination, but appears far less usual. That this is possibly to avoid confusion with the adverbial sense of well (which possible confusion prompted the original question) is evidenced by the fact that "found him unwell", "found him ill", and "found him in high spirits" and the like can and often do stand alone. However, "found him hearty" doesn't sound natural to me - but then hearty is archaic in all but a few usages. "Found him flourishing" also sounds unnatural. It seems idiosyncratic.

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