I have never heard the phrase "How be you?" until yesterday, and started arguing that this was incorrect and that the correct phrase is "How are you?". My friend's reply was "This is how it's taught in the UK".

Googling does seem to find usage of this phrase, but it all seems to be colloquial, instead of formal.

Is it actually taught this way, in the UK or anywhere else?


If you want to talk like a pirate, say "How be you?" For all other uses, prefer "How are you?"

However, be may be substituted for the standard indicative copula in the subjunctive mood:

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

Be he black, white, red, yellow or brown, no man shall be denied his basic freedoms!


Even if Google finds many instances of that phrase, it is still not correct English by today's rules.

I very much doubt that this is taught in the UK or anywhere else, other than to highlight the use of slang or "ghetto" language. The correct way to say it is

How are you?

  • 4
    I wouldn't call it "ghetto", at all. I'd associate this phrasing more with older rural people than younger inner-city people. It's the way Granny Aching speaks in Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books, for example. – TRiG Jun 16 '11 at 21:30

It certainly is not taught that way in the UK. It may be common-ish in certain dialects, but would probably be archaic even in regional dialects where it was common until recently.

Your friend is probably just trying to be funny.

  • I wish, the friend is an English tutor. – Ahmed Subhani Apr 17 '11 at 18:07
  • 1
    @Subhani: facepalm – Marcin Apr 17 '11 at 18:33

I believe it is archaic English.


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