I was wondering how many ways/tones to speak "How are you?"

Which tone/way to use in different situations:

  • when seeing somebody you don't expect to have a conversation after?
  • when seeing your supervisor/boss?
  • when seeing your friends?
  • ...

For example, in this movie beauty-and-the-briefcase, at 30:15, Lane says "How are you?" to Seth and then Seth relies with a different way of "How are you?" Is Lane putting stress on "are"? In what kinds of situation will one stress "are", what kinds of situation will one stress "How", and what kinds for speaking like Seth?

  • Are you asking about those exact words — "How are you?" — or greetings in general for those situations.
    – Robusto
    Feb 18, 2011 at 20:05
  • @Robusto: I was asking about different ways to say "How are you?" But if in those situations, there are better ways for greeting than saying "How are you?", I also would like to hear. Thanks!
    – Tim
    Feb 18, 2011 at 20:07
  • Friends: How's life? - Boss: how do you do? :)
    – mplungjan
    Feb 18, 2011 at 20:26
  • @mplungjan: really? "How do you do?" to your boss? I thought the Americans have ditched that and only the British are still using it.
    – Tim
    Feb 18, 2011 at 21:01
  • I am not American - I also did not see a US-Only tag ;) And if the boss has a sense of humour and is American, he/she will laugh I am sure
    – mplungjan
    Feb 19, 2011 at 7:18

1 Answer 1


Here are a few ideas.

Casual non-acquaintance:

 - Hi.
 - Hey.
 - How are you?
 - How are you doing?

Formal (to whatever level above you that requires some measure of obsequiousness)

 - Good morning.
 - Good afternoon.
 - Good evening.
 - Hello.
 - Nice to meet you.
 - How are you?

Informal (to friends)

 - Hey!
 - Sup?
 - Dude.
 - What up?

And so on. You almost never say "How are you?" to your friends, unless they've been ill or away and you have a legitimate reason for wondering about their health.

As for different tones:

How are you?

Can mean either indifference or extreme interest. Look at the person's face and decide for yourself. If you're in the hospital it signifies interest. If at a fund-raiser for a political candidate, not so much.

How are you ?

Indicates a sudden focus of attention on you, as if you were The Most Interesting Man in The World or someone knows and likes you but hasn't seen you for a while.

How are you?

Indicates a correction to your misunderstanding of the unstressed "How are you?" in which you thought the person was asking "Who are you?"

  • Thanks! Do you happen to know the different tones for "How are you?" as asked in my original question?
    – Tim
    Feb 18, 2011 at 20:39
  • Will edit to include.
    – Robusto
    Feb 18, 2011 at 20:44

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