When people ask us “How are you?” we often reply with a standard phrase like “Fine thanks, and you?”
But what if you aren’t OK? What if you want to use a more advanced phrase when you reply to greetings?
Here are ten other natural phrases to say how you are – plus a fun bonus phrase!
Replying to greetings – when life isn’t great
Life can be difficult at times – and particularly when we’re still in a pandemic. Here are some advanced phrases to say that things are a little difficult. You’d use these phrases with people you know – not with people you’ve just met. The phrases would probably lead on to a conversation.
I’ve had better days = I’ve been better before now
You can say this phrase when you’re having a bad day, or when you’re in a bad period of your life.
We also say “(Name of something) has seen better days”, meaning that something you own is in a bad condition.
“This sweater has seen better days. I think I’ll throw it out.”
I’m going through (a bit of) a rough patch
A rough patch is when your life is not going smoothly. Perhaps you’re having problems with your job or with a personal relationship.
“I hear that Tom and Sue are going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment.”
(Pronunciation tip: “rough” rhymes with “tough” or the final syllable of “enough”)
(I’m) trying to keep my chin up
We say “Keep your chin up” as encouragement to keep going. If you’re trying to keep your chin up, you know that you have to keep going – but it’s difficult.
It could be better
This means that your life could improve, and that things aren’t as good as you’d like.
Hanging in there
This means that you’re just about OK and that you haven’t given up yet.
We also say “hang in there” to encourage people to keep going, because life has to improve at some point.
If you don’t want to start a conversation which will become negative, or if your life is full of problems at the moment, you can just reply with “Don’t ask!” The conversation would probably go on to a new topic.
(Listen to the pronunciation)
When life is very good
Couldn’t be better! / I’ve never been better!
This is a lovely, optimistic phrase when everything in your life is going well.
Make sure you smile and that you don’t use a flat intonation, otherwise people might think that you’re being ironic!
(Listen to the two ways you can say it to hear the difference.)
Pretty good / Pretty well
You can use the adverb “pretty” to mean “very”. Stress the “pretty” to sound sincere.
(Listen to the pronunciation.)
When life is OK
When British English speakers use this phrase, it can either mean that life is OK – or that they would like to complain about something (but don’t want to bore you).
Same old (same old)
Often we’d just say “same old” once. It means that life is the same as usual – neither brilliant nor terrible.
Comme ci, comme ca (pronounced “kom see, kom sa” in British English)
Some people might even use this French expression to say that life is OK. Be careful who you use it with – if the other person doesn’t speak French it can sound a little pretentious!
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