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Spanish Matters - a blog in English and Spanish for those learning the language

This blog is entitled "Spanish Matters", because it does! Matter, that is. If you have committed to living in Spain, you should also make a commitment to learn some Spanish. So this is a blog about matters Spanish, as well as promoting the notion that Spanish does indeed matter. The blog contains articles in both English and Spanish. Don Pablo hopes it will be helpful to those learning the language.

SPEAKING SPANISH: Greetings, common courtesies and farewells
Thursday, November 18, 2021 @ 10:15 AM

In this article on Spanish language and culture, don Pablo looks at greetings, common courtesies and farewells…

These seemingly simple words and phrases are so important, aren’t they?  However much or little Spanish we speak, it makes such a difference if we say ‘hello’ to our neighbours and others we meet in the street or at the bakery, the café or the bar.

The locals often stare a lot and look quite stern, but a quick hola or buenos días and their faces invariably light up into a broad smile. Often, as visitors or outsiders, we need to take the initiative, and it’s definitely worth the small amount of effort.

So, what are the various ways of greeting someone in Spanish?  Obviously, the simplest and most common greeting is hola, but this is usually combined with the more formal buenos días or buenas tardes, in other words Hola, buenos días or Hola, buenas tardes, depending on the time of day.

As a rule of thumb, use buenos días up to lunchtime, which is early/mid afternoon in Spain, and buenas tardes thereafter, right through until dark, when it becomes buenas noches.

Frequently, Spaniards drop the días or tardes and say simply: Hola, buenos or Hola, buenas.

It’s normal to add ¿Qué hay? or ¿Qué tal?, both equivalent to ‘How are you?’.  Answers to that will range from Muy bien, gracias (‘Very well, thanks’) to Bien (‘Fine’) or Regular (‘Not so bad’).

We can ask how they are by simply adding  y ¿usted? or y ¿tú? (‘And you?’). As we grow in confidence it’s a nice touch to say Me alegro de verle/verte (‘Nice to see you’) if you haven’t seen someone for a while.

What about farewells then?  Adiós and Hasta luego are the most common, often combined together.  Alternatives are Hasta ahora or Hasta pronto (both ‘See you soon’), Hasta mañana (‘See you tomorrow’) and Hasta otro día (‘See you another day’).  Hasta la vista also exists, but personally I’ve only ever heard it said by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator films!

Oddly, sometimes when you pass an acquaintance on the street, they will say adiós or hasta luego.  They’re not being rude or implying they don’t want to stop and talk to you.  Not at all.  In this context they are being used as greetings too.

So, these are the key greetings, common courtesies and farewells.  If you don’t use these words and phrases already, why not have a go and see how you get on?  Good luck and keep on listening!

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