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Getting beyond Hola
Learn to greet people in Spanish according to the situation!

Spanish-speaking countries are, beyond doubt, among the world’s most popular traveling destinations. If you are planning on a vacation in Mexico, Spain or, say, Argentina, you need to learn a few handy expressions that will help you get about smoothly. And today, we start with the very first thing you can say to people – Spanish greetings.

Sometimes a handshake or an air kiss on the cheek will suffice, but when you cannot do without words, feel free to rely on the following Spanish greeting guide. Try to choose the correct form (formal or informal), but don’t feel too awkward if you fail – the worst reaction you may get is a polite correction!

Basic Greetings in Spanish

So, let’s look through the options and pick the one that matches your situation:

  1. Hola (pronounced OH-lah; Eng.: Hello) – it is the most basic of the basics. Combine it with other greetings (e.g.: Hola, buenas noches) or use on its own both in formal and informal situations.
  2. Buenos días (pronounced BWEH-nohss DEE-ahss; Eng.: Good Morning) – you may be surprised by the fact that the word días is used to denote an earlier time of day, and still, it is what Spanish speakers say to greet each other before noon.
  3. Buenas tardes (pronounced BWEH-nahss TAR-dess; Eng.: Good Afternoon)use the expression to greet people from 1 PM till later in the evening (in Spain) or even sunset (in most Latin American countries).
  4. Buenas noches (pronounced BWEH-nahss NOH-chess; Eng.: Good Evening, Goodnight) - you can use it both as a greeting and as a farewell.
  5. ¿Cómo está? (pronounced KOH-moh es-TAH; Eng.: (fml) How are you?) – this is a polite way of asking how someone is feeling. Use it when addressing older people or those of authority to show respect and genuine care, especially if you are meeting with a business partner. In Latin American countries, use it in any case, just to be on the safe side, until you hear “tutéame,” which is a permission to address the person in an informal way. Then you can pass on to ¿Cómo estás? (KOH-moh es-TAHSS). You can also use the expression with people of a younger or the same age as you are. When greeting a group of people in Spain, say ¿Cómo estáis?( KOH-moh es-TAH-iss); in Latin American countries, go for ¿Cómo están? (KOH-moh es-TAHN).
  6. ¿Qué tal? (pronounced kay-TALL; Eng.: How’s it going?)- A polite, yet informal way of asking how someone is doing in a non-business setting.  Other informal alternatives include ¿Cómo te va? (KOH-moh teh-VAH), ¿Cómo le va? (KOH-moh leh-VAH), and ¿Qué hay? (kay-AYE); one can hear and use them in different Spanish-speaking countries.
  7. ¿Qué pasa? (pronounced kay-PAH-sah; Eng.: What’s up?) – this is a very convenient informal way of asking is something is wrong. In Mexico, you can also hear its informal alternatives ¿Qué hubo? or ¿Qué onda? 
  8. Bienvenidos (pronounced byem-beh-NEE-thohss; Eng. Welcome) – this is what you can say to a group of people you want to welcome to your home. It works equally well for a group of males or a mixed group of male and female guests. If you are welcoming just one person, drop the ‘s’ for a male guest and say bienvenido (byem-beh-NEE-thoh). For a female guest, replace the ‘o’ with an ‘a’ and say bienvenida (byem-beh-NEE-thoh). Finally, if you are expecting a group of females, welcome them with bienevenidas (byem-beh-NEE-thahss), which may sound chauvinistic, but still is a perfectly polite and grammatically correct form.

If you want a cherry on top your warm welcome, politely say Mi casa es su casa (pronounced mih KAH-sah ehs soo KAH-sah; Eng.: My home is your home) to make your guests comfortable in your home. For an informal version, replace the ‘su’ with ‘tu’ (too)

Over-the-Phone Greetings

Last but not least: sometimes, or probably, most times you talk to people on the phone, so it would be wise to learn some over-the-phone greetings:

  • ¿Aló? (pronounced ah-LOH; Eng.: Hello?) – this is a common way of answering the phone in most Spanish-speaking countries. However, depending on where you pick up your phone, you may also hear hola (OH-lah), bueno (BUEH-noh), jaló (hah-LOH), (seeh), al (ahl) or diga (DEE-gah). If you suddenly realize your mind is blank, go for Hola – it will be understood anywhere, even though it is not customary in many countries.

Now that you have learned how to start the ball rolling, stay tuned for our next articles and we will teach you to introduce yourself and ask your interlocutors a few questions about their background! Check your email – Spanish speaking tips are coming really soon!

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