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Learn Spanish: Greetings

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages, & culture.

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How to Speak Spanish: Greetings

Maybe you're an adult who wants to learn Spanish a little better. Perhaps you're still in school, but would like a refresher on some of the basics.

Whatever the case may be, learning a few greetings in Spanish can not only help you when you interact with Spanish speakers in your own country, such as in the United States, but also when you travel abroad.

The Spanish language has a number of ways you can greet people and this article aims to give you plenty of different ways of communicating.

Greetings in Spanish are called "saludos." You can watch the video I created to help you with the correct pronunciation; look below.

Interesting Facts About Spanish Greetings

  • Many Spanish-speaking people will shorten the "Buenos días" to just "Buenas" - which literally means "Greetings."
  • "Buenos días" is usually used until around noontime. Then people will say "Buenas tardes" late into the evening.
  • Think of "buenas noches" as "good night," - when you might use that phrase in retiring for the evening or going to bed.

Los Saludos: Greetings In Spanish

Many people are already familiar with three basic greetings in Spanish, depending on the time of day:

  • Buenos días - Good day, or good morning.
  • Buenas tardes - Good afternoon.
  • Buenas noches - Good evening.

Spanish has one basic word for hello or hi:

  • ¡Hola! - Hi! or Hello!

Just as in English, usually after saying "hello" or "good morning" many people add, "how are you?" It is the same in Spanish.

In Spanish, however, there are two main variations: formal and informal. Generally, if you don't know someone, it's a good idea to use a formal greeting. Of course, there are more variations than this (such as the vosotros form used in Spain), but rather than bog you down with lots of extraneous information, we'll stick to the basics here:

  • ¿Cómo está? - How are you? (formal)
  • ¿Cómo estás? - How are you? (informal)
  • ¿Qué tal? - How are you? (informal)

Spanish Speaking Countries and Areas

A map of Hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) countries and areas, where Spanish is the mother tongue. Darker blue indicates a higher number of Spanish speakers.

A map of Hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) countries and areas, where Spanish is the mother tongue. Darker blue indicates a higher number of Spanish speakers.

Responses to Greetings

When you respond to someone who's asking how you are, think about how you'd do it in English. Most of the time, greetings are a courtesy, right?

In English, a basic conversation might go like this:

Hi! Good morning. How are you?

I'm fine, thanks. How are you?

But, as you know, the actual responses you can use are unlimited. For now, we'll just keep it simple.

Formal Responses

When you hear the more formal phrase, "Hola, ¿Como está?" here are some appropriate responses:

  • Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y usted? - I'm fine, thank you. And you?

You can use the phrase above like a formula, substituting the word "bien" for other common Spanish words:

Estoy _____, gracias. ¿Y usted?


Examples of common words you could use:

  • Regular - all right.
  • Muy bien - very well.
  • Feliz - happy.
  • Así-así - so-so.
  • Más o menos - so-so
  • Triste - sad
  • Terrible - terrible
  • Mal - not well.

Informal Responses

When you're talking with a friend or younger sibling, you can use more informal Spanish. If you hear the less formal phrases, "Hola, ¿Cómo estás?" or "Hola, ¿Qué tal? a standard response would be:

  • Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?

Like the formal response above, this is also a formula. You can sustitute other words in for "bien:"

Estoy _____, gracias. ¿Y tú?


You could then fill in the formula with any of the examples of common words just above:

Estoy regular, gracias. ¿Y tú?


Formal Spanish vs. Informal - When to Use Each One?

Every country in the Spanish-speaking world has different customs as to when you should address someone formally or informally.

For example, in Mexico, people will use the formal "usted" form when they don't know each other, but will use the informal "tú" more quickly than in Spain, for example.

The best course of action is study the country you're visiting to get an idea of local customs.

However, it's not always possible to do that. So what do you do?

It's always best to default to the formal "usted" usage and then as you begin speaking with people, follow their lead. If they begin to use the "tú" form, then follow suit.

Note: in many countries, there are other variations. For example, in many Central American countries, people will use "vos" instead of "tú" and in Spain, they will use "vosotros" when addressing a group of friends informally.

Not to worry!

People are generally very understanding when they know you're learning and attempting to speak their language. If you goof, it's not a big deal. Just smile and keep going.

Listen to the Greetings in Spanish - a video I created.

Sample Conversations

A Formal Conversation:

ARTURO: Hola, Doña Lucía. ¿Cómo está?

LUCÍA: Estoy muy bien, gracias. ¿Y usted?

ARTURO: Estoy excelente, gracias.


An Informal Conversation 1:

PACO: Hola, Pedro. ¿Qué tal?

PEDRO: Así-así, Paco. Gracias. ¿Y tú?

PACO: Estoy regular, gracias.


Informal Conversation 2:

FELIPE: Hola, Juana. ¿Cómo estás?

JUANA: ¡Estoy feliz, Felipe! ¿Y tú?

FELIPE: Bien, bien, gracias.


As you can see, in these mini-conversations, sometimes words are left out: it's a natural part of normal communication.

In informal conversation 1, Pedro doesn't have to say "estoy" because it's redundant: we know Paco is speaking to Pedro.


study-spanish-greetings

More Spanish Greetings Practice

Once you have watched the video listening to how to pronounce the words for greetings, say them out loud several times to yourself.

Spend a few minutes reciting each conversation to help you learn the responses even better.

Then, once you feel confident, take the quiz to see what you remember! Don't worry if you don't do perfectly: what matters is that you're learning and trying.

Quiz on Spanish Greetings

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Choose the best response to this phrase: ¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás?
    • Muy bien. ¿Y usted?
    • Regular. ¿Y usted?
    • Muy bien, ¿y tú?
    • Así-Así. ¿Y usted?
  2. Insert the best word: Hola, ¿____ tal?
    • cómo
    • qué
    • estás
    • está
  3. What would the best response be? "Hola, ¿Cómo está?"
    • Estoy terrible, gracias, ¿y tú?
    • Estoy así-así.
    • Bien, ¿y tú?
    • Estoy bien, gracias, ¿y usted?
  4. What is the missing word? "Hola, ¿Cómo ______?"
    • estás
    • tal
    • estoy
    • qué
  5. Fill in the blank with the appropriate response: "Estoy _____, gracias."
    • tal
    • muy bien
    • hola
    • Lucía
  6. What response is inappropriate to: Estoy ______, gracias.
    • bien
    • bueno
    • excelente
    • terrible
  7. Which phrase is used in a formal situation in Spanish?
    • Hola, ¿qué tal?
    • Hola, ¿cómo estás?
    • ¡Hola, Paco! ¿Qué tal?
    • Hola, ¿Cómo está?
  8. What would the correct response be? "Hola, ¿Cómo estás?
    • Muy bien, gracias, ¿y usted?
    • Así-así. ¿Cómo está?
    • Estoy muy bien, gracias, ¿y tú?
    • ¡Bien! ¿Cómo está?

Answer Key

  1. Muy bien, ¿y tú?
  2. qué
  3. Estoy bien, gracias, ¿y usted?
  4. estás
  5. muy bien
  6. bueno
  7. Hola, ¿Cómo está?
  8. Estoy muy bien, gracias, ¿y tú?

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 2 correct answers: Hmm. You should probably review the greetings again.

If you got between 3 and 4 correct answers: Hmm. You should probably review the greetings again.

If you got between 5 and 6 correct answers: You're getting there. Go back and review and then try again.

If you got 7 correct answers: Pretty good! Keep going.

If you got 8 correct answers: Nice! Good work reviewing and learning the phrases!

Despedidas: Good-Byes

What about the end of the conversation? It's a kind of greeting, isn't it?

There are a few ways you can say to say good-bye to someone in Spanish:

  • Adiós - good-bye (literally: to God).
  • Hasta luego - see you later.
  • Hasta mañana - see you tomorrow.
  • Ciao or Chao - ciao (This is a word adopted into Spanish; it's orginally Venetian. There are variations on the spelling in English and in Spanish and it's sometimes used as "hello" in Italian!)

© 2014 Cynthia Calhoun

Comments

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 18, 2017:

Melissa - that youtube link is not bad! Thanks for sharing it. :)

Melissa Rowlings from United States on February 17, 2017:

Another very good post Cynthia! If anyone wants to check books and materials for learning Spanish don't forget that YouTube has cool stuff for us! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJXs4kIqUg0

manatita44 from london on May 21, 2014:

Muchisimas gracias, Senora.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 21, 2014:

Manatita - yes, there are lots of good sites out there; I'll be adding more hubs on Spanish stuff, too - one hub at a time. :)

If you do a search for "BK Nelson Colby College" you'll see a page that lets you practice everything from adjectives to verbs.

Also, studyspanish.com is a good resource. Thanks again for coming by!

manatita44 from london on May 20, 2014:

Iqualmente.

Estas una mujer muy bonita. Tambien muy charismatica y simpatica. Es muy amable. Me gusto su sonrisa.

Not so good. In fact I only speak un poquito. Perhaps you can recommend easy programmes. Really appreciate your selfless spirit.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 20, 2014:

Gracias a tí manatita. Ten un buen día. :)

manatita44 from london on May 20, 2014:

Muchisimas Gracias, mi cara amiga.

Dios te bendiga y acompanye Paz.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 12, 2014:

OD - ¡HOLA! My husby says the same thing: he took Spanish I and decided he'd NEVER use it. So, I refer him to my hubs when he sees my family because my family speaks so much Spanish. Haha. You just never know when you're going to need it. :) I didn't know you worked in a bilingual school. And census interviews in Spanish? Really? How did you land that gig!? That's awesome!

Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on February 12, 2014:

This was a great refresher for me. When I was in high school, I complained and said I'd never use Spanish. However, during my life I have been deployed to a Spanish speaking country twice, worked in a bilingual school, and conducted census interviews in Spanish. Knowing a little bit of Spanish has been essential!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 11, 2014:

Cre8tor - that's awesome! Glad it was helpful. :) I appreciate your feedback; have a wonderful day! Cheers~

Dan Reed on February 11, 2014:

Thanks Cyndi! This was a lot of fun. Made me brush up and was able to share with my boys too! Great hub! Voted Up!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 21, 2014:

Susi10 - thank you so much. I'm really glad you have a foundation with which to now have a basic conversation. :D I'm impressed on the quiz, too. Thanks for coming by - have a great day!

Susan W from The British Isles, Europe on January 21, 2014:

Great hub, Cyndi! Muy bien! :)

This hub is perfect for learning to converse with others, your hub is beautifully formatted (the word art that you created for the images is a great idea) and the inclusion of videos has really reinforced the words I have learned. Believe it or not, after reading this hub I can now ask someone how they are and have a conversation in Spanish (sort of). The quiz was a great idea too, I got 100%. :)

Well done, sharing.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 13, 2014:

Melanie, hehe, well...it's about time I acknowledge it, yes? LOL. So good to see you, friend. Have a wonderful day! xo

Melanie Chisnall from Cape Town, South Africa on January 13, 2014:

You can tell just by reading this hub how passionate you are about the language and that's awesome to see! So excited to see how this all progresses for you this year, fab job on the hub and have a great day friend! :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 11, 2014:

Dianna - aww, it's always wonderful to see you. Thank you for your sweet words - I always appreciate you and your kindness. :) I hope your day is going well, too! HUGS

Dianna Mendez on January 11, 2014:

I read this post earlier and enjoyed the lesson. Just wanted to stop in and leave a comment. Hope your day is going well.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 08, 2014:

Deb - that's awesome! Hehe. Feels good, dunnit? ;)

Nell - hey, Nell! That is NOT bad at all for never having had Spanish before. :D haha, thanks so much for coming by! xo

Nell Rose from England on January 08, 2014:

Hi, I got 75 per cent! which isn't too bad as I have never learned a word of Spanish before! lol! so it went in! How long for, I have no idea! LOL! This is great, and seriously, really useful, nell

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on January 08, 2014:

Well, gosh, I got 100% on the quiz. I guess something from those 4 years of Spanish in school must have stuck with me. Great hub!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 08, 2014:

Vicki - LOL...I'm working on another as I type this. ;)

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on January 08, 2014:

Cyndi--I can see your grin from here. LOL! You are the impressive one, though, I must say. I understand more babble than I can speak. And when someone speaks the language really fast, forget it. Woah! Anyway, this hub is really great. Very HOTD worthy!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 08, 2014:

Vicki - you just made my day and I have a HUGE grin on my face. Coming from you: HubPages pro, and Teacher Extraordinaire, I am completely flattered. *blush* Hehe.

Thank you so much. I don't believe for one second that you never got fluent: you understand all my babble, hehe.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on January 07, 2014:

Cyndi, this is a wonderful hub! I love the pronunciation video. You sound perfect! You really should do more and more of these and link them to your tutoring website. This is amazing. I scored 100% on the quiz, by the way. Being a former Spanish teacher, I would hope so. Still, I could learn from you. I never did get fluent. I think that's impossible without being immersed in the language. Your lessons can really help a lot of people. I look forward to the next one! Pinning this one! I created a "Learning Spanish" board because of you! :-)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 06, 2014:

Hi, Deb! Great to see you. :D Yes, I mean even with my own family, they have lived in New Mexico for hundreds of years and many of them still only speak Spanish - you just never know where you might end up to have a handy guide. :)

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on January 06, 2014:

With Spanish being spoken nearly everywhere now, it is good to have a few words. There are so many migrant workers around now, and it will help them feel more comfortable. It will also open a door to a possible friendship. What a great way to learn even more Spanish!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 05, 2014:

Thief12 - all the regional variations: wow! Someone else in the comments said it would be rude to just say "buenas" - in Peru. Ya know, I'm definitely going to write more of these - I'm learning from all the worldwide input. :)

Carlo Giovannetti from Puerto Rico on January 05, 2014:

cclitgirl, maybe it's regional. Here in Puerto Rico, we say "buenas".

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 05, 2014:

J.S. - ha! That's awesome! See, that's what I love about my teaching: I can help people to really learn and have some fun in another language. :) Thanks for coming by!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 05, 2014:

Minnetonka Twin - haha, I will try to create some more guides, then, :) I hope you have a great day!

JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on January 05, 2014:

I scored an 87% on the quiz! Only 1 wrong. I've always struggled with being proper in Spanish (as well as English!) and this is a great guide for beginners. Up and shared. Gracias!

JSMatthew~

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on January 05, 2014:

Great information on learning some spanish Cyndi. My nephew and niece (who I live with) are both getting really good at speaking spanish. This easy to read list will help me a bunch. When they think I don't know what their saying, I will show them. LOL

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 05, 2014:

Lemonkerds - It's amazing what just knowing a few words does for you when you travel, isn't it? Hehe.

You're right about the "Buenas" thing - and it's so regional. I was telling another commenter that in Spain, when I would go into shops, I retailers wouldn't say "buenas" they'd just say "buenos" - but it's so specific to where you are. In my time in Mexico, no would would say that. For sure: another one of those "do as the Romans do" sorts of things. :) Thanks for coming by!

lemonkerdz from LIMA, PERU on January 05, 2014:

Thanks for the Hub cclitgirl, living in a spanish speaking country we see when visitors just learn a few words in the language it goes a long way with the locals, and they are more willing to help you.

On the word "Buenas"used on its own in peru is considered rude and lazy. Always use it with an accompanying word: días, noches ect.

Will vote up and share.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 05, 2014:

Although Thief12 - you bring up a good point: the word "buenas" can just mean "greetings"which I didn't even think about until this moment - so I changed it up there to reflect that. Thanks!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 05, 2014:

Faith Reaper - thank you so much! I took French, too - oh man, I switched to Spanish when they ran out of classes for me to take, lol. I definitely love languages. :) Thank you for the votes and shares. xo

Kathryn - that's awesome! If you have a Puerto Rican guy in your life, then you'll be able to learn bunches of español. ;) I love being back. Tried the blogging thing for awhile, but eh, I missed HP too much.

Melovy - thank you, thank you! That's so awesome you had a chance to go to Chile. :) Haha, that's funny about the baños - a very important word. :D

Sharon - haha, Antonia - I love it! I definitely love giving my students names in Spanish. :)

Kelly - haha, yes, I've been wanting and wanting to do more of these. I finally resolved to do it. You can talk to Pedro in Spanish and tell him "guapo" - handsome. LOL

Susan - Yes, more. I promise. xo Hehe.

Thief12 - Good point. Though I have a question. I think it might be regional, the buenos vs. buenas, no? In Madrid, everyone told me "buenos" - if you confirm, I'll just say it's regional and some say "buenas" - eh, that's the trouble with over 21 Spanish-speaking countries. :)

Lisawilliamsj - So glad you found this helpful! I'm going to try to do more. :) Good luck with that Spanish class! xo

Lisa Chronister from Florida on January 05, 2014:

This is awesome! I have to take a Spanish class soon to finish up my degree, and I have been a little terrified of it! You break it down in such an easy fun way that it does not seem so intimidating. Thanks for sharing, I voted up!

Carlo Giovannetti from Puerto Rico on January 05, 2014:

Good hub. As a Native Spanish speaker, I think it's very well written.

Just one note, about your "Interesting Facts" section, when we shorten "Buenos días", we say "Buenas" not "Buenos".

Voted Up, Useful, and Interesting

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on January 05, 2014:

What a great way to teach us all Spanish! You're going to be doing more of these right???

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on January 05, 2014:

Sweet Cyndi...now do one of these every day and maybe I can learn me some Spanish! Lol.

GREAT hub and this should get like...HOTD!

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on January 04, 2014:

Hola CC! I took Spanish in high school, I think just for a year, many moons ago but I don't remember much. I can do numbers to 10 and when someone says to me "Hola," I confidently (ha) respond Qué tal. Ummm, that's about it. I do remember my name was AnTONia as the teacher would say :)

I bet you are an awesome teacher. Just the way you "teach" here in this article, I can tell you have tons of patience with your students. Voted up and all that and sharing!

Yvonne Spence from UK on January 04, 2014:

Great Hub Cyndi. The video is a great addition since it gives the correct pronunciation. Sometimes reading alone is not enough.

It lmost makes me want to rekindle the Spanish I learned about 5 years ago in Chile. I must have masters all of - maybe 10 words. Buenos días, I remember, and banos. (We learned that one very quickly!)

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on January 04, 2014:

Thanks, Cyndi! One of my resolutions this year is to learn Spanish. I have wanted to for years, but have put it on the back burner.

My new man is Puerto Rican, so it would be really nice to have some kind of comprehension of his native tongue.

I actually saw your YouTube video before I saw this, since I am subscribed to your YouTube videos :) Love it! It is very helpful, since it would be embarrassing to mispronounce these words.

Happy new year, and it is so nice to see you here again now.

~ Kathryn

Faith Reaper from southern USA on January 04, 2014:

Hola Cyndi,

Useful hub here and thanks for sharing your knowledge of speaking Spanish. I had four years of French in high school, but I wished I had taken Spanish, as my husband was in the Air Force when we first married and he was stationed down in south Florida in Tampa, and there were a lot of Cuba who spoke Spanish, so maybe I could have used it then. Never did make it to Paris as planned. LOL

Up and more and sharing.

Happy New Year and good to see you writing here again,

Faith Reaper

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 04, 2014:

Tu parle francais, clark? LOL. You crack me up. ;)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 04, 2014:

Rebecca - Ya know, that doesn't surprise me. :) I say that because I've heard that older folks can help stave off dementia by doing crosswords, puzzles and things that otherwise keep the brain active, so that makes sense. Thanks. Great to see you!

clark on January 04, 2014:

damn! I didn't get an A on the quiz!!

(that I do not speak Spanish doesn't quite seem to be excuse enough)

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on January 04, 2014:

They say learning a new language as an adult can stave off dementia. Thanks for the inspiration!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 04, 2014:

Audrey - You're right! :) I think it's high time I share all my Spanish teaching stuff. :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 04, 2014:

Oh dear, BB, you CRACK me up. ;) Haha...look you said, "adiós"! See? You learned a word. Now just 10,000 more so you can function. HAHAHA. Take care! Hugs!

Audrey Howitt from California on January 04, 2014:

Oh I love this Cyndi! You should do a whole series of them--funny situations, useful situations---etc

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2014:

No chance for me lil Sis, but it's great having you back here writing again. I'm sure this will be very helpful for people who aren't 65 years old and brain dead regarding languages. LOL Have a great weekend....Adios!

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