If you’ve ever met up with someone after not seeing them for a while, you’ve probably asked, “How is everything?” to find out if anything important has happened that you should know about. This article explores whether or not it’s correct to ask, “How is everything?”
It is correct to say, “How is everything?” to inquire about the state or situation something or someone is in. You can ask this question informally to learn the status quo of things in general or if accompanied by other clauses, a specific thing. For example, you can say, “How is everything at work?”
Read on to learn more about this conversational question and how to use it.
What Does “How Is Everything” Mean?
“How is everything?” is a question a speaker would ask if they wanted to find out something or someone’s condition, either casually or after something has happened. Depending on the context, it can also be a follow-up question indicating past events that needed resolving.
“How” is an adverb that describes the way, extent, or condition of something. It’s also a conjunction that joins sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. Lastly, you can classify “how” as a noun that defines a manner or method (source).
The word “is” comes from the verb “be,” and you use it together with the third-person singular. So, for example, “He is good at science” (source).
“Everything” is a pronoun that encompasses all existing things, both specified and unspecified. For example, “Everything he said was true” refers to an occurrence that you can isolate (what “he” said,) whereas “They tried everything” where “everything” is less distinct because all possible avenues for solving a problem are unknown.
“How is everything?” is, therefore, a question where the person asking it wants to know how the listener is experiencing something. Because it’s impossible to answer in the all-encompassing detail that “everything” suggests, you mainly use it when speaking in general.
How Do You Use “How Is Everything”?
You use “How is everything?” by addressing it to a person, either verbally or in writing, as a conversation starter that gives the speakers a chance to catch up on what has happened since the last time they spoke. For example, “It’s been ages since I’ve seen you; how is everything?”
Relating to parts of speech, we’ve seen that “is” derives from the verb “be.” When you use it in this context, it, therefore, refers to a permanent or temporary state (source).
Because “How is everything?” contains a subject (everything) and a verb (is), you can define it as a clause and use it as a standalone sentence. You can also use it in a longer sentence to narrow your question.
- How is everything since the move?
In the sentence “How is everything?” the subject is “everything” because it is what the sentence is about. So “How” is an interrogative pronoun asking about “everything.” The (simple) predicate in this instance is the word “is” because it refers to the subject (source).
You can also make “How” and “is” a contraction like the following; we tend to speak them as such.
- How’s everything since the move?
You can use the clause across tenses where you ask someone, “How is everything?” based on how something that has already happened is affecting a current situation. Alternatively, you could ask this to find out how something is now and how things are progressing towards an end. Consider these examples:
- Past: How is everything since her diagnosis?
- Present: How is everything going with the move?
- Future: How is everything going in preparation for Saturday’s event?
When Can You Use “How Is Everything”?
You use “How is everything?” as an informal greeting when meeting with a long-time acquaintance, a friend, or someone you’ve only recently encountered, such as a waiter. The situation determines whether the answer should be colloquial or in-depth.
Context matters here where, for example, if a waiter comes to check on how you’re enjoying your meal, you would simply answer, “It’s good, thank you.” Whereas, if a family member were to ask you the same after not having seen you for a year, you would respond by giving them a more detailed update on your life.
Here are other instances in which you’d ask, “How is everything?” more specifically to find out:
- The status of something: Her grades have improved, but how is everything else?
- How a person is: How is everything with her?
- How a thing is: How is everything working since they fixed your bike?
In the first example, the questioner wants to find out the status of something excluding what they’ve mentioned. In the second example, instead, the person asking the question is asking about a specific person. Finally, the last instance also narrows down the possible answers by asking about something in particular.
Using “How Is Everything” in a Full Sentence
“How is everything?” is a full sentence on its own, and you can classify it as a simple sentence because it is an independent clause with no conjunction. However, it can also be part of a complex sentence along with a dependent clause. For example, “How is everything now that you’ve changed schools?”
“How is everything” can also appear at the start, middle, or end of a sentence, which, when asked in full, gives direction to the answer you’re looking for, for instance:
- How is everything since you got back?
- I can’t even remember when last I saw you; how is everything?
- It’s been a while; tell me, how is everything?
How Do You Answer “How Is Everything?” in a Full Sentence
Whether the person asking the question refers to a person or thing, you can answer “How is everything” by replying positively, neutrally, or negatively. For example, “Not much has changed.”
Below are some typical responses you may hear in informal contexts.
- Positive: Things are better since they’ve changed the learning material.
- Neutral: They came to set up the hall yesterday.
- Negative: She will have to retake the test.
From these examples, we can see that the answer cannot be a simple yes or no, given the wide-reaching nature of the question.
You may even answer it equally idiomatically depending on your circumstance, such as, “Fine, thank you,” or “Everything is good,” which, although it doesn’t give much detail, is a sufficient response.
When Not to Use “How Is Everything”?
Because of the generic nature of the question, you shouldn’t use “How is everything?” if you want to know something specific or need details. For instance, when you want to know how to calculate something or where and when an exam will take place.
“How is everything?” is also unsuitable when you want to find out how a third person is doing, in which case, you’d have to refer to them by name or pronoun. For example, “How is she?”
You also shouldn’t use the clause when addressing a crowd because you further dilute the already ambiguous question by not directing it at a specific person. In this instance, you’d also risk coming across as insincere because even though you may genuinely want to know, you wouldn’t get everyone’s response.
What Can You Use Instead of “How Is Everything”?
There are several other ways to determine how something or someone is depending on the context you’re communicating in. For example, “How is it going?” is still a sweeping way of getting the status update you want.
Here are some other examples of the words you can use instead, still in informal speech and without changing their meaning.
- How are things?
- How are you doing?
- How have you been?
In the last two examples, the question is more directed at a person’s state where they would start their answer with “I am.”
Another way to ask someone how they are is, “How is everything going?” Read Is It Correct to Say “How Is Everything Going”? to learn more about how to use this phrase correctly.
Polite questions are socially acceptable behavior that doesn’t put the person you direct it to in an uncomfortable position (source). For example, you ask a question instead when you interrogate someone to find out information.
“How is everything?” is a polite question because the speaker is asking how a person is in passing without being too forward by asking directly after something. For example, “How have you been since you heard the bad news?” is a more intrusive question.
Other examples of polite questions that leave room for more than one answer are:
- Is there anything I can assist with?
- Is everything okay?
- Can I get that for you?
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
In the above instances, the speaker intends to help with something. In the case of “How is everything?” the questioner may also intend to assist someone in a challenging activity.
You would ask “How is everything?” as a broad question to find out how a person or a thing is doing, which is open to a wide range of responses depending on the context and the relationship between speakers.
Whether you ask it to catch up with a person you’ve only recently met or a long-time acquaintance, it’s a polite question you can use where the person you ask can answer with any topic they feel comfortable speaking about.