The Right Way to Respond to How Are You | Preference in English Conversation
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Learn the right way to respond to how are you in different communication contexts. We discuss preferred answers, also known as preference in conversation analysis. Understanding preference will help you identify how to respond to "how are you?" properly.

Answering “How are you?" is not also as straightforward as you might think.

You're probably thinking but what about the response “Fine, thanks, and you?” since many of you have learned that phrasing in your English textbooks.

Well, it's not that easy.

Learn about what a “preferred response” is and what the preferred response to “How are you?” is.

If you stray from the preferred response of “good and you” or “fine thanks and you?” people might not be expecting that response and might not listen as attentively as you’d like.

However, if you ask a different question then it’s encouraged to yield a different response then you might have an easier time elaborating.

For example, asking a specific question rather than “how are you” can invite more discussion. If you ask how are you then you’re expecting a short response like “fine and you” without going into much detail at all.

So if I ask “how are you” and you start telling me about a migraine you have and how you have a lot on your plate, then I might not be as willing to listen to this response with rapt admiration.

There is a place for “how are you?.”

What are some situations to ask “how are you?”
When you are in a rush and don’t have time to hear about them
When you bump into someone at work on your way to a meeting, let’s say
When you just want to be polite but don’t really want to know how they are doing

“How are you” is used out of politeness. It’s a cordial phrase that demonstrates respect for someone.

If you really want to know how someone is and want to catch up with them, you have 8 alternatives to “how are you?” that will encourage more authentic and elaborate responses.

Use those phrases when you have time to engage in meaningful conversations with people. If you’re in a rush or are not interested, then “how are you?” will do just fine.

Do note, however, is that if someone asks you “how are you” they are expecting you to respond with “fine, thanks and you”, “good”, or “doing well.” If you tell them how you are actually feeling be ready for them to cut you off or change the subject.

So as you can see, “how are you” doesn’t actually mean “how are you.” Because even if you’re not fine, you’re expected to respond with “fine thanks.”

Now you know your way around this question and its preferred response. And you also know what to ask when you really want to know how someone is doing.

We also talk about how the answer will depend on the communication context: who you are speaking to, your relation to that person, and in what location/setting the conversation takes place.

Enjoy the live conversation! This should be good listening and comprehension practice for Advanced English learners.

See you in the next lesson.

Bye for now 😊

About the Author and the Explearning Academy:

Mary Daphne is an expert in communication, executive skills and professional development. She is the founder of the Explearning Academy, a platform dedicated to helping individuals enhance their social fluency, boost their careers, and elevate their social game. Through immersive group coaching programs like the Executive Communication Lab and self-guided journeys, participants gain the social superpowers and career catapults they've been searching for. If you're ready to take your negotiation skills to the next level and connect with like-minded individuals, visit and explore the various plans available. Join the Explearning Academy community and unlock your full potential.

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