Q. You are in a bookstore and the bookseller says, "How are you doing?"

Which two ways should you not respond?

1) I am great.
2) I'm terrible.
3) I'm not bad.
4) I'm fine, thank you.
5) I'm going to the beach.

I see (5) "I'm going to the beach" is not correct. But I cannot find out the other inappropriate answer. Please help me and add some explanations. Thank you.

  • What kind of test does this question appear in? That will go a long way towards how it should be answered. Strictly speaking, #2 is not incorrect, but it is probably the answer they are looking for if this is a conversational English class. – Solocutor Jun 27 '16 at 17:26
  • It's an English midterm test In South Korea. I heard a Canadian teacher set the exam question. I thought the question is quite odd and wanted to ask native speakers if the question has answers. Thank you for your comment. It helped me a lot. – souldfood Jun 28 '16 at 4:18
  • If you are genuinely unwell, you wouldn't be visiting a bookshop in the first place :). But if a close friend asked (alternatively) How do you feel? I would just reply with terrible or [I feel] really bad / sick / ill / unwell – Mari-Lou A Jun 28 '16 at 15:59

The question 'How are you doing?' is a Pleasantry, rather than a genuine request for information, in this instance (ie the question is from a service employee rather than a friend or anyone who has a personal reason for being interested in your well-being).

pleasantry : something (such as a greeting) that people say in order to be polite
Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

This should help you to work out the answer in similar situations.

In this example: one would not, under most normal circumstances, respond 'I'm terrible' to such an inquiry from staff in a shop. If the ways in which you were feeling terrible related directly to something about the shop/service which you then went on to explain so that they could fix it, that would be okay. But you wouldn't tell shop staff, whom you did not know, that you were terrible if the reason was that your hamster had died.

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  • I don't think your post answers the question. – user140086 Jun 27 '16 at 13:17
  • If others agree I'll delete it. – Spagirl Jun 27 '16 at 13:18
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    I don't think you need to delete it. It would be much nicer if you include the answer to the question since you decided to answer it. – user140086 Jun 27 '16 at 13:18
  • So, do you think the answers to this question are number (2)and(5)?Please don't delete your explanation. It helps a lot. And I also hope to hear other people's opinion. Thank you. :) – souldfood Jun 27 '16 at 13:22

You are of course fully aware that the 'question' is no more than a greeting, not an enquiry to your health. The only appropriate response is something to the effect of "I'm fine thanks". So anything else is inappropriate; for example, "quarter past two" or "go shaft yourself." Hope that helps.

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  • What is the answer to the question? – user140086 Jun 27 '16 at 16:13
  • Nobody clearly answers to this question... So frustrated... what's the answer? – souldfood Jun 27 '16 at 16:21
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    @souldfood The reason most people have avoided answering your question is because there is clearly no point in us doing your homework for you. If you are trying to learn English, you will NOT learn it just by asking other people for the answers. Hence people were trying to get you to understand how to choose which answers are correct or wrong. This forum is NOT here to help you pass your exams without actually understanding English! – TrevorD Jun 27 '16 at 18:03
  • Also, you may find that our sistere site English Language Learners is more suited to your needs - BUT they will still NOT DO YOUR HOMEWORK FOR YOU! – TrevorD Jun 27 '16 at 18:05
  • @TrevorD It's not homework. I just wanted native speakers' opinions on the question. I am sorry if my comment bothered you. I appreciate your help. Thank you. – souldfood Jun 28 '16 at 4:29

The other inappropriate answer is clearly #2. You put the service person in an uncomfortable situation, since it was a pleasantry, not an inquiry.

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