Learn Spanish: Greetings
How to Speak Spanish: Greetings
Maybe you're an adult who wants to learn Spanish a little better. Perhaps you're still in school, but would like a refresher on some of the basics.
Whatever the case may be, learning a few greetings in Spanish can not only help you when you interact with Spanish speakers in your own country, such as in the United States, but also when you travel abroad.
The Spanish language has a number of ways you can greet people and this article aims to give you plenty of different ways of communicating.
Greetings in Spanish are called "saludos." You can watch the video I created to help you with the correct pronunciation; look below.
Interesting Facts About Spanish Greetings
- Many Spanish-speaking people will shorten the "Buenos días" to just "Buenas" - which literally means "Greetings."
- "Buenos días" is usually used until around noontime. Then people will say "Buenas tardes" late into the evening.
- Think of "buenas noches" as "good night," - when you might use that phrase in retiring for the evening or going to bed.
Los Saludos: Greetings In Spanish
Many people are already familiar with three basic greetings in Spanish, depending on the time of day:
- Buenos días - Good day, or good morning.
- Buenas tardes - Good afternoon.
- Buenas noches - Good evening.
Spanish has one basic word for hello or hi:
- ¡Hola! - Hi! or Hello!
Just as in English, usually after saying "hello" or "good morning" many people add, "how are you?" It is the same in Spanish.
In Spanish, however, there are two main variations: formal and informal. Generally, if you don't know someone, it's a good idea to use a formal greeting. Of course, there are more variations than this (such as the vosotros form used in Spain), but rather than bog you down with lots of extraneous information, we'll stick to the basics here:
- ¿Cómo está? - How are you? (formal)
- ¿Cómo estás? - How are you? (informal)
- ¿Qué tal? - How are you? (informal)
Spanish Speaking Countries and Areas
Formal Spanish vs. Informal - When to Use Each One?
Every country in the Spanish-speaking world has different customs as to when you should address someone formally or informally.
For example, in Mexico, people will use the formal "usted" form when they don't know each other, but will use the informal "tú" more quickly than in Spain, for example.
The best course of action is study the country you're visiting to get an idea of local customs.
However, it's not always possible to do that. So what do you do?
It's always best to default to the formal "usted" usage and then as you begin speaking with people, follow their lead. If they begin to use the "tú" form, then follow suit.
Note: in many countries, there are other variations. For example, in many Central American countries, people will use "vos" instead of "tú" and in Spain, they will use "vosotros" when addressing a group of friends informally.
Not to worry!
People are generally very understanding when they know you're learning and attempting to speak their language. If you goof, it's not a big deal. Just smile and keep going.
Responses to Greetings
When you respond to someone who's asking how you are, think about how you'd do it in English. Most of the time, greetings are a courtesy, right?
In English, a basic conversation might go like this:
Hi! Good morning. How are you?
I'm fine, thanks. How are you?
But, as you know, the actual responses you can use are unlimited. For now, we'll just keep it simple.
When you hear the more formal phrase, "Hola, ¿Como está?" here are some appropriate responses:
- Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y usted? - I'm fine, thank you. And you?
You can use the phrase above like a formula, substituting the word "bien" for other common Spanish words:
Estoy _____, gracias. ¿Y usted?
Examples of common words you could use:
- Regular - all right.
- Muy bien - very well.
- Feliz - happy.
- Así-así - so-so.
- Más o menos - so-so
- Triste - sad
- Terrible - terrible
- Mal - not well.
When you're talking with a friend or younger sibling, you can use more informal Spanish. If you hear the less formal phrases, "Hola, ¿Cómo estás?" or "Hola, ¿Qué tal? a standard response would be:
- Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?
Like the formal response above, this is also a formula. You can sustitute other words in for "bien:"
Estoy _____, gracias. ¿Y tú?
You could then fill in the formula with any of the examples of common words just above:
Estoy regular, gracias. ¿Y tú?
Listen to the Greetings in Spanish - a video I created.
A Formal Conversation:
ARTURO: Hola, Doña Lucía. ¿Cómo está?
LUCÍA: Estoy muy bien, gracias. ¿Y usted?
ARTURO: Estoy excelente, gracias.
An Informal Conversation 1:
PACO: Hola, Pedro. ¿Qué tal?
PEDRO: Así-así, Paco. Gracias. ¿Y tú?
PACO: Estoy regular, gracias.
Informal Conversation 2:
FELIPE: Hola, Juana. ¿Cómo estás?
JUANA: ¡Estoy feliz, Felipe! ¿Y tú?
FELIPE: Bien, bien, gracias.
As you can see, in these mini-conversations, sometimes words are left out: it's a natural part of normal communication.
In informal conversation 1, Pedro doesn't have to say "estoy" because it's redundant: we know Paco is speaking to Pedro.
More Spanish Greetings Practice
Once you have watched the video listening to how to pronounce the words for greetings, say them out loud several times to yourself.
Spend a few minutes reciting each conversation to help you learn the responses even better.
Then, once you feel confident, take the quiz to see what you remember! Don't worry if you don't do perfectly: what matters is that you're learning and trying.
Quiz on Spanish Greetings
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What about the end of the conversation? It's a kind of greeting, isn't it?
There are a few ways you can say to say good-bye to someone in Spanish:
- Adiós - good-bye (literally: to God).
- Hasta luego - see you later.
- Hasta mañana - see you tomorrow.
- Ciao or Chao - ciao (This is a word adopted into Spanish; it's orginally Venetian. There are variations on the spelling in English and in Spanish and it's sometimes used as "hello" in Italian!)
© 2014 Cynthia Calhoun