Understanding the English greeting “how’s it going?”

An English greeting can take many different forms and vary across countless contexts. By way of entry into the world of ways to greet someone, let’s take a phrase that is so common as to be essentially automatic: “How are you doing?”

Cecilia Gigliotti
Cecilia Gigliotti

An English greeting can take many different forms and vary across countless contexts. Even for native speakers, let alone non-native speakers, it can be hard to know which ones to use in which situations. By way of entry into the world of ways to greet someone, let’s take a phrase that is so common as to be essentially automatic: “How are you doing?”

Different roots

Unlike the first languages to be widely disseminated across the West, English is a primarily Germanic language, taking much of its syntax and sentence structure from old Anglo-Saxon dialects. That said, it also draws heavily from Latin and its branches — among them Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese — known collectively as Romance languages.

Both the Romance and Anglo-Saxon traditions have forms of asking about the state of one’s life which have descended to the “How’s it going?” we use today. The German “Wie geht’s?” and the Italian “Come va?”, for instance, both translate literally to “How does it go?” All these refer to a temporary state of being: how it’s going today may be different to how it was going yesterday.

Different shoots

So, how to respond to “How’s it going?” when someone asks? Well, given that you may interpret the question to mean an interest in your direct status, you can usually go one of two ways — referring to the “it” (that is, to your life or your day) or to yourself.

Here are some examples:

“Oh, hey there! How’s it going?”
How to answer: “It’s going pretty well! Just got out of a long but productive meeting.”
“Morning! How’s it going?”
How to answer: “Eh, I could be better. Didn’t sleep too well last night.”

Of course, don’t forget to ask how it’s going with them afterward!

Additional examples of using “How’s it going?”:

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
The Shining (1980)
Rush (2013)
EnglishIdioms & expressions

Cecilia Gigliotti

I have extensive experience writing in a variety of genres, from literary novels to music reviews to academic articles. I appreciate the power of words.


Cecilia Gigliotti

I have extensive experience writing in a variety of genres, from literary novels to music reviews to academic articles. I appreciate the power of words.

Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

Geoffrey Mutie

My name is Geoffrey! I am constantly looking for new ways to improve my writing skills and my interpersonal skills, which in my opinion help a person be professional.