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How to use “Where are you from?”

How to use “Where are you from?”

“Where are you from?” is a common question used in everyday conversations, especially among people who are talking to each other for the first time. Find out everything about how to use this question in a conversation in this article.

What does “Where are you from?” mean?

In general, the question means asking you what place you were born in or what place you spent most of your life before you came to your current place.

The question can mean different things depending on the context. For example-

  • If you are being asked this question by someone who is obviously from the same country as you, then it can mean: which city are you from? 
  • If you are in a different country than the one you were born in and a native asks you this question, then it simply means: which country are you from?
  • If you are an American, then this question is likely being asked: which state are you from?

What is the difference between “Where are you from?” and “Where do you live?”

There is a clear difference between the two types of questions, though both are asking for a location.

“Where are you from?” is usually used when you are asking about someone’s birthplace. You will ask this because you believe the person is from a different city, state, or country than where the two of you are meeting.

“Where do you live?” is for when you are asking for someone’s address. It can be a specific address or just which locality they live in.

However, it’s worth noting that “Where do you live?” can mean the same thing as “Where are you from?” in online conversations. If you are talking to someone online and they are from a different country, then asking them, “Where do you live?” means asking which country they are from.

What is the difference between “Where are you from?” and “Where do you come from?”

Both questions carry the exact same meaning and can be used alternatively. The latter is just less commonly used. In a specific context, however, the question “Where do you come from?” can carry a different meaning than “Where are you from?”

Suppose you are late to work. When you are asked why you’re late, you say it was because you lived far away and faced unforeseen traffic. In this case, the other person can ask you, “Where do you come from?”

Here, it means where your address is or which place you commute to work from to determine how far you live. Basically, the same meaning as “Where do you live?”

What is the difference between “Where do you come from?” and “Where did you come from?”

Structurally speaking, the only difference is the tense. The first sentence asks you a question in the present tense, and the second one in the past tense. But most of the time, the two questions are used in different contexts.

As discussed earlier, “Where do you come from?” is an alternative to “Where are you from?” or “Where do you live?”

“Where did you come from?” is generally used to inquire about someone’s immediate previous location. It carries the same meaning as “Where did you go?” or “Where were you?”

For example, if someone has come home after a few hours of absence, you can ask them this question to inquire where they are coming from, as in, where they were before they came home.

Different variations of “Where are you from?”

There are multiple ways to ask the same thing with a differently phrased question. It depends on the situation which one you should use.

  • Being more specific: Are you asking for the person’s country, state, or city? Depending on that, the questions can be:
  • Which country are you from?
  • Which state are you from?
  • Which city are you from?
  • Shortening it: In casual and informal conversations, you will often hear people shortening the question by skipping the ‘are.’
  • Where you from?
  • Asking for place of birth: If you don’t want people to misunderstand, you can simply specify what you are inquiring with the question. For this, you can phrase the question like-
  • Where were you born?

Or a more formal version of this question, less applicable for everyday conversations, would be-

  • Where is your birthplace?
  • Asking for confirmation: If you’re not sure whether the person is from a different place, asking “Where are you from?” might not be appropriate. In that case, a more polite way to ask the same thing can be by acting as if you are wondering if the person is from here or not. For example, if you and the person are currently in New York, then you can ask-
  • Are you from New York?
  • Are you a New Yorker?
  • Are you from around here?
  • Making a polite guess: If you are guessing that the person is from a specific place depending on certain characteristics they are showing, for example- then you can politely ask it this way-
  • Are you from Scotland, by any chance?
  • Are you perhaps Indian?

How to respond to “Where are you from?”

The standard response to the question can be, “I’m from [name of place].”

For example, “I’m from Germany.” Or “I was born in Germany.”

You can mention the name of the city and country together. “I’m from Berlin, Germany.”

In a casual conversation, you can respond with simply the name of the place without the I’m from. You can also elaborate on your answer by describing the place. “I’m from Bangladesh; it’s a small country in South Asia.”

If the question is asking you if you’re from a specific place, just add a Yes or No in the beginning and then tell your answer. Like “Yes, I’m a New Yorker” or “No, I’m from Texas.”

The follow-up question to keep the conversation going could be-

  • What about you?
  • Where are you from?
  • Have you heard of [the place]?
  • Have you ever been to [the place]?

Conversational example with “Where are you from?”

Here is a short and casual conversation using the question and its different variations in multiple contexts-

A: You don’t sound like you’re from around here. Where are you from?

B: You’re right. I’m actually from Busan.

A: Oh, were you born there?

B: No, I was born in Changwon, but my family moved to Busan when I was very young.

A: Oh, I’m from Changwon too!

B: Do you still live there?

A: No, I moved to Seoul last year for work.

B: Where do you live now?

A: Nowon-gu. You should come over sometime.

B: I’m not sure, because I am staying far from here.

A: Where do you come from?

B: Guro.

A: That really is far.

C: What are you guys talking about?

A: Where did you come from?

C: I just finished my shift at the bar. I’m on my way home.

B: Speaking of, you’re not from Seoul either, right? Where are you from?

C: Jeju Island, also called the Island of the Gods!

So now you can use this simple question easily in conversations.

Catch you again,