Greetings – How are you?
Many people find greetings a little confusing when they come to Canada.
A common greeting is, “Hi, how are you?”
It’s important to understand that this is simply a greeting, and not a sincere question.
You shouldn’t feel offended when the questioner doesn’t want to hear about your health.
When someone asks, “How are you?” it is appropriate to answer briefly. It is good social etiquette to respond positively, unless you happen to be ill or have a large problem in your life.
A customary answer is, “Good, thank you.* And you?”
If you are not doing well, you can say something like:
- Not so great. I’ve had a terrible cold for a week now.
- I’m okay, thanks. I’ve been better.
- I’m alright. It’s been a long week.
Do not give a lot of detail. Remember, this is a greeting. Keep it short.
If you said you are not doing well, and they are concerned and they have time for a conversation, they will ask a follow-up question. If they do not have time for a conversation, they might say, “I’m sorry to hear that,” and then follow it with something that fits the circumstances. (e.g., “I hope you feel better soon.”)
You should then say, “thanks” or “thank you” and ask the other person how they are:
- How are you?
- How about you?
- And you?
- How are you doing?
See the STORY The Sleepover for an example of an English greeting: “Oh, hi Laura! How are you?”
*Note: The grammatically correct response to this question is “Fine, thank you” but in everyday English, most people respond with, “Good, thanks.”
Don’t embarrass yourself. Learn when to say, “Good evening” and when to say, “Good night”? They don’t have the same meaning!