What is a good reply for “What’s up” and “How are you”?

Ever been in a situation where a friend asks “what’s up,” and you just smile awkwardly because you have no idea how to respond? Yeah, I know how you feel. How about that sweet old lady at work that always asked “How are you?” but you never know if you should respond truthfully or lie, or with a one worded answer. Like, are we even taught how to respond to “how are you”? Well, I’m hoping to give you a little insight on this topic today. By the end of this post, you should know what “what’s up” means, how to answer to how are you, how to respond to what’s up, and the difference between the two.

“What’s up” VS. “How are you” – the difference

There is a lot of back and forth here. Are the two phrases the same? Are they different? Is the only difference generational? How come I never really hear older people say “what’s up?” So many questions, so let’s just start with how they are used, and if they’re different, how so? Let’s dig a little deeper here and try to find the difference together.

What does “what’s up” actually mean?

  • Well, to start, “what’s up” is technically slang. That is, it started out as slang. Throughout the past 200 and some odd years that Americans have been living in America and speaking English, a lot of words have been developed. They all start off as slang a first, but sometimes, like in this instance, they graduate to the actual dictionary, but for now, let’s go with dictionary.com‘s slang dictionary’s definition, which says that “what’s up” is “an informal greeting, idiomatic phrase, or an inquiry about a current or recent state of affairs.”Now, let’s see if we can find the difference here between “what’s up” and “how are you.” Typically, when people say “what’s up,” they are basically asking what’s going on. To which you can respond with “nothing much,” or something along those lines and move on. If someone were to ask “how are you,” and you respond with “nothing much,” that wouldn’t make sense at all.

When is “how are you” used?

  • “How are you” is no doubt more formal than “what’s up.” I would highly advise against saying “what’s up” to your parents, boss, or anyone older than you, or those you’re not yet comfortable with; it may be a little awkward. That being said, just when is “how are you” used then? How are you answers just that: how you are. It is used when someone wants to know how you are feeling, not necessarily what is going on in your life. It has more of an emotional sentiment attached to it. So, you might ask this to someone when they look sad, or you know they are having a tough time, or maybe even just to be nice and check up on someone’s emotional state.Some people can mask their feelings very well, so it’s always good to ask “how are you” as just a common introduction phrase. It makes the conversation that follows more personal and comfortable, and perhaps that is why “how are you” has now become such a standard way to break the ice and start conversation.

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How to respond when asked “what’s up” and “how are you”

Now that we have discovered what the difference between “what’s up” and “how are you” is, what are some ways you can respond when asked these questions? I’m sure you all know that knowing the definition to something, and actually using it out in your daily conversation, is two different stories, so let’s try to close that gap and help you with some responses, and help you with a good what’s up response and how are you response.

How are you?

I’m fine.

  • This is perhaps the most simple, straight answered response. No need to say anything else, and it can also be used as a clue to the other person that you do not want the conversation to be continued.

Not bad.

  • This has pretty much the same meaning as “I’m fine,” but some may argue that this is a friendlier response.

Pretty good.

  • Despite the grammatical errors, this phrase is commonly used as a very casual way to respond that you are doing “good.”


  • Saying that you’re doing great is a more enthusiastic response.

I’ve been better.

  • Most of the time, people usually respond with a positive answer, but if life really, just isn’t going your way at the moment, and you would like to tell your friend the story about it, you can respond with “I’ve been better.”

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What’s up?

Nothing much.

  • This is probably the most chosen response when wondering how to reply to what’s up. It can follow up in conversation with it, or not. It is a very vague answer and can leave room for the conversation to go in any direction.

Same old same old.

  • This phrase just means that life is the same, nothing has changed, and maybe, you’re a little bored of it.

Not a lot.

  • This has the same meaning as “nothing much,” but is a little less common.

Oh, just the usual.

  • This response means that you do mostly the same things everyday. (work, exercise, eat, sleep, etc..) It’s a nice and simple response when wondering how to answer what’s up.

Oh, all kinds of stuff!

  • This is a good answer to give when life has been either really busy or exciting, and you would like to tell your friend about it.

Well folks, if you’ve made it this far in the post, I hope you have a better understanding of what “how are you” and “what’s up” means, their differences, and the responses you can give when asked these questions. So, how do you respond to what’s up? When someone asks how are you, what can you say? There’s many ways to respond, even more than I have mentioned here. As I have previously stated, it can be one thing to study hard, read over this post, learn new things, and then go out and continue to be use the same vocabulary and be stuck in your comfort zone. Go out of the box. You made it to the end of this post, so you shouldn’t ever had to wonder “what does what’s up mean?” ever again. Get out there and practice!

That being said, I want to challenge everyone who is reading this to go and use these two phrases this week. See the responses they give, and see where the conversation takes you. Good luck!

How To Pass IELTS Speaking

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3 years ago

I didn’t know these two words meaning clearly.Now I know???? Thanks a bunch for giving these brilliant information.

Ruth Fiadjoe
Ruth Fiadjoe
2 years ago

Thanks for making me understand these two words I can now reply to my friends without thinking ” am I right or wrong”

2 years ago


2 years ago

I didn’t know the truth about those two words but I am happy to know the meaning even how to respond. Thanks my sister

ABe chavrria
ABe chavrria
1 year ago
ABe chavrria
ABe chavrria
1 year ago
Reply to  ABe chavrria

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