'How Are You' or 'How Are You Doing Today': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 15, 2022

'How are you?' and 'How are you doing today?' are two questions you often hear in English. But what is the difference? When should you use which? That's what we'll cover in this article.

In short, 'How are you?' is more of a greeting and doesn't require an extensive response, while 'How are you doing today?' is more of an inquiry into your well-being.

'How Are You?'

'How are you?' is a conversation starter and a perfect example of small talk in English. You'll often hear "Hi, how are you?" from people you cross paths with, either in the hallway at work or at the local store.

You're not necessarily expected to respond to it. At least, not literally. It's more a way of saying 'hi.' You could, in fact, consider it a greeting, like "Hi" or "Hey."

How to Respond to 'How Are You?'

OK, so someone asked, "How are you?". How are you supposed to respond?

Here are some of the most common responses:

  • Good thanks, you?
  • Not too bad, thanks. Yourself?
  • I'm doing well, thanks for asking. How about you?
  • Thanks for asking! I'm excellent. You?
  • Not too shabby.

It can be a good idea to thank the person for asking and, in turn, ask them how they are. In the examples above, I provided various ways to do that.

Although, at times, it's also OK to say something like "I'm good, yourself?". You may not have thanked them, but you asked them how they were, leaving the door open to a conversation if you were both interested in having one.

You'll notice the above answers are all positive, which might beg the question: can you reply negatively to the question "How are you?"? Or at least, can you answer honestly?

If you're not feeling great that day, there's no point in lying and saying that you feel fabulous. Having said that, best to avoid getting too personal and detailed. Here are a few ways you could answer if you're not having the best day but want to keep it brief:

Feeling a little under the weather, but nothing that a warm tea and an early night won't fix.

A little tired, but I'll be OK. Only 3 hours 'til home time!

I'm having one of those days. But tomorrow's another day.

Alternatively, you could say "hi" or "hey" back and nothing else. It's up to you to gauge the situation and decide whether that's appropriate. If the person is rushing past you, for example, and says, "Hey, how are you?" that might be their way of showing that they acknowledge you but don't expect a response.

'How Are You Doing Today?'

With "How are you doing today?" the tone is slightly different from "How are you?". Firstly, it takes longer to say, so it's an extra length that the person has gone to ask you this. It lands somewhat differently to a quick "How are you?" in passing.

The person might be willing to have an actual exchange with you.

It's somewhat odd grammar to ask someone how they are doing. You might wonder why they aren't asking how you are feeling. But that's because the meaning of how someone is 'doing' is more holistic.

When someone asks you how you are doing, they are interested in more than just how you feel.

There's often an implied reference to a previous conversation or situation. For example, perhaps you:

  • You're going through a separation, and things are complicated, so your sister wants to find out how you are coping.
  • You worked together on a complex case the previous day, and your colleague wants to compare notes about the aftermath.
  • You recently lost a loved one, and a friend wants to check-in.
  • You mentioned the previous day that you were tired, so your partner is inquiring whether you feel better.
  • You've been moving house, and it's been very stressful, so your parents want to know if things have improved.

Or they might simply be interested in your well-being.

Please note that in some cases, "How are you doing today?" is also a form of small talk. Again, it's up to you to judge the situation and decide.

How to Respond to 'How Are You Doing Today?'

When someone asks you, "How are you doing today?" there's some implication that the person asking you might be interested in hearing how you actually are.

They want to know about your well-being. This could be because something tragic recently happened, or they know you're going through a difficult stage.

Or it could be that they're just interested.

In this situation, you're more than welcome to answer honestly. Here are a few things you could say:

Thanks for asking. I'm feeling a lot better than yesterday.

Still not great, but I'm fighting through it.

Yeah, I am getting there. Thanks for checking in; I appreciate it.

So What's the Difference?

The main difference between the two questions is that "How are you" calls for a brief response, while "How are you doing today?" calls for a more elaborate reply.

But this isn't a general rule. Sometimes someone will ask you the former question but then really take the time to listen to what you have to say. You might also get asked, "How are you doing today?" As you trail off into an answer, you notice how bored your interlocutor is.

Ultimately the only way to know with certainty whether the question calls for an honest response is to gauge the situation.

What's the person's body language? Are they looking at you? Are they facing you? How well do you know them? Have you had more intimate conversations with them in the past?

Once you pay attention to the situation, it'll be clear which kind of response is necessary.

Some Concluding Thoughts

There are many different ways to greet someone in the English language or to ask someone how they are. 'How are you?' and 'How are you doing today?' or just two of them.

Which one you use is entirely up to you and how you respond when asked of you is also up to you. But it's preferable to assess the situation as and when it arises and make your decision there and then on how you'd like to respond.

Over time and with practice, it'll come naturally to you, and you'll know exactly what to say and when to say it.

If you'd like to learn about more confusing words, check out our blog section on the topic.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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