- What's up? - Nothing much\Not much!

Egoexpress

Senior Member
Hungary, Hungarian
Hey there,

I've got myself saying: nothing much quite regularly these days to the following question: What's up and questions like this and I was wondering if it was OK as not much as a casual answer.

Thank you!
 
  • Daffodil100

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    What does "what's up" mean?

    Does "nothing much" refer to nothing happen? If there's something happen, how could I respond to it?

    Thanks!
     

    aes_uk

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "What's up?" means something along the lines of "what's happening/going on for you at the moment?" It's a friendly, conversational question used to ask the person what's going on in their life at the moment. If not much or nothing interesting is happening to you at the moment, you'd say "not much" or "nothing much" or, as Ewie says, "not a lot".

    If there's something happen, how could I respond to it?
    If there is something interesting happening, you would respond by telling the person what that is:
    e.g. "I moved into my new house last weekend"

    I don't understand the grammatical logic behind "nothing much".
    This is in response to the question "what's up?" which could be rephrased as "what's happening?" - so you are saying "nothing much (is happening)".


    "What's up?" could also be used to mean "how are you?" but this is quite informal. "What's up?" is basically a conversation-starter and is an open question, allowing the other person to interpret it and reply however they want to.
     

    hamlet

    Senior Member
    Français (FR)
    This is in response to the question "what's up?" which could be rephrased as "what's happening?" - so you are saying "nothing much (is happening)".
    I understand what it means, but still I don't get that construction: nothing much. As much as "not much" makes sense to me, where there's a modifier (not) and a subject, "nothing much" though I've heard it lots of times and I know it's common usage remains a bit weird to my understanding. I though maybe someone could explain the structure of the phrase
     

    aes_uk

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If you said "nothing (is happening)" this means that you literally have nothing happening in your life, which of course is impossible. By saying "nothing much (is happening)", you're saying that something is happening, but not much is happening or it's not very interesting so is not worth talking about.

    People do sometimes say "nothing" by itself but really they should say "nothing much" for the above reason.
     

    hamlet

    Senior Member
    Français (FR)
    Yes, yes, but from a grammatical point of view? Doesn't "nothing much" sound a bit weird to your ears when you really think about it? It's as weird as saying "there's a lot plenty of something", and that's because there are two pronouns, which are "nothing" and "much" and "much" here is used as an adverb and that sounds funny to me. But of course, it's a set phrase and I hsouldn't be arguing but still..
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It is indeed a set phrase. However, it is common for such phrases to arise from words being lost, either over time or by ellipsis of some sort:
    A. Good morning!
    B. What's good about it?
    A. I meant "(I wish you a) good morning"!
    B. OK. What's up?
    A. Nothing (of) much (significance)
    Perhaps this will help you sleep :D
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Look at tht this way:
    What's happening?
    Not a lot. Not a lot of stuff is happening. Not much stuff is happening. Not much.
     
    Yes, yes, but from a grammatical point of view? Doesn't "nothing much" sound a bit weird to your ears when you really think about it? It's as weird as saying "there's a lot plenty of something", and that's because there are two pronouns, which are "nothing" and "much" and "much" here is used as an adverb and that sounds funny to me. But of course, it's a set phrase and I hsouldn't be arguing but still..

    I was going to add that once a phrase drives itself into the lexicon... or Becomes lexical knowledge... or Becomes a lexical concept it's hard to say it really has a "grammatical point at all..." At that point, "it just is the way it is."

    In the south, or with many young people (in the US) influenced by Hip-hop cultural, You (we) don't even say "What's" anymore... we just say "What."

    So "What's up" is now "What up," from the short cuts: What is Up, What is happening, What is going on, How is your day going?. The word "Up" could be a short cut from the "Upbeat"... like is your day "upbeat" or is it "boring." But at this point it just sounds too awkward to deviate from the lexicon concept, and if you say, "Was your day upbeat, today?," sounds very stiff/ un-cool/ un-hip/ non-conformist in a unconformist and ironic way.

    Depending on where you are in the world (in the U.S.) one could say:

    Nada (Spanish influence from the word nada, but pronounced without the "th" sound for the "d", almost like "knotta." What they probably mean is, "Not a whole lot is going on with me today," Where Not a = Knotta. You might hear that along states in the border, because the two languages [Spanish and English] influence the other in a great but confusing way.

    Nuttin' (Southern influenced meaning, "nothing at the moment," or "nothing worth discussing or talking about, right now." So, nothing with the pronunciation of the "ing" being dropped in place of "in," and the letter "o" from the word "not" being pronounced like a "u," as if you are talking about a "nut" (almond/peanut).

    It's all good (Hip-Hop influenced, I think... because you used to be able to say "It's all good in the (neighbor)hood." Now you would drop the the word "neighbor" and instead just say "hood." But even still... Or more likely... you now just say "all good." It is... or the contraction "It's" refers to your day... or the thing that is filled with good, or greatness/gratefullness."

    I'm aight (Hip-Hop influenced, I would say... because you would say I'm all right. I'm alright. I'm a'ight. Everything or all that has happened is okay, therefore I am all right. Or, you could say "It's aight." Again, "it" refers to your day in question, or the state of your being... how you are feeling in this moment.

    S'good (Hip-Hop influenced, I think... because you would say "It is good," or "It's good," and even shorter is just to pronounce the "S" and immediately after say "Good." If you were a person that didn't have much
    Rhythm—from the Greek rhythmos meaning recurring motion or symmetry—you would not be able to say this in a fluid way. Or "pull this off," [say this phrase in a fun or native-speaking way] Or... if you did say the phrase "S'good" with rhythm.... then the other person would expect you to maintain your sense of "coolness," your sense of Rhythm and Blues, your ability to speak in a smooth way.

    S'all good (also Hip-Hop influenced. Just means that everything is good. Not just one thing in your life, but many things. All those many things together are culturally linked to the word "all," therefore "All is good." Although the lexical concept is that—again—"it" is all good. "It" being the things that have happened so far throughout the (your) day.

    Duke T
    Mahalo :)
     

    Dunno123

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Hello. I'd like to ask you whether the bold answer is slightly strange or perfectly natural and common. I've heard it from a native American speaker and it seems a bit odd to me (in response to what's up). Second question: Is it considered impolite to answer like Person 2, without actually saying hi/hey/hello/anything or is it the same as saying what's up without hi? Thank you for your answers.

    Person 1: Hi, what's up?
    Person 2: Not much, what about you?
    Person 1: I'm all right.
     

    Antoine Meyer

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Usually, in informal conversation, Person 2's answer is not regarded as impolite because in an informal conversation, it is perfectly acceptable to be slightly impolite or direct than is standard. It is like saying "What's up?" without saying "hi."

    The answer in bold is also acceptable because in an informal conversation, it is normal to say quite awkward things and not stick to rules on grammar and usage. It would, however, generally sound meaningless because it is obvious that you are all right in most situations, not something someone would be curious or concerned to know. "I'm all right" would be an acceptable response to, for example, a question about whether you are all right, which might be asked if you have just fallen down or recovered from an illness.
     
    Last edited:

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    It would, however, generally sound meaningless because it is obvious that you are all right in most situations, not something someone would be curious or concerned to know.
    I think you'll find that it's very common to ask "how are you?", which often elicits the response "I'm fine".

    The important thing to understand here is that the first "what's up?" means "how are you?". "Not much" means "I'm fine", and "what about you?" also means "how are you", and "I'm alright" (the spelling in the original post is incorrect), once again means "I'm fine".

    It is extremely common in everyday English to switch between expressions, and to answer the "intended" question rather than the question as grammatically asked. So for me, the bolded sentence is perfectly fine and idiomatic.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Not much


    Hi,


    I also have a question about this thread. I wonder if the following is fine.


    -What are you doing now, Silver?

    -Not much.


    Thanks a lot


    I got it from a textbook and I changed the name. I thought it might not work.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Thanks a lot, JS. Do you mean that "Not much" is not fine but "not doing much" is fine here?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    "Not much." is simply a short form of "I am not doing much" in answer to the question "What are you doing?". This question is very different from "What's up?"
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Got it! Thanks a lot. Since the book was edited by some BE speakers, I wonder if "I am not doing much" is strictly BE?
     
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