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When someone asks, “How are you?”

Every time when my colleges from USA ask me "How are you?" I don't know what should I answer. I think that answer like "Fine, thanks. What about you?" is not perfect. Could you provide patterns for such situation?


Fine, thanks. What about you?

There's nothing wrong with your answer, although it might get tiresome if you word it exactly the same way, every time you're asked. But the solution for that is to merely use a few simple variations:

I'm doing great today - and you?

Doing well, thanks. How about you?

Not bad, yourself?

Thanks for asking, I'm doing fine.

I think it's usually best to avoid clever responses to such a standard question, particularly when you're with new acquaintences. Sure, you could reply with something like, "I'm happy as a clam," but that's not very professional, and it would probably undermine your credibility rather than enhance it. Such jocular ways of answering are best left said among close acquaintences when everyone is kidding around.

  • 2
    You can even just answer "Nice to see you" or the like. We understand that it's basically just a longer form of "hello" and they're not actually inquiring as to your condition. Jan 29 '13 at 3:37

"Fine, thanks. Yourself?" is what I usually reply.

  • I think that it sounds not very friendly :)
    – Warlock
    Jan 28 '13 at 19:19
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    @Warlock: you're welcome to your opinion, of course. But it's very common usage. "How are you?" is not usually an actual question, but more a substitute for "Hello". As such it doesn't require too much in the way of response. The friendliness (or lack thereof) is in the delivery.
    – dnagirl
    Jan 28 '13 at 19:22
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    I used to work with someone, who when asked "how are you?" would pause, consider for a few seconds, and then reply "Good!" with a tone that suggested he was quite touched that you had cared enough about his well-being as to ask. For most of us though, it's a formality more than anything more, and this answer, as with Barrie's, fit the bill fine.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 28 '13 at 20:45

The answer given by dnagirl is one possibility. Another is 'I'm very well, thank you. How are you?'

  • Ok, thanks. Are there any famous phrases from books, musicals or cinema?
    – Warlock
    Jan 28 '13 at 19:23
  • @Warlock. What sort of thing did you have in mind? Jan 28 '13 at 19:43
  • I mean, that you can show your erudition by answering with a famous phrase. This approach is widely used in Russia when people answer questions with quotes from classical literature.
    – Warlock
    Jan 29 '13 at 8:42
  • @Warlock. I'm afraid it would take more time and energy than I have available to find such a reference. In any case, what occurs in literature may not be relevant to what occurs in normal speech. Moreover, it isn't really necessary to undertake such a task. The everyday experience of native speakers is enough to provide an answer. Jan 29 '13 at 8:47
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    I had a friend who, when asked "How are you?" would often reply, "Just right." The reference, of course, is from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. That's hardly "classic literature" (unless you include children's literature). His answer was both optimistic and unique, but not so unusual as to be socially awkward. I don't think he'd mind if you borrowed it, so long as you are genuinely feeling quite content at the time. One reason it worked for him was his personality: he was inclined to be thankful for the blessings in life and to roll with the hardships. Best to be genuine when being clever.
    – J.R.
    Jan 29 '13 at 10:05

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