Want to learn a few new ways to say “How are you?” in English? This is a question English speakers ask all the time. When we meet someone new, bump into a colleague at work and especially when we meet friends. It can get a bit repetitive to always ask the same question, we are here to help: You can ask “How are you” in English in a formal way, informally or even in slang. Here are a few ways to use different variations.
General ways to ask “How are you?” in English
How are you?
We can’t leave this one out. It’s one of the most basic phrases in the English language and you can use it in any context. With friends, colleagues, your boss, your teacher… it’s always good. The usual response, certainly in the English-speaking world is “Fine, thanks”, or “Good, thanks”. We would answer in this way even if the sky is falling around us. So a formal “How are you?” isn’t always a question that invites a truthful answer.
How’s it going?
“How’s it going?” is a bit more informal than “How are you?”. But, it’s still a very good general phrase you can use with most people. In English speaking countries, it would be fine to use this phrase with someone more senior than you (like your boss), provided you have a bit of a relationship with them. But, again, the answer is likely to be, “Good, thanks”, even if it’s not true.
How’s everything?/How are things?
This is a question you would ask someone you know. It implies that you know a bit about their life and that you don’t mind hearing about it. So you could ask a colleague, “How’s everything?”, and they might answer, “All good, thanks. That project I was working on…”.
What’s been going on?
This is another good question to ask someone you know. It invites them to tell you a bit about their life and what has happened since you last saw them. So you’re more likely to hear a truthful answer to this question than you are if you ask ‘How are you?’.
Formal ways to say “How are you?” in English
Are you well?
People who ask this question expect you to simply say, “Yes, I’m very well, thanks”, or something similar. “Are you well?” doesn’t really invite a long, in-depth answer unless it’s being asked by someone close to you who happens to be quite old fashioned.
How are you keeping?
“How are you keeping?” is old-fashioned and definitely more British than American. You can answer, “I’m keeping well” but this is really, really old fashioned, so it’s better to just say “Very well, thank you” or something similar.
Ways to say “How are you?” with friends
This is an informal way or slang to ask a friend, “How are you?”. Asking a friend or close colleague, “What’s up?” could give you a long or a short response. It could go: “What’s up?” – “Nothing much, you?”. Or, “What’s up?” – “I’ve got so much work to do…”. English-speakers also ask “What’s up?” when someone looks sad but in this case, of course, the tone of voice would be different.
An informal way of asking, “What’s been going on”, this invites the person you are speaking to tell you a bit about themselves and their life.
“All right?” is an informal way to ask someone you know well how they are. You can give a short or a long answer to this question – it’s fine to say, “All right?”, “Yeah, all right?”, or to give a much longer answer about yourself.
Now you have a lot of choices of ways to ask someone, “How are you?”. It’s good to remember which ones invite a longer answer so you can avoid asking them when you’re in a hurry!
Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.