Your friends and people you know might ask you What are you up to? How do you respond to this question? You might be eating lunch, watching TV, or working. Its a casual way saying hello and maybe starting a conversation with you. Lets see how you can easily answer this question in a variety of situations.
What does Up To Mean?
Up to is one of those pesky little phrasal verbs that you cant translate literally. It just means doing something. So the question What are you up to? just means What are you doing?
Heres a sample conversation between friends:
Jana: Hi, Rob, how are you?
Rob: Hey, Jana. Good, thanks, you?
Jana: Im good. What are you up to?
Rob: Oh, Im just making dinner.
Jana: Nice. What are you making?
So the question, What are you up to? can mean What are you doing right now? Are you busy? Do you have time to talk?
What Are You Up To? Can Be a Way to Ask Are You Busy?
Heres another example:
Jana: Hi Rob, how are you?
Rob: Hey Jan. Good, thanks, you?
Jana: Im good. What are you up to?
Rob: Im just leaving for work. Im sorry I cant really talk right now.
Jana: Its ok. Ill catch you later. Bye.
Its okay if you are busy and cant talk. Just tell your friend that you can talk later. Are you doing something interesting? Tell them! You can have a good conversation about it. Are you tired, and just dont really want to chat right now? Thats okay, too.
Now we know how to use and respond to the question What are you up to? but what about how to respond to the question What HAVE you BEEN up to?
Ask What Have You Been Up To? When Talking to Someone You Dont See Every Day
If you are talking to a person you used to know, maybe a friend or a family member you havent seen in a long time, the question might change into the present perfect What have you been up to? Now they are asking about things that have happened in your life since the last time you talked. Youll probably answer a little differently.
Heres a conversation between a brother and sister who havent seen each other in a year:
Mia: Paulo, its so good to see you! What have you been up to?
Paulo: Hi Mia! Im fine, still working a lot. How about you? What have you been up to?
Mia: Oh, the kids are keeping me busy. Tomas is playing soccer this fall. Roberto got a new job and we moved to Chicago three months ago.
Paolo isnt asking Mia what she is doing right now. He wants to know whats been happening in her life in the year since they last saw each other. If you have sad news to share, its okay to answer the question that way.
Mia: Paolo, its so good to see you! What have you been up to?
Paolo: Hi Mia! Nothing much. Ricarda has been in the hospital. She hurt her back at work.
Mia: Oh, Im sorry! I hope shes doing better now.
Paolo: Yes, shes getting better, thanks. So what have you been up to?
How to Correctly Pronounce What Are You Up To?
Heres something else to watch for many times, in casual conversation, this phrase is said pretty fast. Instead of What are you up to? listen for Whatcha up to? or even Whatchup to?
English stresses the words what and up, and the word you is said very quickly with no stress. You can even become cha and the word are disappears completely! Once youve heard it a few times, though, its easy to understand.
What Are You Up To? Can Be Another Way to Say Hello
Lots of times, people answer the question What are you up to? with Not much, or Nothing. Then they will ask their friend the same question, and it becomes another way to say hello between friends.
Harold: Hi John, what are you up to?
John: Oh, not much. What are you up to?
Harold: Nothing much. If youre not too busy, want to go get dinner?
John: Sure, that sounds great.
What are you up to? is a pretty easy question to answer, because the person who is asking is usually a friend or a family member. You can be honest with them! The question might be an invitation to have a conversation, and thats what its all about!
Now that you know how to respond to What are you up to? lets keep learning how to speak English more fluently!
How can you politely ask a question in English? English doesnt have a formal you form like many other languages, so how should you ask your boss for a day off? How should you ask a stranger where the nearest bus stop is? Use an indirect question! Click here to learn more about how to ask a question politely in English.
Tell me About Yourself How to Introduce Yourself at a Job Interview