2 – Casual English Greetings – One Point English Lesson

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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.



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