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What Is Going on? What’s up? How Is it Going?

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Ask a Teacher
What Is Going On? What’s Up? How Is It Going?
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This week we answer a question from Maggie. She writes:


Could you explain to me what is the difference among "What's going on?", "What's up?" and "How is it going?"? Do they mean the same? -- Maggie


Dear Maggie,

This is a good question because these are sayings we use all the time. They can all be used when greeting someone, usually someone you know.

Take this example: You run into a friend you have not seen for a while at the store.

“Hi, Dave!” you say. “Good to see you again. What’s going on?”

Dave may say: “Maggie! I have been so busy at work. All is well. What’s up with you?”

Dave wants to know what Maggie has been doing recently. This is a wide open, general question. It is another way of saying ‘What’s New?’

The expression “What’s going on” can also be used if you are angry, and accuse someone of doing something wrong, as in this example:

“What’s going on here? Did I say you can use my motorbike?”

Now, when it comes to “How is it going?,” you can use these words as part of a greeting when you see a friend. It can be a general question or more direct about something. Here is an example:

You see your friend Mary at the bus stop. You know her mother was sick and in the hospital.

“Hi, Mary. I have been thinking about you. How is it going? How is your Mom doing?”

Here is another example where it can be used at work:

“James, how is it going with your project? Will you have it done on time?”

And that’s Ask A Teacher!

I’m Anne Ball.

Here is a famous song that uses the expression "What's going on?"

Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


Words in This Story

greeting – n. a few words or sign of welcome when meeting someone