spanish greetings

Beyond hola or How to Say hello! in Spanish

Hola was in fact borrowed from the English language expression ‘hello’. It is likely to be the most common Spanish word known by non-Spanish speakers, along with cerveza (beer) and amigo (friend).

In any case, hola scores really high at the top of the popular “Spanish phrases chart”, but there are many ways to introduce yourself say ‘hello’ in Spanish!

It is true that films and TV programs generally portray Spanish speakers greeting each other with that simple word.

However, despite hola being grammatically correct and widely used, there are plenty more expressions that you could learn to improve your Spanish language skills.

Have a look at the following unique set of greetings that are applied in particular life circumstances. Utilizing Spanish greetings correctly will surely give you bonus points as a tourist or when negotiating a business deal.

After all, this shows respect for the locals and it honors the cultural and linguistic background of that individual community.

How to Say hi in Spanish without sounding like a robot

spanish greetings

As mentioned before, a humble hola is a show of courtesy and grace. It is easy and anyone can say it. But then again, it can come across a bit dry and boring — like, isn’t there something else to say?

You do not want to sound like a voice-activated robot, right? So, in addition to your one-word Spanish salutation, your speech intonation can express emotion and provide context to the conversation.

In written communication, question and exclamation marks state the precise intention of the writer.

This works similar to the written English language; nonetheless, Spanish spelling rules call for double marks in both cases:

  • ¿Hola? – Questions marks in this example could mean doubt or communicate that someone is disconcerted, something like ‘Is somebody home?’
  • ¡Hola! – In this example the exclamation marks could indicate joy or surprise, something like ‘I am so happy to see you!’

Spanish Greetings — Know the Basics

Elementary manners include greetings which adequate to the time of the day:

ENGLISH SPANISH
Good morning Buenos días
Good afternoon Buenas tardes
Good evening Buenas noches

These could be used to address strangers and people that you already know. To add formality you could place a proper noun at the end of the greeting:

Good morning, Sir Buenos días, Señor
Good morning, Madam Buenos días, Señora

Informal Spanish Greetings:

Like in any other language there are casual ways of greeting someone who is close to you.

ENGLISH SPANISH
What’s up? ¿Qué hay?
Howdy ¿Qué tal?
What do you say? ¿Qué dices?
How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
How’ve you been? ¿Cómo has estado?

The following Spanish expressions are a sign of intimacy and confidence — a way of saying ‘Hi, I really care about you, please tell me about what has been going on in your life’.

They don’t have literal translations but will show you what the speaker means by using them in his or her speech.

ENGLISH SPANISH
What have I missed in your life? ¿Qué me cuentas?
What’s it been like for you? ¿Cómo te ha ido?
What’s good and new? ¿Qué hay de nuevo?
Tell me everything! ¡Cuéntamelo todo!

Spanish Phrases to Greet Someone after a long time

how to say hello in spanish

These are used when you haven’t seen somebody in ages but you are thrilled to meet again.

ENGLISH SPANISH
It’s so wonderful to see you! ¡Qué gusto verte!
I am so happy to see you! ¡Qué alegría verte!
It’s been a long time! ¡Cuánto tiempo!
What a miracle this is! ¡Qué milagro!
It’s a miracle to see you! ¡Milagrazo verte!
I can’t believe it! ¡No me lo creo!
I haven’t seen you for years! Hace años que no te veía.
I didn’t expect to find you around here! No esperaba encontrarte por aquí.
What are you doing here? ¿Qué haces aquí?

Formal Spanish Greetings

If you are in an official ceremony or a professional environment, even if you are introduced to someone for the first time and you want to use proper Spanish, you can deploy any of the phrases below to sound polite and correct.

ENGLISH SPANISH
Pleasure Mucho gusto
Nice to meet you Encantado/Encantada de conocerte
It’s a pleasure to meet you Es un placer conocerte
It’s a pleasure to see you Es un placer verte

Observe that when translating ‘Nice to meet you’ to Spanish you have to apply the feminine and masculine rule.

If you are a man, you would say Encantado de conocerte. If you are a woman you would say Encantada de conocerte.  

It is also imperative to note that there are two forms for the pronoun ‘you’: and usted. This turns into two different ways to addressing to people.

It is common to employ usted (which is a formal voice) for the elderly and those who offer you public services.

ENGLISH SPANISH – USTED
Nice to meet you Encantado/Encantada de conocerle
It’s a pleasure to meet you Es un placer conocerle
It’s a pleasure to see you Es un placer verle

If you would like to flatter someone, you could say:

ENGLISH SPANISH – TÚ/USTED
I’ve heard many things about you He escuchado mucho de ti/usted
They’ve told me about you Me han hablado mucho de ti/usted
I was looking forward to meeting you Ya tenía ganas de conocerte /conocerle

Spanish Greetings from the Hood

how to say hi in spanish

Spanish is a colorful language and there is a lingo used by the young, among really close friends, and even in the slums and the districts with lesser development opportunities.

However, be mindful of how you apply these expressions as some of them are used in literature, films, and soap operas to portray characters who have received poor education and lack of refinement. 

  • ¿Qué onda?
  • ¿Qué pedo?
  • ¿Qué pex?
  • ¿Qué pasó carnal?
  • ¿Qué hubo?
  • ¿Quihubo?
  • ¿Qué pachó?
  • ¿Qué transa?
  • ¡Buenas!
  • ¿Qué epazotes?
  • ¡Qué milanesas que nos bisteces!

To Kiss or not To Kiss?

In many Spanish speaking countries, the social custom of offering a small kiss on the cheek to greet someone still holds, even when you are being introduced for the first time!

In México, it is only one kiss that is given but in Spain there are usually two, one for each side. However, things are changing and you may not want to smack one on a stranger.

If you are unsure about the kissing tradition just offer a firm handshake and an honest smile.

To learn the greeting habits and other social behaviors of Spanish speaking territories it is best to take lessons from a Native speaker teacher.

Reading a Spanish newspaper is another great way to familiarize yourself with Spanish greetings.

Live Lingua offers one-to-one lessons with Spanish teachers from far and wide. There are teachers from Spain, as well as Latina American countries including Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and Argentina, among others.

So wherever you’re off to, or whichever accent you wish to emulate we have you covered and being native your teacher will also be able to sprinkle your Spanish lessons with some key cultural assets.

For more on Spanish Greetings and Basic Conversation in Spanish, check out this article.

And, sign up for our FREE Spanish Survival Crash Course and have learning material, tips, audio lessons, and more sent right to your inbox:

spanish greetings

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