It’s often said that variety is the spice of life. This is especially true when it comes to food, drink, free-time activities, travel etc. If you’re always doing the same thing, life can become boring. Learning English is the same way!

It can make you feel comfortable and confident to use the same language over and over again, but it also doesn’t give you much of a variety. And over time, if you’re not careful, you may lose the excitement you once had for learning.

Today we’ll take a look at some different ways to say, “How are you?”, and their appropriate responses, in English. It’s one of the first things you learn to say, and for some reason, many don’t ever try other greetings. And the funny thing is, native speakers don’t actually say “How are you?” all that often. For us, it’s way to formal and just…well…unnatural.

So, if you want to sound more natural and express yourself more exactly, it might be time to take a look at some new alternatives. Take a look at our tips for saying hello below!

1. What’s going on?

This is a great, informal way to say hello to someone you already know. It also helps spark a conversation, so you aren’t left standing awkward after the initial greeting. It means hello, but it also means, tell me what’s currently going on in your life.

Typical responses include: Nothing / Not much / Not much man (if you’re talking to younger males)

Now remember, just because you say not much or nothing, it doesn’t actually mean not much, or nothing is happening in your life. You probably have a million things going on in your life. It’s just a light way to start a conversation.

2. What’s new (with you)?

This is another great and informal way to say hi to someone you know. It’s another variation of What’s going on? And it’s asking for any ‘new’ life updates from your friend.

Typical responses include: Nothing & Not much. However, you could also include any new pieces of information.

Example: What’s new?

Response: Not much. I just saw that new Star Wars movie though. Have you seen it yet?

3. What’s up?

A relatively recent addition to the How are you? family. What’s up? is very informal and usually only used with friends and close colleagues. Be careful about using this in formal situations.

Just as the others, it simply means hi!

Typical responses include: This one, like the others, doesn’t really require much of a response. Usually a nothing much or not much will do.

Often people will often response with one of the previous responses followed by what they’re doing immediately in the moment.

Example: What’s up?

Response: Not much! Just hanging out right now and watching some T.V. What are you up to?

4. How have you been?

This greeting is often used after we haven’t seen someone in a little while. We wouldn’t use this if we just saw the person in the past couple of days. But if it has been a week or longer since you have seen them, feel free to try this one out.

Typical responses include: I’m good. I’ve been good. I’ve been alright. Pretty good and you?

5. How’s everything?

This is another casual way to say hello to someone you’ve met before. You don’t really want to know everything that they’re doing, but you want to know how everything is in general.

Typical response may include: Great. Really good. Not bad, etc.

6. How’s it going?

This is a classic in naturally flowing English. Well this is considered a little bit more formal; you can use this greeting for almost anyone and any situation, except for maybe the most formal situations.

It is more a question of hello and some new life updates that you’re looking for.

Common responses include: It’s going great. It’s going well. Not bad. Could be better.

7. You all right?

No, you aren’t asking them about their health. It’s just another casual introduction. However, this one requires a little bit of work with your intonation. Remember to make a dip with your intonation and end your voice on a high note to have the desired effect.

Typical responses may include: Yeah, I’m good. I’m great. Doing fine, what about you?

8. Hey, hey man. Hi.

This is one of the most informal ways to say How are you? in English. It’s also one of the most popular. It’s short and to the point. It doesn’t waste any time getting into the conversation.

This is great for people you know really well.

Note: If you say hey man, make sure you’re saying it to a younger male. It wouldn’t sound too great if you asked this of your older professor or boss.

Typical responses include: Hey, how’s it going? Hey, what’s up? Hey, what’s new?

9. How’s your day going?

This one can be used in both informal and formal settings. It doesn’t require a long response but it’s a nice way to ask someone whether their entire day has been good or bad up to this point.

Typical responses include: It’s going well. Great. Couldn’t be better!

10. Long time no see!

This is a classic way to greet someone. And as you can already tell, it’s after you haven’t seen them for a while.

Here you’re not only looking for life updates, but it will usually be followed by one of the other greetings we studied previously. This helps make it sound more natural and to become more precise as to what you’re asking.

Some more alternative ways to answer.

The classic response for many learners when they're asked how they are doing is: “I’m fine, thanks. And you?” To make it worse, it can often sound very robotic and insincere. To sound more natural and bring a little bit more liveliness to your conversation starters, try the following responses.

  • I’m good
  • Pretty good
  • I’m well

To sound positive, make sure the intonation at the end of your statement goes up. If you aren’t feeling that up-beat, but you don’t want to be a total downer, try some of these alternatives to so-so

  • I’m OK.
  • Not too bad.
  • Same old, same old.
  • Yeah, all right.
  • I’m alive!*

*The last one is a sort of joke, but it gets across the point that you are surviving life and everything is ok.

Sometimes things aren’t that great, but you don’t want to come across as whiny or downbeat. Try these alternatives instead.

  • I’ve been better
  • Better now that you’re here.
  • I can’t complain too much.

There you have it!

You’re now armed with some new weapons in the game of How are you? Feel free to experiment and see what kind of responses you get. This will help you know when the most appropriate times are to use which phrase.

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