Greetings and Goodbyes in the English Language

This article teaches you how to express greetings and goodbyes in English.

Greetings and goodbyes have an important role in society. They are acts of communication in which people intentionally make their presence or absence known to each other. Therefore, a greeting is something friendly or polite that you say or do when you meet or welcome someone, and a goodbye is something friendly or polite that you say to someone when you or they are leaving. The English language distinguishes between formal and informal greetings and goodbyes.

Formal and Informal Greetings

The most usual way of greeting someone in the English language is to say ‘Hello‘. You can continue the conversation by adding ‘How are you?‘ or another comment or question. For example:

  • Hello, Jean. How are you today?
  • Hello, Jean. Had a good day?

The greeting ‘Hello‘ can be used in formal and informal situations.

A more informal way of greeting someone is to say ‘Hi‘. This exclamation is used in informal situations when people who know each other meet. For example:

  • Hi, Sandy, how are you doing?

You can also use the exclamation ‘Hey‘ in informal situations. This greeting is very common in American English. In British English, the exclamation ‘Hiya‘ (meaning ‘Hey you‘) can also be used in informal situations. ‘Hiya‘ is a very casual greeting between friends, but you can use it with anyone, especially when you want to greet someone in a very friendly manner. For example:

  • Hey, Jack! How are ya?
  • Hiya, Rodney! Come in!

English LanguageYou can use the greeting ‘How do you do?‘ when you want to greet someone in a very formal way. This greeting is used only by people who are meeting each other for the first time. It is usually accompanied by a handshake. You can use it in business situations, for instance. Try to remember that he reply to the greeting ‘How do you do?‘ is not ‘I’m fine, thank you‘. Instead, say ‘How do you do?’ back to the person.

Sometimes, when you greet someone in a more formal manner, the greeting you use depends on what time of day it is. You can use the greeting ‘Good morning‘ until noon (midday). You can use the greeting ‘Good afternoon‘ from about noon until six o’clock. After six o’clock or when it gets really dark outside, you can use the greeting ‘Good evening‘. For example:

  • Good evening. May I speak to Mrs. Blixen?

Warning: Don’t say ‘Goodnight‘ to someone in the evening (or at night) when you meetthem. This is a very common mistake made by English learners. The exclamation ‘Goodnight‘ can be used only when you are leaving someone in the evening or going to bed. For example:

  • Goodnight, Savannah. I’m going to bed.

Of course, you can make the above expressions informal by omitting ‘Good‘. For example:

  • Morning, Alicia. / Afternoon, Alice. / Evening, Anastacia. How are you?

A note: Nowadays, the exclamation ‘Good day‘ is considered to be old-fashioned and rather formal. The British and Americans don’t use it very often.

There’s one more greeting that you may find useful in both formal and informal situations: the greeting ‘Welcome‘. It is used when you want to greet someone who has just arrived somewhere.

For example:

  • Welcome to / Welcome home, Uncle Tom. / Welcome back.

Warning: Don’t say, ”Welcome in London.” It’s incorrect. In such situations you should always use the preposition to.

Replying to a Greeting

You can reply to a greeting by using the same word or expression that the person who greeted you used. For example:

  • A: Hello, Sydney. B: Hello, Daniel. It’s good to see you today.
  • A: Good morning, Gina. B: Good morning, sir.

If the other person has also asked you a question, you can simply avoid the greeting word and just answer their question. For example:

  • A: Hi, Maddy, did you have a good holiday? B: Yes, thank you. I had a great time.
  • A: Good afternoon. How are you this fine day? B: Very well, thank you.

If someone says ‘How are you?‘ to you, it is polite to answer back by saying ‘How are you?‘ or ‘And you?‘. For example:

  • A: Hello, Mr. Jones. How are you? B: Fine, thank you. And how are you?
  • A: Hi, Dad. How are you? B: Fine, thanks. And you, son? A: So-so.


Goodbyes in English can be formal or informal. You can use the exclamation ‘Goodbye‘ in more formal situations. In informal situations you can simply say ‘Bye‘. The exclamation ‘Bye-bye‘ is even more informal than ‘Bye‘. It is used between close friends and relatives, and it is said to children. For example:

  • Goodbye, Mr. President. / Bye, Mr. Defoe. / Bye-bye, honey. See you tomorrow.

If you expect to see the other person again, you can use the following expressions: ‘See you, See you soon, See you around, I’ll be seeing you, See you later‘. For example:

  • Bye, Sara. See you. / See you soon. / See you around., etc.

You can also say ‘Take care‘ when you’re saying goodbye to someone. Americans use the expression ‘Have a nice day‘ to say goodbye to people they don’t personally know. For instance, employees in shops and restaurants say it often to their customers. For example:

  • A: Thank you for your purchase. Have a nice day!

When you’re saying goodbye to someone you do not know well, you can use more formal expressions such as ‘I look forward to seeing you again‘ or ‘It was nice meeting you‘. For example:

  • I look forward to seeing you in Santa Barbara.
  • It was nice meeting you, Ms. Batista.

If you want to learn how to pronounce greetings and goodbyes in English, you can visit the video-sharing website You Tube, where you will find a lot of interesting tutorials dealing with this topic.