What Is the Meaning and How To Answer “What Are You Up To”

What Is the Meaning and How To Answer “What Are You Up To”

In this generation, there are a lot of words that can confuse us because there are a lot of possible meanings and interpretations associated with them. For example, the word “arm.” If we hear someone say “arm,” then we will immediately think of it as the part of a human body. But “arm” also has another meaning besides that which is weapon provider or supplier. It also has other meanings besides that, but it just shows that a lot of words that we know do not end with a single meaning behind them. Just like the words “what are you up to.”

We often hear the words “what are you up to” from a lot of people around us. We also say it to others until it already became a habit. Those words are usually translated as “what are you doing” but nowadays, the meaning of those words differs depending on the tone of voice and situation. Read on to understand this better! 

What Does “What Are You Up To” Mean?

Here are some of the possible translations! 


It might be far from the words “what are you up to,” but it can also be interpreted as a greeting. Some of us just start the conversation with “what are you up to” instead of “hi” or “hello” since it has a higher possibility of making the conversation longer. 

It is also a greeting because it will look like you are asking them for how their day is going or how their past days went. 

What are you doing?

This is the most common interpretation of it because when you say “up to,” then it basically means “doing.” You can take it as someone asking you what you are currently doing on your office desk or it depends where your location is when they asked you. 

What have you been busy with lately?

This is more accurate if the question asked to you was “what have you been up to?” This means that they are asking if you have done anything recently like arranging documents or going somewhere. It can also mean that they want to know if you have been doing something that is still in progress. 

What are you planning?

It can mean this way when they asked you the question during a time when you were planning something like a meeting or a vacation. For example, you are planning for a vacation and you’re currently searching the internet for places to go when someone suddenly popped behind you and asked the question. 

If you were in a deep thought because of a problem that recently came and your friend suddenly came up to you and asked, it can also be thought of as “what are you planning?” 

Are you planning something mischievous?

You can tell it from their tone of voice if the interpretation falls under this category. It’s also obvious that they meant this when you’re smiling mischievously, which makes them think that you’re planning something to prank someone or you’re thinking of an evil plan. 

For example, you and your friend saw a prank video on Youtube and you suddenly looked at her with that smile and that obvious look on your face. She will smile back at you as she asks you the question. 

How are you?

This is also just like a greeting to someone. Instead of saying “how are you,” you will ask them what they are up to instead. This can be used when you only saw each other yesterday, then you bumped into each other again. Instead of asking “how are you,” you’ll end up asking the other question, which makes it seem like you’re asking what they are going to do today. 

“How are you” is more appropriate when someone is going through a difficult time or when you haven’t seen each other for a while. It’s also used when you are only acquainted with each other, so that it won’t be too awkward for the both of you. 

How To Properly Respond To It

Here are some of the examples you can read to have a clear understanding of the interpretations listed! 

Example #1: Hi/Hello

For example, imagine coming up to someone you know and greeting them with these words.

Marie: Hey, what are you up to?

Vicky: Hey! I was just about to go to work. 

This is how it can go when you started it with that kind of greeting. When we see someone close to us, we don’t usually go with “hi” or “hello” since it will feel like you just met for the first time, or it can feel like you’re just acquainted with each other. We often start it with something straight that can immediately make the conversation going. 

Example #2: What are you doing?

For example, you are currently completing your designs for a task that your boss told you to do. Then a colleague stopped in front of your desk and pointed at what you’re doing. 

John: Hey, what are you up to right now?

Lucy: Just finishing up these designs that my superior gave me. 

There was no other way to interpret what John said. He was basically asking what you were doing, and he also pointed directly at your task. Unless, you wanted to assume that he was thinking of something else when he asked you that question. 

Example #3: What have you been busy with lately?

For example, you saw someone you were once close with on a high school reunion. The both of you were hitting it off with all the memories you went through together during your school days, then she popped the question. 

Blake: So, what have you been up to lately?

Shaun: I’m actually a real estate agent now. 

There are also different examples for this one. It depends on the situation you have. Another example is when your colleagues notice that you are always going home early for the past few weeks. One of them will suddenly ask you what you’ve been up to, which means that they want to know what you have been busy with to make you go home early lately. 

Example #4: What are you planning?

For example, your son’s birthday is coming up and you were checking out all the best venues for a surprise. 

Rick: Hey, what’s that?

Dianne: Oh, my son’s birthday is coming up.

Rick: That’s great! So, what are you up to?

Dianne: I’m actually preparing a surprise for him, so I’m checking out all of these venues. 

Answering that kind of question depends on how your conversation is going. This is not often used as an interpretation for “planning” since it’s easier to just ask “what’s your plan?” But it can also be used depending on the person. 

This can also be used when you are currently planning something for a business meeting and you’re deep in thought as you continue to arrange the documents, then your partner for the presentation asked you “so, what are you up to?” It means that she’s asking you what you’re planning to do for the upcoming meeting. 

Example #5: Are you planning something mischievous?

For example, there is a group of kids bothering you. They were always ruining the plants on your garden. They were plucking everything and just tossing them around which makes it even harder for you because you have to tend to your plants, and also clean the mess they made by making a mess of the plants. 

Then a friend visited you and you were telling her what those kids were doing, then the both of you watched something on what to do to kids who are too naughty. Then you looked at your friend with a mischievous smile. 

Olivia: I know that smile. What are you up to right now?

Becky: You know very well what I’m up to right now. 

You can tell just by their voice when they are asking you if you’re planning a prank or something because of the tone they are giving you. This is also used by parents when they see their kids holding something dangerous, and they immediately know that their kid is up to something bad, so they end up asking that question. 

Example #6: How are you?

For example, the both of you just saw each other at work yesterday and you saw each other again while you’re on your way to buy your daily groceries. 

Jake: Hey! What are you up to today?

Tina: I’m on why to the groceries right now. How about you?

This is also like a greeting when you see someone you know. Instead of saying “how are you” when you just saw each other yesterday, it’s better to ask them what they are doing for the day. Asking “how are you” will not be appropriate for this kind of situation. 

Key Takeaways

You can tell by the tone of their voice, the situation, and conversation if the meaning of their “what are you up to” falls in line with any of the interpretations mentioned in the article. You can read this again as reference if you’re having trouble of identifying the meaning of the words. 

Also read Why do you want to work here? (Best Sample Answers)

What Is the Meaning and How To Answer “What Are You Up To”

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