What Are You Doing Synonyms. 30 Different Ways to Ask WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

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You could ask what someone is doing to mean many things. Maybe you’re trying to strike up a conversation, or maybe you want to know whether that person is busy or not.

You might also ask out of shock if you don’t like what the person is doing. With this in mind, let’s look at some different ways to ask, What are you doing? (Or a colloquial equivalent, Whatcha doin’?) through some example dialogues.

Are you busy?

(Over text)

A: Hey, what are you doing?

B: Nothing, why?

A: Do you want to come get ice cream with me and Nina?

B: Sure! Where should I meet you?

In this dialogue, A is asking B what he is doing in order to make sure she can make plans with him. In this kind of situation, you could use these alternatives:

  • What are you up to (right now)?
  • Are you doing anything (right now)?
  • Are you busy (right now)?
  • Are you free (right now)?
  • Do you have any spare time (right now)?
  • Do you happen to have any spare time (right now)?

A: Hey, are you doing anything right now?

B: Not really, why? (Notice how the response changes here)

A: Do you want to come get ice cream with me and Nina?

B: Sure! Where should I meet you?

What is happening?!

(Vivian walks into a smoky kitchen and sees Jeff burning food on a pan)

Vivian: Jeff, what are you doing?!

Jeff: Trying to cook. I don’t think it’s working so well.

Vivian: You’re going to trigger the smoke detector!

Here, Vivian is asking what Jeff is doing out of shock; she can’t believe what’s happening in front of her. If you’re in Vivian’s position, here are some other reactions you can use:

  • What’s going on?
  • What’s going on (in) here?
  • What is happening (right now)?

Since this is a strong response, you could also add some phrases like in the world or the hell (or other expletives as you wish) to these expressions.

  • What the heck are you doing?
  • What the hell is going on?
  • What in the world is happening?

Vivian: Jeff, what is going on in here?

Jeff: I’m trying to cook. I don’t think it’s working so well.

Vivian: You’re going to trigger the smoke detector!

What are you up to?

In some cases, you might ask what someone is doing to make small talk. Maybe you’re both in the same workplace, you’re studying together, you’re on the phone, etc.

(A and B both work in the same office)

A: What are you doing right now?

B: Looking through this code to check for bugs. It’s giving me errors left and right.

A: That looks tedious. Wanna take a lunch break in a bit?

In this scenario, A asks the question What are you doing? to strike up a small conversation with B. Another common alternative for this is What are you up to?

A: What are you up to right now?

B: Looking through this code to check for bugs. It’s giving me errors left and right.

A: That looks tedious. Wanna take a lunch break in a bit?

Of course, there are many other conversation openers you could use that can apply to more general situations. These are more general questions that will elicit more general responses:

  • What’s up?
  • How’s it going?
  • What’s going on (with you)?
  • How are you (doing)?

What are you doing these days?

Let’s take a look at this next dialogue:

Kenny: Nate! Long time no see!

Nate: I know! Good to see you.

Kenny: What are you doing these days?

Nate: I’ve been working and taking classes part-time. You?

Here, Kenny runs into Nate and asks What are you doing these days? in order to catch up with him after a long period of not seeing him.

This is a common way to do this, but you cannot simply ask What are you doing? That would mean you want to know what someone is doing right at that moment.

Instead, Kenny follows with the phrase these days in order to specify that he’s asking about Nate’s current life in general. Here are some alternatives:

  • What are you doing lately?
  • What are you doing with your life?
  • What are you up to lately?
  • How is it going these days?
  • How is it going lately?

You could also ask any of these questions in the present perfect progressive tense since it describes a continuous state or action up until now.

  • What have you been doing lately?
  • What have you been doing with your life?
  • What have you been up to lately?
  • How’s it been going these days?
  • How’s it been going lately?

Kenny: Nate! Long time no see!

Nate: I know! Good to see you.

Kenny: What have you been up to lately?

Nate: Working and taking classes part-time. You?

What do you do?

Finally, make sure not to confuse these two questions, for they mean very different things:

  • What are you doing?
  • What do you do?

While we’ve seen all the various usages for the first question, the second question specifically asks about someone’s profession. You could also ask What do you do for a living?

A: What do you do for a living?

B: I work at a consulting firm. And you? What do you do?

A: I’m a professor.

As you can see, it’s a very different kind of question, even though the wording is similar. Be sure to keep that in mind!


More for you:
Different Ways to Say “What’s Up?”
What are you doing in Spanish?
How to respond to HOW ARE YOU? 8 Examples

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