English In The Real World

English greetings: the right way to say ‘hello’ in English

How do you greet people in your country? It depends on the person, right? You wouldn’t greet your mother in the same way you greet a new business contact. It’s the same in English, too. There is not one correct way to say ‘hello’ in English – it depends on the person you are greeting. Let’s take a look at a few different situations and how to greet people in English correctly in each situation.

Greeting friends and family

We tend to greet friends and family with informal expressions like ‘hello’, ‘hi’ or ‘hey’ and follow up by asking “How’s it going?”, “How are you doing?” or “How’s life?” to find out how the person is. When you introduce a new person to your English-speaking friends, you can just say “This is (name)” then explain how you know the person.

Greeting people at work

It’s fine to use informal greetings with colleagues you know well. With clients and colleagues you don’t know so well, or with your superiors, it’s best to use more formal greetings. Say “Good morning/afternoon” and ask “How are you?” to find out if they are well. When you want to introduce someone at work, you can say “I’d like to introduce (name)” and explain who the person is. If someone introduces you to another person, you can say “It’s a pleasure to meet you” if you’ve not met the person before.

Introducing important guests

When you meet someone very important, it’s common to say “It’s a honour to meet you”. Make sure you only do this for very important people, though because otherwise it sounds insincere. If you need to introduce an important guest speaker at a conference or seminar, you can say “I am honoured to introduce (name)” or “It gives me great pleasure to introduce (name)”.

Welcoming guests

If someone is visiting you, you may want to welcome them to your home, city or country. Remember, we only do this when people are visiting us, now when we visit them. Welcoming people is easy, all you need to say is “Welcome to our office/city” and in an informal situation, you can say “Make yourself at home.”

Body language

In most English-speaking countries, shaking hands is the most common greeting. Some people greet close friends a hug or kiss on one or two cheeks (between men and women). This is a personal thing, though, and can make other people feel uncomfortable. The best way to learn about physical greetings is to watch what other people do closely and base your greeting on that.

So, now you know how to greet people in English, all that’s left is to go out and do it!

Wil is a writer, teacher, learning technologist and keen language learner. He’s taught English in classrooms and online for nearly 10 years, trained teachers in using classroom and web technology, and written e-learning materials for several major websites. He speaks four languages and is currently looking for another one to start learning.

Wil

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