What Have You Been Up To - How to Answer This Question

english phrases questions short video lessons Jul 01, 2021
what have you been up to

“What have you been up to?” is a common English question - but it’s difficult to understand because of its idiomatic meaning.  It contains the phrasal verb ‘to be up to,’ which means ‘to be doing something.’  In this blog, we’ll show you how to use “what have you been up to?” and other greetings that we can use when meeting old friends after a long time.


What Does What Have You Been Up To Mean?

“What have you been up to?” is another way of asking “what have you been doing?” We can ask it to find out everything a person has been doing within a period of time, for example, “what have you been up to this week?” 


We can also ask this question accusingly when we think someone, specifically a child, has been misbehaving.


How to Anwer on Question What Have You Been Up To?

The most common answer to this question is “nothing much, and you?”  And this means that you haven’t done a lot today, this week, recently, or since you last spoke to each other.  


We usually use the present perfect continuous tense to give more information than simply ‘nothing much/not much.’


Other answers for “what have you been up to?” include:

“I’ve just been working a lot.”

“I’m still finishing the project I’ve been working on.”

“I’ve been working, cooking, and driving around a lot.”

“I’ve been travelling.”

“I’ve been running around non-stop!  It feels like I can’t get a break.”


We can also respond with ‘same here’ if the question is returned, and we had the same experience as the person asking it:


Person a: “What have you been up to?”

Person b: “Nothing much, and you?”

Person a: “Same here.”


If we’re being accused of misbehaving, we might respond with:

“I haven’t done anything!”



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How Do You Reply To What Has Been Up?

We use “what’s up?” to ask how someone feels now.  It’s either a casual greeting or it’s a way of asking if someone is OK because they appear sad or annoyed.  


We use the present perfect question “what has been up?” to find out how someone has been since a point of time in the past until now.  We use it as a casual greeting to find out how our friends have been since we last saw them or as a question to find out why someone has been acting differently and strangely. Sometimes people have problems answering this question, no because they don’t know what it means, but because they have an English communication barrier and they have problems speaking English even if they know grammar. If you have the same problem you can check our free seminar

We can also add ‘with you’ to indicate that we have noticed something is wrong and we’re accusing the person of acting weird: “what has been up with you?”


The most common response is usually:

“Nothing.  I’m fine.  I’ve just had a lot on my mind.”


Note: the context of the question and the tone of the person asking will tell the responder if someone is asking “what has been up?” as a casual greeting or as a question to ask “are you OK? I’ve noticed you’ve been acting strangely.”


The best thing about this question is that the responder can decide how much, or how little, they wish to share about their lives.  


As a response to a casual greeting:

“Nothing much.  And you?”

“I’ve been busy, but nothing interesting.”

“Nothing to report.  How about you?”

“I’ve been studying and working part-time.”


As a response to being asked about a bad mood:

“Don’t worry about it.  I’m fine.”

“I’m OK.  I’m just tired.”

“I’m just busy.  I’m sorry if I seem off.”


What You Been Up To

“What you been up to?” has the same meaning as “what have you been up to?”  It is not grammatically correct to leave out ‘have,’ however, native speakers often break grammar rules.  “What you been up to?” is the more common spoken question and its meaning is “what have you been up to?”


You can choose to use either question.  There is no difference in meaning between these two questions.


What Have You Been Doing

“What have you been doing?” has the same meaning as “what have you been up to?”  It is a more formal question and a clearer and direct way of asking someone about the things that they have been doing since you last saw them.  


‘Be up to (something)’ is an English phrasal verb with an idiomatic meaning.  Therefore, it is better to use “what have you been doing?” in formal situations when we meet someone we already know and haven’t seen for a while.


We can only ask someone “what have you been doing?” “what has been up?” and “what have you been up to?” if we know the person and we haven’t seen them for a while.  

If we meet someone for the first time, we must only ask  “how are you?” and “how are you doing?” 


“What’s up?” is also an acceptable greeting for someone you have just met, but it’s important to remember that it is very casual and can only be used in informal situations.


How to Reply on What's Been Up?

The most common answer to “what’s been up?” is “nothing much, how about you?”  The person is asking about our lives and we typically respond with “nothing much” unless something exciting has happened.


If we want to give more information than simple “nothing much,” we can; but remember to keep it short and to the point:

“Not much.  Same old.  And you?”

“Same thing, different day.”

“Nothing exciting.”

“I finally got a promotion!”

“I won the lottery!”

“I finished work and I’m on holiday.  I’m enjoying the time off.”


How To Pronounce What Have You Been Up To

There are a lot of reduced sounds and contractions in the pronunciation of the question “What have you been up to?”


To say this sentence like a native speaker, we must reduce ‘have’ to ‘ve’ and ‘you’ to ‘ya.’  Also remember to pronounce ‘been’ as ‘bin’


“What’ve ya bin up to?”


The stressed words in this sentence are ‘what’ and ‘up to.’  Everything else is reduced and linked together.


“What’veyabin up to?”


What Have You Been Up To Lately

We can ask “what have you been up to lately?” to restrict the time of the question.  Perhaps we don’t want to know about everything someone has done since we last saw each other.  It could have been years since you last saw or spoke to each other.  We can add a time word to restrict the time and make it clear that we only mean ‘these days.’


What Have You Been Up To Lately Meaning

‘Lately’ means ‘recently,’ therefore, this question means “what have you been doing recently?”  The inferred meaning is ‘I haven’t seen you in a long time.  Fill me in on the things you have done recently.’  An appropriate response is “I finally quit my old job and I’ve started working at a new company.”


How to Reply on What Have You Been Up To?

“What have you been up to?” is an inquiry into your life.  If nothing exciting has happened, reply with “nothing much.”  If something exciting has happened, tell them.


“I’ve been getting back into reading recently.  Would you like some book recommendations?”

“I’ve been working hard and I’m almost finished paying off my debts.”

“I’ve been planning a holiday.  I can’t wait to get a break.”

“I’ve been running around like a headless chicken.  So busy!”

“Life’s been keeping me on my toes.”


What Have You Been Up To These Days

‘These days’ ‘lately’ and ‘recently’ all have the same meaning.  They refer to a time period that started a little while before the present that continues into the present time.  “What have you been up to these days?” also restricts time to ‘recently.’  

It’s a way of asking “has anything exciting happened in your life recently? Have you done anything interesting or exciting? Have you changed your habits? Or is everything still the same as it used to be?”


Meaning of  The Question What Have You Been Up To These Days

This is an informal question that means “what have you been doing?”


What Have You Been Up To or Too?

‘To’ is correct.  ‘Too’ means in excess or as well.  If I ask someone “what? Have you been up too?” it would be in response to them telling me that they haven’t been able to sleep and I’m telling them that I haven’t been able to sleep either.