Friday, August 12

Confusing Greetings in English

        1.       How do you do?

        2.       How are you doing?

        3.       How have you been doing?

        4.       How are you?

        5.       How have you been?

Do you know how to use these greetings?

If you aren't familiar with #1 and #2, please read: Do you know the real meaning of “How do you do?". 

You can learn something interesting and funny about the expression "How do you do?" 

#3 How have you been doing? is similar to #4 How are you? and #5 How have you been?

Let’s talk about them now...

The three questions are similar because we use all of them to ask about someone’s health, family, work, or life in general.

But How are you? in particular asks about the other person’s condition now or around now.

On the other hand, the other two expressions How have you been? and How have you been doing? ask the other person about his or her condition from your last meeting until now. In other words, they ask about the person’s condition during a period of time.

That’s why they are often used in situations when you haven’t seen your friend or the person for a period of time. Sometimes, they come together with “Long time no see.”

     Is this difference important?

1. For non-native speakers, it will be good to know that there are expressions other than "How are you?". 

Usually, learners are only familiar with "How are you?" and when they hear a fluent speaker asking in a different way like How are you doing?, How have you been? and How have you been doing?,  they get confused, panic, and don’t know how to answer.

So, expect to hear different questions like these. But remember that they mean similar things: They are all asking about your condition.

2. If you hear greeting #2, 3, 4 and 5, just say your usual answer: 

I’m fine / Good / The same as usual Great! / So-so...


Not so bad

Not so good

And then say Thanks. Yourself? to be polite. 

(Just don’t sound like a robot because many students try to memorize this dialogue.) 


You can follow strict grammar and say “I’ve been fine / great” or “I’ve been doing fine / great.”

But like I said, if you understand the general meaning – which is your health or condition – it’s enough.

The most important things are: (1) to recognize these greetings when you hear them and (2) not to be shocked by these unfamiliar greetings.

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