screenshot of a YouTube video with captions

How are things? - Everything's fine./Things are fine.

Why is the reply "They are fine" considered to be incorrect being grammatically correct? Or is it correct?


This lesson is trying to correct a tendency of learners to try to speak in full sentences, when a native speaker is more likely to use fragments.

A learner may be taught a question and answer.

What is this?

It's a pen.

The native speaker would be more likely to say:

What is this?

A pen

Similarly, if asked "How are things?", one would reply "Fine" instead of the grammatically complete "They're fine".

In fact the question "How're things?" is actually asking about the person (not about the things) so it would be quite normal to respond "I'm fine".

Old joke: Two old friends meet. The first says "Why didn't you ask me 'how are things'?". "Okay" says the second "How are things?". "Eh!" says the first, "Don't ask."

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  • The first should have said "Thank you for asking" :) – Yulia Jan 17 '18 at 22:48

They are fine is perfectly fine, but it's probably more common to use the contraction they're fine. It's uncommon and a little humorous to say Things are fine, because How are things? is an idiom and not meant to be answered literally.

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  • So this reply is not only acceptable, but perfectly fine in everyday speech, isn't it? – Yulia Jan 17 '18 at 20:43
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    Yes, but most people use the contraction. If you annunciate "they are fine" too clearly, someone might find it to be an amusing response. – Ringo Jan 17 '18 at 23:35

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