Joe: Hey, what are you up to? Are there any plans for tonight?
Bill: Nothing as such, just making dinner for myself.
I think “what are you up to?” is such an idiom that everybody often uses in their daily conversations. But sometimes, it might get a bit difficult to understand in what context the idiom has been used, or you might get frazzled with what to reply to immediately.
It might happen that you were just minding your own business in the office, and suddenly, your colleague comes and asks you, “What are you up to?” and you get confused because you do not know what exactly he is meaning and what your reply should be. Do not worry; we will cover all that and more in this article.
“What are you up to?” meaning
In simple words, “What are you up to?” is just a way to ask what you are doing. But there can be various interpretations of the idiom like:
- What are you doing?
- What are you doing today?
- What are your plans for later?
- What are you doing presently?
- What mischief are you planning?
But mostly, people use the idiom to ask what they are doing. But sometimes, they alter the phrase and ask, “what have been up to lately?” This is when you have to give a little detail about your life events or what has been going on in your life for a while. So, to keep it simple, when someone asks you what you are up to, just answer what you are doing.
Different contexts where “what are you up to?” is used
As we discussed earlier, when the question is asked to you directly, it means that the person wants to know what you are doing, and you can simply answer the question casually. But there is nothing so simple about the English language. We can use this idiom to mean a few different things and in a few different contexts.
Another form of greeting
What do you commonly ask a person you met? “What’s up?” But there is another common phrase that is often used to greet someone or initiate a conversation. And that is, “What are you up to?” For example, if you were just sitting alone by the pool and a friend came up to you and asked what you were up to, they were just trying to initiate a conversation with you or question about your whereabouts.
You can respond specifically to what you are doing or may go into detail about what has been going on with you since the question itself is very vague. You can reply with a hello or hi and ask in return what they are doing.
Ways to know if you are busy at present
Apart from a way of greeting, there are other contexts as well in which the idiom is used. They can also use this idiot to know if you are busy at present. So, to make things clear, if someone asks you, “What are you up to?” it might mean that they are looking for your help or trying to make some plans with you. So, they are looking for clarity if you have something already planned for the day or if you are doing something right now.
They have some activities planned for you
Who knew that a straightforward idiom can mean so many things or basically can be used in so many contexts? This point is a lot like the previous one. They might ask you, “What are you up to?” just to know what you are doing, get the conversation going, and then offer you the work or activity they want to assign you. They would ask you to do it anyway or involve you in the plan even if you have something planned. So it is up to you how you want to respond.
Some synonyms for “what are you up to?”
“What are you up to?” is basically a conversation starter, and there are a few other ways to ask it or some other questions that mean the same thing. Let’s have a look at them.
- How are you doing?
- What has been going on with you?
- How have you been?
- Are you busy right now?
- What are you up to today?
- What are you up to tonight?
- Are you free?
- Do you have some time?
- How do you do?
- How are things going with you?
- So, what is new with you?
- What’s up?
A few examples of “what are you up to?” along with some responses
There are various ways to respond to the question depending on the context in which they asked you the question. Let’s check a few examples to understand things better.
👉 Hey Jack, what are you up to?
There is not much to do now. What about you?
👉 Hi Lily, what are you up to?
Oh, not a whole lot. What about you?
👉 Hey, what is new with you?
Oh, not much. You?
👉 Do you have some time?
You mean, right now?
👉 So, what is new with you?
Nothing, the usual.
Is it “What are you up to or too?”
It is not difficult to answer the question. The correct way to use the idiom is “What are you up to?” Here, using “too” instead of “to” would be incorrect. The word “too” cannot be used because the word means “additionally” or “ as well.” so the correct idiom is “what are you up to” and not “what are you up too.”
So, to wrap things up, the idiom “What are you up to?” is just another way of asking, “What are you doing?” or “How are you?” or greeting someone in any way. We ask this question in casual conversations as well as in professional settings as well. There are various ways of responding as well, depending upon the context and how you want to respond to it.
If you want to be direct, then you can just say what your current status is, or you can just be precise and ask them what they are up to. Just remember its meaning and use, and you will be good.