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I was told by friend who is a native mainland speaker that "最近如何", or anything using "如何" to inquire about the state of a person, is a very ancient/formal way of speaking. This was quite a shock to me—I was taught this sentence quite early in my studies as a relaxed way of asking how someone was doing, although I think I learned it from a Taiwanese blog. He suggested using "最近怎样" instead, which he said is much less formal.

What is the social context of "如何"/"最近如何" in the mainland? Is it different than in Taiwan? Is it too formal/old to be used among friends? Is "最近怎样" more modern? When should I use which?

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    I don't feel any unnatural in a conversation, though yes, it's formal. – Stan Sep 9 '14 at 18:47
  • @Stan - It was literally like he didn't believe what I was saying, so I said it really slowly and he said that he understood what I said, but he didn't believe that I'd said it. I think maybe the etiquette around 如何 is different in HK/TW. – 赵永 Chris Down Sep 9 '14 at 19:15
  • I've been living in mainland China for 20+ years before staying in HK. I understand "formal or not" is a question that can have an objective answer, but differently, "feeling natural or not" is quite subjective. I can't see any difference between HK and mainland for the usage of "如何". And I just voted for "natural in a conversation", just a personal choice. – Stan Sep 10 '14 at 6:03
  • A blog is written language, but your friend is speaking. That is often what formal/informal comes down to, at least with these formal phrases which are actually taken from the classical language. – neubau Sep 12 '14 at 6:16
  • @赵永ChrisDown, in HK, we will say in Cantonese 最近點樣, but 最近如何 is also ok (a little bit odd though), but no one will say 最近怎樣 in Cantonese. Some similar "ancient/formal" words or phrases are seldom used in mainland china now but still quite common in TW/HK. For example, 閣下, 令堂, 令郎(令公子), 令千金 ... – velut luna Jan 28 '15 at 3:53
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IMO, 最近如何 is a little formal, while 最近怎么样 is much natural and genial.

Anyway, I think it's OK for a formal social occasion.

BTW: When 如何 is used in the context for how to do sth such as 如何刻录dvd, it's normal.

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"最近如何" is used by educated people, you will hear which in formal occasions. But if you are in entertaining places or simply walking along a street, then yes, "最近怎樣" will be more frequently heard.

This distinction may resemble the distinction between "How do you do" and "How's it going". Modern young kids seldom use "how do you do" to replace "how's it going".

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I am Chinese. If you asked me “最近如何”? I wouldn't feel it's formal at all.

There could be difference between these two in other contexts, but definitely not here.

Say if you want to write something in letter and want it to be formal. Try “最近可好”?

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