Be Creative and Avoid "I'm Fine Thank You, and You?"

Hi, How Are You?
If you find yourself constantly saying, “I’m fine thank you, and you”, you might be surprised to find out that what you learned during your public school days isn’t the most natural way to greet someone. In fact, you may be giving the other person the wrong impression or even sounding rude.

Don’t kick yourself too hard if you have been using “I’m fine thank you, and you”. You’re not wrong and you’re not alone. This is perfectly right according to English grammar rules and your English teacher in the past. However, it’s not the best.

After living abroad for awhile or spending time with a group a natives, you may begin to notice that it just isn’t used. When using this phrase with a native who isn’t familiar with foreigners’ use of English, you may notice a strange reaction.

“Why are you telling me not to use ‘I’m fine thank you, and you’ when I’ve been using and learning this for years?

1. It’s unnatural

The quick answer is that hardly anyone uses it anymore. You’ll hear many English learners use it, but not many native speakers.  You just won’t hear it from them. This phrase is a very formal way to greet someone, however even in formal situations, it’s hardly used.

2. It actually may be rude or negative. Yes, I said rude or negative!

Often times when an American does not want to talk to the other person or is mad at the person, they will use “I’m fine thank you, and you?”

3. You can be more creative and meaningful.

Though you really may mean “I’m fine thank you, and you”, to a native speaker’s ear,  they will just understand it to mean nothing. We think of it as the most unthoughtful response in most situations.

Also, Americans usually think “fine” is a lie.  When someone uses “fine” they are usually lying.  So, if you use “I’m fine”, even if you mean it 100%, the other person might think you are lying.

Native speakers like to hear and use more creative phrases when they are interested in talking with the other person. To show more interest in the other person, use a more unique, thoughtful response.

What can I use instead of “I’m fine thank you, and you?”

Here are some positive, more creative ways to say “I’m fine”:

“I’m doing well!  How are you?” (more formal, but OK for casual)

“I’m good, thanks.  How are you?” (more casual, with friends)

“I’m great, thanks!”

“Not bad, you?” (casual, meaning normal or so, so)

“Same old, you?” (causal, meaning normal or so, so)

Here are some negative ways to answer a greeting of, “How are you doing?”

BE CAREFUL – If you don’t know the person well, you may want to avoid saying anything negative.  Often times, “How are you” is just another way for native speakers to say, “Hello”.  It doesn’t actually mean they want to hear many details.  They may just be saying, “Hi” .  

You can use these responses with close friends or family.

“Not so well.  (followed by a short reason why)”

“Terrible. (followed by a short reason why)”

More tips

In general it’s always polite to ask the person how they are doing after they ask you.  Think of it just as saying, “Hello”.

When I first arrived in Japan I was saying, “Genki desuka” to the same people every morning.  I started to learn that this phrase is much different then the English phrase, “How are you doing?”  ”Genki desuka” is a very serious question unlike, “How are you doing”.  Most of the time, it’s just like saying, “Konichiwa”.

“If, I don’t know someone very well, how do I know if the person is just saying, “Hello” or really wants to know more about me”

Usually we will always greet someone we don’t know well with, “How are you?”  So, each person responds, usually with something like “good, thanks, and you?”.  This is just saying, “Hello”.

If the person wants to know more and wants to hear details about how you are, they will ask more.  Maybe something like:

“Is everything going well?”

“What have you been doing lately?”

“Tell me more about what is going on in your life.”

If someone asks you these kind of things after the general greeting, then they really want to know more.  It moves to a more, “Genki desuka” level.

Summary

- “How are you doing” is usually the same as just saying, “Hello”.

- Not always does the other person want to actually hear specific details about how you are.  Be safe and keep it short.  If the person asks more questions, then it means they really want to know more details.

- “I’m fine thank you, and you” can sometimes be viewed as rude.

- “Fine” is often a lie or viewed as a lie.

- “I’m fine thank you, and you” is rarely used by native speakers.

11 thoughts on “Be Creative and Avoid "I'm Fine Thank You, and You?"

  1. Thank you for writing this post! I’ve been trying to tell my students this for years! I think it’s finally starting to sink in. Gotta tell people like it is in the real world and get heads out of textbooks. Cheers!

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