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I have seen that there are certain ways to say 'how are you' in Russian. I understand the part where there is a formal you and an informal one. I also understand that they are conjugated differently.

What I do not understand, is the difference between these three formal ways:

  1. Как у вас дела?
  2. Как поживаете?
  3. Как ваши дела?

Same goes for the difference between these in the informal form.

  • Как у вас дела? Как поживаете? Как ваши дела? All of above are no longer in use. "Как дела?" - informal version. And nothing including "дела" or "поживаете" is good for formal use, such as official meeting. – Nadia Solovyeva Jun 15 '16 at 8:03
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    @НадеждаТарашкевич None of them is outdated, they all are in use, but just rarely than "как дела". – Abakan Jun 15 '16 at 8:39
  • @Alex.S, I was able to find only 1 sample which sounds naturally. "Как у вас дела?" when asking mother with a child. – Nadia Solovyeva Jun 15 '16 at 8:41
  • @НадеждаТарашкевич: Different social groups use different vocabulary. I know for a fact that the phrases are still used quite frequently. – Avi Gordon Jun 17 '16 at 10:03
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At the risk of repeating what's already been said: 'How are you' is almost not a question but a mere token of politeness akin to what 'How do you do' used to be. The one asking 'How are you' does not expect to hear in response how they really are. Opposite to that, when you use one of the Russian phrases you are asking about, you do expect some response ranging from a hollow 'ok' (неплохо, ничего) to a fairly detailed account. On that scale, the three phrases you suggest as 'translations' would be roughly ordered like this: 2, 3, 1. 2 expects a neutral-positive reply implying that everything is okay, 3 is a bit more involved, and 1 expresses yet more real interest. Still higher on that scale are questions about particular personal circumstanced (family, work, health etc.)

The bottom line is: the standard English exchange Hi, how are you -- Hello simply cannot be translated into Russian where any form of how are you implies some sort of interest and requires at least some sort of response.

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Let's say it again: nowadays Russian speakers do not have a totally neutral form of "How are you". Which means usually you do one of these:

  1. Informal way of saying "Hello". This rules out any formal stuff above. Say instead "Как жизнь?", "Как сам?", "Как ваше ничего?" etc.etc.
  2. Real asking of "how are you". This requires you to be more precise. Sort of "Как на работе?", "Как здоровье?", "Как дети?", "Что у вас нового?" etc.etc.

If I really needed to choose a neutral polite and totally uninformative form of "how are you", I'd rather go with "Как поживаете?"

In my opinion, both "Как ваши дела" and "Как у вас дела" require a slightly higher level of communication and should not be used as just the second sentence after saying "Hello". Though in general your ability to choose right intonation is much more important than the words you say.

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"How are you" does not have an exact analogue in Russian communication culture.

Как дела? - is a question asked when

  • Close friends or relatives meeting. Supposed answers are either "да всё как обычно/нормально" or "квартиру вот купил" (or another huge news) or "всё плохо" (if the things go wrong). It is still supposed that the person who asks that is really interested in how the things are going.

  • Meeting with a foreigner or with the one who follows foreign traditions. Answer is "Прекрасно, а у тебя?".

  • Date with a stranger. In this case, the question means "I'm bored, tell me something about yourself". Common answer is "лучше всех", which means that "I'm bored too, go tell something interesing yourself".

If you would rather have a small talk, you'd better start with:

  • Хорошая сегодня погода, а? (formal version is "Хорошая сегодня погода, не правда ли?");

  • Как [поживают] ваши дети/внуки?;

  • Как вы замечательно выглядите сегодня!

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  • Thank you, but the thing is: what are the differences between the formal ones I listed? – Gina Axella Jun 15 '16 at 8:22
  • No differences. All of them are outdated and no longer in use. Maybe there was a difference 30-50 years ago, but I'm not aware of it. *Correction. "Как у вас дела" could be used if addressing to a few persons, such as mother and a child. – Nadia Solovyeva Jun 15 '16 at 8:35

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