Colloquial greetings are the bread and butter of our daily communication. From the classic “How are you?” to “How’s it going?” we spend a lot of our time asking people how they are and expecting a simple response. But can we ask, “How is everything going?”
It is correct to ask, “How is everything going?” as a colloquial question. On a literal basis, the question may ask a bit too much. The pronoun “everything” stands in for all things; it makes the question broad and ambiguous. However, we implicitly understand that the expected response should not explain every element of life and is simply an informal way to ask how someone is doing.
Keep reading to delve into the nuances of the question and how to respond to it.
What Does “How Is Everything Going” Mean?
“How is everything going?” is an idiomatic question we use colloquially to ask someone how their life is going. Of course, it’s technically a significantly broader question than “How’s it going?” or “How are things?” but essentially, they have the same meaning for purposes of conversation.
To break down the question, “How” is an interrogative adverb that asks about the condition or status of something. “Is” is an auxiliary verb. “Everything” is a pronoun referring to all things, and “going” is a verb referring to the motion (both literal and figurative) of something.
When you combine them and ask someone, “How is everything going?” you are asking about their life status.
The broad nature of the question can refer to their career, health, family, relationship, and other innumerable life elements. The responder can choose what kind of information they want to give.
- “How is everything going?” “It’s great; I love my new job!”
- “How is everything going?” “It’s okay. I haven’t been well, but I’m feeling better.”
- “How is everything going?” “It hasn’t been great – it’s been a tough week at work.”
Due to its ambiguous nature, it isn’t an excellent question to ask if you are looking for specific information.
How Do You Use “How Is Everything Going”?
To use “How is everything going?” you must converse with someone else. As an interrogative sentence, it requires an answer.
Since the question is also an idiomatic question you can use as part of a greeting, you can attach it to greetings such as “Hello,” “Hi,” and “Hey.” For example, “Hi, George! How is everything going?”
It’s appropriate for a friend, co-worker, or family member, but it might come across as a little intrusive to a complete stranger, so you should avoid using it then.
While the sentence itself is in the present tense, “everything” can refer to anything that has happened in the past or since you saw each other last. In some scenarios, it can even refer to something that may occur in the future.
- “How is everything going?” “It’s great. I just finished my last exam.”
- “How is everything going?” “Good. I’m done with exams.”
- “How is everything going?” “It’s okay. I hope to be done with my exams soon.”
While the range of responses can be broad, there are expected answers you could receive to “How is everything going?” Most often, because it is an idiomatic question, you can answer it with an idiomatic response such as “good,” “great,” and “fine.”
Most people respond with a generic positive response, but you can also use a negative adjective if it feels appropriate for the situation and audience.
Since “everything” is a singular indefinite pronoun, you can use another pronoun to respond to the question, such as “it.” “It” is a personal objective pronoun (source). You also refer back to the question directly by using “everything” or just using an adjective.
- “How is everything going?” “It’s not bad.”
- “How is everything going?” “Everything is good.”
- “How is everything going?” “Fine.”
In What Context Can You Use “How Is Everything Going”?
As an idiomatic expression, you use “How is everything going?” to find out information about someone’s life or activities. It is a polite question most people would not have an issue answering.
There are several scenarios where you can use the question. First, you can use it when you meet someone after a while, but you don’t have a lot of information about what they might have been doing. The question is open enough that the person can tell you what they wish.
You can also use it when approaching someone doing work, and the question would be more specific within the context. That person will understand that you are asking them about how their work is going.
It can also be appropriate for a scenario where someone is looking tired or unwell, so you can use the question to ask about their well-being. It allows you to show sympathy or offer assistance if the response is negative.
“How is everything going?” is a colloquial question, so it’s not common to find it in written form, especially for business communication. However, you may want to use more formal language for written communication. You can find out more by reading I Look Forward to Speaking with You: Proper Grammar and Usage.
Using “How Is Everything Going?” in a Full Sentence
“How is everything going?” is a complete sentence you can use on its own. However, you can add more information at the end of the sentence to be more specific about the subject.
- How is everything going with you?
- How’s everything going so far?
- How is everything going with your cat?
In the above sentences, the additional information provides more context to the nature of the inquiry. In the first sentence, by specifying, “How is everything going with you?” your question becomes more personal and indicates that you are asking about their personal life.
In the second sentence, “so far” is an adverb of time and indicates that you are asking about the status of someone’s work. The expectation is to provide information about how the work is going thus far and potentially elaborate on future efforts.
The third sentence is particular and only appropriate to use when you have information about the person’s cat. Maybe they just got a new cat, or perhaps their cat was unwell, but the expectation of the response has to relate to the cat.
When Can You Use “How Is Everything Going”?
“How is everything going?” is a sentence that can stand alone. Generally, the interrogative sentence is always the start of the clause, but you can add additional information before or after it in a dependent clause or prepositional question.
You add additional elements to the sentence when you want specific information. For example, when you put the dependent clause at the very beginning of the sentence, you emphasize the type of information you want. However, we do not word it this way often because it sounds formal in grammar, while the idiomatic question is informal.
- With regard to your job, how is everything going?
- With your new baby, how is everything going?
- With this promotion, how is everything going?
You can also add more information at the end of the sentence without it being a dependent clause. We usually do this with a prepositional question (orange).
- How is everything going with your new job?
- How is everything going with your baby?
- How is everything going with your promotion?
When the appeal for extra information comes at the end of the sentence, it makes the sentence flow more smoothly.
The only acceptable preposition that will work with this sentence is “with.” This is because “with” signifies that two objects are together or accompanying each other somehow (source).
Therefore, when you ask about the situation of something, you have to use “with” to make it a logical question.
When Not to Use “How Is Everything Going?”
When you need specific information, “How is everything going?” is a vague statement that won’t get you the information you need. As a social norm, you should also avoid asking this question if you can see someone is struggling.
Your audience should clearly understand what you are asking when you need specific information. For example, “How is everything going with your baby?” is a non-specific question, and the person responding could speak about many things happening with their baby.
In contrast, if you ask, “How is your baby’s colic?” you will get a specific response about the nature of the baby’s colic and how they are recovering.
- How are you managing the night shift at your new job?
- What is happening with all the retrenchments at work?
- How are you handling the deadlines with your assignments at school?
As you can see in the above examples, these questions are precise regarding context and the type of information required to answer them.
You should avoid asking, “How is everything going?” when you see someone is not doing well at something. For example, the question can be condescending and sarcastic if a co-worker struggles to stock a shelf.
Only use the question when you want to show legitimate concern about someone’s situation or well-being.
What Can You Use Instead of “How Is Everything Going?”
You can use several questions in place of “How is everything going?” The two questions closest in meaning are: “How are things going?” and “How is everything?”
The main thing to focus on is when you ask the question; you use words that have a similar meaning to ask for the same information.
Since “How is everything going?” is a broad idiomatic expression asking about the whole, you are inquiring about someone’s situation and well-being. There are many other ways you can ask for this information.
- How’s it going? / How’s it going with you?
- What’s new? / What’s new with you?
- How’s life? / How’s life treating you?
- How are things? / How are things with you?
- What’s going on?
- How’s your day going?
From the previous examples, you can see a range of expressions to ask about someone’s well-being and situation. Adding “with you” at the end of some sentences does not change the meaning but could be a little more personal.
Like “How is everything going?” they are all quite broad, and the questioned person can answer as they please. All these interrogative questions are also relatively informal and conversational.
If you want to be more formal in your inquiries, you can use a few questions instead.
- How do you do?
- How have you been [doing]?
- Are you well?
While these sentences refer more to personal health than situations, you use them similarly for one’s whole well-being.
Another common expression is “How is it going?” To learn more about its usage, read Is It Correct to Say: “How Is It Going”?
Idioms are phrases and questions that exist in every language. They are phrases that members of a specific community or language group can understand, but they are not literal, and non-native speakers might misunderstand them.
English is full of rich idiomatic expressions, but idioms are not unique to English. Every language has its own idioms, and sometimes idioms are geographically bound as well – especially in America, where you will find different idioms depending on your state.
We have idioms for a range of situations, from wishing someone luck (“break a leg”) to pressuring someone (“twist his arm”).
While both of these idioms might come across as quite violent or painful, you are not literally wishing that someone would break their leg, and hopefully, you aren’t actually twisting someone’s arm to get them to do what you want. Here are more examples:
- Getting up on the wrong side of the bed (waking up in a bad mood)
- Bite your tongue (don’t say anything)
- Straight from the horse’s mouth (getting information from a direct source)
As you can see, idioms have an essential role in communication, but they can be difficult for non-native speakers who can get confused by their figurative meanings.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
“How is everything going?” is an idiomatic question. This is because it is not literally asking for information about everything in your life; it’s just an expression that you use to inquire about someone’s well-being.
Idiomatic expressions are an example of uniquely human communication. Our communication is more than just information – we communicate to create relationships, make friends, and create social groups.
Questions like “How is everything going?” allow us to express caring for another person. While it is polite, it can also make a big difference in how someone feels about you or what they would be willing to share about their lives.