What are some proper responses to "How are you?"? I am asking this question, because I am wondering if you can answer indirectly. For example, instead of saying "Fine." or "I am doing great.", Can you say "It is how it is..."? I've been wondering if this is an idiomatic response to the question "How are you?" There isn't any rule that seems to say it's wrong, but it sounds very wrong.

How are you doing? It is how it is... Things haven't been going well for me.

How are you? It is not a good time for me. I've been on medications for over a week now and I feel very sick.

How are you? It is not great, but I am hanging on.

1 Answer 1


1) Often when people ask "how are you" they are not really looking for an answer, they are merely acknowledging your presence. As such, any answer other than "fine/OK/good/great" may be seen as inappropriate. To determine whether the asker really wants you to answer you have to look for social clues (tone of voice, body language, etc.)

2) Aside from the above point, there's nothing special about the question "how are you" - that is, when it's a real question, not a salutation, it's not any different than any other question. This is to say, like any other question, "how are you" can be answered directly ("I'm good/bad/queasy/etc") or indirectly ("The construction next door woke me up at 4:30 [and therefore I'm tired and grumpy]"). Your proposals are all indirect answers.

The first two are totally typical responses. The third sentence sounds unnatural. We would more likely say, "Not great, but I'm hanging on."

  • Especially as all three of OP's suggested responses are negative. If you don't know the asker, you should make a standard polite reply unless you need urgent help – they aren't asking how you are. Even with someone you know, don't immediately launch into a full description. This is the introductory exchange: wait for the right moment if something has to be said or confided. Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 19:15

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