How do you do - How are you

petoe

Senior Member
Dutch - Flemish
Hello

When someone greets you with the words 'how do you do', are you really supposed to answer the same and say 'how do you do'?
To me as a non english speaker this could just mean something like 'mind your own business'

But then when you are welcomed in a bar or restaurant with the words 'how are you this evening', do you just have to say how you are feeling at that time? Can you also say 'how are YOU' if you don't want to explain your entire state of mind?

And then some other question: is 'how do you do' more british or formal than 'how are you' or isn't there much of a difference?

Sorry my English is bad.
 
  • genine

    Senior Member
    U.S. English & Mexican Spanish
    Hello

    When someone greets you with the words 'how do you do', are you really supposed to answer the same and say 'how do you do'?
    To me as a non english speaker this could just mean something like 'mind your own business'

    But then when you are welcomed in a bar or restaurant with the words 'how are you this evening', do you just have to say how you are feeling at that time? Can you also say 'how are YOU' if you don't want to explain your entire state of mind?

    And then some other question: is 'how do you do' more british or formal than 'how are you' or isn't there much of a difference?

    Sorry my English is bad.
    No, you don't have "to explain your entire state of mind". It's really just a more polite way to say "hello". When someone replies to this, they usually say "Good/fine/great/, How are you?", or "Good/fine/great/etc. Thanks for asking", or simply just "Good/fine/great/wonderful/etc." Does this help?
     

    Majorbloodnock

    Senior Member
    British English
    "How did your meeting with Bob go?"
    "Dreadful. I asked him, 'How are you?', and the little bugger only went and told me!"

    That wry comment gives a pretty good insight into the British attitude towards small talk. A lot of it is very superficial and formulaic, and answers are generally expected to be similarly lightweight. If someone says "Hello, how are you?", they're already expecting the answer "Fine, thanks. And you?" before you've even opened your mouth. Of course, if things aren't fine for you, you could get away with "Mustn't grumble", "Can't complain" or "Bearing up", but if you go into specifics about your last doctor's visit, you'll see the other person's eyes glazing over and they'll be looking for an escape route.

    "How do you do" is generally used in BE now only as a response to an introduction, and if you have to respond to someone saying it to you, you would be safe with "Pleased to meet you" or "Good to see you".
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Here, one rarely hears "how do you do," and when one does--only in response to an introduction, never as a greeting to someone already known--it is not taken as a question but simply as the equivalent of "pleased to meet you." We would normally use the latter or some variation such as "nice to meet you" or perhaps just "a pleasure" or simply "hello" or "hi".

    As a greeting to someone one already knows, "how are you"--and variations such as "how're ya doin'" (common in casual speech, though never in writing, even among the educated)--are, as previously noted, definitely not questions demanding detailed replies or even statements of profound concern; they're simply expressions of friendliness. The expected reply is something along the lines of "okay! you?" or "all right!" or "good!"
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top