How to greet people properly is one of the first things you learn in any language. It’s important to get these right because we use English greetings many times a day and you should feel confident that you can pull out of your sleeve the appropriate salutation for the situation and person.
Below we’ll talk about the most common English greetings and goodbyes you’ll hear in the English language, when to use them, and with whom so you are more confident and sure of yourself. After all, everyone wants to make a good first and last impression!
How to Start a Conversation
Hi is perhaps the most common greeting you’ll hear, especially from Americans. Hi is one of our informal, quick English greetings, and as Americans are pretty informal, we tend use it a lot both in person and in less formal writing.
Even though hi is informal, you can say it to just about anyone outside of a business setting. Whether you’re ordering coffee or run into an acquaintance on the street, if you say hi with a smile, you’re sure to have the proper greeting.
We tend to start most emails with “Hi Crystal,” or “Hi Ms. Duffin,” when you write frequently to the person, if you see the person pretty frequently, or you have a close relationship to them in some way. The same is true for Hey (see below.)
Hey is an extremely informal English greeting, and as such, should only be used with friends. Saying hey to a business associate or someone you don’t know is generally seen as “too informal” and would just be weird.
However, if you’re hanging out with friends, hey is the perfect greeting!
In an email, “Hey Erin!” is often accompanied by an exclamation mark ( ! ) which is, by design, pretty informal.
What’s up? (or Hey, what’s up?, Sup? Wassup?) is perhaps the most informal greeting on this list. It always makes me think of the “Whazzaaaap” Super Bowl commercial in the early 2000s. (We also linked to it in our 5 Weird English Phrases blog.)
Like hey, we don’t use usually use what’s up in an office setting. However, when you’re with friends, after saying hi or hey, the English greeting what’s up is a nice, casual way to ask how they are and begin a conversation. Try it out for yourself the next time you see your friends!
Hello is one of the more formal English greetings on our list. We use hello in the office, when we greet someone we don’t know, and when we pick up the phone and don’t know who is on the other end. (Of course, if you see on your cell phone display that your favorite sister is calling, you would most probably say Hey! or Hi!)
Hello can be used with anyone and is never a bad way to start a conversation!
How to End a Conversation
See ya, like hey, is informal and should just be used with friends. When you’re ready to go home, you can say see ya when everyone is saying their goodbyes. It’s a shortened way of saying see you later, which is what makes it so informal.
Bye is a great word to use in general. You can say bye to anyone when you’re leaving somewhere, whether it be a store, a movie theater, or a friend’s house.
Even though bye is a shortened version of goodbye, you can’t go wrong with saying bye to someone when you see them in person.
A small caveat: we don’t end emails or letters with bye. It just looks and sounds a little too harsh. I would keep bye in the spoken form.
See You Tomorrow
See you tomorrow is a great goodbye to say to someone you see often- and of course if you are actually seeing them the next day! You can use this in an office setting with your colleagues when you leave for the day and you plan to see them…tomorrow. 🙂
You can also use it in informal settings to say goodbye to friends if you’ll be seeing them the next day…and it’s a great way to remind them of your plans to see each other tomorrow, as well.
What English greetings or goodbyes do you use most often? Share with us in the comments below!
Erin Duffin lives in Berlin (but not for long!), is an online English teacher, yoga and breath instructor, and always says “hey” and “see ya” with a big smile!