Spanish Greetings or How to Say Hello in Spanish | Lingvist (2024)

If you’ve ever tried to use your foreign language skills with native speakers, you know that how you handle the initial greeting is a crucial moment. It often determines whether they continue in the foreign language or switch to English. The typical gap between utterances in human conversation is a mere 200 milliseconds, after which speakers generally sense that something has gone awry and start to look for a solution (repeating themselves, rephrasing, or switching to another language).

If you want to learn Spanish, you must know that Spanish greetings vary widely, depending on the time of day, context, and your relationship with the person. As well as being a farewell, ‘good night’ in Spanish (buenas noches) is a way to say hello in many countries after the sun goes down.

So, how can you recognize the greeting and reply with the appropriate response, all within 200 milliseconds?

  1. Use this breakdown of greetings based on the occasion.
  2. Become familiar with Spanish pronunciation and vocabulary by learning Spanish online with Lingvist.
  3. Don’t be afraid to use “¿Perdón?” if you get stuck.

Formality Guide

FormalUsed with people you are meeting for the first time, are older than you, or that you want to demonstrate respect forProfessors, in-laws, the CEO of your company, the elderly
Slightly formalUsed with those you don’t know personally or you want to demonstrate respect forShopkeepers, bank tellers, your boss, family members you don’t see often
InformalUsed when meeting new peers; with friends/acquaintances, classmates, colleaguesYour friend’s friends, family members
Very informalUsed in social settings such as bars or sports teams with those you already knowClose friends and family members close in age
NeutralAppropriate in all settingsAnyone

Initial Greetings

Below are the most common ways in which an interaction with a Spanish speaker is likely to begin. These will come in handy for travelers in Spanish-speaking countries or to encourage Spanish speakers to use basic Spanish expressions with you. Have your watch (“reloj”) handy, as these expressions are time-sensitive (as in the time of day).

Buenos/Buenas: In “Good —” expressions, you’ll notice that the plural form is used. Keep this in mind when choosing between buenos and buenas for feminine and masculine words that follow.

SpanishEnglish equivalentLiteral translationContextFormality
HolaHelloHelloStandard greetingNeutral
Buenos díasGood morningGood (pl.) daysMornings (until 12:00 p.m. noon)Slightly formal
Buenas tardesGood afternoonGood (pl.) afternoonsUntil the sun goes down / depends on the countrySlightly formal
Buenas nochesGood night/Good eveningGood (pl.) nightsAfter the sun goes down / after dinnertime; could be used as a farewellSlightly formal
Muy buenas/buenasShort version of all the aboveVery good(pl.)/Good (pl.)Any time, as an informal “hello” (like shortening to “Morning” or “Afternoon”)Informal

Introductions and Welcome

If this is your first time meeting someone, you’ll need to know how to respond to these expressions!

Igualmente: When someone says “Nice to meet you” using one of the expressions found below, you can reply with “Igualmente” (literally “equally”).

Me llamo…: When someone asks your name, reply with “Me llamo [first name].”

SpanishEnglish equivalentLiteral translationContextFormality
¿Cómo se llama (usted)?What’s your name?How you (second person singular formal pronoun) are called?IntroductionsFormal
¿Cómo te llamas?What’s your name?How you (second person singular pronoun) are called?IntroductionsInformal
Mucho gustoPleasure/Nice to meet youMuch pleasureIntroductionsNeutral
Encantado/ encantadaPleasure (to meet you)CharmedUsed mainly in SpainNeutral
Encantado/a de conocerlePleasure to meet youCharmed to know youUsed mainly in SpainFormal


WelcomeGood coming: from a combination of “bien” + “venidos” (venir needs to be inflected for gender and number of people)IntroductionsNeutral
Mi casa es tu casaMake yourself at homeMy house is your houseVisiting someone’s houseInformal

Secondary Greeting / Checking In

After you’ve given some form of salutation, it’s polite to ask how someone is doing. Bypassing this can be perceived as rude. In certain Latin American countries, it’s considered impolite not to individually greet and say goodbye to each person in a group.

When asked how you are, the most common response is: “Estoy muy bien, gracias” (I am very well, thank you). Just as in English, it is uncommon to reply with “Mal” (bad), even if you aren’t 100%. You can use something like “No muy bien” or “Regular” to reply that things could be better.

Cheek-kissing: If you’re in a situation where you are using one of these secondary greetings, chances are you are meeting someone with whom you will have more continued contact (rather than a quick “Buenas tardes” to a shopkeeper), and it may be customary to give an “air kiss” on the cheek. If you’re male, it’s expected that you shake hands with other males and “kiss” females on each cheek in greeting. Females generally give “kisses” (“besos”) to everyone. Of course, this varies depending on the country and context, so it’s always best to wait for someone else to initiate and follow their lead.

SpanishEnglish equivalentLiteral translationContextFormality
¿Cómo estás (tú)?How are you?How are you?How are you? After you have given an initial greetingNeutral
¿Cómo estáis vosotros?How are you?How are you?More common in SpainNeutral
¿Cómo está usted?How are you?How are you?More common in Latin AmericaSlightly formal
¿Cómo te va?/¿Cómo vas?How’s it going?How you (second person singular pronoun) goAny timeVery informal
¿Qué haces?What’s up? / What are you up to? / What are you doing? What do you do?What you do?Depending on the conversation, they may be asking what you do, what you are currently doing, or just giving a general greetingInformal
¿Qué pasa?What’s happening?What is passing/happening?Can also mean “What’s the matter?”Informal
¿Cómo va tu día?How is your day going?How goes your day?Great for messaging or textingInformal
¿Qué tal?What’s up?How such?Just like “What’s up?” in English, people don’t always expect a responseInformal
¿Dónde has estado?Where have you been?Where have you been?Not a literal question; used for someone you haven’t seen in a whileInformal
¡Hace tiempo que no te veo!Long time no see!It’s been time that I haven’t seen youAny timeInformal


Heading out? Use these expressions to signal your departure or wish someone farewell. Note that “baby” is not, in fact, mandatory at the end of “Hasta la vista,” but we trust you’ll use your judgement…

Adiós: Although you’ve probably heard “adiós” as the primary way of saying goodbye, it’s actually similar to the finality of “goodbye” in English and is most appropriate when you don’t plan to see the person for a while (or ever again – think breakup).

SpanishEnglish equivalentLiteral translationContextFormality
AdiósGoodbyeGoodbye (from “to god”)To someone you won’t see for a long time, like at an airportNeutral
Chao/ChauByeBorrowed from the Italian “ciao”Some people compare this to the use of “peace” in EnglishVery informal
Nos vemosWe’ll see each other (soon)We seeAny timeNeutral
Hasta mañanaSee you tomorrowUntil tomorrowAny timeNeutral
Hasta la próxima semanaSee you next weekUntil the next weekAny timeNeutral
Hasta el lunesSee you on MondayUntil MondayAny timeNeutral
Hasta luegoSee you laterUntil thenAs in English, not necessarily taken literallyNeutral
Hasta prontoSee you soonUntil soonAs in English, not necessarily taken literallyNeutral
Hasta la vistaSee you soonUntil we see each otherAny timeNeutral
Hasta ahoraSee you in a minuteUntil nowAny timeInformal

Answering the Phone

Don’t be caught off guard when you hear one of the following on the other end of the line:

SpanishEnglish equivalentLiteral translationContextFormality
¿Aló?HelloHelloMainly in Latin America (common in Venezuela and Colombia)Neutral
BuenoHelloGoodMainly in Latin America (common in Mexico)Informal
YesYesWhen answering the phoneInformal
DigaTell meSay itCommon in SpainInformal

Written Letters or Emails

Use the colon ( : ) rather than a comma ( , ) after an introductory greeting when writing a letter in Spanish.

SpanishEnglish equivalentLiteral translationContextFormality
Estimado señor/señora/señores:Dear Sir/Madam/All,Esteemed sir/madam/allFormal lettersFormal
Estimado Sr./Sra./Srta. [last name]:Dear Mr./Mrs./Miss [last name],Esteemed Mr./Mrs./Miss [last name],Formal lettersFormal
Distinguido señor (/etc.):Dear Sir(/etc.),Distinguished sirVery formal lettersFormal
Muy señor mío/señores míos:Dear Sir/Sirs(/etc.),Very sir myVery formal lettersFormal
Le/Les saludo atentamente,Yours faithfully/sincerely,I greet you attentivelyFormal lettersFormal
Atentamente/Muy atentamente,Yours faithfully/sincerely,Attentively/Very AttentivelyFormal lettersFormal
Atentos saludos de,Yours faithfully/sincerely,Attentive greetings fromFormal lettersFormal
Reciba un cordial saludo de,Yours faithfully/sincerely,Receiving a cordial greeting fromFormal letters: once a relationship has been establishedFormal
En espera de su respuesta, le/les saludo atentamente.I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely,Waiting for your answerFormal lettersFormal
Estimado [first name]:Dear [first name],Esteemed [first name]Less formal lettersSlightly formal
Un cordial saludo,Yours truly,A cordial greetingLess formal lettersSlightly formal
Querido [masc. first name] / Querida [fem. first name]:Hi/Hello [first name],Loved/Treasured friendInformal lettersInformal
Un abrazo de,All my best / take care,A hug fromInformal lettersInformal
Un fuerte abrazo,All my best/take care,A strong hug fromInformal lettersInformal
Un cariñoso saludo,Warm wishes,A warm greetingInformal lettersNeutral

Holiday Greetings

SpanishEnglish equivalentLiteral translationContextFormality
¡Feliz cumpleaños!Happy Birthday!Happy Birthday!On someone’s birthdayNeutral
¡Felices vacaciones!Happy Holidays!Happy Holidays!In DecemberNeutral
¡Feliz Navidad!Merry Christmas!Happy Christmas!In DecemberNeutral
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!Happy New Year!Happy Year New!On Dec. 31 – Jan. 1Neutral

Congratulations! You’ve got the beginning and end of the conversation covered. Do you want to know more than just how to say hello in Spanish? Check out Lingvist’s course to learn Spanish fast.

Spanish Greetings or How to Say Hello in Spanish | Lingvist (2024)


Spanish Greetings or How to Say Hello in Spanish | Lingvist? ›

Hola (hello/hi) is the most commonly used greeting in Spanish. This expression can be used throughout the day, and it's typical of informal contexts with friends or family.

What are 5 common greetings in Spanish? ›

  • ¡ Hola! — Hello.
  • Buenos días — Good morning.
  • Buenas tardes — Good afternoon.
  • Buenas noches — Good evening.
  • ¿ Cómo está? — How are you? ( Formal)
  • ¿ Cómo estás? — How are you? ( Informal)
  • ¿ Cómo están? — How are you? ( Plural)
  • ¿Qué tal? — How's it going?
Apr 5, 2024

How do you say hello in Spanish greetings? ›

Hola (hello/hi) is the most commonly used greeting in Spanish. This expression can be used throughout the day, and it's typical of informal contexts with friends or family.

What is a polite greetings in Spanish? ›

List of Formal Greetings
Hola, ¿cómo está? (formal singular)Hello. How are you?
Hola, ¿cómo están? (formal plural)How are you?
Mucho gusto.It's nice to meet you.
Gusto en verlo. (formal singular)It's nice to see you.
7 more rows

How do Spanish people greet? ›

In Spain, people greet each other and say goodbye with a kiss on each cheek. Don't be mistaken - these aren't wet, sloppy kisses! In fact, these aren't really proper kisses at all. People usually touch their right cheeks together and make a kissing sound, then repeat the process on the left side.

What are three ways to say hi Spanish? ›

14 Ways to Say Hello in Spanish
  • Hola – across the Spanish-speaking world. ...
  • Pura vida – Costa Rica. ...
  • Bueno – Mexico. ...
  • Buenas – across the Spanish-speaking world. ...
  • Épale – Venezuela. ...
  • ¿ ...
  • Buenos días / Buenas tardes / Buenas noches – across the Spanish-speaking world. ...
  • ¿

When to use que tal or como estás? ›

In reality, when our intent is to offer a greeting or ask the straightforward question of how the other person is doing, both qué tal and cómo estás can generally be used interchangeably. The main nuance is that qué tal is slightly more informal than cómo estás. Stick with cómo está if you need to be formal.

What is the most common greeting in Spanish? ›

Initial Greetings
SpanishEnglish equivalentFormality
Buenos díasGood morningSlightly formal
Buenas tardesGood afternoonSlightly formal
Buenas nochesGood night/Good eveningSlightly formal
1 more row

How do I respond to hola? ›

When someone says hola, you can simply reply hola as well, or use it in combination with another greeting, such as buenos días (pronounced: BWEH-nohs DEE-ahs, 'good morning') or buenas tardes (BWEH-nahs TAHR-dehs, 'good afternoon').

How do you respond to Que tal? ›

2 Answers. Bien, bien,¿ y usted/tu? Muy bien, gracias, is the straightforward reply and as Annie says it is polite to ask how they are. You could also say 'genial' or if your feeling out of sorts 'asi, asi' [so, so] The last two answers are to someone who is interested in how you feel ie a friend.

Is Mucho Gusto a greeting? ›

Mucho Gusto

This phrase means “nice to meet you.” It is obviously used when you're meeting someone for the first time. It can be used in the beginning and the end of the conversation.

How do Mexicans greet each other? ›

Women will hug or kiss each other on the cheek. − Men may offer an abrazo (a warm hug accompanied by hearty back-slapping), followed by a handshake. − Men and women will hug or kiss each other on the cheek in a social setting. In a professional setting, they will greet each other with a handshake.

How do Latinos greet? ›

Men shake hands on meeting and departing. Men and women kiss on the cheek when greeting. Women kiss each other on the cheek. Friends, family and close acquaintances usually share a light kiss on the cheek.

What is an example of Spanish etiquette? ›

The typical Spanish greeting consists of the double cheek kiss (left then right) between two females or a male and a female who know each other fairly well. Men who are familiar with each other, on the other hand, tend to go for a hug and/or a handshake.

What are 5 Spanish words? ›

13 Very Common Spanish Words
  • Hola – hello.
  • Adiós – goodbye.
  • Por favor – please.
  • Gracias – thank you.
  • Lo siento – sorry.
  • Salud – bless you (after someone sneezes)
  • Sí – yes.
  • No – no.

What is the most common greeting in Spain? ›

The standard verbal greeting is “Buenos días” (Good day), “Buenas tardes” (Good afternoon) or “Buenas noches” (Good evening/night), depending on the time of day. People may also say, “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you). A more casual greeting is “Hola” (Hello).

How do Spanish friends greet each other? ›

Spaniards greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. It is likely that even if you just get introduced to someone, they will just reach out to kiss you on the cheek. This does not happen among men but mostly among women and between men and women. A handshake is the rule of thumb, though.

How do you greet someone at 10 am in Spanish? ›

Morning: Buenos días

Greetings with Buenos días are typically used from sunrise to about 12 pm. It's a versatile greeting that you can use with friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers.

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