English Lesson: Casual Greetings

Here is a sample conversation between two friends. I am sure you have seen a conversation like this many times:

Brad: Hello Angela
Angela: Hello Brad.
Brad: How are you?
Angela: I’m fine thanks, and you?
Brad: I’m fine, thank you.

The conversation above is a textbook conversation. You will probably see a conversation like this in a textbook, but probably never have such a conversation in the real world.  Today, let’s have a look at some real English greetings from the real world, not the textbook world.

Generally, hello is used when we when we answer the phone. It is a formal word and we don’t generally use hello when we greet our friends, classmates, or co-workers. Hi or Hey are more common

Brad: Hi Angela
Angela: Hey Brad.

We generally greet our friends by using their name, although for close friends we have some more casual greetings. Yo, hey, and dude are generally used by guys and names are not used:

          Brad: Yo dude
          Jack: Hey dude

In some languages, a conversation starts with a statement about the time of day or the weather. For example:

          Mario: Good morning, Miguel
          Miguel: Good morning, Mario. Nice day today.
          Mario: Yes, it’s a beautiful day

An English conversation a conversation usually starts with a question. There are two kinds of questions we use –  how and what. Here are some examples of each:

  • How are you?                         What’s new?
  • How’s it going?                      What’s up?
  • How’s life?                             What’s going on?
  • How’s everything?                  What’s shaking?

The how questions ask about our feeling or condition, so the answers are something like what I wrote below. Keep in mind that each of these questions has the exact same meaning, so each of the answers could be used with each of the questions:

  • How are you?               →      I’m ok.
  • How’s it going?            →      Pretty good
  • How’s life?                   →      Not too bad
  • How’s everything?        →      Great!

The what questions ask about news or information about us, so the answers are something like what I wrote below. Keep in mind that each of these questions has the exact same meaning, so each of the answers could be used with each of the questions:

  • What’s new?                 →      Not much
  • What’s up?                   →      I just finished work
  • What’s going on?          →      I’m going on vacation next week
  • What’s shaking?            →      I bought an iPad!

Please be careful not to confuse the type of questions someone asks:

          Joe: What’s up?
          Bob: Fine!  ← (the wrong answer, so Joe is confused!)
          Joe: ???  

So if we put it all together, we get something like this:

Brad: Hey Angela
Angela: Hi Brad. How’s it going?
Brad: Pretty good. What’s up?
Angela: I’m going on vacation next week.
Brad: Oh cool! Where are you going…..

This is much better than our “textbook” conversation up at the top of this lesson. The next time you are watching a TV show or movie, listen for how people great each other.  Ok, that’s it for today’s lesson. Thanks for studying with me today and feel free to leave a comment here!

Free One-Point English Lesson From Long Island, NY #2 – Casual English Greetings

I was in Roosevelt Field Mall doing some last minute Christmas shopping yesterday when I heard someone call my name. I turned around and it was my friend Tommy from university. “Hey Michael, what’s up?” he asked.

“What’s up?” Well, that’s a very good question. Actually, in conversational American English, this is a pretty common way to greet someone and start a conversation. Especially when we greet people we know we often start the conversation off with this sort of question.

There are two types of these questions we use as greetings. One type begins with “what” and the other begins with “how.” Today’s free one-point English lesson will look at  both of these essential conversation starters. Let’s begin with some examples of “what” greetings:

  • What’s new?
  • What’s going on?
  • What’s up?
  • What’s shaking?

In a greeting, each of these has exactly the same meaning and usage. They are interchangeable when used as a casual greeting and a conversation starter.

Let’s look at the reply. You have a few choices in terms of how you reply. Here are a few examples.

A: What’s new?
B: Not much, how about you?

A: What’s up? 
B: Nothing special. What’s up with you?

A: What’s shaking?
B: Same old, how about you?

These are some common ways to reply. You can also reply by saying something that is new with you, some news you know about or heard to launch your English conversation like:

A: What’s up?
B: I just finished work. How about you?
A: What’s shaking?
B: Did you hear? There is a sale at Macy*s.
A: What’s new?
B: I just started taking English lessons on Long Island!

Besides “what” questions, we also use “how” in a similar way. Here are some examples:

  • How are you?
  • How’s it going?
  • How’s life?
  • How’s everything?

When you respond to a “how” question in a greeting, you generally answer something that reflects how you feel. This is different from the way we respond to “what” questions. For example:

A: How are you?
B: I’m doing OK. How about you?
A: How’s it going?
B: Great! How are you doing?
A: How’s everything?
B: Pretty good thanks, and you?

Be careful not to confuse the replies to the “how” and “what” questions!  Remember, the reply to “what” is news. The reply to “how” is how you are feeling. Here is an example of an incorrect reply:

Brian: Hi Peter! What’s up?
Peter: Fine thanks.

Peter should not reply by saying how he feels. Instead, he should reply with some news. Here’s an example:

Brian: Hi Peter! What’s up?
Peter: I just finished lunch.

Your reply to these conversation starters will vary depending on how close you are with the person asking. Remember, these questions are generally used as greetings and light, casual conversation starters They are not necessarily asked to probe deeply. 

That’s it for today’s free one-point English lesson! Remember to cover all four key skills. When you hear it, say it. When you read it write it. When you do all four, it’s yours! See you next time.