“What Have You Been Up To” Meaning and Response

You are walking down the street one day and happen to meet an old, good friend. “It’s great to see you again!” your old friend says with excitement. “It’s been about a year! What have you been up to lately?”

In this post, we will discuss the meaning of “what have you been up to” and provide some example sentences and alternative expressions you can use in everyday conversation.

What Is the Meaning of “What Have You Been up To?”

The expression “what have you been up to” is a way of asking someone what they have been doing recently. It is a friendly way to inquire about someone’s activities and can be used as a conversation starter.

We use the expression “what have you been up to” when speaking to someone we may not have heard from in a while. It is a way of catching up with the latest news and events in someone’s life.

When someone asks you this question, they are interested in hearing about what you have been doing. So, it is an excellent opportunity to talk about something you have been doing that you are proud of or something that has been taking up a lot of your time. You could also talk about your family or recent events that have taken place.

When To Ask “What Have You Been Up To”

This expression can be used in many different situations. You can use it when you see someone you know but haven’t seen for a while. For example, if you bump into an old friend from school, you might say, “Hey! What have you been up to?”

You can use this expression when catching up with someone on the phone or over video chat. For example, if you are catching up with a friend from college who you haven’t talked to in a while, you might say, “So, what have you been up to?”

When NOT To Ask “What Have You Been Up To”

There are a few situations where you should not use this expression.

First, you should refrain from using this phrase if you already know what the person has been up to. For example, if you saw someone yesterday and told you what they did, you should not say, “What have you been up to?” today. This would just be repeating yourself.

Second, you should not use this phrase if you think the person might not want to talk about what they have been up to. For example, if someone has just lost their job or is going through a difficult time, and you are aware of this, you should not ask them, “what have you been up to?” This could make them feel bad, and it might not be something they want to talk about. Instead, opt for “how have you been?” or “how are you?”

How To Answer “What Have You Been Up To”

If someone asks you, “what have you been up to?” there are a few different ways you can respond.

You can talk about something you have been doing that you are proud of or something that has been taking up a lot of your time. For example, you might say, “I’ve been busy with work,” or “I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family.”

You could also give a brief update on recent events in your life. For example, you might say, “I got a new job,” or “I’m just after coming home from holiday.”

If nothing much has happened since your last encounter, you can give a vague response, such as, “Not much, just the usual.” or “Nothing much.”

You could also ask a question back, such as “What about you? What have you been up to?” This is a good way to keep the conversation going.

Examples of How To Respond to “What Have You Been Up To”

Here are a few examples of how to respond to “what have you been up to?”:

  • I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family.
  • I’ve been traveling. I was in Scotland last month.
  • I just got back from my aunt’s house in Florida.
  • Just working away at some school projects. (=working hard on something)
  • I’ve been taking some English classes for my job.

Or feel free to give them an extended, more elaborate response. For example:

  • I’ve been busy with work. It’s coming up to Christmas now, so there is lots to do!
  • I’ve been working on a new project at work. It’s been keeping me pretty busy.
  • I finished school last year and I’ve been looking for a job since then.
  • I moved to a new city, so I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring and getting to know the area.
  • Fred is in fifth grade now. He qualified for the state math competition, so we’ve been spending a lot of time practicing.
  • I adopted a dog, actually! Her name is Sophie, and she’s the sweetest thing.

If you don’t want to talk about what you’ve been up to, or if you think the person already knows, you can give a short response or change the subject. For example:

  • Not much, what about you?
  • Just the usual. You?
  • Same old, same old. What’s new with you?
  • Not much. Did you see the game last night?
  • Oh, just working away. Yourself?
  • I’ve been busy, but it’s been good.
  • I’ve been keeping busy.
  • This and that. You?
  • Not much, just the usual. What have you been up to?

If you want to give a funny response to the question “What have you been up to,” you could say something like:

  • I’ve been living my best life.
  • Wouldn’t you like to know! (use this with caution; it could be considered flirtatious or rude)
  • Nothing of importance.
  • I’ve been trying to stay alive.
  • Just the same old things. You know, eating, sleeping, breathing.
  • Too much for my own good!
  • Where do I even begin?!
  • Where do I even start?!

“Wouldn’t You Like to Know” Meaning

This expression is spoken when someone feels secretive and doesn’t want to share what they’ve been up to. It could be considered rude and can be an indirect way of telling someone to mind their own business! However, the expression is mostly used in a suggestive or flirtatious manner.

“I’ve Been Doing Too Much for My Own Good” Meaning

This phrase is used to describe when someone has been doing too much, and it might be damaging for them. It can be used as a joke. For example, if you party too much, you might say this phrase.

“Where Do I Even Begin” Meaning

This phrase is used when there are so many things to tell it’s difficult to know where to start.

Example Conversation With the Phrase “What Have You Been up To”

Person A: Hi! It has been a while since I’ve seen you. What have you been up to?

Person B: I’ve been busy with work. I just got a new job, so I’ve been spending a lot of time at the office. But I’m doing well, thanks for asking.

Person A: That’s great! I’m happy to hear you’re doing well. Let me know if you ever want to get together for lunch or coffee.

Person B: Thanks, I will. Let’s arrange something soon. I’d love to catch up.

“What Have You Been Up To” in Texting

“What have you been up to” is also often used in text messages and online, sometimes shortened to “whatcha been up to.” It is usually a good conversation starter for anyone you haven’t seen in a while or want to make plans with. For example:

Person A: Hey! Whatcha been up to?

Person B: Not much. Just been hanging out at home. You?

Person A: I’ve been busy with work. Would you like to meet soon?

In texting, it is often followed by a question, such as “What about you?” or “What have you been up to?” or “You?”

Alternatives to “What Have You Been up To?”

There are many ways to ask someone about their recent activities. Here are some alternative ways to ask, “What have you been up to?”:

  • What’s new?
  • What’s been going on?
  • What’s been happening?
  • What have you been up to lately?
  • What’s been keeping you busy?
  • How’s it going?
  • How have you been?
  • Are you keeping well? (=have you been well/healthy/ok)

These are all friendly ways to inquire about someone’s recent activities. They mean more or less the same as “What have you been up to?”

“What Are You up To” vs. “What Have You Been up To”

“What have you been up to?” is in the present perfect tense, which is used to talk about past events that are connected to the present. The expression “what are you up to?” is in the present tense, which is used to talk about current events.

Here is an example of how you would use the two phrases:

Person A: Hi! I haven’t seen you in a while. What have you been up to?

Person B: I’ve been busy with work. I just got a new job, so I’ve been spending a lot of time at the office. But I’m doing well, thanks for asking.

Person A: That’s great! I’m happy to hear you’re doing well. Let me know if you ever want to get together for lunch or coffee.

In this example, Person A asks Person B about their past experiences (“what have you been up to?”). Person B then talks about their situation (“I’ve been busy with work”).

If Person A had asked, “what are you up to?” Person B would have discussed their current plans or activities. For example:

Person A: Hi! What are you up to?

Person B: I’m just finishing up some work. Would you like to go for lunch later?

Person A: That sounds great! I’m free after 2 pm.

Person B: Great, see you then!

In this example, Person A asks Person B about their current plans or activities (“what are you up to?”). Person B then talks about what they are doing now (“I’m just finishing up some work”). 

Learn more here: “What Are You Up To” Meaning and Response.

So, to sum up, the phrase “what have you been up to?” is used to ask about past experiences leading up to now, and the phrase “what are you up to?” is used to ask about current plans or activities.

In Conclusion

The expression “what have you been up to” is a common way to ask someone about their recent experiences or activities. It can be used as a conversation starter or as a way to catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

Do you have any other questions about the phrase “what have you been up to?” or other English phrases? Leave a comment below, and we will be happy to answer your question.

I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.

I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!

I enjoy traveling, nature walks, and soaking up a new culture. Please share the posts if you find them helpful!

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