how do you do?

  • Saratoga

    Senior Member
    usa english
    No, you can say something about yourself first. For example,

    Oh, I'm fine. Thanks for asking

    or

    Not too well today. I seem to have a bit of a cold.

    It would be normally polite to also ask about the other person, but you don't have to use the exact same words. So you could say

    And how about you?

    or something like that.
     

    eric489

    Senior Member
    French
    My English teacher taught me that replying "How do you do ?" is of very formal speech category.
    Use it if you were invited to the Queens birthday. Not in every day conversation, people may think you're too posh.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Hi

    When somebody asks you "How do you do?" do you always reply with the same phrase, i.e., "How do you do?"

    Thank you
    If you follow traditional English etiquette, yes.

    It's unlikely that the expression will be used in other than a formal situation.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    The formulaic question and answer I learned for formal situations from my American mother is:

    How do you do?
    Very well thank you, and you?

    In more casual situations, I reply as Saratoga describes.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    In a very formal setting, in high society, in the presence of royalty, one would properly respond in kind to "How do you do".

    In informal speech it is enounced less clearly and rephrased:

    How d'ya do?
    How ya doin'?

    This is when a flexible range of replies can be appropriate.
    The most casual responses, like 'alright thanks' or 'fine. You?', whether your are in fact fine or not, are common when the greeting is meant purely phatically, that is, when it is an expression of acknowledgement only. This might be between people who don't know each other very well or in busy circumstances where time does not allow a literal response to the actual words in the phrase.

    The slightly more developed responses, like 'fine, just a little tired', or 'Great. How are you?' are for when the relationship is developing/ongoing, when one knows an actual (emphatic) interst in how-you-are is being expressed.
     
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    yusitta

    New Member
    Russian
    Hello, everybody!!!

    I have a question: what exactly the phrase "How do you do" mean? Does in mean "Hello" or "How are you" and what response does it need "I'm fine, thanks" (or smth like that) or "How do you do". At our schools they teach to use it as "How are you"
    Which one is correct?
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Hello, everybody!!!

    I have a question: what exactly the phrase "How do you do" mean? Does in mean "Hello" or "How are you" and what response does it need "I'm fine, thanks" (or smth like that) or "How do you do". At our schools they teach to use it as "How are you"
    Which one is correct?
    "How do you do?" is a formula of greeting. It is answered with "How do you do?" Unlike "How are you?" the speaker is not expecting any such answer as "Fine, and you?"
     
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    emilita

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Oh, gee, I´ve read all the threads on this subject and talked to many native speakers (out of curiosity) and I can see that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the usage of ´´How do you do´´.
    I´ve heard it in formal, business contexts as an alternative for ´´Nice to meet you´´. In this case, the reply is also ´´How do you do´´ and NOT ´´I´m fine, thanks´´. However, I have heard, in more informal contexts native speakers replying ´´fine, thank you´´, nevertheless, I don´t think this is correct English.

    In any case, I always say ´´nice/pleased/it´s a pleasure/ to meet you´´ to avoid confusion and if someone says to me (happened once in my life!!) ´How do you do´´ I reply the same: ´´How do you do´´ ´and I´d probably add: a pleasure to meet you.

    I hope this helps.
     

    bluegiraffe

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have never once in my life said "how do you do?" and don't think anyone has ever said it to me. It wouldn't be said in an informal context unless the person was joking. I think I would say it to the Queen, but that's it.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Conventions change over time. I am not in the habit of saying "How do you do?" but if anyone says it to me and proffers a hand I respond "How do you do?" because that is what I was brought up to do. Younger people than me follow different conventions and have been exposed in their formative years to a lot more American English than I was.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    The correct reply to "How do you do?" is "How do you do?" It is a meaningless greeting formula that I have only heard used at extremely formal functions. Maybe it's not used these days even on such occasions. It may only be used on being first introduced and one time only. The only possible follow up is something like "I'm pleased to meet you", but if the person is higher rank or status to you, etiquette is to wait for them to make further remarks.

    Hermione
     

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    Etiquette:
    "The usual formal greeting is a 'How do you do?' and a firm handshake, but with a lighter touch between men and women.
    ‘How do you do?’ is a greeting not a question and the correct response is to repeat ‘How do you do?' You say this when shaking hands with someone.
    First person "How do you do?"
    
Second person " How do you do?"


    see also
    Business Etiquette for Dummies
    (Available to read on the web.)
    How to meet/introduce an important client, or great your new boss.

    (for those career-minded).
     

    emilita

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Bluegiraffe, I´ve heard it in an informal context, not a lot, but still...especially in American movies/Tv shows.

    For example, I´ve recently come across ´´how do you do´´ in an American movie ´´The Holiday´´, in which one of the characters says: -Hi, How do you do?

    and the other answers:
    I'm fine, thank you. How are you?

    Anyway, according to what MilkyBarKid found on the net and from what I´ve observed, it´s mainly used in business context,I don´t know whether it applies to British English, though.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Me too!

    emilita, I would have replied almost exactly as the Kid even if there were no internet* - it was drummed into me as a formal (ritual) greeting at an early age in the UK (where British English is frequently spoken!)


    *Wait,,,,,,, I couldn't post this if there were no internet :D
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't believe anyone has ever said "How do you do" to me.
    I know, for sure, that I have never said it to anyone, either as a greeting or as a response to their "How do you do."

    Perhaps this was once something important for students of English to learn.
    I don't believe it is relevant, now.
     

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    panjandrum: you speak from your experience, your circles of society.

    Others, like me, have to deal with/relate to much the same, but also other strata of society, where I have to hold my own.

    It is important for those in the forum to realize that there are different standards of social behaviour above and beyond blogs and pop reality shows where everyone is 'cool', or down at the pub and greengrocers.

    In the business world (with CEOs, members of the Board of Directors, and important clients), when meeting executives of quangos and Government agencies; in academia (when meeting fellow professionals who are 'much more senior' to oneself), these things matter. No one objects to civility. Many do to presumption: "How's it hanging, mate."

    Would one not need to know the etiquette for meeting Japanese businessmen?
     
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    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have never been addressed by a CEO with "How do you do?"
    I have never addressed a CEO with "How do you do?"
    I have never addressed a client with "How do you do?"
    I have never adressed a selection panel with "How do you do?"
    It is simply not part of my experience in social contexts or in business contexts at any level.

    Just in case it's necessary to add this, I have never, ever, ever, said "How's it hanging, mate." Not even to government ministers.
     
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    watercanyon

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    Well folks, I have lived all over the U.S. and traveled with the U.S. Navy, and I have used the phrase "How do you do?" when being introduced to people in formal and semi-formal situations. The response would normally be "Fine, thanks, and how are you?"

    We don't do much with royal situations here, but in business or formal social situations, such as weddings and funerals where you are meeting people's family members, it is not uncommon, especially when addressing senior business people or older family members.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think that I've been greeted with (and responded with) "How do you do?" perhaps three times in my life - at cocktail parties, as I recall.

    Those occasions apart, my experience is the same as panjandrum's:
    I have never been addressed by a CEO with "How do you do?"
    I have never addressed a CEO with "How do you do?"
    I have never addressed a client with "How do you do?"
    I have never addressed a selection panel with "How do you do?"
    I have never said "How's it hanging, mate" to a government minister.
     

    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    watercanyon:
    Trust the Americans to find a way of dealing with British stuffiness.

    Whilst in Britain we would reply in kind, the idea of responding, "Fine, thanks, and how are you?" by the 'more senior' person immediately relaxes the formality of the meeting!

    I like it! And it preserves 'British graciousness'. Noblesse oblige.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Whilst in Britain we would reply in kind, the idea of responding, "Fine, thanks, and how are you?" by the 'more senior' person immediately relaxes the formality of the meeting!
    MBK, what makes you think that watercanyon would have been the 'junior' member of the exchange? Or are you just out to insult as many people as possible tonight?:D
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I think that this "How do you do?" greeting is a ritualised, formal set piece.

    It resembles the much more widely-used informal greeting "How are you? or "How are you doing?" or even "How's it going?" Those are used outside the aforementioned ritual. To someone who has never heard or used this ritual, they will expect this somewhat odd phrasing to simply be a quaint version of the other questions and treat it as a real inquiry and will therefore feel they are expected to provide a response rather than a repetition the ritual expects. One response I haven't heard for a long time, but which I think could have been used on either side of the Atlantic, is "I'm pleased to make your acquaintance" - actually has the word "quaint" built in :D

    We're in the same sort of lost-its-original-meaning arena as "Good morning" and "Goodbye" prompting a grumpy "What's so good about it, then?" and a " 'bye" in response, respectively. The originals were something like "I wish you a good morning" and "God be with ye!"

    "How do you do?" used to be a real inquiry but lost its inquisitiveness and it seems to be rapidly disappearing. I suspect the typical exchange when Japanese businessmen meet "I'm happy to meet you eye to eye, please do me the favour of being good to me!" has also lost some of its literal meaning and has also become a set piece.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I think that I've been greeted with (and responded with) "How do you do?" perhaps three times in my life - at cocktail parties, as I recall...
    I must admit I can't recall being addressed with this phrase clearly pronounced, but I have always heard and still hear it used all the time as a passing greeting on the street pronounced 'ow d'yadoo
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Interesting, Aardie (long time no see - welcome back!:))

    What's the answer to 'ow d'yadoo?
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    Interesting, Aardie (long time no see - welcome back!:))

    What's the answer to 'ow d'yadoo?
    Hi Loob,
    usually one responds in kind with 'ow d'yadoo or 'adoo. 'Lroit (contraction of I'm all right thank you) is similar in terms of comaraderie while hi and hello are also appropriate but convey less familiarity between the speakers.

    I think it is worth noting that the way in which such words or phrases are pronounced conveys one's sense of belonging to a particular region or social group. My examples are true of the West Midlands' working classes. I have heard 'ow d'yadoo /'adoo used by people from Yorkshire and Cheshire too but can't say whether they picked it up from us or if it's also rooted in their regions.
     

    emilita

    Senior Member
    Polish
    So,to sum it up, it would come down to the diffrence between American English and British English after all? Thanks guys for a very interesting debate, wordreference forums never cease to amaze me... :)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    So,to sum it up, it would come down to the diffrence between American English and British English after all?
    It looks - on the evidence of this thread - a lot more complicated than that, emilita:D.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi Loob,
    usually one responds in kind with 'ow d'yadoo or 'adoo. 'Lroit (contraction of I'm all right thank you) is similar in terms of comaraderie while hi and hello are also appropriate but convey less familiarity between the speakers.

    I think it is worth noting that the way in which such words or phrases are pronounced conveys one's sense of belonging to a particular region or social group. My examples are true of the West Midlands' working classes. I have heard 'ow d'yadoo /'adoo used by people from Yorkshire and Cheshire too but can't say whether they picked it up from us or if it's also rooted in their regions.
    "Ow do!" is a working-class greeting around here too. Typically, the response is "Ow do!" or "Ey up!"
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I remember there is a song named "How do you do"
    That reminds me there is also a nursery rhyme/folk song (performed by Steeleye Span) called 'One Misty, Moisty Morning' with the chorus:
    “'How d'ye do and how d'ye do and how d'ye do again'.”

    Far from being said in high society the expression is used in the song between a field worker and a dairy maid as a polite way of saying "I fancy you". An example of nineteenth century 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink' humour.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I must admit I can't recall being addressed with this phrase clearly pronounced, but I have always heard and still hear it used all the time as a passing greeting on the street pronounced 'ow d'yadoo
    In American English, "Howdy!," derived from "How do ye?," is used in some dialects. It is not a question and so is never followed by a question mark. The expected response is "Howdy!"
     

    JudeMama

    Senior Member
    American English
    It seems to me that this is both an example of the difference between American and British English and an example of how conventions change over time.

    In the US, this greeting would probably only be used by someone of the generation that was young during the Second World War.

    In "polite company", a younger American would probably use, "Hello, nice to meet you."
     

    watercanyon

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    In the US, this greeting would probably only be used by someone of the generation that was young during the Second World War.
    This is an interesting point! My parents were young during that time, and my Grandmother had also been a school teacher, so we were brought up to 'mind our manners' very strictly. So my way of speaking was influenced greatly by that generation.

    In addition, I actually learned to talk in England, where my father was stationed when I was age 2-6. I still retain some of the English spellings of words such as colour and honour when I don't think about it.

    I asked a younger friend, who does end up in formal settings often, and she said she would probably just say, "Hi, how are you?" She says she does use the "How do you do?" when passing stangers on the street.
     

    mcchu1984

    New Member
    Chinese
    What I have learnt in english class.
    How do you do? is a greeting sentence which to be used when you are greeting with somebody you have never met him/her before (first time meeting with that person) we use How do you do? and the reply should be "How do you do?"
    Also this is for formal greeting too, say if you are greeting with a person especially they are older than you it a formal function or meeting. You may say how do you do?

    But nowaday I seldom heard of that and I seldom use this too...I will say "Nice to meet you" instead. This sounds more nature~
     

    bluegiraffe

    Senior Member
    English - England
    panjandrum: you speak from your experience, your circles of society.

    Others, like me, have to deal with/relate to much the same, but also other strata of society, where I have to hold my own.

    It is important for those in the forum to realize that there are different standards of social behaviour above and beyond blogs and pop reality shows where everyone is 'cool', or down at the pub and greengrocers.

    In the business world (with CEOs, members of the Board of Directors, and important clients), when meeting executives of quangos and Government agencies; in academia (when meeting fellow professionals who are 'much more senior' to oneself), these things matter. No one objects to civility. Many do to presumption: "How's it hanging, mate."

    Would one not need to know the etiquette for meeting Japanese businessmen?

    I see. So as I have never heard nor said "how do you do" in the real world, I have never met a CEO or any company directors. Funny that, I just came out of a meeting with the CEO of our large, multi-national company and our greetings were "Hello, how are you?". Odd that. I also seem to remember meeting the mayor on a couple of occasions back when I worked for the council. I'm certain we didn't greet each other with "how do you do".

    This doesn't, however, make me someone who hangs out only on blog forums or down the pub, it makes me someone who lives in the real world.
     
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