Did someone ask you, ‘what are you doing’ and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, definition, how to reply, and more.
When a person asks ‘what are you doing’ at the start of a conversation, they are typically asking what activity you are currently working on. That being said, you don’t necessarily need to give them a detailed explanation of what you’re up to– the question is used as a type of alternative to ‘how are you’ or ‘what’s up.’ In some situations, ‘what are you doing’ can be an accusatory question when someone believes that you are doing something you shouldn’t be doing.
‘What are you doing’ is a question that can be used to ask another person what activity a person is working on at the time.
For example, if your friend texts you and says, “Hey! ‘What are you doing?’” They’re just asking what your current activity is. They might be asking out of curiosity or because they want to make plans together.
At the same time, you don’t necessarily have to go into the details of what you are currently doing when you respond. You might simply say something like “just the usual” or “just hanging out.”
This phrase can be used in combination with a time period in a way that changes the meaning a bit. For instance, if your friend asks you, ‘what are you doing tomorrow?’ then they are trying to find out what your plans are for the next day.
When someone asks ‘what are you doing’ with a specific time period attached, they might ask out of curiosity or because they are trying to coordinate a plan with you.
It’s always important to pay attention to context when working to understand new phrases, as the tone and circumstance can really change the meaning. In some situations, someone might ask, ‘what are you doing’ in an accusatory fashion because they believe you are doing something that you shouldn’t be doing. Similarly, someone might ask this question if you appear to be doing something they don’t understand and they want an explanation regarding your activity.
Though ‘what are you doing’ might sound similar to the question “what do you do,” both of these queries have different intents. While ‘what are you doing’ implies that the asker wants to know what a person is doing currently, ‘what do you do’ implies that the asker wants to know what the person does for a living– i.e., what their profession is.
There are a lot of options for how you can respond to the question, ‘what are you doing?’ You’ll want to consider the context when deciding how to reply.
If someone asks you ‘what are you doing?’ through a text or on the phone, you could give a simple, standard reply such as:
If it seems that the person is actually curious about what you are up to rather than simply using the question as a greeting, you could choose to give a little more info. Of course, there’s no obligation to give someone the details of your daily routine, but it’s perfectly appropriate to let them know what activity you’re working on.
Here are some examples:
If someone asks you, ‘what are you doing?’ in an accusatory way, you’ll likely want to respond differently. How you respond will depend on the context of what is happening.
For example, let’s say that you are in your father’s office looking through his papers.
What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'what are you doing'?
Here are some options:
When someone asks you, ‘what are you doing?’ they are usually asking what your current activity is. In certain contexts, people might ask ‘what are you doing’ when they are displeased with your actions or confused by what you appear to be doing.
If you hop on the phone with a friend to chat for a bit and they ask ‘what are you doing,’ they are basically using the phrase as an alternative to ‘how are you,’ ‘what’s up,’ or ‘what’s going on.’ Common broad responses to ‘what are you doing’ include ‘not much,’ ‘just hanging out,’ and ‘just the usual.’
Depending on the person you’re talking to, you might choose to give a bit more specific information. For example, if your mother calls and asks ‘what are you doing,’ you might tell her that you’re busy studying for your exam or that you’re just getting ready to head to the store. You can choose how general or specific your answer is, and there is no obligation to go into detail about your activities if you don’t want to.
If someone asks ‘what are you doing’ in a dismayed way, it means that they are witnessing you doing something that they don’t understand or approve of. For example, if you poured a glass of water over your friend’s head, they might ask, ‘what are you doing?!’ It’s not that they don’t understand that you are pouring a glass of water over their head; it’s that they are so surprised and shocked that they are essentially asking why you are acting in such a troubling way.
Are you ready to learn more English expressions? Head over to our idioms blog for more idioms, phrases, sayings, and adages.