How do you do?

Why native English users say 'How do you do?' when they meet each other for the first time?

In my culture, it's natural to say "Nice to meet you." and feel that if we know each other, then we could say 'How are you doing?'(progressive) or 'How do you do?'(simple present).

Q1. Can I say "How are you doing?" instead of "How do you do?" when I meet someone for the first time?

Q2. "How are you doing?" is different from "How do you do?" in their meaning from the start?


This is more about etiquette than English. However, "How do you do?" is a fixed greeting used mainly in Britain when greeting a stranger for the first time. The correct (formal) response is to repeat the phrase. The greeting is (or was) commonly used by the British upper classes, and a different response, e.g. "Very well, thank you", or "Fine, thanks", may be considered a social error. A well known source of British etiquette guidance is Debrett's Handbook of Modern Manners:

Introductions are usually followed by a handshake and the words: ‘How do you do?’ to which the response is: ‘How do you do?’

Social graces and introductions (Debretts)

Debrett's adds:

With younger people and in more informal settings you may prefer: ‘Hello’ or even ‘Hi’ but resist adding: ‘Pleased to meet you.’ Never assume that ‘How do you do?’ means: ‘How are you?’

'How are you doing?' is an informal greeting and there are no rules about the correct response, although a brief answer is probably best. The person greeting you probably does not want to hear your recent medical history.


"How do you do" is a fixed expression. It doesn't mean anything really, it is just the word that you say when meeting someone and shaking hands. Just like when you say "goodbye" you don't really mean "God by with ye".

"How do you do" is often reduced in speech to something like "Howjadoo" There is no expectation of an answer, and it would be very odd reply to it with "I'm fine"

"How are you doing?" is a polite question to use when you see someone you already know. You are expected to answer, although normally just with "I'm fine" or "Not so bad" or something, rather than details.

So when you are introduced to someone and shake hands then it is common to say "howjadoo" and not "How are you doing?"

  • 1
    +1 And there's nothing wrong with replying "howjadoo", though that formula is disappearing - sadly, I think - as people begin interpreting the greeting as a question that needs answering. Feb 14 at 10:26

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