Are You Okay?


Are You Okay?  How to Express Concern

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Today is Tuesday, February 6th, 2007, and this is the ESL Help Desk inviting you to listen to today's podcast.  Our Library of audio stories and grammar lessons is being populated weekly, so hop on over to our library after you finish with today's lesson.  And to all of our listening audience today, welcome to your place for help with English as a Second Language. 

Today we are going to talk about ways to express concern.  Suppose you are talking to somebody who you think is not feeling well and you want to express concern about how this person is feeling. What you say depends on the particular situation, the closeness of your relationship with the person you are talking to, and how much information you really want to obtain.

Let's look at a few possible ways of expressing concern and discuss when to use - and when not to use - each one.  


Are You Okay?  Are You Hurt?

Let's say you are walking down the street and you see somebody fall down. You are concerned that the person may be hurt. You should ask, "Are you okay?"  or "Are you alright?" or "Are you hurt?" Of course, if you think the person has been hurt badly, do not waste any time with English lessons; make sure the person is stabilized and phone 911 right away and ask for an ambulance for emergency help.

Are You Okay?

People who know each other very well sometimes say "Are you okay?" as a joke, meaning, "Are you crazy?" I would strongly suggest that you not use this question in this way, or use it only with a very very good friend.

Are You Feeling Alright?

If you are talking to somebody you  know very well, and you think that this person is not feeling well, you can ask "Are you feeling alright today?"  You can be more specific with questions such as, "Do you have a cold?"  Of course, here the answer is either "Yes" or "No".  These are what we call "closed answer" questions.  You should only ask this suggestive type of question if 1) you know the person you are speaking to very well, and 2) this person is not in a position of social superiority.

How Are You Feeling?

Sometimes you are talking to somebody you know well and you think that this person is not feeling well, and you would like more than a yes or no answer. You would like to ask an open-ended question. You can ask, "How are you feeling?" This is a good question because it gives the other person the freedom to answer any way he wants or to give additional information, and it gives him a way out of the conversation if he does not want to talk about his health. He can respond, "I'm not feeling so well" and tell you more or he can say "I'm feeling okay" and change the topic. He may even say, "I'm fine; how are you?"

You Seem Tired.

How do you express concern without the other person feeling insulted? With a very good friend or relative who looks tired to you, you can say, "You seem tired" (e.g. Susanna, you seem tired today."); or to a very good friend or relative who is sneezing or coughing, you can say "You sound like you have a cold" (e.g. Grandma, you sound like you have a cold."). Open a conversation this way only with a very good friend because you do not want the other person to feel insulted.  

 Giving the Other Person Control of the Conversation     

Sometimes you are talking to a person who in a position of respect,
such as a teacher, a supervisor, a boss, or your child's teacher. What should you say to a person in a position of respect or authority if you think this person is not feeling well?  First, it may be socially preferable to say nothing at all.  Your second choice is to ask an open-ended and neutral question such as "How are you?" (e.g. "How are you, Officer?") or "How are you today?" (e.g. "How are you today, Dr. Gonzalez?") and allow the other person to control where the conversation goes from there.

When expressing concern, you can always use the simple and basic question, "How are you?"



So from the ESL Help Desk, thanks for listening to us this week, and remember to email us your questions about English grammar by posting your comments or questions on our blog.


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