Like in many other languages, there are many ways to greet someone in Spanish. These different ways depend on the situation, formality, parts of the day, or tone you would like to set. In this article, we will explain some common Spanish greetings and farewells that you cannot go wrong with. We will also show you when and in which situations to use them.
Table of Contents Hide
- Typical Spanish Greetings based on the part of the day
- Spanish Greetings based on formality
- Different Spanish farewells
- Bonus: Spanish greeting customs
Typical Spanish Greetings based on the part of the day
Like in most languages and cultures, there are greetings in Spanish used only in certain parts of the day, like the morning or at night. The day in Spanish can be divided into six different periods.
In Spain, the sun rises no earlier than eight in the morning, and in the summer, it can set even after 10 PM. This is because the Spanish clock is in the „wrong“ time zone. We already spoke about this in our Siesta article, but Spain has been in the CET time zone since World War 2. This decision was made to match Germany during that period, and they simply left it that way until today.
Because of this, the day in Spain is „moved“ a bit, and it starts a bit later and finishes a bit (or a lot) later. I say I lot because, on top of their time zone, Spaniards are night owls.
Probably because of the same reason Siesta exists, Spaniards normally get out to dinner or hit the clubs way later than in other European countries. The normal time to get ready and go to a family dinner downtown in Spain is 9 – 9:30 PM. The normal time to leave the house for clubbing is not earlier than 11 PM, but closer to midnight. The clubs open around midnight but normally don’t get crowded until 2-3 in the morning.
All these characteristics also influence greetings in the said periods. So, let’s break down greetings that fit every one of these six periods of the day.
1) Madrugada – early morning
Early morning, as the name suggests, starts after midnight with the first AM hours, and continues until the sunrise. In Spain, madrugada is considered somewhere between 1 and 7 AM or until the sun has not fully risen.
For this part of the day, you can say either Buenas noches or Buenos días.
- Buenas noches (Good night or good evening). On this occasion, it will mean good night. You will say this if you’re going to bed in these hours. This way, you will treat this period as „the night“. In this scenario, Buenas noches is more often a farewell rather than a greeting.
- Buenos días (Good morning). It’s less likely that you will wake up earlier than 6 or 7 AM in Spain, but if you do, and you meet someone who also just woke up, you will say good morning or Buenos días.
If you’re keeping it more casual, you can also say Hola or Buenas (which means „Hello“), or Adiós (Bye) or Hasta manaña (See you tomorrow) if you’re going away
2) Manaña – morning
Manaña is a word with two meanings in Spanish, and its meaning depends on whether it’s a feminine or a masculine noun. La manaña (Morning), and El manaña (Tomorrow). In the sentence „Hasta manaña“ you’re saying „Until tomorrow“ and referring to the masculine noun „el manaña“.
La manaña as the morning starts with the sun (normally around 8 AM) and ends around noon. It’s pretty similar to most countries.
For this period of the day, you should greet people with Buenos días (Good morning), or more casual Buenas or Hola (Hello/Hi).
For farewells, you can say Adiós (Goodbye) or you can say Hasta manaña or Hasta luego (which means „See you tomorrow“ and „See you later“). Hasta luego or See you later is used with everyone as a casual way of saying goodbye and it doesn’t need to imply that you will actually see that person again later. You can use this in supermarkets, stores, at schools, etc.
3) Mediodía – noon
Mediodía (simply means „Midday“), and that is exactly noon.
In this part of the day, you can greet people either with Buenos días (Good morning), or Buenas tardes (Good afternoon). Because none of those are true, the best things to say are simply Hola or Buenas.
4) Tarde – afternoon/evening
Tarde (means „Afternoon“), and it starts from 1 PM and lasts until the sunsets.
Since we already said that the sun sets later in Spain, the afternoon can be until 9 PM. In most countries, 9 PM would be considered nighttime, but in Spain in the summertime, 9 PM is only the evening.
The Spanish language does not distinguish between evening and night, so Tarde can mean both afternoon and evening.
For this period of the day, you should greet people with Buenas tardes (which means „Good afternoon“ or „Good evening“ or „Good day“).
In some parts of Spain, Tarde only begins after the siesta. Before siesta, it is the morning or midday, and during siesta, there would normally not be many people on the streets. When siesta is over (around 4 or 5 PM) then you can start saying „Buenas tardes“. It refers to the part of the day in which the sun has started to set, but is not quite there yet.
5) Noche – nighttime
Noche (Night), like in most places means the time of the day when the sun is completely set.
Of course, as Spain has later „waking hours“, it can also refer to anything after midnight. However, that is technically Madrugada (Early morning), and it depends on your situation how you’ll perceive those hours.
The nighttime in Spain would normally start around 9 – 10 PM and last until midnight or 1 AM. This is the time that cafes and bars normally stay open on the workweek.
- For this period, you will say Buenas noches (which means „good evening“), or if you’re going away, you will say Buenas noches as „Good night“.
As a farewell, it is mostly used when the hours are getting so late that the bar is closing or it’s implied that you’re going home to sleep. It’s not that usual to say Buenas noches to a waiter at 11 PM if the working hours are not nearly ending.
When you’re leaving a pub or a cafe or a supermarket at night, it’s best if you say Adiós or Hasta manaña, Hasta luego, etc. These are all much more casual farewells that don’t imply anything.
6) Medianoche – midnight
Medianoche, similarly like Mediodía, is the middle part of the night, or, as we like to call it in English – midnight. 😀
This period refers only to midnight or until 1 AM.
Like mediodía, it’s a really short period of the day. After this, la madrugada starts, but unlike during madrugada, you will probably never say Buenos días at midnight, but rather Buenas noches or simply hola and adiós.
Spanish Greetings based on formality
Other than different periods of the day, Spanish farewells and greetings can also be divided by formality and who you speak to. Now, you should know that Spanish people talk with almost everyone in a very casual form. They call each other by first names, or even nicknames, even if there is a big age gap or different seniority level between them.
Students in schools and universities call their teachers by their first name, don’t use the formal way of conversing, even though, there is one in the Spanish language.
So, even though there are different ways of greeting people depending on the formality, in most situations, it is absolutely fine (even more natural) to use informal or semi-formal speech.
Formal Greetings in Spanish
In Spanish, when you want to use formal speech, you would use a „formal you“ instead of informal, so instead of „Tu“, you will use „Usted“. It is conjugated as a third person like „she“ or „he“, so every time you speak, you will use the third person conjugation to address the person you’re speaking to.
When you’d like to ask something you would say „Usted quiere…?“ instead of „Tú quieres..“?. If you’re not learning Spanish grammar yet, this might be a bit confusing, so we recommend taking a few lessons on italki with a teacher who can help you understand this. The English language doesn’t have this difference, so it may be hard to grasp.
So, without further a due, we’re going to focus only on the greetings instead of trying to fit a very serious grammar lesson in a few sentences.
- Hola is a great greeting that is absolutely the same amount formal and informal and really a greeting that you can use in just about any situation.
- Buenos días (good morning), Buenas tardes (good afternoon/evening), and Buenas noches (good evening, good night) are formal ways of saying hello. However, it is not a mistake to use this with your friends or family and is actually really common.
- Buen día is a more formal way that you would not normally use with your friends, but rather in more formal situations.
Other than that, there is not much big of a difference between formal and informal greetings with these basic greetings. The use of questions like „How are you“ or „How are you doing“ as greetings is where the difference is seen. In a formal situation this is what would be acceptable to say:
¿Cómo está? (How are you doing?)
Gusto en verlo. (I am glad to see you)
Mucho gusto. (Nice to meet you)
¿Cómo se encuentra usted? (How are you?)
Informal Greetings in Spanish
As we said, if you ever went to Spain and you wanted to blend in, you will come up to informal and semi-formal addressing more often than formal.
Semi-formal situations are considered those with strangers, with people older than you or higher status but in casual situations. These will be professors at your university, your manager or boss in a smaller company that you meet daily or often in fairly casual situations. These will also be situations with parents of your friends or older relatives, etc.
For semi-formal situations you can use the following:
¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)
¿Cémo te va? (How’s it going?)
¿Qué onda? (What’s new?)
¿Qué tal? (What’s up?)
Very informal situations will be those with your friends, close family, co-workers that you spend a lot of time with, friends of your friends that you met before, etc.
For informal situations with friends or with coworkers, you can try using one of these greetings:
¿Qué hay de nuevo? (What’s new?)
¿Qué pasa? (What’s up?)
¿Quiubo? (What’s up?)
¿En qué andas? (What are you up to?)
You can see that there is not much difference between the two, and it’s not a mistake to use semi-formal with your friends. The only phrases reserved for friends are the bolded ones. Just don’t say them to a professor.
Different Spanish farewells
Like greetings, there are also different farewells in Spanish that you can use depending on the situation or the person you are speaking to. Here is the list of the most common ones, and an explanation for each.
- Adiós (Bye/goodbye). This is the most common way of saying goodbye. It can be both formal and informal. You cannot go wrong with it. You can say it to a stranger, as well as your close friends.
- Hasta pronto, Hasta manaña, Hasta luego, etc. (See you soon, See you tomorrow, See you later, etc). This is another very popular farewell. Hasta means „until“, so you can put any situation after it to specify when you’ll see the other person. You can say „Hasta el proximo ano“ (which means „See you next year“). However, in daily conversation, you will either use luego, pronto, or manaña.
- Hasta luego is a very popular saying even if there is no actual intent that you will see each other ever again. You can say this to practically anyone.
- Nos vemos (See you). This farewell has a more casual tone and is great to use with friends or coworkers. It implies that you know this person fairly well and that you will see each other at one point again. This is not a very popular saying in formal situations and you should keep it in a casual situation only.
- Te veo luego / Después (See you later). This is also a casual farewell that you would normally use with friends or with someone that you will be seeing again later that day. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
- Nos estamos viendo (See you around). This is a bit more formal way of the above. This is usually used in a situation with old friends or people that you don’t often see or don’t have a close relationship with. It’s a semi-formal farewell.
- Cuídate (Take care). This is a semi-formal farewell that can be used in a variety of situations, but it has a hearted tone to it. This expression is less popular than its English version „take care“ and it usually goes with the context. Even though it’s not super unusual to say it just as a goodbye, it’s more likely that you will say it when a person is moving, traveling, when you’ll not see each other for a long time, or in situations like Covid, etc. It brings that tone of care with it so it’s more usual to use it when this tone applies.
- Chao / Chau (Bye). This comes from the famous Italian word Ciao that the whole world has adapted to. Like in most languages, in Spanish chao can be used both as a greeting and as a farewell, although, it’s more popular as a farewell. It’s super casual and has a fun, positive tone to it. You can say it to basically anyone, it’s not informal in a way that will offend anyone in a more formal situation. However, the picture-perfect for this farewell is with friends, local shop owners, neighbors, etc. And I think it is always followed by a smile.
Bonus: Spanish greeting customs
People in Spain are more physical with each other than in some parts of Europe or the world. In Spain, people are very comfortable with each other so hugs, kisses, and touches are not reserved only for our most inner circle. Of course, Spanish people respect each other’s personal boundaries and this culture of theirs does not mean someone can touch or hug you if you’re uncomfortable.
However, in Spain, the typical way to meet a stranger is as follows:
If two guys are meeting for the first time, they will shake hands. If two guy friends are meeting, they might hug or give each other a tap or two on the shoulder. This is pretty standard in most western countries. However, in the family, the men can give each other two kisses on the cheek.
If a man is meeting a woman, or two women are meeting, they will give two kisses on the cheek even if they’re a complete stranger. If you are a woman and you come to Spain, the people you meet will most likely try to give you two kisses, and it might be a bit weird if you try and shake their hands.
However, if you’re not comfortable with that, that is also completely normal. The people will shake your hand and get past it. In their culture, this is a completely normal thing, but if it is not for you, don’t try to force it on yourself. It also goes for guys.
If you’re a guy and you’re meeting a woman and feel awkward to kiss two times, it’s’ perfectly fine not to do it. Spaniards know that this tradition is not very popular outside Mediterranean countries, so they’ll understand.
If it doesn’t feel weird, then embrace it! It’s great if you can because it gives you another perspective.
We appreciate your support!
Thank you for reading our content and following our journey! We are working towards becoming full-time content creators and being able to share stories with you even more frequently. If you’d like to support us to be one step closer to that goal, you can do it through Ko-Fi! 👇🏽
Willing to go the extra mile with your Spanish?
- italki – Improve your Spanish by having conversations with native speakers! italki is the perfect platform for that, where more than 3500 native speakers are waiting to help you with your Spanish.
- SpanishPod101 – Real Spanish conversations. Learning based on your objectives and needs. Practice and compare your pronunciation with natives’ using voice-recording tools. Direction from a personalized teacher tailored just for you. On top of all, it is completely free to start.
- MosaLingua Premium – It is an all-inclusive language learning platform. The perfect tool for people who want to expand their vocabulary with an option to personalize the learning content that fits their needs.
Disclaimer: This section contains some affiliate links. At no additional cost for you, we can earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase.