Social Greetings in the English Language

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Greetings are used to say hello in English. It's common to use different greetings depending on whether you greet a friend, family or a business associate. When you meet friends, use informal greetings. If it's really important, use formal greetings. Formal greetings are also used with people you do not know very well.

Greetings also depend on whether you are saying hello, or you are saying goodbye.

Learn the correct phrases using the notes below, and then practice using greetings with the practice dialogues.  

Formal Greetings: Arriving

  • Good morning / afternoon / evening.
  • Hello (name), how are you?
  • Good day Sir / Madam (very formal)

Respond to a formal greeting with another formal greeting.

  • Good morning Mr. Smith.
  • Hello Ms. Anderson. How are you today?

Informal Greetings: Arriving

  • Hi / Hello
  • How are you?
  • How are you doing?
  • What's up? (very informal)

It's important to note that the question How are you? or What's up? doesn't necessary need a response. If you do respond, these phrases are generally expected:

How are you? / How are you doing?

  • Very well, thank you. And you? (formal)
  • Fine / Great (informal)

What's up? 

  • Not much.
  • I'm just (watching TV, hanging out, cooking dinner, etc.)

Informal Greetings After a Long Time

If you haven't seen a friend or family member for a long time, use one these informal greetings to mark the occasion.

  • It's great to see you!
  • How have you been? 
  • Long time, no see. 
  • How are you doing these days?

Formal Greetings: Departing

Use these greetings when you say goodbye at the end of the day. These greetings are appropriate for work and other formal situations. 

  • Good morning / afternoon / evening.
  • It was a pleasure seeing you.
  • Goodbye.
  • Goodnight. (Note: Use after 8 p.m.)

Informal Greetings: Departing

Use these greetings when saying goodbye in an informal situation. 

  • Nice seeing you!
  • Goodbye / Bye
  • See you later
  • Later (very informal)

Here are some short example conversations for you to practice greetings in English. Find a partner to practice and take a role. Next, switch roles. Finally, make up your own conversations.

Greetings in Informal Conversations: Practice Dialogue

Anna: Tom, what's up?
Tom: Hi Anna. Nothing much. I'm just hanging out. What's up with you?
Anna: It's a good day. I'm feeling fine.
Tom: How is your sister? 
Anna: Oh, fine. Not much has changed.
Tom: Well, I have to go. Nice seeing you!
Anna: Later!

Maria: Oh, hello Chris. How are you doing?
Chris: I'm well. Thanks for asking. How are you?
Maria: I can't complain. Life is treating me well.
Chris: That's good to hear. 
Maria: Good to see you again. I need to go to my doctor's appointment.
Chris: Nice seeing you.
Maria: See you later. 

Greetings in Formal Conversations: Practice Dialogue

John: Good morning.
Alan: Good morning. How are you?
John: I'm very well thank you. And you?
Alan: I'm fine. Thank you for asking.
John: Do you have a meeting this morning?
Alan: Yes, I do.

Do you have a meeting as well?
John: Yes. Well. It was a pleasure seeing you.
Alan: Goodbye. 

Notes

Greeting someone when you are introduced. 

Once you have been introduced to someone, the next time you see that person it is important to greet them. We also greet people as we leave people. In English (as in all languages), there are different ways to greet people in formal and informal situations.

Introduction (first) Greeting: How do you do?

The question 'How do you do' is only a formality. In other words, the question does not need to be answered. Rather, it is a standard phrase used when meeting some for the first time.

  • Tom: Peter, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith this is Peter Thompsen. 
  • Peter: How do you do?
  • Mr. Smith: How do you do?

Use these phrases to say that you are happy to meet someone when introduced for the first time.

 

  • It's a pleasure to meet you.
  • It's nice to meet you.

Greetings after an Introduction: How are you? 

Once you have met someone, it's common to use standard greetings such as 'Good Morning', 'How are you?' and 'Hello'.

  • Jackson: Hi Tom. How are you?
  • Peter: Fine, and you? 
  • Jackson: I'm great.