Friday, August 12

The Real Meaning of “HOW DO YOU DO?”

         First, read the dialogue below:

A: Hello. I’m Charles.
B: Hi. I’m Natalie.
A: How do you do?
B: How do you do?

Do you think it’s right?

Answer: The dialogue above is in fact correct.

Surprising, isn’t it?

Yes, the expression “How do you do?” usually sounds strange to non-native speakers. Especially when we answer it by repeating exactly the same question:

                A: How do you do?
                B: How do you do?  
This is correct. As a matter of fact, “How do you do?” is a fixed expression that has the same meaning as “Nice to meet you” or “I’m glad to meet you.”

This is why we can answer it with the same expression:

                A: Nice to meet you.                    
                B: Nice to meet you, too. 
                         A: How do you do? 
                         B: How do you do?  
1. But I’m sorry to tell you that this is an old expression and almost nobody in America or the UK uses this anymore. It’s better to practice saying: “Nice to meet you” or “I’m glad/happy to meet you.”

2. We use “How do you do?” when we meet someone for the first time. It is not a real question and we don’t use it to ask about someone’s health or condition.

Which brings us to our next topic…

“How do you do?” isn’t the same as “How are you?

These two questions are completely different.

     Another expression – “How are you doing?” – has the same meaning as “How are you?” And this is the expression that most Asians are looking for.

You can say:
                                A: How are you?
                                B: I’m fine. Thanks. 
                                A: How are you doing?
                                B: I’m fine. Thanks. 
Maybe because of the correct expression “How are you doing?,” Asians usually misunderstand “How do you do?”. We think it has the same meaning as “How are you?”

    From today, you can practice asking either “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”. Just memorize them. Either one is OK because they have the same meaning.

Next Topic PREVIEW: The (Grammar) Story Behind “I like” and “I want” 

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