On your morning walk through the park, a passerby gives you a nod and then asks, “How are you doing?” What should be your response? Is it proper to say, “I am doing well”?
It is correct to say, “I am doing well” to express that your life is in satisfactory condition. It’s a stock phrase that people use as a polite response to the question, “How are you doing?” It responds to a polite greeting, and you typically respond with a reciprocating question. “I am doing well. How are you?”
Read on to discover more about this question and how to use it correctly.
What Does “I Am Doing Well” Mean?
To tell someone, “I am doing well,” means that you consider your life to be in a satisfactory condition. It is similar to saying, “I am okay,” and you use it to respond to the question, “How are you doing?”
The word “well” can have a variety of meanings. It can function as a noun to describe a source of water. It can also serve as a verb to describe something rising to the surface. You can even use it as an interjection to express surprise or to introduce a statement. Finally, you can employ “well” as an adjective.
The various uses of the word can make it confusing. If you are using “well” in a complete sentence, like “I am doing well,” it functions as an adverb and means you are doing okay. But watch out for these other uses as well:
|I am doing well.||I consider my life to be satisfactory.|
|He is well off.||This person is financially stable.|
|I am well.||My health is good.|
|I do math well.||I am exceptionally skilled in doing math.|
“I am doing well” always responds to the question “How are you doing?” and it always has the same meaning.
The word “doing” in this sentence may also be confusing. We tend to think of “doing” as an action, but it is also a synonym for “faring.” So that is the usage here; it carries a meaning similar to “coping” (source).
Saying “I am doing well” means you believe your life is faring in a favorable direction. To learn about a similar expression, read our article Is It Correct to Say “Did It Go Well?”
How Do You Use “I Am Doing Well”?
“I am doing well” is typically a response to a greeting. Many people use it to reciprocate the question: “I am doing well; how are you?” It often indicates that you are not interested in a more vulnerable conversation.
Many people will respond to “How are you doing?” by saying, “I am good.” This is not grammatically correct because “good” is an adjective. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. Since “doing” is a verb, it requires an adverb like “well” (source).
This is a polite response, and it often precedes a reciprocal question. As an example, a passerby gives you a nod and asks, “How are you doing?” You then respond by saying, “I am doing well.” To complete the polite exchange, you will then ask, “How are you doing?”
This also typically signifies that you are not interested in a more vulnerable conversation about how you are actually doing. If a friend asks, “How are you doing?” and you respond with this expression, they will not usually ask a follow-up question. For further conversation, you will need to answer the question with specifics.
To learn more about the difference between “I am doing good” and “I am doing well,” consider this article: Doing Well or Doing Good: Can Both Be Correct?
When Can You Use “I Am Doing Well”?
You can use “I am doing well” as either a formal or an informal response to a greeting. You should not use it as a statement without the corresponding question. Because it is grammatically correct, it is a little more formal than the colloquial but incorrect “I am good” response.
You can use “I am doing well” formally and informally. However, this typically signals to the asker that you are not interested in a more personal question. Use this phrase when you want to be polite but do not desire to have an in-depth conversation about how you are faring.
Native English speakers tend to take correct grammar as more formal. Though it is not grammatically correct, responding with “I’m doing good” is a warmer response than “I am doing well.” The formality of correct grammar can signify a certain level of aloofness.
It would also seem odd to begin a conversation with this phrase. “I am doing well; how are you?” because it is a response, not a conversation-starting question.
Using “I Am Doing Well” in a Full Sentence
“I am doing well” usually stands on its own as a response. Adding words to the phrase is likely to change the meaning or specify it.
If you add more words, you are likely turning the term into a dependent clause. You can do this if you want to mention a specific area in which you are doing well. It would be odd to say, “I am doing well; how are you doing?” But it may not be as strange to say, “I am doing well on this homework assignment; how are you doing?”
Adding the other person’s name to this statement makes it sound even more formal and polite. “I am doing well, Mark; how are you doing?” sounds more formal. Here are a few examples of using this phrase in a sentence:
- I am doing well in soccer.
- I was sick for a whole week. I am doing well now, though.
- I am doing well, thank you.
- I am doing well; how are you doing?
When Not to Use “I Am Doing Well”
“I am doing well” is a statement you can use in almost any setting. However, it could seem cold or even pretentious at times. There are also times when “good” is the proper word instead of “well.”
Though this is a question you can use in almost any setting, it may seem pretentious in specific settings. If you are speaking within a subculture where colloquial language is standard and higher education has less value, using the proper grammar can make you appear self-important to your audience.
Using this phrase may also seem too formal or cold if you use it as a response to a dear friend. If you genuinely want to share about your day or a specific situation, it might be best to avoid this phrasing. It will likely not invite a follow-up question.
There are other instances where “good” is the better option. If you donate to a worthy cause, you will use “good” instead of “well” because you are performing a morally respectable action. As a general rule, if you are describing an action, use “well.” If you need an adjective, use “good.”
What Can You Use Instead of “I Am Doing Well”?
Since “I am doing well” is a polite answer to a polite question native English speakers use in greeting one another, several alternatives equate in meaning.
It might be somewhat surprising to a non-English speaker, but you can simply respond to “How are you doing?” with another greeting. You do not have to answer the question, though it is common to give an alternate form of “I am doing well.”
- I am doing okay, man; how are you?
- Hey, what’s up?
- Great, how are you?
- How’s it going with you?
- I am having a great day; how is your day going?
- Things are going great.
An adverb is a word or phrase that gives more information about something. An adverb answers when, where, or how questions. Many adverbs end in “-ly,” but not all end this way.
There is a song that many English students learn to assist them in understanding the parts of speech. Part of this song tells us that adverbs end in “-ly.” If you remember this song, you are probably confused when stumbling upon adverbs that do not end in “-ly,” like “well.” Here are a few others:
Adverbs come in all shapes and sizes. Some adverbs describe how something takes place, some describe time or frequency, others tell us about the area, and some tell us the degree. There are also conjunctive adverbs. Each adverb will answer when, where, why, or how something is.
This chart outlines the different types of adverbs (source):
|Conjunctive Adverb||An adverb acting like a conjunction, joining two sentences together.||I spilled gravy on my pants. Thankfully, I was able to clean them up.|
|Adverbs of Frequency||This adverb answers the question, How often does this occur?||I always spill gravy on my pants.|
|Adverbs of Time||An adverb that tells us when something happens.||Yesterday, I spilled gravy on my pants.|
|Adverbs of Manner||This adverb tells us how something happens.||I clumsily spilled gravy on my pants.|
|Adverbs of Degree||An adverb that tells us the degree of intensity.||I abundantly spilled gravy on my pants.|
|Adverbs of Place||This adverb tells us where something takes place.||Everywhere I go, I spill gravy on my pants.|
Can you guess which type of adverb “well” would be? It is an adverb of manner because it tells us how something happens or how something is doing.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
To learn more about adverbs, read our article, Is it Correct to Say “More Often”?
“I am doing well” is a polite response to a standard greeting that tells how you are faring. It is helpful in almost any setting, but you should be careful that it does not seem pretentious. Because “well” is an adverb, it is the grammatically correct alternative to the more common response, “I am doing good.”