Learning common Spanish greetings and responses is one of the basic and most important things in learning Spanish. No matter your level, no matter the situation, you have to be able to say ‘hello’, greet a person, and start a conversation.
Even if you know just ‘hola’, you can already do that. But you will have much better conversations if you are able to say more and use greetings appropriate for particular situations.
Here, in this article, we are going to look at all the basic and most important Spanish greetings and a few good responses.
1. Common Spanish greetings and responses – Saying ‘Hello’ in Spanish
Hola – Hello
This is the most basic and universal greeting. You can use it in any situation, formal or informal, talking to anyone. It can be also combined with some of the other greetings below, for instance, ‘hola, buenos días’.
It’s important to remember that the letter h at the beginning is not pronounced.
Greetings for different parts of the day
Buenos días – Good morning
Buenas tardes – Good afternoon
Buenas noches – Good evening; good night
These expressions are slightly more formal than a common ‘hola’, but they can be used in informal settings as well.
Note that these greetings are in the plural in Spanish! Although we translate them in the singular form in English, don’t forget the ending s when you speak Spanish.
‘Buenos días’ is usually used until noon, ‘buenas tardes’ – at around one p.m. and later during the day. In Spain, it may be used until later in the evening, while in most Latin American countries and the Caribbean, it may be used until the sun goes down.
‘Buenas noches’ can be used to both say ‘hello’ in the evening (good evening), as well as to say goodbye or wish someone ‘good night’. There is no separate word for ‘evening’ in Spanish, so the meaning of this phrase is derived from the context.
Ey, Oye, Salud => Hi
These are some Spanish equivalents to the English ‘hi’. They are very informal, meaning that they are okay to use with friends and in other casual situations, but are not suitable for a business or any other formal setting.
To reply to any of the above greetings, you can simply say the same ‘hello’ in return:
¡Hola! — ¡Hola!
Buenos tardes, señor (señora). — Buenas tardes.
Now you know some of the common Spanish greetings and responses you can use to say ‘hello’, but that is not all. Let’s go on!
2. Asking ‘How are you’ in Spanish
No list of common Spanish greetings and responses is complete without a few key phrases you can use to ask someone how they are doing.
There are several variants of this greeting:
¿Cómo está (usted)? — How are you? (formal, singular)
¿Cómo están (ustedes)? — formal, plural
¿Cómo estás? — informal, singular
¿Cómo estáis? — informal, plural
‘How are you’ often follows ‘hello’ in many languages and cultures. This is one of the most common ways to ask how someone is in Spanish, and it has both a formal and an informal variant. The formal version is used when speaking with older people or those representing authority, as well as in formal business situations.
By the way, politeness, proper greetings, and respect towards elders are quite important in Spanish and Latin American culture (https://howlearnspanish.com/manners-in-spanish/). Although different variants of the same expression can be a hassle to learn, making the effort to do so is likely to go a long way.
¿Qué tal? — How’s it going?
¿Qué tal todo? — How’s everything going?
‘Qué tal’ is theoretically a little more informal than the previous greeting, but you are actually going to hear it pretty much everywhere.
It’s not a good idea to use it in a very formal ceremonial or business setting, but otherwise, you are good.
The above two greetings are the two most common ones in the Spanish-speaking world. However, there are a few other informal ways you can ask and be asked ‘how are you’.
¿Qué pasa? — What’s up?
¿Qué onda? — What’s up? (generally used in Mexico)
¿Qué hay? — What’s up? (generally used in Spain)
¿Cómo va? — How is it going?
¿Cómo va todo? — How is everything going?
3. Replying to ‘How are you’
Depending on the situation and your relationship with the person you are talking to, you may want to reply differently to this question. Here are some of the options you can choose from.
Bien, gracias. — Fine, thanks.
Muy bien. — Very well.
Como siempre. — As always.
Un poco cansado (cansada). — A little tired (for men / for women).
Estoy enfermo (enferma). — I am sick (for men / for women).
Más o menos. — So so.
Mal. — Bad.
Todo bien. — All good.
No me puedo quejar. — I can’t complain.
Voy tirando. — I’ve been worse.
La verdad es que mal. — Not good, to be honest.
Así así. — So so.
With this post (https://spanishlanguageblog.com/blog/moods-and-feelings-in-spanish/), you can learn how to express your moods and feelings in more detail.
It is usually polite to follow up your reply with ¿Y tú? (And you?, or a more formal variant, ¿Y usted?
Here is an example dialogue. Can you understand all of it?
A: Hola, Katy, ¿qué tal?
B: Estoy enferma.
A: Lo siento.
B: ¿Y tú? ¿Como te va?
A: Todo bien.
4. More useful phrases
Of course, most of the time your conversations will go beyond ‘hi, how are you’. I cannot possibly predict all the possible conversations you will have in Spanish in the future. But I can share some more useful phrases for different situations that will complement the common Spanish greetings and responses you have already learned.
By the way, to memorize all these useful phrases more effectively, you can make flashcards for regular practice. Some of the best flashcard apps can be found in this post (https://spanishlanguageblog.com/resources/best-spanish-flashcards-app/).
Meeting someone for the first time:
¿Cómo te llamas? — What is your name? (informal)
¿Cómo se llama? — What is your name (formal)
Me llamo … — My name is …
After your new acquaintance introduces themselves, it is a good idea to say ‘encantado’ if you are male or ‘encantada’ if you are female – the meaning is ‘nice to meet you’.
When you hear ‘encantado/a’ from someone, you can reply with ‘igualmente’ – ‘same’, ‘equally’.
Another way to say ‘nice to meet you’ is ‘mucho gusto’.
To continue the conversation and to get to know the person you are talking to, you can ask them where they are from:
¿De dónde eres? — Where are you from? (informal)
¿De dónde es usted? — Where are you from? (formal)
Here are a few more Spanish phrases that can come in handy in different situations.
Bienvenido/a — Welcome (said to a man / a woman)
¿Diga? or ¿Dígame? — Hello? (used when answering the phone)
Mi casa es su casa — My house is your house
¡Hace tiempo que no te veo! — It’s been a while since I’ve seen you!
¡Felicitaciones! — Congratulations!
Gracias. — Thank you.
De nada. — You are welcome.
¿Me puede ayudar con esto? — Can you help me with this?
Que te mejores — Get well soon.
Genial — great, awesome
To expand your vocabulary and learn even more useful and fun phrases for communication, check out this post (https://spanishlanguageblog.com/blog/28-most-common-latin-american-spanish-phrases/).
5. Non-verbal greetings
While talking about common Spanish greetings and responses, it is also important to mention the non-verbal component. Quite often, a greeting is accompanied by a gesture – a handshake or a kiss. Which is appropriate to use when greeting people in Latin America?
The truth is, this can vary greatly from region to region. However, there are some basic guidelines(http://www.spanishprograms.com/spanish-greetings.htm).
In general, friends and relatives greet each other in Latin America with a hug or a kiss. These are not wet sloppy kisses, of course. Usually, there is no ‘proper’ kissing – people just touch their cheeks together and make a kissing sound with their lips.
If you are at a casual party or meeting some friends, prepare for hugs and kisses, too! They are very common in informal situations and there is no romantic meaning whatsoever.
Traditions may differ from region to region, for instance, some people kiss only once, while others twice – one ‘kiss’ on each cheek.
In most business situations, people shake hands, unless they are long-time acquaintances or relatives.
A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to what people around you are doing and follow other people’s body language when they come to hug or kiss you. If you’ve got a friend who can help out, don’t hesitate to ask them for advice.
So, with these common greetings and responses in Spanish, as well as a few other useful phrases, you should be able to start and keep up quite a few conversations. Good luck! Or should I say, buena suerte?