When and how you should use common English greetings from the grammar standpoint. Simple guide for our readers.
English speakers greet each other ubiquitously with the expression “how are you?” In certain, informal situations this may be replaced with the less conservative “how are you doing?” In both cases, 99 times out of 100, this means a simple “hello”. And it is therefore important for non-native speakers to consider that these greetings almost never require a lengthy answer (in fact, the initial enquirer would usually make a quick retreat if you did!) Here is all you need to know about these seemingly similar greetings.
To grammar pedants, the use of present perfect simple and present continuous/progressive must be noted as relevant. “How are you?” should therefore be seen as a enquiry into general health and status, while “how are you doing?” would be a request for an update on a task that is currently being undertaken. Not the same at all. In the case of “how are you doing?” the context will always reveal if the meaning is a general “hello” or a request for information.
As touched upon, both greetings are generally acceptable in most situations, but the more formal “how are you?” should certainly be recommended in a situation where you do not know the person well, be that in person or in written communication.
The most typical response to either “how are you?” or “how are you doing?” is a form of “fine thanks, and you?” Obviously in the case of “how are you doing?” in the context of “please can you give me an update?”, then of course a more detailed response would be required. As always, context is key.
Alternative responses in spoken English
“I’ve been better. How about you?” – In the case of it not being your best day ever!
“Like a kid on Christmas morning!” – If you are looking for something a little more enthusiastic and playful. Any variation on this them will work, just keep it clean!
Alternative phrases to use in written communication
“It was great seeing you/speaking to you the other day” – Make a friendly reference to the previous meeting to start things off in a nice, friendly manner.
“I really liked you (Twitter about topic)” – Nothing like a bit of ego massaging to kick things off, but make sure the rest of your message is relevant to the topic.
“I’ve got a great idea I’d love to run by you” – Nothing like starting a message with something to make the reader want to keep on reading.
“Hello name” – Sometimes it’s better to get straight to the point, especially when you receive countless emails every day. This approach can be really appreciated, but be careful not to sound too direct, so add polite words throughout and at the end of the message.
“Hope your day is going great” – Nothing like a bit of enthusiasm to start proceedings.