Learning how to say “hello” should be one of your first goals as a Spanish learner.


Spanish greetings, depending on the situation, can go way beyond a simple hola (hello).

Today we’ll go over 21 greetings/introductions you can use to say “hello” in Spanish — plus when and how to use each one.

Are you ready?



1. ¡Hola!  — Hello

This is the most basic of the greetings, and it can be combined with any of the other ones.

For example:

  • Hola, buenos días  
    Hello, good morning
  • Hola, buenas tardes
    Hello, good afternoon

Hola can be used in both formal and informal situations no matter where you are in the Spanish-speaking world.

Keep in mind that the h is silent. It’s “oh-la”, not “hoe-la”.

2. Buenos días — Good morning

Buenos Dias, or the shorter version buen dia, means "good day". Depending on the time of day, it can also mean “good morning".

This phrase is usually used until noon, and it's OK as both a formal and informal greeting no matter where you are in the Spanish-speaking world.

3. Buenas tardes — Good afternoon

If it’s one o’clock or later in the day, another neutral greeting you can use in any situation is buenas tardes.

In Spain, you may hear this until later in the evening. In most Latin American countries and the Caribbean, it can be used until the sun goes down.

4.  Buenas noches  — Good evening

Buena noches, which means good night (or good evening), is another phrase that can be used in any situation across all Spanish-speaking nations.

Note that while “good night” is what you say to somebody in English before going to sleep, it doesn’t have this “before sleep” nuance in Spanish. It’s simply the way you greet somebody after the sun has gone down.

5. ¿Cómo está?  — How are you? (Formal)

¿Cómo esta? is the formal and "proper" way to say “how are you?”. (Estar here has been conjugated to the third-person singular esta, without -s at the end, which is also used as a respectful “you” form for verbs). This phrase is usually reserved for older people and authority figures, but can also be generally used as an indication of respect.

In South American countries, always use this phrase (versus the informal ¿Cómo estas?), just to be on the safe side.

6.  ¿Cómo estás? — How are you? (Informal)

This is the casual way to ask "how are you?". It’s just like the above phrase, but used in situations where you don’t need to be formal.

If you're not sure which one to use, we've got an entire article on Spanish's informal vs formal usted that you can refer to.

7.  ¿Cómo están? — How are you? (Plural)

Greeting multiple people in Latin America? It's time to say ¿Cómo estan?.

The N at the end (estar → están) will indicate that you’ve just greeted everyone.

If you're in Spain, they'd say ¿Cómo estáis? instead. (This is the plural you conjuation, rather than the them conjugation. It's not widely used in Latin America.)

8.  ¿Qué tal? — How’s it going?

This one may sound informal, but you can see it as an all-purpose greeting. You can ask anyone ¿Qué tal? and it'll sound perfectly natural, so long as you're not in a business meeting or something like that.

In fact, I’d personally say that this is the most natural way to greet people in Spanish.

9.  ¿Qué pasa?  — What’s happening? / What’s up?

Talking to your friends or your little siblings? Use the phrase ¿Qué pasa? to greet them.

You may also hear this phrase used in situations where one person seems noticeably disappointed and another person, noticing them, comes up to ask what's wrong. In this situation, it means something "what happened?". That might sound confusing at first glance, but you can differentiate the two meanings of the phrase based on context and tone of voice.

10. ¿Qué hubo? — How’s it going?

Similar to ¿Qué pasa? , but used mostly in Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina.

Note that this is considered informal in some countries, so just to be on the safe side, use it only with your friends and family.

As with hola, remember that this is a silent H. It’s “ooh-bo”, not “who-bo”.

11.  Bienvenido(s) — Welcome

Want to welcome someone to your home? When you greet them at the door, say bienvenido(s).

This phrase may be a bit difficult to use at first because Spanish has what’s called grammatical gender, which basically means that the end of nouns and adjectives needs to "match" the person you're talking to. Words describing feminine things should end with -a or -as, while words describing masculine things should end with -o or -os.

That in mind:

  • If you’re speaking to a female, say bienvenida
  • If you’re speaking to a male, say bienvenido
  • If you’re speaking to a mixed group, or a group of only males, say bienvenidos
  • If you're speaking to a group of only females, say bienvenidas

12.  Mi casa es su casa — My house is your house

So, you've invited those people into your home. If you want to make them feel more comfortable, you can say mi casa es su casa.

Now, you’re not literally giving your house away when you say this.  The meaning of the phrase is closer to "make yourself at home".

By the way: if your guest is your age, change the "su" to "tu" to make the phrase more casual.

13.  ¿De dónde eres? — Where are you from?

Use this phrase when you want to ask someone your age (or someone younger) where they’re from.

  • If you’re speaking to someone older or to an authority figure, say ¿De dónde es usted? instead.
  • If you are asking a group of people, the phrase becomes ¿De dónde son? in Latin America or ¿De dónde sois? in Spain.

14.  ¿Cómo te llamas? — What’s your name?

This phrase literally means “What do you call yourself?” and it's how we ask someone for their name in Spanish.

The same stuff about formality from above applies here, too. If you want to ask this to someone who’s older, remove the -s and say, ¿Cómo se llama? instead.

Photo by Akshar Dave🌻 / Unsplash

15.  ¿Aló? — Hello?

This is a common way of answering the phone in many Spanish-speaking countries.

Depending on where you are in the world, you may also hear things such as bueno, , and/or diga usted instead.

No matter what greeting they use to answer the phone, respond by saying who you are and make sure to inquire about how they are. It’s kind of impolite not to ask!

16.  ¿Adónde vas? — Where are you going?

Saying hello to a friend who’s leaving in a rush? To ask where they're going, say ¿Adónde vas?.

  • You can change vas to va to make the question more formal.
  • If you’re asking a group of people where they’re going, change vas to van (or to vais if you’re in Spain).

17.  ¿Dónde has estado? — Where have you been?

Has it been a long time since you’ve seen your best friend? Say hola, as we learned above, and then hit them with Donde has estado? to inquire about where they have been.

Be prepared to get the whole story, though!

18.  ¡Hace tiempo que no te veo! — It’s been a while since I’ve seen you!

This is another phrase you can follow up hola with, especially if you haven't seen someone in ages.

19. Mucho gusto — Nice to meet you

This is an easy thing you can say to anyone you’re meeting for the first time.

It literally means “much pleasure”, but we use it to express that we’re happy to have met someone.

Feel free to use this phrase in both formal and informal settings.

20. ¿Qué onda, microonda? — What wave, microwave?

If you happen to be in Chile, you can use this (incredibly funny) way to greet people. The language there is more laid back and slang expressions rule the day.

On the off chance you didn't notice, what makes this phrase funny is that the word onda (waving/vibing) rhymes with microonda (microwave)

A few bonus rhyming expressions you can use with your friends:

  • ¿Que pasa calabaza?
    Literally, "what's happening, pumpkin?"
  • ¿Que rollo pollo?
    Literally, "what's rolling, chicken meat?"

21. ¿Qué pasa, huevón? — What’s up, dude?

Huevón means egg, and you'll hear this one used all over South America.

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Nonverbal Spanish Greetings

Of course, we're not texting robots. Greetings are often more than just words alone.

Here's some of the gestures and behaviors you'll encounter when greeting Spanish speakers.

The elbow bump is an informal greeting where two people touch elbows. Interest in this greeting was renewed during the avian flu scare of 2006, the 2009 swine flu outbreak, the Ebola outbreak of 2014, and the 2019-20 COVID-19 pandemic when health officials supported its use to reduce the spread of germs.
Photo by Noah / Unsplash


What's with the cheek kisses?

  • In Latin America, you just do one kiss on one cheek
  • In Spain, you do two kisses — one on each cheek

Here's the deal:

These are just personal greetings; the kisses aren't romantic in any sense. You usually don't even actually kiss. Your cheeks just rub together and you kiss the air… but if the cheek in question is extra pinchable, or if there’s a lot of enthusiasm or affection between the two people, lips may indeed brush against cheeks.

Generally speaking, men don’t kiss each other’s cheeks to say hello or goodbye, except in some circles and in Spain.

However, men are likely to kiss when giving congratulations to close friends or relatives — for example, the bride and groom usually both get dos besos (two kisses) from all of the guests.

In some Latin American countries, kisses are even sometimes used as greetings in business situations between men and women or between two women.

Handshakes and occasional hugs

Handshakes are used in business situations and also among male friends, whether you're in Spain or in Latin America.

If you’re feeling extra enthusiastic, you can show it by going for a one-armed hug and giving the person a few pats on the back.

Responding to a greeting

Greetings in Spanish can vary depending on the country.

Having said that, several of the more neutral phrases we learned today (such as hola, que tal, and buenos dias) can be used pretty much anywhere — whether the setting is formal or informal.

But how do you respond to hese greetings?

I'm glad you asked!

Common responses include bien, gracias (good, thank you), and muy bien (very well). In more formal situations, you might say estoy bien, gracias (I'm well, thanks).

  • In informal situations, you can addres people by their first name when greeting them
  • In more formal situations, or when addressing someone you've just met for the first time,  it's more common to use titles like Señor (Mr.), Señora (Mrs.), and Señorita (Miss)

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Concluding thoughts

That’s it! Greeting people in Spanish isn't rocket science.

But it’s also not something to be taken lightly.

The truth is, you might know all the Spanish phrases, but if you don’t say them confidently and with a smile on your face, they're going to lose a lot of their impact. Keep this in mind whether you’re traveling in Latin America or heading to Madrid for the winter.

Now that you've finished the post, I've got some homework for you. Memorize four of these phrases! Pick a few for more informal situations and a few for more formal ones.

Daniel can be reached via his website, byondlanguage.com

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