''I'm fine'' as an answer to "what's up?''

Xavier da Silva

Senior Member
Hello everyone,

I've already read all posts here on W.R about "what's up?" (North American informal greeting expression meaning something like "hello"), but I must say I didn't manage to find anything (any comments) about "I'm fine" as an answer to "what's up?'' - in the definition/context I provided. I strongly suspect that "I'm fine" cannot be used as an answer to "what's up?" in this case. My question: Is "I'm fine" a natural/correct answer to "what's up?" in that context?

Example I made:

John: What's up?
Mike: I'm fine.

* In my opinion, the natural answers are "not much", "what's up?", "not a lot", "nothing much", etc. Never "I'm fine". What do you think?

Thank you in advance!
  • RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    You are talking about very informal speech patterns so almost anything is possible. I agree that "I'm fine" is not a very likely reply to "What's up?" but it is possible. You would have to live here among the locals to get a feel for what is natural. :)


    Senior Member
    English - United States
    As you note, "what's up?" often means "hello." In other words, it's not really a question, or not a question one expects a real answer to. Thus, acceptable responses also include: hey, yo, 'sup, how's it goin', etc.


    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I do agree that "I'm fine" would sound weird and you'd do best to avoid it. However, because so many of these greeting phrases are so similar and because these speech acts are usually so unconscious, you may occasionally hear "I'm fine" in response to "what's up." You might also hear "not bad" as an answer to "what's up" just because the person was expecting to hear "how's it goin'." You might even hear "I'm fine" in response to "hi." People are typically not at all careful when exchanging informal greetings.

    That said, it is worth learning the rules yourself.


    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    What's up? is not commonly used between polite strangers. It is common between pairs of close friends, and in certain low-class dialects. It is common in some urban black dialects, where it is shortened to 'sup?'.

    I go years without hearing What's up? once. But every day, every store clerk that speaks to me greets me with How are you? That is very common, and the standard answer is I am fine.
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