How Are You? Spanish Greetings
When you find yourself in a Spanish-speaking country, you will certainly feel inspired to connect with the people who live there. Evidently, the best way to do this is to keep a good collection of ways to say “Hello” and “How are you?” in Spanish. A good conversation between two acquaintances can lead to making new friends, improving your Spanish skills, and going to local travel destinations that foreigners may not know about. Additionally, make sure to understand the difference between formal and informal Spanish greetings: who you can use them with and how to correctly use them. By understanding the grammatical reasoning behind some of the phrases, you will be able to change them to suit every situation. Overall, the best way to make the most of your experience is by starting out with that first greeting!
The most common phrase used in Spanish greetings is, of course, “¿Cómo estás?” which means “How are you?” This is an informal way to ask a friend, acquaintance, or new person who would be referred to as “tú”. It’s important to remember that the pronouns (tú, usted) are not fundamental to the question because the verb shows who is being referenced. In order to change it to a more formal question, it becomes “¿Cómo está?” or “¿Cómo está usted?”
Remember the Basic Rules
Spanish can be easy to use once you understand the basic rules. Here are a few related to Spanish greetings:
- Pay attention to your audience. Is the person a friend or, rather, your friend’s grandmother? While talking to friends, classmates, and other acquaintances, especially of the same peer group, it is acceptable to use informal language. In other words, you can refer to them as “tú” or practice some words or phrases in slang, such as “¿Qué onda?” used in parts of Latin America. In contrast, you must use formal language if you speak to someone who is older than you, a work colleague or superior, or a person you do not know very well. In this case, using “usted” and avoiding slang is a must. For more information on pronouns, check back soon for our Spanish Pronouns blog!
- Make sure the pronoun and the verb are in agreement; in other words, they must go together (like I and am). The most common verb for greetings is “estar,” which means “to be” and refers to the temporary state you’re asking about (“How are you right now?” / “How have you been lately?”). Particularly for greetings, you want to make note of the difference between the two singular second-person pronouns, tú (informal) and usted (formal). Be sure to note the changes of verb in the two scenarios below.
- Finally, ask yourself how many people you are greeting. Did you run into a group of friends? Do you see two of your Spanish teachers having coffee at a café? When talking to more than one person, you will use the plural form of the second person pronoun, ustedes.
Let’s look at some examples:
Hola, Juan. ¿Cómo has estado? / Hey, Juan! How have you been?
¡Hola! ¿Cómo está usted? / Hello! How are you?
¡Hola, amigos! ¿Cómo han estado? / Hey, guys! How have you all been?
¡Hola, mi amor! ¿Cómo estás? / Hi, love. How are you?
Would you like to hear a native Spanish speaker say these? Check out our video lesson on Spanish Greetings!
Now that we have some of the ground rules laid out, you can change any of the following examples to fit your conversation. Although there are many ways to greet another person, I’ve compiled a list of the most popular Spanish greetings:
Some greetings are unique to certain countries. Check out some of these examples:
Whenever you are in a formal setting, like a job interview or professional setting, be sure to use the following:
Some greetings can be used both in a formal and informal setting. Keep these in mind if you are not sure how professional the situation is:
Greeting Rituals in Latin America
Whenever you decide to use your super stockpile of conversation starters, you will want to know how to execute it well. That is to say, you’ll want to know what to do with your body while you talk. In the majority of Latin cultures, the greeting rituals are likely very different from what you’re used to. Markedly, kissing, hugging, and physical closeness are quite common. You will want to know how to act in each circumstance, depending on with whom you are interacting.
With Friends and Relatives
A popular way to greet friends is by hugging. It is used between people who know each other well or on special occasions. Additionally, hugging is acceptable when you have been away for a long time without seeing one another, to congratulate someone, or to express condolences. Another popular way to greet family, friends, casual acquaintances, and new people is with a kiss. Frequently, the kiss does not result in physical contact of the lips to cheek, but instead it is more of a touching of cheek against cheek.
The most common way to say hello in the professional world is with a handshake. While doing so, you must always look the other person in the eye. Failure to do so can be interpreted as a lack of self-confidence or even malicious intent. Moreover, the handshake should be fast and firm, but delicate. A quick handshake may show a lack of interest and motivation, while too long a handshake may be misinterpreted.
That’s a lot to learn in one lesson! In order to help yourself absorb the material you’re learning about Spanish greetings, try out this little test. What is each phrase saying? Is the greeting formal or informal?
- Buenos días profesor, ¿qué tal? ____________
- ¿Cómo has estado, hermana? ____________
- Hola amigos, ¿qué hay de nuevo? ____________
- ¿Qué tal se encuentra usted? ____________
- ¿Cómo te ha ido?____________
Look for the answers below!
The Importance of Greetings
As shown above, there are many ways to greet new friends or acquaintances in Spanish. By practicing them as often as possible, you will start to feel more comfortable using them. Additionally, you will find that you have better conversations and learn more about others. Give it a try and see for yourself!
- Good morning teacher, how’s it going? (formal)
- How have you been, sister? (informal)
- Hi friends, what’s new? (informal)
- How are you? (formal)
- How’s it been going? (informal)
For a more personal lesson, check out our Spanish Greetings video. For the full lesson, click below: