Informal Greetings in Spanish

Instructor: Elena Sacramento

Elena teaches Spanish as a foreign language and has a PhD in linguistics.

Do you know how to greet someone in Spanish, how to say 'hello', or 'how are you'? In this lesson, you will learn all the options, plus how to say goodbye and greet people on special occasions.

Greetings

Are you planning to travel to South America or Spain? Have you got any Spanish-speaking friends and you want to surprise them by using their native language? In any case, it will be useful to learn some basic and common Spanish phrases. In this lesson, we focus on informal greetings — that is, how to say 'hello', 'how are you', and 'goodbye' in Spanish in friendly and familiar contexts. Also, we take a look at different expressions used on special occasions, such as Christmas time.

Saying 'Hello' in Spanish

  • ¡Hola! This is probably the very first word everyone learns in Spanish. Hola (pronounced: OH-lah — the 'h' is silent!) means 'hello', and you can use it to greet anyone in any context or situation and at any time of the day.

Note: In Spanish, we use exclamation (¡!) and question marks (¿?) both at the beginning and at the end of the sentence. So, don't forget to include the initial mark when writing to someone.

There are other ways of greeting people depending on the time of the day:

  • ¡Buenos días! (pronounced: BWEH-nohs DEE-ahs) This expression means 'good morning' and you can use in the morning and until noon.
  • ¡Buenas tardes! (pronounced: BWEH-nahs TAHR-dehs) Literally, 'good afternoon'. You can use this formula as an equivalent of 'good afternoon' or 'good evening', from 12 pm until the nightfall.
  • ¡Buenas noches! (pronounced: BWEH-nahs NOH-chehs) Literally, 'good night'. It would be appropriate to use it when greeting someone after sunset, and also before going to bed.

Note: Días is a masculine noun in Spanish, whereas tardes and noches are feminine. That's why the adjective is different (buenos for masculine nouns and buenas for feminine nouns).

Translation: Good morning!
goodmorning

How Are you?

Use the following expressions to ask people how they are:

  • ¿Cómo estás? (pronounced: KOH-moh ehs-TAHS) We use this expression when talking to people we know well and in friendly and informal contexts.

Other variations include:

  • ¿Qué tal? (pronounced: keh tahl) This is an informal way of asking someone how they are, similar to the English expression 'What's up?'
  • ¿Cómo andas? (pronounced: KOH-moh AHN-dahs) It is translated as 'How's it going?'

Now you should learn how to reply to these questions. If you are feeling great, say muy bien (mwee byehn), meaning 'very well', or just bien (byehn), which means 'well'.

If you are feeling so-so, reply más o menos (mahs oh MEH-nohs), meaning 'more or less'.

If you are feeling a bit under the weather, you could say no muy bien (noh mwee byehn), meaning 'not very well', or mal (mahl), which means 'bad'.

Always add gracias (GRAH-syahs) or 'thank you' at the end and return the question with ¿Y tú? (ee too), to ask 'and you?'

Saying Goodbye in Spanish

You have had a good time with your friends, but now it is time to say goodbye. You say:

  • ¡Adiós! (pronounced: ah-DYOHS) This is the equivalent of 'goodbye' and you can use it in all contexts and situations.

If you know you will see someone again soon, you could use these expressions instead:

Spanish Pronunciation Translation
¡Hasta luego! (AHS-tah LWEH-goh) See you later!
¡Hasta pronto! (AHS-tah PROHN-toh) See you soon!
¡Hasta otro día! (AHS-tah OH-troh DEE-ah) See you another day!
¡Nos vemos! (nohs BEH-mohs) See you!

Translation: Goodbye!
bye

Special Occasions

It is useful to learn some specific greetings for special occasions throughout the year as well.

Christmas

Around the Christmas season, you could use all these expressions to greet your friends and acquaintances:

  • ¡Feliz Navidad! (feh-LEES nah-BEE-dahd): Merry Christmas!
  • ¡Felices fiestas! (feh-LEE-sehs FYEHS-tahs): Happy holidays! You can use this expression in a more general sense to wish happy celebrations during the Christmas season.
  • ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! (feh-LEES AH-nyoh NWEH-boh): Happy New Year!

Translation: Merry Christmas!
merrychristmas

Easter

Wish your friends a happy Easter with this expression:

  • ¡Feliz Semana Santa! (feh-LEES seh-MAH-nah SAHN-tah: Happy Easter! - literally 'Happy Holy Week!')

Vacation

If your friends or colleagues are about to go on vacation, say:

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