Greeting - How do you do? [and responses]

marget

Senior Member
"How do you do"? Is this a question that one uses only the first time one meets another person? By that, I mean it is never used again even if people meet again. Is a reply expected? Is this expression in common use? Is it extremely formal, more BE than AE? If 'how do you do" is not in everyday use, is "pleased to meet you" a better expression? Any other suggestions?

Thanks!
 
  • Tabac

    Senior Member
    U. S. - English
    marget said:
    "How do you do"? Is this a question that one uses only the first time one meets another person? This is normally when I hear it. By that, I mean it is never used again even if people meet again. Is a reply expected? The reply is often, "How do you do?" Is this expression in common use? Not it my groups. Is it extremely formal, more BE than AE?I have a feeling it's more frequently used in BE, but since I'm not there it's hard to say. If 'how do you do" is not in everyday use, is "pleased to meet you" a better expression? I think so. Any other suggestions?

    Thanks!
    "Nice meeting you" (especially at the end of the engagement). "Good to meet you."
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    In AE, it is, generally, used only the first time one meets another person, unless a very long time has gone by since the first meeting. A typical response might be "Fine, thank you, and you?" But since no one thinks of the literal meaning of the words, a "how do you do" is also an appropriate response.

    It is used in everyday formal use: i.e. it is used when someone introduces you to someone else or when someone is introduced to you.

    typical dialogue:

    Mr. Jones. Ann, may I introduce Paul?
    Ann: How do you do?
    Mr. Jones, Paul, this is Ann.
    Paul: Pleased to meet you.

    You'd never use it in informal introductions: Hey, everybody, this is Ann!
    "Everybody" would say, Hi, Hello, etc.

    This is a harder question than it appears to be. I sat here wracking my brain and trying to remember every time I've used the expression!
     

    ikus

    New Member
    English
    I would think that a reply is expected (because it is a question) and that it is oten used again even if you are meeting the person for a second time.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I agree with Joelline's assessment and example.

    I would add, however, that the expression in general seems to be falling out of use. I recall using it much more when I was younger (being introduced to friends of my parents and especially grandparents).

    Now, we tend simply to say "Nice to meet you" when introduced to someone.

    Mr. Apple: Ms. Pear, I would like you to meet my friend Orange.
    Ms. Pear: (It's) Nice to meet you, Orange. (alt. It's a pleasure to meet you).
    Orange: (It's) Nice to meet you, too.
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    I have often heard it in AE but only in formal situations usually at a first time meeting (but not only).Also it is I think a generational thing. It sounds better than s'up?
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    marget said:
    "How do you do"? Is this a question that one uses only the first time one meets another person? By that, I mean it is never used again even if people meet again. Is a reply expected? Is this expression in common use? Is it extremely formal, more BE than AE? If 'how do you do" is not in everyday use, is "pleased to meet you" a better expression? Any other suggestions?

    Thanks!
    In traditional [old-fashioned?] BE etiquette, the answer to "How do you do?" was "How do you do?"
    It is a formal greeting.
    It is not restricted to introductions.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    "How do you do?" is not intended to elicit a reply. The response is "How do you do?"
    I would be very surprised if I ever heard anyone say that when being introduced. Most Australians wouldn't even use it if they were introduced to Elizabeth Windsor. They would probably say, "Really nice to meet you".
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Charles Costante said:
    "How do you do?" is not intended to elicit a reply. The response is "How do you do?"
    I would be very surprised if I ever heard anyone say that when being introduced. Most Australians wouldn't even use it if they were introduced to Elizabeth Windsor. They would probably say, "Really nice to meet you".
    Do you mean Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor?
    http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page3379.asp
     

    moirag

    Senior Member
    English, England
    No Brits here, I see. The answer is any of those, i.e "How do you do?" or "pleased to meet you" or "Nice to meet you": It is formal, and falling into disuse, I would say it´s rare nowadays. I have never used it, not once in my life and don´t honestly know when I´ve heard it. I´d say "Nice to meet you" or "Hello".
     

    Toepicker

    Member
    English-England(Manchester)
    To my ear 'How do you do' sounds quaint and I would expect to hear it from a member of the Royal family when addressing a 'subject' for the first time. (We Brits are all 'subjects' rather than citizens!), or in a period drama or play. I could never imagine using this terminology myself, except to poke fun at aristocrats! I always say 'Hello, nice to meet you' when meeting someone for the first time.
     

    A90Six

    Senior Member
    England - English.
    BE London: colloquialisms

    "How do you do?" can sound very formal, although it is still often used by less cultured speakers, such as myself. The greeting would sound something like, "'Ow ja do?" It is often shortened further to simply, "'Ow do?" In the USA the similar contraction, "Howdy?" can still be heard.

    "How do you do" can also be used, in the southeast of England at least, to mean fuss, bother, fight or argument. "The bride's ex-boyfriend turned up at the church and there was a right old how do you do."
     

    diogerepus

    Senior Member
    Korean
    How are you?
    How do you do?

    Here are some questions.
    1. How are these two different in meaning or situation?
    2. Can someone say 'I'm fine,' when the other person says 'How do you do?'?
     

    GEmatt

    Senior Member
    English/BE, Français/CH, Deutsch/CH (rustier & rustier)
    How are you?
    How do you do?

    Here are some questions.
    1. How are these two different in meaning or situation?
    2. Can someone say 'I'm fine,' when the other person says 'How do you do?'?
    diogerepus,

    To me, they don't seem particularly different, as methods of greeting. But obviously, the first one can be a more pointed question, referring to the other's well-being, in addition to being a simple greeting. The second one is only a greeting.

    "How do you do?" strikes me as relatively formal, although this may be a difference between AE and BE. In any event, it's always a good idea to respond with a corresponding level of formality, which is why I'd advise against "I'm fine," in favour of something like "I'm (very) well(, thank you)."
     

    regal

    Senior Member
    French
    Hello,

    "How do you do?" is more formal than "How are you?" So, used in different situations indeed.
    When you are asked "How do you do?" you ought to answer "How do you do?" too. You can't answer "Fine" for instance.
    But you can answer "Fine" or something else ("Horrible",...) when you are asked "How are you?"
    Good luck!
     

    Sarah1

    Senior Member
    England/english
    Hello

    Although we never use "how do you do" to ask how somebody is, I suppose the expression (which is another way of saying "pleased to meet you") literally means "How are you doing?"

    Sarah
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In BE How do you do? is not a question asking How are you? but a formula of politeness: it's what you say when you are introduced to someone for the first time.

    Apparent Question: How do you do?
    Apparent Answer: How do you do?

    Of course the inexperienced and the unwary and the foreigners often fall into the obvious trap and answer: I'm very well thank you.

    Do you have similar problems in AE? I seem to remember you are very meticulous about making sure you've got the other person's name right, something many of us are probably too vague about.
     

    cholandesa

    Senior Member
    Dutch, The Netherlands
    Very interesting.. lived in England for years but never really realised how this worked..
    Thanks for sharing!

    Elise
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    In BE How do you do? is not a question asking How are you? but a formula of politeness: it's what you say when you are introduced to someone for the first time.

    Apparent Question: How do you do?
    Apparent Answer: How do you do?

    Of course the inexperienced and the unwary and the foreigners often fall into the obvious trap and answer: I'm very well thank you.

    Do you have similar problems in AE? I seem to remember you are very meticulous about making sure you've got the other person's name right, something many of us are probably too vague about.
    AE speakers don't have too many problems with "How do you do?" because they don't use it much.
    If my memory is any good on this topic, a common reply is "Pleased to meet you", which seems to
    be another way of saying 'Hello'.
     

    born in newyork

    Senior Member
    U.S.A./English
    I was taught to say "How do you do?" and to respond in kind when the expression is used on me. As a practical matter, however, I never hear it.

    Usually people say "nice to meet you" or something similar that is not a trap for the unwary. Sometimes they say "how are you doing?" -- a question that need not be answered but if someone did, no one would care or probably even notice.
     

    _Leona_

    Senior Member
    UK
    Spain - Spanish
    Nice that you brought that back to my mind, I've always wondered whether this expression was actually used or not. I was also taught to answer with the same question but I'm not sure I've ever used or heard it. I remember they told us at school that it is used in quite polite situations, what do you think? Does that really fit?
     

    iceskater1286

    Member
    English US
    I remember they told us at school that it is used in quite polite situations, what do you think? Does that really fit?
    I would imagine it would only be used in "polite" settings (such as business meetings maybe?) in AE as I have never heard it used in normal daily conversation. And I was not aware that the proper response was "How do you do" in return. In my mind, I picture a refined gentlemen tipping his hat and saying "how do you do" to a lady as he passes by her and the lady I guess would just nod or say hello. I didn't realize it was something used in introductions. How interesting.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I would imagine it would only be used in "polite" settings (such as business meetings maybe?) in AE as I have never heard it used in normal daily conversation. And I was not aware that the proper response was "How do you do" in return. In my mind, I picture a refined gentlemen tipping his hat and saying "how do you do" to a lady as he passes by her and the lady I guess would just nod or say hello. I didn't realize it was something used in introductions. How interesting.
    Note that the dialectal expression Howdy! to which the expected answer is Howdy! comes from How do ye? (Howdy is old, dating to 1712).
     

    Tresley

    Senior Member
    British English
    When my colleagues and I visited the USA to meet business counterparts that we had never met before we were greeted with:

    "Hiya! How y'all doin' "?

    We all just looked at each other, bemused, not knowing whether to reply "pleased to meet you" or "fine, thank you. How are you"?

    We just shook hands and none of us said anything. (Was that bad manners? I know it was embarrassing).

    I suppose it works both ways. What's the correct answer to "Hiya! How y'all doin' "?

    I would love to know!
     

    iceskater1286

    Member
    English US
    When my colleagues and I visited the USA to meet business counterparts that we had never met before we were greeted with:

    "Hiya! How y'all doin' "?

    We all just looked at each other, bemused, not knowing whether to reply "pleased to meet you" or "fine, thank you. How are you"?

    We just shook hands and none of us said anything. (Was that bad manners? I know it was embarrassing).

    I suppose it works both ways. What's the correct answer to "Hiya! How y'all doin' "?

    I would love to know!
    I am from the Southern US and that sounds like a very Southern phrase to me, especially with the y'all. So if this was said as a greeting and not after an introduction, I would've answered "Hi. Fine thanks. How are y'all?" or something like that. But if it was after an introduction, and like the "how do you do" thing, I don't know. :)
     
    It has been ingrained in my brain to respond, "I'm fine, how are you?" to any form of "How are you?"

    Tresley, I think either of your answers would have been acceptable. I probably would have answered by saying, "Hi! I'm fine, thank you, how are you?" Or some version of that.
     

    Tresley

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you to Icetrance and Caballoschica for your replies.

    This unfortunate greeting happened in Atlanta.

    My colleagues and I were totally bemused! In the UK it's normal to say 'how do you do' or 'pleased to meet you'.

    Things were fine after that - it was just a bad start. We all got on like a house on fire after that and our American colleagues loved our Yorkshire accents!

    Thank you.
     
    In BE How do you do? is not a question asking How are you? but a formula of politeness: it's what you say when you are introduced to someone for the first time.

    Apparent Question: How do you do?
    Apparent Answer: How do you do?

    Of course the inexperienced and the unwary and the foreigners often fall into the obvious trap and answer: I'm very well thank you.

    Do you have similar problems in AE? I seem to remember you are very meticulous about making sure you've got the other person's name right, something many of us are probably too vague about.
    Do you realise some natives fall into this trap too?:D It is just that one is more accustomed to hearing "How are you?" and automatically goes on with "Well, thank you".
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Do you realise some natives fall into this trap too?:D It is just that one is more accustomed to hearing "How are you?" and automatically goes on with "Well, thank you".
    Yes, Setwale, I do realize this. Of course, this is a social minefield, and it's best to know what the conventions are to avoid stepping on something, unless you want to.

    Many English people wouldn't turn a hair at 'Pleased to meet you' in response to 'how do you do?', but many others would regard it as ill-educated, I'm sorry to say. After the 'how do you do's' are over, of course, you can say things like 'I'm very pleased to meet you', but that's another matter.
     

    love_in_idleness

    New Member
    England English
    ^Alternatively, you could say both if you wanted to hedge your bets. If someone said 'How do you do?' to me, I would first return the question to them, and then say 'It's nice to meet you.' Or that's what I've done so far, anyway.
     

    travellingsam

    New Member
    Hindi and India
    Hi All,
    I come from a non-english background, I want to know, what is the reply of this phrase- How do you do? is it "How do you do?" or just "fine, thank you" Please advise.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    There are many possible replies to "How do you do?" The two you suggested are the most common; however, it is considered polite in the second to say, "Fine, thank you, and how are you?"
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    If you are using the phrase not as a question about someone's health, but merely as a standard thing to say upon a formal introduction, one can respond with any other phrase used as a standard formal greeting or introduction.

    For example, Mrs. Smith is introducing several people to Mrs. Greatname:

    Mrs. Smith: Mrs. Greatname, may I present Mr. Jones ...
    Mrs. Greatname (to Jones): How do you do?
    Mr. Jones: How do you do?
    Mrs. Smith: ... and Mr. Brown ...
    Mrs. Greatname (to Brown): How do you do?
    Mr. Brown: Good morning.
    Mrs. Smith ... and Mr. Green?
    Mrs. Greatname (to Green): How do you do?
    Mr. Green: It is a great pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Greatname.

    Under such circumstances, the phrase need not be regarded as a genuine question seeking information.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you look for greeting in the WordReference dictionary, you will find many other threads about this topic.
    I have changed the name of this one to match the rest :)
     

    Terry Morti

    Senior Member
    UK
    There are many possible replies to "How do you do?" The two you suggested are the most common; however, it is considered polite in the second to say, "Fine, thank you, and how are you?"
    This is not the case in Britain. We are not asking about your health or even state of mind. The 'correct' British response is simply "how do you do" in return.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    I would take "How do you do?" as a simple greeting to be returned and not a real question. But I think "How are you?" is a little different. We address the question to everyone, and from strangers or acquaintances we expect the answer, "Fine, thanks, how are you?" or some variant. But friends are free, depending on the circumstances, to really answer the question and use it to begin a conversation.
     

    Yôn

    Senior Member
    English
    I say, ‘Howdy’ as a greeting all the time, and that word is a shortenning of the phrase: ‘How do you do?’ I never, of course, expect anyone to reply with a telling of their current state. So, generally, I say: ‘Howdy, what's up?’

    One thing, however, is that I think ‘How do you do? What's up?’ sounds down-right foolish. For this reason, I think, that ‘How do you do?’ is probably a phrase that would be best if not used. I think something like ‘How are you?’ ‘How's it going?’ or (and yes, this is fowl :eek: ) ‘Wazzup?’ In fact, a ‘How art thou?’ might even be better than ‘How do you do?’ simply for the fact that it removes the uncomfortable uncertainty that you place on the respondent (to whom I would assume you are attempting politeness) of trying to figure out whether they should answer or not... consider:

    Mr. Q: ‘Hello, J, how do you do?’
    Mr. J: ‘I'm do--’
    Mr. Q: ‘And Mrs. R? How do you do?’

    You see... if Mr. J thinks he needs a response, and Mr. Q thinks it's a greeting not requiring reply, Mr. Q will keep talking, and Mr. J will accidentally interrupt trying to answer his question, thinking it rude not to answer a question of ‘how are you?’

    So... back to the topic, eh? :p If someone asks you that question, wait a sec... see what they do... don't just stare at them for a minute, but instead wait just a little second. Do they ask someone else? If you are the only person in the room with the asker, then really, you can answer it however you want. I mean, if someone doesn't expect a reply of you telling about your state of being, they probably still would not be insanely disgusted that you gave one.

    Then again, this probably has no real importance in general social situations. I'd think that going in for an interview for a job would be the only time people would be acting so pompous that they may not hire you just because you answered what they considered to be a rhetorical question.

    Mr. Ace: ‘Hello, Bill, how do you do?’
    Mr. Bill: ‘Pretty fine. How 'bout yourself?’

    :) That conversation sounds spiffy! I would only make one change...

    Mr. Ace: ‘Howdy, Bill, how do you do?’
    Mr. Bill: ‘Darn tootin' fine, I do say so. How 'bout things from your neck of the woods?’

    Okay... this is getting long-winded... I'm cutting it off now... sorry for waisting so much time :(


    Jon :cool:
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Isn't "How do you do?" a kinda British thing? Except for the 'howdy' form, of course. And it seems that, like the British "How do you do?" "Howdy!" requires no response except the same thing said in return.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I make a point to not ask questions that can be answered with one word. It both starts and stops a conversation.

    It is better to ask a question that requires a real answer.


    That said, a "fine, thank you" will suffice. Indeed, with that kind of question a more elaborate response is inappropriate.
     

    Dandee

    Senior Member
    Argentina, español
    Is it true that the phrase "how do you do" is not used anymore for introducing onself in England and EEUU?.

    I have learnt: "How do you do" exclusively when you meet someone for first time.
    "How are you" for all the next meetings with the same person.

    Is that form of behaviour in use today?

    Thanks.
    Dandee.
     
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