Greeting - How have you been?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by gaer, Jul 20, 2006.

  1. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    I have two questions:

    1) What difference do the members of this group see between these two phrasess?

    a) How have you been?
    b) How are you?

    2) Do you consider these phrases to be formal, informal or either one, depending on context?

  2. Phillip Member

    Minnesota, United States
    English - Minnesota, U.S.A
    hi there,
    although people often ask and answer these questions as if they are the same thing, they technically are not. "How have you been?" includes sometime in the past up through the present time, whereas "How are you?" applies to the present only.

    These can be either formal or informal.
  3. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    Phillip, I agree with you, and my wife agrees with both of us. ;)

    In my experience the two phrases are sometimes used interchangeably. For instance, if you have just a met a friend whom you have not seen for a long time, you might say, "How are you?"

    I'm also positive I've said both when running into someone I especially like but have not seen for some time, especially someone older:

    "John, what a surprise to see you! You are you? How have you been?"

    I consider this a very polite and intimate way to ask someone about his/her health and general well-being, but it is also used very casually too. However, I don't think it is as informal as: "How's it going?"

    I started this thread to get other opinions. We had a discussion about this phrase in another forum and did not get enough feedback to form a definite conclusion. I thought perhaps there are regional differences in usage. For that reason, I hope to get as many answers as possible. I didn't think it warranted a poll. :)

  4. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    "How have you been" is usually used to greet someone whom you haven't seen for a while, I would say more than a few weeks.
    Even though you can still say "How are you", by saying "How have you been" or "How've you been" you are actually acknowledging the fact that it's been a long time since you last met.

    Edit: ah yes, Gaer's post appeared right before mine:>
  5. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    This is certainly the way I use the phrase. :)

  6. Erik 182 Senior Member


    What about speaking on phone?
    I only hear "how are you (doing)?" but never heard "how have you been?" maybe it works only in case of personal interview.
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There's another recent thread on this topic - I'll look for it in a minute or two.

    I hear "How are you?" as the standard greeting that really doesn't expect any kind of answer relating to my health or indeed any answer at all.
    "How have you been?" still sounds like a genuine question about me that expects a reply. It almost, but not definitely, suggests that they know I have not been well or have had some difficulties since last we met.

    Another example of the contrast:
    If I am introduced to a stranger, I would be likely to say, "How are you?"
    I definitely would not say, "How have you been?"
    This is not a matter of formality, it is the distinction in meaning.

    Edit (1): I would say either on the phone. I don't have any sense that "How have you been?" is only for face-to-face meetings?
    Edit (2): I think this is a case of déjà vu. The only directly relevant thread I can find is this one. I could have sworn this was discussed recently elsewhere ..........
  8. benkuo Member

    What does one often reply for "How have you been"?

  9. Mark1978 Senior Member

    Fine thanks. Yourself?
  10. benkuo Member

    Thanks, Mark.
  11. Grop

    Grop Senior Member

    Hi, do you foreros think this question expects a more consequent answer than "how are you?".
  12. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Unless the context shows otherwise, e.g. you know a person has had health problems and are very close, "how have you been?" is a ritualized throwaway greeting such as "how are you" that does not expect (even desire) a detailed answer.
  13. What is the English for? Member

    What should I answer for question: How have you been?
    Should I answer I'm Ok or I've been Ok?
    What is more correct?
  14. kadeeteena New Member

    English-United States
    I would answer with the same verb tense...I have been OK.

    "How are you?" "I'm Ok!"

    "How have you been?" "I've been Ok!"

    Hope that helps :).
  15. What is the English for? Member

    Thank you!
  16. Uh. What do you mean?
  17. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    He hasn't posted here in well over a year and a half, so I'll take the liberty of answering for him. It appears to be a typo; it should say "How are you?"
  18. Oh ok. hehe THANKS :)

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