In every social situation that we experience, the very first thing that we need to do is greeting.
Using an appropriate greeting according to our interlocutor, the time of day, and the formality or informality of the occasion is very important in order to show respect and make a good first impression.
Today you will learn how to say hello in Spanish in different situations:
- when we first meet someone
- when we haven’t seen someone for a long time
- when meeting friends and acquaintances
- and in formal contexts such as a business meeting.
1. The 4 Most Common Ways to Say Hello in Spanish
Luckily, there are ways to say hello in Spanish in every social situation. Keeping these lifesaving expressions at hand will help you when you’re not sure how to greet.
Say Hello in Spanish: ¡hola!
This is the most usual way to say hello in Spanish. You can use it to address anyone in both formal and informal contexts in all Spanish-speaking regions at any time of the day.
When saying hola, just keep in mind that the consonant h is silent in Spanish.
Check out these examples:
- Hola, Ramiro. ¡Tanto tiempo! (Hello Ramiro. It’s been a while!)
- Hola. Tengo una cita con el Dr. Oertlin. (Hello. I have an appointment with Dr. Oertlin.)
Buenos días / Buen día (LatAm) – (Good morning)
“Buenos días” is used as a morning greeting until around midday (approximately until 1 p.m.), meaning “Good morning” in English.
On the other hand, “Buen día” is a more general greeting used throughout the day but mainly in the morning, particularly in Latin American Spanish, and translates to “Good morning” and “Good day” in English.
It’s important to consider cultural and regional variations in greetings.
Look at the examples:
- Buenos días. ¿Qué tal todo? (Good morning. How’s it all going?)
- Buen día. ¿Se encuentra el doctor? (Good morning. Is the doctor in?)
Buenas tardes (Good afternoon)
Typically, “Buenas tardes” is used from around midday (approximately 12 p.m. or 1 p.m., depending on the region) until the evening, before it becomes dark.
It’s a polite and common way to greet someone during the afternoon hours.
Use these greetings in context:
- Buenas tardes. ¡Qué lindo verte! (Good afternoon. Good to see you!)
- Buenas tardes, doctor. (Good afternoon, doctor.)
Buenas noches (Good evening / Good night)
People use “Buenas noches” as a greeting in the evening and at night. It can be translated as either “Good evening” or “Good night” in English, depending on the context.
The specific usage of “Buenas noches” can vary depending on cultural and regional factors. Generally, it is used when greeting someone as the day transitions from late afternoon to nighttime, and it continues to be used throughout the night.
It is a polite way to greet someone during the evening hours and to bid them farewell before going to bed.
- Buenas noches a todos. (Good night, everyone.)
Lifesaving Greetings and Expressions in Spanish
These are great lifesaving expressions to use in formal and informal contexts in all Spanish-speaking countries.
Depending on the time it is you can say:
- Buenos días (Good morning): This expression is used during the morning until noon. Yet sometimes the boundaries are not so clear and in different countries it might be heard until 1, 2, or even 3 p.m. In Latin America (but not in Spain) it is also very common to hear the singular version Buen día. This shortened version of the phrase is used more frequently in casual or informal situations, such as when addressing friends, family, or acquaintances. The regional differences in saying “buenos dias” and “buen dia” reflect the cultural diversity of Latin America. In some countries, people value formality and respect in their interactions with others, while in others, they prioritize friendliness and informality. More ways to say good morning in Spanish here.
- Buenas tardes (Good afternoon): This expression is used until the sun goes down. Once it is dark, we switch to Buenas noches.
- Buenas noches (Good evening / Good night): Spanish lacks a term to refer to the evening, so Buenas noches is used from the evening until we go to bed.
We can use all of these expressions when we arrive at a place as well as when we leave.
2. Say Hello in Informal Contexts
There are lots of ways of saying hello in Spanish in informal occasions. As we have seen hola is the standard, but depending on the region and the age of the speakers the options multiply.
Saying hello in Spanish in informal occasions
|To address people in all contexts at any time of the day.|
Shortened form of “buenos días, buen día, buenas tardes, buenas noches”
¿Qué pasa? (Spain)
¿Qué onda? (Mexico)
Quihubo (Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador)
(very colloquial) (Venezuela)
¿Qué contás? (Argentina)
All these expressions are highly colloquial.
Of them, ¿Qué tal? is probably the most general and you can use in any country you visit.
|¡Ey!||Hey!||We generally use it when we run into somebody and we are surprised, or when we’re trying to call someone’s attention.|
¿Cómo te va?
|How are you?||Common to all Spanish- speaking countries|
A bit more informal than ¿Cómo estás?
Can’t get enough of these alternatives? Check out this Spring Spanish video (a language learning platform I co-founded) where teacher María Fernanda shows you how people say hello in Spanish from Mexico:
3. How to Greet Someone in Formal Situations
A formal situation is one in which we need to address someone higher in hierarchy, an older person, or a person that we’re meeting for the first time. The ways to say hello in Spanish in any of these cases include the use of the formal pronoun usted (formal you), instead of the informal tú or vos (Rioplatense Spanish).
Also, we will avoid certain colloquial expressions in favor of others that are more appropriate. So, for example, we will prefer “Buenos días”, “Buenas tardes”, or “Buenas noches” to “Hola”.
And when asking how our interlocutor is, we will need to use the correct conjugation of the verb to agree with the person “usted”.
- “Buenos días, Sr. Enrique. ¿Cómo está (usted) hoy?” – (Good morning, Mr. Enrique. How are you today?)
- “Buenas noches, Doña Elvira. ¿Cómo anda (usted)?” – (Good evening, Mrs. Elvira. How are you?)
Use these Spanish expressions in formal situations
|Buenos días||Used in formal situations to address someone higher in hierarchy or a person we’re meeting for the first time||“Buenos días, Sr. Enrique. ¿Cómo está (usted) hoy?” (Good morning, Mr. Enrique. How are you today?)|
|Buenas tardes||Used in formal situations to address someone higher in hierarchy or a person we’re meeting for the first time||“Buenas tardes, Sra. González. ¿Cómo se encuentra (usted)?”|
(Good afternoon, Mrs. González. How are you?)
|Buenas noches||Used in formal situations to address someone higher in hierarchy or a person we’re meeting for the first time, when arriving or leaving a place||“Buenas noches, Doña Elvira. ¿Cómo anda (usted)?”|
(Good evening, Mrs. Elvira. How are you?)
|¿Cómo está (usted)?||Formal way of asking someone how they are doing||“Buenos días, Señor García. ¿Cómo está (usted) hoy?” (Good morning, Mr. García. How are you today?)|
|¿Cómo se encuentra (usted)?||Formal way of asking someone how they are doing||“Buenas tardes, Dr. Gutiérrez. ¿Cómo se encuentra (usted) hoy?” (Good afternoon, Dr. Gutiérrez. How are you today?)|
4. How to Introduce Yourself When Meeting Someone
When being introduced to a new person, we can say:
- Encantado/a de conocerlo/la. – (Nice to meet you.)
- Mucho gusto. – (Pleased to meet you.)
The other person will most probably reply:
- El gusto es mío. – (The pleasure is mine.)
- Igualmente. – (Likewise.)
5. Boost Your Spanish Fluency with Conversation-Based Chunking!
Like in most languages, there are many ways to say hello in Spanish. Start with a simple hola, then learn to add in more nuance and awareness about levels of formality as you improve your Spanish.
Make sure to also get your free Spanish Chunking Starter Pack, where I show you a 4-step method to learn Spanish without having to memorize word lists and grammar rules.
It comes with tutorial videos for Conversation Based Chunking ™, resource lists to get you started, and much more. Conversation Based Chunking™ is currently being used by hundreds of thousands of students across the world with great results.
If you want to get fluent in Spanish, I recommend you check out the free starter pack and start implementing the methodology in your studies 🙂