My friend, aged 21, has just started taking classes at a language school, and will shortly be doing 4 hours each weekday there. It feels very odd to be saying "How's school going?" – we finished school years ago, we're at Colleges and Universities now.

It seems something of a paradox to me, that she is clearly going to "a school", but it feels so incorrect to state that she is going "to school".

Any thoughts? What would be the best ways to refer to it?

  • 1
    Yes, specialist usages of words often cause problems - of incongruousness if not confusion. Ask her how she'd say it (she's the linguist!); I'd probably avoid using school when speaking to third parties. 'How's the course going?' is splendidly general. Apr 24, 2013 at 16:47
  • I have encountered the same odd feeling in telling my children I am going to school when I am in college and they are in elementary/middle/high "school". The simplest way I've found is to refer to it as "class" instead of "school." However asking "how's your class going?" is not quite as good in this context as Edwin's suggestion of "course", so +1 for that.
    – BrianH
    Apr 24, 2013 at 17:05
  • 1
    I have no problem asking my daughter (the one in college), "How's school going?" Also, when I say goodbye to my daughter (the one in high school), I'll often end with, "Have a good day at school." Because I work at a university, she'll often reply, "You, too!"
    – J.R.
    Apr 24, 2013 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


In American English, she is taking classes.

If you were to say 'she is going to school' that would imply that she is a child (elementary or secondary) or attending a college for a bachelor's degree.

Anything else you are either taking classes or going to 'night' school or law school, even if full time and during the day. A post-graduate university degree that is not professional, say for a master's degree in literature is however still 'going to school', but sounds a little funny (like to young).

Actually, 'language school' sounds funny. Even there it would be 'language class'.

So the end results, the most natural thing to say is

How are classes going?

As to what is most natural in British English I'll leave that to someone else.

  • "Taking a (language) course" in British English.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 24, 2013 at 23:40
  • In British English "school" generally means the up to 16 (or 18) place for children. After that it's going to college/university. AME does use school for university more commonly "she went back to school to get her PhD"
    – mgb
    Apr 25, 2013 at 1:31

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