10 Greetings in English – Formal and Informal
Just like in Spanish in English we do not always use “hello” and “hi” when greeting each other.
If you learn various English greetings you will sound more natural, and will also express yourself more clearly and precisely.
Let’s learn how to use some other simple formal and informal English greetings, as well as fun slang expressions that people use to greet each other. Whether you’re an English as a Second Language (ESL) student or an English business professional this will help you.
Common English Greetings and Expressions
English-speaking people usually greet each other in an informal way, so you can use these common conversational greetings for friends, family, as well as people you meet in casual settings.
1. Hey, Hey man.
You can use “hey” to greet someone instead of “hello”. Both are particularly popular among younger people. While “hi” is appropriate to use in any casual situation, “hey” is for people who have already met. If you say “hey” to a stranger, it might be confusing for that person because he or she will try to remember when you met before! You can also add “man” to the end of “hey” when greeting guys. Remember that “hey” does not always mean “hello”. “Hey” can also be used to call for someone’s attention.
Let’s say I’m hanging out at a bar and I run into my friend Joel.
Andrew: Hey man, how’s it going?
Joel: Hey, good man, what’s new?
*Remember this is very informal.
2. How’s it going? or How are you doing?
These are casual ways of asking “how are you?” If you’re trying to be particularly polite, stick with “how are you?” but otherwise, you can use these expressions to greet almost anyone. The word “going” is usually shortened, so it sounds more like “go-in”. You can answer with “it’s going well” or “I’m doing well” depending on the question. Although it’s not grammatically correct, most people just answer “good” – and you can too. Like when responding to “how are you?” you can also follow your answer by asking “and you?”.
Andrew: Hey man, how’s it goin’?
Joel: Hey, it’s goin’ good man, how are you doin”?
Andrew: I’m doin’ fine. What’s new?
3. What’s up?, What’s new?, or What’s going on?
These are some other informal ways of asking “how are you?” which are typically used to casually greet someone you have met before. Most people answer with “nothing” or “not much”. Or, if it feels right to make small talk, you could also briefly describe anything new or interesting that’s going on in your life, before asking “what about you?” to continue the conversation.
Andrew: Hey man, what’s up?
Joel: Hey, not much. What’s new with you?
Andrew: Oh you know, same old, same old.
*Same old, same old is an expression used when one wants to say that everything is the same.
4. How’s everything ?, How are things?, or How’s life?
These are some other common ways of asking “how are you?” They can be used to casually greet anyone, but most often they’re used to greet someone you already know. To these, you can answer “good” or “not bad”. Again, if small talk feels appropriate, you could also briefly share any interesting news about your life, and then ask the person “what about you?” or another greeting question.
Andrew: Hey man, what’s up?
Joel: Hey, not much. How’s life?
Andrew: I think I’m pregnant, haha, just kidding. How are things with you?
Joel: Things are good, I just moved into a new apartment.
5. How’s your day? or How’s your day going?
These questions mean “how are you?” not just right now, but how you’ve been all day. You would use these greetings later in the day and with someone you see regularly. For example, you might ask a co-worker one of these questions in the afternoon, or a cashier that you see at the grocery store every evening. “It’s going well” is the grammatically correct response, but many people simply answer with “fine”, “good” or “alright”. By the way, notice that “good”, “fine” or “not bad” are perfect answers to almost any greeting question.
I usually go to the same guy to buy bananas in downtown Medellin. This is how our greetings would be translated.
Andrew: Hello Mr. Justo!
Justo: Good morning, how ya’ doin’?
Andrew: I’m great, how’s your day goin’?
Justo: It’s goin’. I’ve been out here workin’ since 7:00 a.m., you know you gotta stay positive.
Andrew: You got that right! Give me 10 bananas.
Justo: Right away.
6. Good to see you or Nice to see you
These casual greetings are used with friends, co-workers or family members that you haven’t seen in a while. It’s common for close friends to hug when they greet each other, particularly if they haven’t seen each other in some time; so you might use this greeting along with a hug or handshake depending on your relationship with the person.
Sometimes I run into people I haven’t seen in a while. This is how that type of conversation goes.
Andrew: Hey Chris, it’s good to see you!
Anderson: Hey buddy, yeah, it’s nice to see you too!
Andrew: How have you been?
Chris: I’ve been good, and you?
Andrew: …been great.
7. Long time no see or It’s been a while
These casual greetings are used when you haven’t seen someone in a long time, particularly if you meet that person unexpectedly. How much is a long time? It depends on how often you normally see that person. For example, you could use one of these greetings if you normally see the person every week, but then don’t see them for a few months or more. Usually, these phrases are followed with a question like “how are you”, “how have you been?” or “what’s new?”
Sometimes I bump into someone I haven’t seen in a long while.
Andrew: Hey John! Long time no see! How’ve you been?
John: Good, good. Yeah it’s been a a while. How’s life?
Andrew: Busy, been workin’ a lot.
Business Greetings and Formal Greetings
It’s best to begin by using formal greetings in most business situations, and then listen to how your co-workers or business partners greet you. It’s a good idea to wait until someone speaks casually with you before you speak casually with them. You may find that people will begin to use casual greetings with you over time, as you get to know each other better. Formal greetings are also used when you meet older people.
8. Good morning, Good afternoon, or Good evening
These are formal ways of saying “hello”, which change depending on the time of day. Keep in mind that “good night” is only used to say “good bye”, so if you meet someone late in the day, remember to greet them with “good evening”, rather than “good night”. Good morning can be made more casual by simply saying “morning”. You can also use “afternoon” or “evening” as informal greetings, but these are less commonly used.
9. It’s nice to meet you or Pleased to meet you
These greetings are formal and polite. If you say this to someone when you meet him or her for the first time, it will make you seem courteous. Remember to only use these greetings the first time you meet someone. Next time you see the person you can show that you remember him or her by saying “it’s nice to see you again”.
10. It’s an honor to meet you.
This is usually used when you meet someone important. This is a very formal greeting and it expresses respect.
With practice you can sound more natural. As a native English speaker it is always refreshing to meet someone who sounds natural. When people use accurate expressions it always impresses me. So continue practicing, and remember that you can practice with native English speakers at our Conversation Club Cocktail Parties.
About the writer – Andrew Macia
Hello, my name is Andrew Macia and I am the founder of the Medellin Buzz. I am an advanced level English teacher here in Medellin, and I also have a website development, and marketing company which I run from home.
My idea with the Medellin Buzz is to push those who are learning English and to integrate native speakers with non-native speakers.
I love living in Medellin and I love Colombia. I want to give back to the community and this is the best way I know how. Let’s practice English and Spanish and have a great time!
About the Medellin Buzz
The Medellin Buzz is lighthearted news source for English as a Second Language learners in Medellin, Colombia. The Medellin Buzz is written in a way that is easy to understand.
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