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

By Billie •  Updated: 09/28/21 •  6 min read

“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.

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.

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?”

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?”:

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.

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:

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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