To ask someone, “How are you?” means to query about a person’s basic happiness, welfare and health. “How are we?” can be somewhat analogous. But the royal “we” serves to create a sharp divide between the group and the questioner. However, it can be suitable for questions referring to a group that includes yourself.
Even though the differences aren’t difficult in theory, using “how are we?” can have some conditions attached to it. In certain circumstances, you can come off elitist, snobbish or condescending if you aren’t careful.
About “How Are You?”
When you want to know about someone’s wellbeing, you ask, “How are you?” This can also operate as a tool to implement verbal or written exchanges. Regardless, it’s a polite way to begin a conversation or to say in passing. It shows your genuine concern for the people with which you interact.
About “How Are We?”
“How are we?” is a different kind of question. While you can say it to address a group of people, there is some care and nuance to exercise in using it. It can come off as haughty and hubris if used in the wrong context. It can leave the wrong impression.
This is because you are using the royal “we.” Known as the “majestic plural,” it’s common for someone in a position of authority to use it. Therefore, it’s okay to use if you are speaking to an audience but not so much when speaking to friends.
However, “How are we?” can start a question under the provision the questioner is also part of the group. But this is situational.
Examples of “How Are You?” vs “How Are We?”
“How Are You?
Hello Fred, how are you?
How are you doing today?
“How Are We?” as an Inquiry of Wellbeing
- Polite: Hello class, how are we today?
- Impolite: Hello Nancy! And how are we today?
“How Are We” as a General Inquiry
How are we getting to Mexico without any money?
How are we to believe the news when they have outright lied before?
“How are you?” and “How are we?” can help you gauge someone’s health, happiness, and comfort at the moment of asking it. But “How are we?” can project arrogance and assumption. Yet it can be a general question to ask on a situational basis that includes yourself.