There are many ways to say hello in Spanish. As with English, some expressions are best used in formal situations and others are more casual in tone. Can you distinguish between the formal and informal expressions below? Which expressions do you think are used by children and teens? Which are used by professionals?
¡Hola! - hi!
¿Cómo te va? - How's it going?
Encantado - Pleased to meet you (m)
Encantada - Pleased to meet you (f)
Mucho gusto - It's nice to meet you
¿Qué pasa? - What's up?
¿Qué tal? - How ya doing?
¿Cómo está? - How are you?
¿Cómo estás? - How are you?
Spanish has an formal way of speaking (Usted) and informal way of speaking (Tú and Vos). It is often difficult for students of Spanish to understand which situations require the use of Usted, and which situations require the use of Tú or Vos. Below, we present a few simple rules.
Previously, Spanish was a more formal language and if you addressed the ruling classes informally, you could quickly lose your head! The King of Spain is now just a figurehead and the recent trend has been towards a more informal way of speaking. Of course, there are still situations which call for the formal speech. In any social situation where you would address a person as Mr. or Mrs., you should use formal speech (Usted) - this includes most business encounters and whenever you are speaking to an older person. When speaking with children, or friends, the informal or "tu" is appropriate. If you are ever en doubt, use "usted" or the formal speech. It is better that the other person tell you: "Por favor, no me trates de usted" (Please, don't use usted with me!)
Now, let's look at how the informal and formal are used in everyday Spanish with the phrase: How are you?
Formal ¿Cómo está usted?
How are you?
Infomal ¿Cómo estás?
How are you?
People usually use vos when talking to:
* people your same age especially among teenagers (very informal)
* somebody you have known your whole life
* in some countries, among men
* commonly used in Uruguay, Argentina, most of Central America, and others.