“What’s Up?” How to Respond to Casual Questions


“What’s up?” is a common greeting or way to ask what’s new with you, to say hello or to start a conversation between friends and casual acquaintances. Usually when a friend asks what’s up? they mean “hey, how are you?” or “how’s it going?” as a form of acknowledgment or a hello, and they are not asking you a literal question about something being up in the air.

“What’s up” is an informal greeting (“Hey, buddy, what’s up?”), idiomatic phrase, or an inquiry about a current or recent state of affairs (“You seem sad. What’s up?”).

(dictionary.com)

So how do you respond to that — answer it literally? Playfully? Ignore it?

How to Respond to “What’s Up?” As a Greeting

I mean, what do you say to “What’s up?” There’s not much of substance to work with, here. So if a friend or stranger asks what’s up as a greeting, re-word the question in your mind as “what are you doing?” and answer accordingly.

  • “Not bad, how are you?” This is a very typical response that most people expect and it is a polite way to respond by asking almost the same question to your friend or acquaintance. It’s also a good way to start a conversation.
  • “Can’t complain” is a useful response for all occasions.
  • Living the dream!
  • Not much, just the usual.
  • Not a whole heck of a lot, what’s new with you?
  • Things are good!
  • Heading to the pub after work, wanna join me?

There are times where you should reply differently than “Nothing” or “Not much.” For instance, if you were at an event and someone asked, “What’s up?” then you would probably respond with “I’m good, how are you?” This is because you don’t want to seem rude or uninterested. If you did not want to continue the conversation, then you might simply say “Good, thanks!” instead.

Friendly Corny Answers to “What’s Up?”

Friends are most likely to ask you what’s up and to tolerate your sarcastic replies, so take advantage of the opportunity.

Try out some one-liners that will possibly make the person who asked “what’s up?” laugh, or at least make them groan.

  • Watching the game, having a Bud.
  • The jig.
  • Anything taller than me.
  • The ceiling.
  • My blood pressure.
  • Bitcoin!
  • The price of gas.
  • The number of obese people in the USA.
  • The positive case numbers despite every person and animal on earth being “vaccinated”.
  • My anxiety levels.
  • My patience with stupid people.
  • The in-laws for the week.
  • The opposite of down.
  • The sky.
  • My GPA after this final.
  • Inflation.

Flirtatious Responses

Maybe you have signed up for an online dating service and find your inbox filled with uninspired ice-breakers that do little to warm your heart to a potential suitor’s advances.

But don’t let that unimaginative question quell your creative spirit — respond with something unexpected if you want to test their intellect, or throw out something mundane if you want to test their patience. Let the witty games begin:

“What’s up?”

  • My libido.
  • My adrenaline.
  • My cortisol. I need some relaxing…
  • Come over and show me.
  • Something was up, and now it’s down for whatever.

Responses to “What’s Up?” When You Want Someone to Please Go Away

Sometimes you want someone to leave you alone. Whether you’ve received unwanted attention from a stranger while out walking or picking up groceries, you can be nice without being nice with these responses to “what’s up?”:

  • Your time talking to me.
  • My patience.
  • My blood pressure.
  • I’m busy with some things.
  • A bunch of things I’m working on at the moment, now’s not a good time to talk.

How to Respond to “What’s Up?” from a Co-Worker

A colleague is familiar with you and knows your idiosyncrasies and moods, so they are likely to greet you with a what’s up if they are of a younger generation or want to hear the gossip about the new guy in the next cubicle.

  • “Super swamped today.” When you have a lot of work to do and you want some quiet time to focus, say this. Maybe your co-worker will pick up on your hint and offer to help (doubtful).
  • “I have a hard deadline, can we catch-up later?” If you don’t feel like talking or you legitimately have work to do, you can politely give this reply. This response is a gentle way to avoid the conversation without being rude, and is a way to bring your attention to the reason you are both there — to work, not to socialize.
  • “Living the dream.” This is how many people like to respond when they want to be friendly but don’t want to engage in a conversation. It is also intended as a joke — especially if you are working at a menial task and intend the phrase ironically.
  • “I won the colleague lottery today!” If things are going great at work and you enjoy your co-worker, you can use this reply.
  • “Counting the minutes until Friday at 5.” Your co-worker will understand.
  • “Nothing much. How about you?” A tried-and-true response.
  • “Sure not my pay!”
  • “Hanging in there.” This is a polite and short response that works well in any situation.

Who Says “What’s Up?”

“What’s up” is widely used among the general population after being introduced into popular culture by Bugs Bunny (What’s up, Doc?). It is considered a casual greeting and is often meant rhetorically, requiring no actual update on specific events.

It can also be pronounced wassup or whaddup, among other variations.

Context is King

There are instances where you should adjust your response. For instance, if you are at work and see a colleague or client, you would respond with something short and boring, like “Things are good, how goes it with you?”

If you were meeting up with a good friend, then you might share your recent activities or what’s been on your mind recently. But if you were in an exchange with a stranger at a grocery store, you might want to keep it brief with a “Going well” if you don’t want to continue the interaction, or something more friendly like “The prices!”

If you go to see an advisor or someone you’ve asked to meet with, they might ask “What’s up?” — asking why did you want to talk, or what’s the update on your progress. In that case, simply tell them what’s on your mind or what you want. For example:

  • Hey, I’m here for the study session to go over the potential questions on the exam.
  • The assignment isn’t going well. I’ve been having trouble with the third module and need a clearer explanation of what the context is before I write this paper. Can you help? Thanks.

Know your audience and you know which response to give.

Billie

I like to climb mountains, read Nietzsche, and explore the West Coast. I have a BA from York University and yet on this site I sometimes spell like an American (know your audience). Thank you. Thank you very much.

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