What is the meaning of WHAT’S UP?
This greeting is casual and informal. It means, “What is going on?” or “What’s happening in your life?”
When someone asks, “How are you?” the focus is on your state of being.
When someone asks, “What’s up?” the focus is on what you are doing.
It is best to keep your answer brief.
If someone asks, “What’s up?”, you might give, for example, one of the following answers:
- “Not much. It’s been pretty busy at work lately. What’s happening with you?”
- “My brother is here visiting for a couple of weeks, so that’s good. How about you?”
- “Nothing new, thanks. What about you?”
In Canada, these questions are greetings. Sometimes newcomers to Canada feel offended because these questions seem superficial, but Canadians do not view “greeting questions” as conversation. These questions provide an opportunity for a short, friendly exchange with someone.
The greeting gives each person a few seconds to decide if both people want to (or have time to) talk further. If both people seem interested in more conversation, then they ask more questions.
If you phone someone, and they ask, “What’s up?” they are asking, “What is the reason for your call?”
See the STORY The Sleepover example: “What’s up?”
For more information on how to respond appropriately to greetings in North America, see: Cultural Tip > Greetings – How are you?
More CULTURAL TIPS to help you learn English online.
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