Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Do you need to talk to someone in English about your health?

Do you want to be able to ask other people about their health in English?

Health can be a touchy subject.

It can be personal and you might offend someone if you ask about it in the wrong way.

Today we’ll show you exactly how to open up the topic of health in American English and the right phrases to do it without offending the person or making them feel uncomfortable.

Here is a question from our listener:

Hi. My name is Yoko, your new listener. I really love your podcast! I have a question.

I always text my American friend who was my host mother a long long time ago and talk about how I feel today or how her migraine is, etc.

I try to express my health condition but I am not sure if I am choosing the right word. So I want to know expressions you Americans often

use to describe how you feel physically and mentally, like feeling ill or something like that.

Thank you.

-Yoko, AEE Listener


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Don’t give too much detail to the wrong person in American culture:

Make sure you are giving detail to the right people. You have to know them well.

In American culture we often ask acquaintances “how are you?” but unless it’s a close friend/family member it’s meant to be more of a greeting and they expect to hear “doing good and you? Or “great how about you?”

If you go into too much detail, especially if something is wrong with the wrong person it could be too much information.


What if you’re talking to the right person?

So in Yoko’s case it sounds like it’s legitimate to go into detail about health.

Just check in and make sure that the other person is reciprocating in the level of detail they are putting into their emails or into the conversation about health.


How to talk about your health if you have a problem:

-So how have you been feeling?

-How is everything with your health?

-Are you feeling any better?


-I’m not feeling so hot these days

-I’ve been better or (“been better”)

-I haven’t been feeling so great lately

-I’m still battling these migraines, stomach aches, etc


American cultural tip:

Try to end on a positive note. This is a weird quirk in American culture but it’s linked to the mentality of overcoming challenges and being positive and optimistic.

  • (Details about your condition)…”But I’m trying to stay positive”
  • “But at least….” (“…but at least I can still go to work every day” or “…but at least these painkillers that I am taking work pretty well”)


You should finish by asking the other person about their health or about something else in their life.


The American mentality of “fighting” illness:

We also tend to use a lot of intense words to talk about things like cancer

  • To fight cancer
  • To battle cancer
  • To beat cancer


What about in your culture?

Is it expected that you’ll end a conversation about health (and other topics) on a positive note?

Does your culture use aggressive words to talk about cancer and other serious illnesses?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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