Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Salaam, Guten tag, Hello, Здравстуйте!
It’s the first word you learn in any new language, the basic sign of welcome that shows your intent to talk to someone. Most likely, you learned the basic English greetings before you even started investing time in your language skills. But if you want to make the most of your first impression, there are a ton of more colourful ways to say “hello”.
Do you want to know the most professional way to greet colleagues on a video call? Some slang terms to begin a text to your little cousin? Or a specifically British-English “hello” to amuse the bus driver on your next trip to London? This ultimate list will guide you through the words and phrases to greet anyone in English with confidence.
Sometimes you need to use more formal or business language to keep a professional tone. Here are the most common situations when such greetings are necessary:
- job interview
- business meeting
- communicating with top management or CEO
- chatting with a new colleague
- having a conversation with clients
- showing respect to an older person
- speaking with someone you barely know
Use the following salutations to start a formal conversation in any of these situations.
1. How do you do?
If you are looking for a VERY formal phrase for someone you meet for the first time, this one will be the most suitable. While this salutation is quite uncommon today, you can still hear it from older people.
“Hello. How do you do?” is perfect for a business dinner or a formal event, such as a conference. As per professional speech in every language, the most appropriate response is neutral or positive “I’m doing well thank you / Fine, thank you” to keep some distance, even if you are actually having a very bad day!
If used as a formal greeting, sometimes “How do you do” is, strangely, used as a statement rather than a question. This most often happens when shaking hands with someone for the first time. It is easy to hear if this is the case: there will be no inflection at the end of the sentence. In this instance, the correct response is to repeat the question back to the asker in the same flat tone, “How do you do?”
2. Nice to meet you / Pleased to meet you
This is one of the respectful greeting examples you can use replying to someone you meet for the very first time. For example:
- A: Good morning. I’m Alex White from [Company].
- B: Nice to meet you, Mr. White.
When people meet, it is a common practice to shake hands. A handshake generally lasts for a few seconds, which gives enough time to say “Pleased to meet you”.
3. How have you been?
This is a polite way to ask “How are you?” when you have not seen a person for a long time. Ask this question only if you have met someone before.
- A: How have you been?
- B: I’ve been busy working a lot. How about you?
The best way to ensure that your greetings sound natural and confident is to practice them aloud, preferably with a fluent speaker to give you pointers. No-one to practice with? Find your perfect tutor.
4. Good Morning / Good Afternoon / Good Evening
These ways of greeting people are used at different times of the day. Whether you speak with a regular customer, colleagues or new neighbors, these phrases are effective to start the ball rolling.
The greetings change depending on the time of the day. For example, “Good morning” is generally used from 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. whereas “Good afternoon” time is from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. “Good evening” is often used after 6 p.m. or when the sun goes down.
Keep in mind that “Goodnight” is not a salutation. In formal communication, it is used to say goodbye. For example:
- It was nice to meet you. Goodnight!
- Goodnight! See you tomorrow.
To show your respect, you can also add the person’s last name to your greeting words. Usually, native English speakers tend to be more informal even in business communication and use the person’s first name after the salutation:
- Good morning, Mr. Houston
- Good afternoon, Ms. Partridge
- Good morning, Tom
- Good evening, Kelly
It is also common to say “Good morning, sir/madam” when greeting someone in a formal situation whose name is unknown. This is often heard by staff talking to customers in shops, restaurants and hotels.
Want to polish your conversational skills? Check out our article on the five main principles of small talk.
Formal greetings for letters and emails
In any language, many of the most formal conversations take place in written form: job applications, legal queries, complaints against a company. Here are the best ways to greet someone in writing when you have something serious to say.
You might also want to check out our handy guide to writing emails in English.
5. Dear Sir or Madam
If you do not know the name of the person you are sending a professional letter or email to then “Dear Sir or Madam” is the most common way to start the conversation. It is clear, respectful, and to the point. Some instances when this is useful include:
- When you are reaching out to a department you would like to work with
- When you are emailing a company
However, if you are able to find the person you want to talk to with some online research, it is much more professional to do so and send a personalized formal greeting.
6. To Whom It May Concern
This is another professional way to address an email to a stranger. It is a little old fashioned, but perfect if your formal email is going to be relevant to a group of people, or if you want to sound especially reserved. Suitable situations include:
- When you are emailing a whole department that you are unfamiliar with
- When you are sending a complaint to a company
- When sending a reference letter for someone you used to manage
7. To the Hiring Manager
If you are sending a job application or emailing an HR department about a role you would like to apply for, “To the Hiring Manager” is a very useful greeting. It is particularly helpful if you are emailing a generic company-wide “info@” inbox because it signals that your message will be about a work opportunity, and immediately instructs whoever manages the inbox to forward your message to the HR department.
8. Dear Mr X / Mrs X / Ms X / Miss X / Prof X / Dr X
If you know the name and title of someone you are sending a formal email to, it is better to begin the conversation with “Dear Mr [surname]” instead of “Dear sir or madam.”
In rare cases, the person you are emailing might use a salutation which signifies their profession. Doctors and academics who have a PhD sometimes use “Dr”, and college professors sometimes use “Prof”. Otherwise, you can use “Dear Mr [surname]” for a man, “Dear Mrs [surname]” for a married woman, or “Dear Miss [surname]” for an unmarried woman. If you do not know the marital status of a woman you are emailing professionally, you should use “Ms [surname]”. If you do not know the title of the person you want to reach, or cannot guess their gender from their name, try looking them up on Linkedin.
Be aware: even when sending very formal professional messages, most people will switch to “Dear [First name] after the first or second email exchange. Usually, the person you have reached out to will reply using “Dear [first name]”, and after this point, it is polite to address them in the same way.
Want inspiration for the next line? Check out our guide on how to start a letter and write a great hook.
When it comes to a conversation with a neighbor or a chit-chat with colleagues during a coffee break, you can opt for these informal greetings. Situations where these fit naturally include:
- a casual meeting with colleagues
- having a conversation with your team at work
- networking events
- greeting neighbors
- chatting to a friend
9. Hello / Hi / Hey
As you almost certainly know already, “Hello” and “Hi” are the most popular greetings for informal situations. Generally, they are followed by the person’s name:
- Hello, Michel. How are you?
- Hi, Monica. Nice to see you!
As a rule, use “hey” with people you know well. It is perfectly okay to start a conversation with a stranger in an informal situation with “hey” too, but do not pronounce it too harshly in this case, or it can come across as rude or confrontational.
10. Morning / Afternoon / Evening
This is a friendly and warm way to greet someone in most informal situations. It sounds particularly natural if you are just walking past someone who you relate to informally but do not have time for a long chat with, such as a postman, or a neighbor, or a cafe assistant. This said, it works just as well to start a longer conversation.
11. How are you doing? / How’s it going?
This is a casual way of asking “How are you?” People prefer to ask one of these questions after the main greeting. Usually, it is followed by a brief, positive answer. For instance:
- A: Hello, Amanda! How are you doing?
- B: Fine, thanks. And you?
12. Nice to see you / It’s great to see you / Good to see you
When you have not seen a person for a while or meet somebody unexpectedly, use one of these friendly greetings. You can use them at the beginning of a conversation, or just after the initial “hello”.
- Hello, Veronica. Nice to see you there.
13. Long-time no see / It’s been a while
These common phrases are used to greet an old friend or begin a conversation with a person you haven’t seen for a very long time. These expressions are often followed by questions like “How are you?” or “What’s new?” And it is a great way to start small talk about what has happened since your last meeting.
- A: Hey, John! Long-time no see. How are you?
- B: I’m fine, thanks! What’s new?
- A: Hi, Taya. How’s it going?
- B: Good thanks.
- A: I haven’t seen you for ages.
- B: Yes, it’s been a while.
Want these phrases to feel natural? Learn them by speaking with a tutor on Preply
Slang is fun to learn: it’s informal and a little bit silly, and using it signifies to someone that you’re on friendly terms. Here are some different ways to say “hello” to your good friends and younger relatives.
This funny greeting came from hip-hop culture in 1990s America. It is still commonly used in the US today.
15. What’s up?
This is a very common slang greeting used a lot both in person and over text message. It is a more relaxed way of greeting a friend by asking how they are doing, and what is new in their life. It is not rude and can be used with colleagues who you are close with, as well as family members and friends.
This is a short version of “What’s up?”, which was very popular in America in the early 2000s. Now it is mostly only used ironically or in text.
When texting or sending direct messages, some people like to add extra “y”s at the end of “hey”. For some mysterious reason, this is most often used when flirting. The longer the tail of “y”s, the flirtier the message! More than three or four looks a little bit desperate though…
Knowing a few British English greetings will make you seem especially friendly when traveling to the UK, showing from the very first impression that you want to engage with the local culture. Here are some British “hello”s, perfect for testing out on the Queen, or on your mates down the pub!
18. Lovely to meet you / Lovely to see you
When greeting each other in a formal setting, British people are more likely to describe it as “lovely” to meet someone than “nice”. If you travel to the UK, you will notice that many people use the word “lovely” to mean the same as “fine” in American English. To British English speakers, it sounds kinder and more sincere.
19. Are you OK?
This is a British slang version of “Hello. How are you?” If your friend greets you like this, you can respond with “yeah, fine” or, if you want to sound even more British, “not bad” — which means exactly the same thing.
20. Alright, mate? / Alright?
This is a very common slang way to say a chilled-out “Hi” to a friend. It is a shortened version of “Are you alright?”. Once again, a suitable and friendly answer is “Not bad, mate, you?”
This is a very common way of saying “hello”, especially in the North of England. It is also used a lot in text messaging.
22. What’s the craic?
This greeting is only used in Ireland, and “craic” is pronounced to rhyme with the English words “crack” and “back”. It is a very warm phrase which means, “what is new with you?” or “have you got any interesting new gossip since we last met?”
Be careful though: if you use this phrase to greet someone Irish and are not Irish yourself, it is possible that they might think you are making fun of them!
Hungry for some more British slang? Check out our guide to the 40 most memorable British slang words for ESL learners
It is very difficult to be funny in a new language (or difficult to be funny on purpose, at least!). Being able to understand and make jokes is often even seen as a sign of fluency. If you are still in the process of learning, slipping a silly or old-fashioned version of “hello” into a conversation is a simple way to make someone laugh.
If you are learning English to chat with a partner or friends, surprising them with one of these weird conversation starters can be very funny. Here are some less serious “hellos” and tips on when to try them for maximum effect.
This is a very old greeting that dates all the way back to Old English, and was once used by sailors to call ships. Nowadays, it is only really spoken by Spongebob and other ocean-based cartoon characters. It is just as silly when written in a text message as in person.
24. Hello stranger!
This is sometimes used when greeting friends that you haven’t seen in a little while. It is a jokier version of “long time, no see”.
25. ‘Ello, gov’nor!
This is a shortened version of “Hello, governor”, a greeting used by tradespeople in Victorian London, to show respect when talking to upper class members of society. Dropping the “H” from the “Hello” is intended to make the pronunciation sound similar to the famous “cockney” accent, associated with the East of London. Today, it is only really used by people teasing their British colleagues!
This is a ridiculous way to say “Good morning”. It is unnecessarily formal and associated with old-fashioned poetry, so using it in real conversation is definitely pretty silly!
27. What’s crackin’?
This is another way of saying, “What’s up?” or “What’s going on?”.
28. What’s up buttercup?
This is a very rarely-used greeting, but will definitely make someone laugh. A buttercup is a delicate yellow flower which grows in grass, and also a very common thing to name your pet cow. It is quite funny to address an adult as “buttercup”.
This is an abbreviation of “How do you do?” stereotypically used in some regions of Canada and America. Now, it is mostly only used by cartoon cowboys.
A brief afterword
A well-chosen “hello” sets the tone for any conversation, whether talking to a close friend or someone you barely know.
Don’t be afraid to try out these new expressions in your daily communication. Armed with these words and phrases, you can start almost any conversation off in a more vibrant and fluent way.
Want to speak with confidence as quickly as possible? Find a personal English tutor perfectly suited to your budget and schedule.
FAQ about English greetings
What are simple greetings?
The simplest greetings are the old-fashioned "hello," "hey," or "hi." You can use these in almost any situation!
How do you say hello in a cute way?
If you want to be a little less formal and little more friendly, you can go with "hey there," or, even better for over text or instant message, "hey there :)." Another cute greeting is to say hello in a different language, e.g. "hola."
How do you greet someone in chat?
A chat is generally informal, so saying "hey" or something even friendlier (and slang-ier) like "yo" or "what's up" will do.
How do you respectfully greet someone?
The most respectful greetings are formal ones like "hello," or time-related greetings like "good morning" or "good evening." To make it even more respectful, add the listener's formal title afterwards, like "hello, Mr. or Mrs. ______," or even "hello, sir or ma'am."