Ask the Editor
Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
How to answer the question "How are you?"
Friday January 29th 2016
In the U.S., if someone asks "How are you?" and you're feeling sick, how should you answer?  — English learner

Your answer to the question "How are you?" depends on whom you are talking to. But in American culture in general, when people ask "How are you?," we tend to downplay anything bad, and we usually just answer "Fine, thanks," or "Good." Below are some specific answers you can use. 

When a good friend asks how you are, and you're feeling sick, you can say things like: 

  • I've been better.  
  • Not that great, thanks. 
  • I think I'm coming down with something. (=I'm starting to get sick from a cold or other virus.)

When someone you don't know well asks this question, even if you are feeling sick you are expected NOT to be honest and instead say things like: 

  • Fine, thanks.
  • How are you? I'm good. How about you? 
  • I'm okay, thanks.

Here is an important exception to this rule: When your doctor asks you how you are, be honest!