Saludos y Despedidas - Greeting People in Spanish

Similar to English, there are many different ways to greet someone in Spanish. The manner in which you greet someone in Spanish, just as in the case of English, is largely dependent on the surrounding social context. There is one key difference, however, namely that in Spanish when you are speaking to someone, you must decide whether it is appropriate to address that person formally or informally. In other words, there two (really three when you taken into account the plural form) different words for 'you' in Spanish, the formal usted and the less formal . Ordinarily, is used with good friends and family members while usted is used by children when addressing adults, in business settings, or when addressing someone that is much older than the speaker. There are also some greetings that can be used in either formal or informal settings. I will begin by listing a few greetings that can be used either formally or in less formal settings:

Notice that with 'Good morning' the masculine buenos is used, and that the feminine form buenas is used for 'Good afternoon' and 'Good evening.'

In Mexico, these greetings are oftentimes shortened and the second word is omitted. Thus, a common greeting in Mexico is simply Buenas, which is similar to saying 'Good day' or 'Afternoon' in English. Occasionally, though much less frequently, the greeting Buenos días is used in the singular as in Buen día. It means exactly the same thing, 'Good morning.'

It is important to point out that the word bueno has more than one meaning or tranlation into English. In the abovementioned context it is used to mean 'good' as in 'Good afternoon.' But, it can also be used to mean 'Well?' or even loosely translate as 'hello' and is used in this manner when answering the telephone. For example, when someone answers the phone in Mexico a common greeting is Bueno?, which means Hello? In my home state of New Mexico the word bueno is also used at the end of a conversation to say 'goodbye' and loosely translates as 'Well?' as if to say 'Well, that's all I've got to say, goodbye.'

Another expression used in Mexico to greet someone specifically in the morning is ¿Cómo amaneciste? A loose translation of this expression might be - How are you this morning? Literally, the verb amanecer means to dawn so this expression could also be translated as How did you sleep? or How did you wake this morning? The expression ¿Cómo amaneciste? is conjugated in the or informal form. To address someone formally, the question would be - ¿Cómo amaneció?

The following are a list of greetings you can use in a formal setting in Mexico, or in other words, when you are addressing someone using usted or the polite form of address.

The following list incorporates less formal greetings used with the subject pronoun :

How might a typical conversation go that incorporates these greetings? Here are some examples of how people might greet each other in diferent social settings involving different people:

Two people greeting each other at the office in a business setting:
Jorge: Buenos días, Luis.
Luis: Buenos días, ¿Cómo está?

Two neighbors greeting each other and that know each other slightly:
Ana: ¿Cómo le va, María?
María: ¿Cómo ha estado?

Two adult friends:
Juan: ¿Cómo estás?
Luis: Aquí nomás. (Aquí nomás is used to say that the person is doing okay, neither great nor terrible. It's like saying I'm just here. in English.

Other Useful Expressions

When meeting someone for the first time, the following expressions may be used and loosely translate as, Pleased to meet you.

Here are some useful expressions for wishing someone a good day or to say goodbye.

Gustar v. Caer(le) bien

One expression or verb that needs to be explained to Spanish students is the use of the verb gustar. The verb gustar is ordinarily used to express likes and dislikes and means something like - to be pleasing to - in English. If you think about it, if you told someone in English, You are pleasing to me, you might not be surprised to get a strange look as such an expression in English is open to numerous interpretations. The same applies in Spanish as well. Since the verb gustar means to be pleasing to, there are probably better ways to tell a person in Spanish that you like him or her as a friend. One verb that is commonly used for this purpose in Mexico and elsewhere is the verb caer which means to fall. If you say to someone in Spanish, Me caes bien or You fall well to me, this is interpreted to mean that you like the person in a platonic sense. If however, you say, Me gustas, the person may believe you are stating that you are attracted to him or her. To avoid this ambiguity, it is better, especially in Mexico to use the expression Me caes bien when stating that you like the person as a friend. Note also that the expression, Me caes mal or Me caes gordo are both common ways of saying that you do not like a person. In both cases, the expression cannot be interpreted literally as it will make no sense. Gustar is always a safe choice when referring to objects. For example, Me gusta el helado would be the correct way to say that you like ice cream. Or, Me gusta tu pelo would be a perfectly appropriate way to say, I like your hair with no romantic overtones. Finally, from a grammatical standpoint, it is the thing that is doing the pleasing or the falling well that is the subject, and so the verb must be conjugated to reflect that the thing which is pleasing is the subject. For example, Me gusto does not work to say I like you. Rather, it would mean that you are pleasing to yourself. There are many idiomatic or tricky expressions heard in Mexico that use the verb caer. I will be dealing with these expression in more depth on a separate page. For now, just remember that the expressions Me gustas is open to many different interpretations and that Me caes bien is a less ambiguous way to express that you like someone as a friend, especially in Mexico.