How Have You Been - Learn What Does This Question Mean with over 50 Answers

english phrases how to start a conversation in english Jun 20, 2021
How Have You Been

The meaning of the question “How have you been”

Native English speakers often replace “how are you?” with “how have you been?”. They do this when asking how someone’s life has been going in general since a point in time (usually when you last spoke to each other). This question acknowledges that it’s been a long time since you last spoke and you need to catch up.  It means “how has life been for you since we last spoke?” instead of “how are you right now?”

When should you use this question? 

We use “how have you been?” when a lot of time has passed since we last saw or spoke to someone, and also we can use this phrase we want to start a conversation. We cannot ask this if we saw the person yesterday or even a few days ago.  The inferred meaning is that “we need to catch up! Tell me what is going on in your life.”. This makes the question inappropriate to ask someone who we see regularly.

 

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In addition, we can only ask this question if we have already met the person before.  We cannot ask “how have you been?” when meeting someone for the first time.  It is not possible to catch up with someone we don’t already know. 

 

To use this question appropriately, you need to learn that “how have you been?” always has an implied ‘since’ clause. Both people involved in the conversation know how long it has been since they last saw each other, which makes adding the ‘since’ clause unnecessary, redundant, and time-consuming.

 

We can also ask if someone has gone through a big change and we haven’t spoken to them for a long time.  Usually, the life change is negative and we want to ask how they have been feeling since the event without mentioning the event directly.

 

For example:

“How have you been...since I last saw you?”

“How have you been...since we worked together?”

“How have you been...since you broke up with your boyfriend?”

“How has he been...since the accident?”

“How have they been...since the loss of their parents?”

First of all, is there a right answer to the question “How have you been”? 

There is no one right answer to this phrase.  It is an open-ended question with countless possible answers.  The answer simply depends on how much information the person answering the question wants to share.  There are ways to answer this inquiry in a short and quick way and other ways that go into detail about the time that has passed since you last saw each other.  

How to reply to the question “How have you been”?

Keep the reply direct and to-the-point.  Single-word and short replies are acceptable such as “good” “not bad” “not great” and “been better.”  Avoid chewing someone’s ear off with everything that has happened in your life.   If the answer is long, try to keep it light-hearted and not too serious.

Short answers to “How have you been?”

Short answers usually come after an affirmative word like ‘yeah.’

Example: “Yeah, good!”

You can add “yeah” before any of these short answers.

  • 1. Good! 
  • 2. I’ve been good.
  • 3. Good, good, good.
  • 4. Great!
  • 5. Really good.
  • 6. Really great!
  • 7. Not bad.
  • 8. Can’t complain.
  • 9. Been worse.
  • 10. Been better.
  • 11. Not great.
  • 12. Busy!
  • 13. Swamped!
  • 14. Snowed under.
  • 15. I’m just keeping on!
  • 16. Keeping on.
  • 17. Surviving.
  • 18. Beyond busy!
  • 19. Same stuff, different day. 
  • 20. Never been better!
  • 21. Nothing to report.
  • 22. Hectic.
  • 23. Very hectic!
  • 24. As usual.
  • 25. A bit crazy.
  • 26. All’s good.
  • 27. I’ve been OK.
  • 28. Never better!
  • 29. Fantastic!
  • 30. Could be worse.
  • 31. Could be better.
  • 32. Life’s good.
  • 33. Life’s been tough.
  • 34. It’s been rough.
  • 35. It’s been difficult.
  • 36. Smooth sailing.
  • 37. It’s been rocky.

 

Long answers to “How have you been” 

Long answers are good for summarizing the important events that have happened since you last spoke to someone. Keep the sentences short and sweet and end them with a strong short general statement.

  • 1. I’ve started a new job.  It’s going really well.  I’ve also met someone, so life is good.
  • 2. I haven’t done much, to be honest.  Life has been busy and I’m just trying to keep my head above water.
  • 3. I’ve been traveling and I’ve finally visited France.  I can tick it off the bucket list.
  • 4. Just working a lot these days.  I really need a break!
  • 5. I’ve been focusing on my career and I’m starting to move up the corporate ladder. 
  • 6. I’ve been struggling to be honest.  But it gets easier every day.
  • 7. I’ve been so busy recently.
  • 8. I have been sleeping a lot lately. 
  • 9. Nothing to complain about at least.  All sunshine and rainbows! 
  • 10. Not all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s OK.

 

How do native speakers answer this question? 

  • 1. Same old!

This means that nothing has changed, nothing exciting has happened and there’s nothing new in your life.  Everything is the same as before and nothing has changed since the last time you spoke.

  • 2. Not too bad, and you?

This is a very common response that replaces ‘I’m good’ or ‘everything is OK.’  Native English speakers also add ‘and you?’ or ‘what about you?’ and find out how the asker has been since they last spoke to each other.

  • 3. I’ve been better, to be honest, but I keep on keeping on. You know how it is.

This is an example of how to answer honestly while keeping it relatively short.  Adding ‘you know how it is' to the end of a negative statement helps keep it light-hearted and shows that the speaker isn’t interested in going into too much detail on the topic.

  • 4. Busy.  I’ve been grinding away, working for the big man, burning the midnight oil.  But it has its perks.

Again, this response is slightly negative.  Adding ‘but it has its perks’ has the same effect as ‘you know how it is.’  It means that things have been difficult, but it’s OK and you’re not too upset about it.  

  • 5. Fantastic! I’ve been doing great.  I got a promotion at work and things are on the up and up!

This is a very positive way to answer this question.  ‘Things are on the up’ means that your life is getting better every day.  You are typically happy, and your life is moving in a positive direction.  



Is “How have you been” formal or informal?

While this question is not strictly formal, it isn’t informal either.  It is an acceptable question to use in a formal situation with someone you know well.  If you don’t know the person, stick with “how are you?” in formal situations.  

 

In terms of register, “how have you been?” is a polite way to ask someone a very intimate question about their life without being direct about it.  If the person wants to open up and share a lot of details, then they can and they will.  The person answering can also choose a short answer to avoid sharing too much about their personal life.  

 

Is it correct to say “How you been”? 

Grammatically, it is not correct to say “how you been?”  Native English speakers might say “how you been?” but we must avoid this question when using the English language in all formal situations.  It is a casual and lazy way to ask “how have you been?”

 

“How have you been?” is used in a present perfect form that highlights a past situation or state and its relationship with the present.  

 

“I have been good (since I last saw you)” 

 

On a timeline, the speaker has ‘been good’ in general from the point in time you last saw each other up to the present time or recently.  It is only possible to express this with the present perfect tenses and any other form is grammatically incorrect.

 

“How you been?”  would get the response “I been good” and subject + past participle is not possible in the English language without ‘have/has/had’ in the middle.  

 

Different ways to say “How have you been” with similar phrases

  • How’ve you been?

‘How’ve’ is an abbreviation of ‘how have.’  We can also abbreviate ‘how has’ to ‘how’s’ for third person singular questions.  For example, “how’s he been?”

 

Pronunciation tip: to  sound like a native English speaker, you must pronounce the question with the above abbreviations. You need to learn that native English speakers always link the words ‘how have’ and ‘how has’ when speaking.

  • How have u been?

‘U’ is an abbreviation of ‘you.’ This can only be used in informal texting or writing and can’t be used in formal writing or emails.  

  • How have you been doing?

This is a present perfect continuous question structure which is perfectly acceptable too.  

“How have you been doing?” draws attention to the ongoing emotion from the past to the present.

  

“I’ve been doing OK,” is a great response to show that things have been difficult but you make it OK every day.

 

“How have you been doing?” is a more sympathetic question and should be used when speaking to someone who has gone through a difficult time.  It’s a polite way of asking “how have you been coping (since the change or bad event)?”

  • How have you been holding up?

This question can only be used when speaking to someone who is going through a difficult time.  The person asking the question is expecting a negative answer and should be prepared to offer words of advice or consolation. 

  • How have you been feeling?

We usually ask this question if someone has been ill and we want to know if they have been feeling better.  “How have you been feeling?” is a way of asking someone “Are you feeling better or have you had any symptoms recently?”  

  • How’s it been going?

Essentially, this question has the same meaning as “how have you been?”  It’s more upbeat and positive than the previous three examples.  Its purpose is to elicit a positive response from the other person such as “it’s been going good!”

 

“It” refers to “life” in this question.

  • How have you been keeping?

This question is similar to ‘how’s it been going?’  It is a light-hearted question to check up on someone we haven’t spoken to in a while.

 

 

The Difference Between “How have you been” and “How are you” 

We can use “how are you?” with anyone, from someone we have just met to someone we’ve known our whole lives.  We can use “how are you?” when seeing someone we see every day and when seeing someone we haven’t seen for a long time.  “How are you?” means “how are you right now, at this moment?”

 

We can only use “how have you been?” with someone we know and haven’t seen for a long time.  It’s a way of asking “how have things been for you since we last spoke to each other?”  It shows a deep interest in knowing more than simply “how are you right now?”  We are asking for more information about someone’s life when we ask “how have you been?”  

“How are you?” asks about a current state of being and “how have you been?” asks for more information about someone’s life in general and recently.

Recap: What to say when someone asks “How have you been?” 

We can decide how much information we want to share when someone asks “how have you been?” We can say “not bad,” “good,” “great,” “never better,” “been better,” and “surviving” to give a short summary of how our lives have been since we last spoke.  

 

Or we can give longer replies but remember to add “but you know how it is,” “but it has its perks,” or another general statement to soften a negative reply.  We want to avoid dampening the conversation with negativity, so be honest but keep it light-hearted. Don’t be afraid to use these tips and remember that if you want to learn them you need to practice English every day.

 

Test what you’ve learned in this article with these questions

Choose the best reply:

 

How have you been?

  • Really terrible.  Life is so hard!
  • Not great, but you know how it is.
  • Yes, I have been.

 

How have you been doing?

  • Things could be worse.
  • No, I haven’t.
  • Yes, I am.

 

Choose the correct question form:

  • How’ve you been?
  • How u been?
  • How have you being?

 

Choose the correct question form:

  • What have he been?
  • How’s she been?
  • How have she been?

 

“How have you been?” is…

  • Formal
  • Informal
  • Both

 

True or False

“How you been” is grammatically correct.

  • True.
  • False.

 

Circle the other correct ways to ask “how have you been?”

  • How’ve you been?
  • How has you been?
  • How she been?
  • How has it been going?
  • How’s she been?
  • How’ve you been doing?
  • How’s she been feeling?

 

Which question asks for more information about someone’s life?

  • How are you?
  • How have you been?

 

Which is more polite:

  • Are you OK after your breakup?
  • How have you been holding up?
  • I heard about your breakup.  How are you?