Lisa's week

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: What’s the best way to answer?


There are some typical questions in English that confuse many people. They sound quite similar and often, people are not exactly sure what they are being asked and how they should answer.

  1. What do you do?
  2. What are you doing?
  3. How are you?
  4. How are you doing
  5. How do you do?
  6. How do you do it?

See how confusing they all are? Would you know how to reply correctly to each one, and what information I am hoping to find out?

Q: What do you do? - This is always a question about your job and I want to know what you are or where you work.The present simple is used because I want to know about your permanent occupation.

A: I’m a freelance business English teacher.
A: I work in the service industry.
A: I’m a doctor but actually, I’m not working at the moment.

Q: What are you doing? – This is a question about the activity you are currently busy with at the moment. The present continuous is used because it is about what is happening right now.

A: I’m writing an entry for Lisa’s week.
A: I’m not doing anything particular at the moment.
A: I’m watching a film on TV.

Q: How are you? – This is a standard question about how you feel and is part of standard small talk. We don’t usually give any negative answer unless we know the other person very well.

A: Fine, thanks. And you?
A: Can’t complain! How about you?
A: Great, thanks!

Q: How are you doing? – This is a very relaxed, easy way of asking how you feel, for someone I know well and is more American English. I might use this for good friends.

A: Great! Thanks for asking!
A: I’m doing well, thanks. How’re you doing?
A: Not too bad, thanks. How’re you?

Q: How do you do? – This is a formal phrase used in introductions and while it is a little old-fashioned, I would still use it if I was meeting someone important in business for the first time - always with a handshake. Even though it is formed as a question, it isn’t really a question at all.

A: How do you do? I’m Nancy Smith.
A: Pleased to meet you. I’m Nancy Smith.
A: It’s so nice to meet you. I’m Nancy Smith.

Q: How do you do it? – This is a question about the way to complete a task. I want you to tell me the method or give me instructions.

A: It’s simple, let me show you.
A: Well, first of all you need to open a new document and then you can select the document. After that…….
A: It’s a bit complicated to be honest, but why don’t you read the manual and have a go for yourself? Just let me know if you need any help.

What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"

Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?