29

When I was in New York the workers at the counter (in a shop) always said

Hi, how are you doing

I was, and still am very confused if they just mean "hello", or actually want to know how I feel.

Could someone please tell me if this is just an empty phrase or if the speaker is genuinely interested.

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28

It's just a hello, they don't actually care how you are doing. Some appropriate response would be to say

  • Hello
  • How are you (without actually answering)
  • Fine, and yourself? (doesn't matter if you are doing fine or not)
  • 11
    Well, they may as individuals care how you are doing; but they're not typically using the statement to inquire about how you are doing, nor is it typically expected that you will answer as if they are using the statement that way. – Matt Gutting Sep 17 '14 at 19:13
  • 4
    Unless you know the person well, it's generally safe to assume that any response with more substance than those provided in this answer will lead to an awkward situation at best. I find a lot of people actually become confused or even a bit miffed if your response to this greeting is anything more than a simple greeting in return. In most such situations, the greeter is expecting the greeting process to be a brief pleasantry, not a lengthy probe into the depths of a stranger's inner thoughts. – talrnu Sep 18 '14 at 17:25
10

It sounds as though you're not confused about the actual meaning of the question, but about whether the empathy it implies is sincere. Most customer-facing establishments, like coffee shops, instruct their employees to welcome customers with a friendly greeting, instead of "what do you want?", which is what they really want to know. Whether or not they personally care about how you are doing, it is almost universally true that they don't expect you to start into answering the question, beyond a 'fine, thanks.'. And I can assure you the customers behind you don't expect that either.

  • 1
    +1 for 'And I can assure you the customers behind you don't expect that either' :-) – kdzia Sep 18 '14 at 7:29
8

There's an opportunity to get a little creative, and thus make the exchange a bit more interesting, without getting into health and other matters that the questioner is not really asking about. For example, at a coffee shop, one might answer, "Much better, probably, after I've had my coffee." Or, at the library, "Terribly bored, but a good book would solve the problem." That's what I usually do. Answer a cliche with something original.

  • 2
    This doesn't actually answer the question. – user867 Sep 18 '14 at 6:41
  • 3
    Not directly, but it helps with the underlying question 'How do I respond to somebody saying how are you doing' – kdzia Sep 18 '14 at 7:27
  • 1
    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. – Ronan Sep 18 '14 at 8:48
  • 3
    I worked at a movie theater for a couple years and those types of answers -- particularly the "better... after ___" always left me feeling awkward because I never knew how to respond and I felt like it placed an expectation on me. That said, I always appreciated people who treated me like a thinking being and seriously answered in a polite fashion, inquired how I was, etc. -- no need to make it about health or how you hate your mother-in-law or anything. – emragins Sep 18 '14 at 15:34
5

It is used to start some small talk or to show that someone notices that you're there. It is just out of formality usually, nothing more. You could respond with a simple "Good, and you?

  • 8
    I once replied "Good, and you?" to someone who had greeted me with "Hi, how are you?" and they were totally taken aback by the fact that I'd actually replied. Weird stuff! – soph-e Sep 17 '14 at 22:07
0

When a person asks you, "How are you doing?" It is really a greeting and not actually a question as to one's health. I always respond with a simple, "Hello." Most people are fine with that.

  • Welcome to ELL SE! Unfortunately, your answer doesn't say anything that hasn't already been said in the accepted answer. – Glorfindel Oct 1 '16 at 7:43
-1

"How you doing?" means hello, nothing more and nothing less…a simple hello back will be fine.

-3

It means

How are you and what is going on, what are you doing?

  • The questioner knows what it means at face value. The question is about the underlying meaning. – Chenmunka Jan 3 '15 at 19:10

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