How to ask "How do you do?" in Latin. Quomodo te habes, is it common?
What other common greetings for the "How are you?" exist?

I have seen:

  • Quomodo es?
  • Quid agis?
  • Quomodo te habes?

I would not use quomodo es. It is a calque of the English phrase and does not strike me as sensible Latin. Of course, if someone finds attestations in reliable sources, I am ready to revert my opinion. Translated another way, quomodo es? is "in what way are you?", and that should give a hint at the unnatural nature of the phrase. Many idioms are unnatural but have become common, but the same turn of phrase is not necessarily sensible in all languages.

If you were to expand the English question "how are you?" to "how are you feeling?", you would get better translations. For example, quomodo vales? is a good way to ask for health. Mind you that I would take that as an actual question, not a mere greeting. Quomodo te habes? and ut vales? are essentially synonymous to it.

Quid agis? is a good question, but it's more directly "what are you doing?". I wouldn't use it for "how do you do?" or "how are you?" but "what's up?".

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    I think quid agis? is indeed the best match, often used like "what's up?". I would add ut vales? and ut valetur? for the "how are you feeling?" flavour. – Vincenzo Oliva Nov 7 '19 at 11:25
  • @VincenzoOliva Good point! I added ut vales as an option. I chose to leave the passive out for simplicity, and I'm sure I've overlooked something else too. There's always room to go beyond basics, but I think an elementary answer is worthwhile at least as one of the answers. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 7 '19 at 13:22
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    I wonder about Valesne? – Tim Lymington Nov 8 '19 at 18:17
  • @TimLymingtonsupportsMonica That sounds more like "Are you ok?" to me, not really a greeting. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 8 '19 at 18:38

quo vadis?

this is translated as "where are you going" in the bible, and is understood literally


  • vulgar latin can be expecte to use short forms, e.g. from quomodo "how". Also cp En where used for modalities, likewise Ger wo used for moments and rarely feelings (substandard).

  • where are you going is a reasonable greeting, anyway. If imperfect, it's not fixed to a certain time, but rather general; again, loss of cases can be expected for vulgar latin.

  • alternatively, there's nothing to say against quomodo, Vulgar Latin *quomo; cp French comment ca va "how it goes?", although -ment is yet something else; ca may be understood as equivalent to the self-reflexive pronoun, cp Ger "wie geht es dir"--more notable because of "to go" Latin too had already lost the middle voice, substituting other cases and reflexive constructions; perhaps we see se "self" in vadis.

  • qui "how" is probably too literal, inviting the answer "per pedes!?!".

  • The basic distinction between Proto-Indo-European "where", "who" and "how" can be reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European already, though.

I'm really just guessing. There are no quotables for vulgar Latin, pretty much by definition. I mean, one could probably look at plays for reasonably verbal quotes.

However, the supposed interpretation would have implications for the bible verse, if the answer meant "how I'm feeling you cannot follow" (through Hebrew and Greek; Highly unlikely, but impossible!?).

n. vado "shallow water, etc" exists in dativus and ablativus vadis; I recently heared that water-words should be one of the first words to exchange, if the question "where is water" is of utmost importance in foreign territory. That's extremely fringe. What was the question?

Ah yes, a completely transparent construction with sum, shouldn't be too hard to figure out. "How is it"?

quis erat (imperfect)

cp. que sera, sera / what ever will be, will be (futuro); also while we are in spanish, cp que va a pasar "what will happen" (futuro simple), shorter que pasa? "What's happ'nin'?"--if "to go" forms simple future tenses in many romance languages, then perhaps as an answer to an elliptic question "what's going [on]?".

If there's something to "go", then also cp L erre "to wander, rove", whence "error", akin Ger irren, so we can also cp "what's wrong?".

Ultimately, also compare


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    Where to begin…I've never seen quō vādis? used with any meaning except the very literal "where are you going?" (or "whither goest thou?" if you're archaic). Quī means "who", not "how". Vādis has no connection to , which is exclusively a third-person pronoun. "To the shallows" is vadīs, while "you go" is vādis. Erat is exclusively a past form; the present imperfective is est. And the word for "wander" is errāre, not *erre. – Draconis Dec 4 '19 at 23:41
  • @Draconis Strangely enough (and probably unbeknownst to the answerer), "qui" quite often means "how" in Plautus. I have a hard time believing this isn't just trolling, though. – brianpck Dec 4 '19 at 23:53
  • @brianpck Oh, fascinating. I'll have to ask another question about that. – Draconis Dec 4 '19 at 23:56
  • @Draconis: Comment, s'il vous plait? wiktionary lists qui under [[how#translations]] (viz. in what manner) is all I can say to that. My mistake. I later noticed that quis agens above is well acceptable. *se is a self-reflexive particle though. Other than that: Ouch! Maybe begin critique with positive remarks? – vectory Dec 5 '19 at 0:11
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    @vectory It's really not acceptable to post four answers in the space of a little time that only contain highly suspicious (and often demonstrably false) etymological speculation. This isn't a question of zeal but of doing minimal research before posting a misleading answer. – brianpck Dec 5 '19 at 13:18

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