english, like all modern languages, has many different ways to greet people and introduce yourself. we will begin with the most common. these are spoken greetings and introductions. formal written ones are different but i won’t talk about them here. unless what you’re writing is extremely formal, you can use standard spoken greetings there, too.
remember that short versions of words in english are not necessarily informal. phrases like “i’m tired” or “i’m katherine” are standard english as is the abbreviation “ok” and these are frequently used in formal speech and writing.
hi / hello
the most basic greeting in english (and the most standard) is hello, often shortened to hi. it can be used alone or followed by the person’s name (first name is typical but honorifics like ms rose or mr lewis can be substituted – examples here will always use first names). you’ve probably been told english needs a verb to make a full sentence and that’s usually true but greetings are one of the many exceptions to that rule.
- hello, catherine.
- hello, paul.
- hi, jen.
- hi, lucy.
it is also common to greet someone using the time of day.
- good morning.
- good afternoon.
- good evening.
- good night.
- good day.
the first three (good morning, good afternoon and good evening) are extremely common. good night is almost always used when leaving someone in the evening. good day sounds old-fashioned and formal but is still sometimes used. the time periods are vague. morning usually covers anything from dawn to the middle of the afternoon. afternoon overlaps morning and starts at noon, extending to sunset. evening is usually anything after an evening meal until midnight or sometimes later. time-based greetings are becoming less common in spoken english over time. these can be followed by the person’s name the same as hello and hi.
- good morning, peter.
- good afternoon, sharon.
- good evening, helena.
- good night, robert.
- good day, leia.
adding a name to a time greeting makes it sound much more formal. you can also leave out the good part and greet someone with only the time of day. the exception is that this doesn’t work with day.
sometimes instead of (or in addition to) a basic greeting, english-speakers ask a question about how the person is feeling or what they are doing.
it’s important to remember that standard english only shortens secondary verbs. you can have “how are you” but not “how’re you”. it is ok to shorten “how is it going” to “how’s it going” because “going” is the primary verb and “is” is secondary. there are a few exceptions to this rule but they are very rare.
- how are you?
- how are things?
- how’s it going?
- how are you doing?
- what’s up?
- what’s new?
- what’s on the go?
if you ask the question, expect an answer. these are common as greetings but they usually begin conversations. the answer, as in most languages, is usually positive or neutral.
- ok. / i’m ok.
- good / i’m good.
- great / things are great.
- nothing / nothing much.
sometimes the answer is negative.
- i’m not ok.
- i’m not good.
- things are bad.
- i’m bored.
you can assume negative answers will only come between friends or people who know each other better. telling someone you’re ok is part of the standard greeting ritual and english-speakers rarely change it even if it’s untrue.
there are many ways to greet someone in english. hi and hello are by far the most common but there are other less formal greetings used between close friends. you will often hear yo or hey instead of hello but these are never followed by the person’s name. yo is a short version of you and hey is a short version of hello. what’s up? is sometimes shortened to ‘sup?, how’s it going? has become how’s? and in some places hey has become oi.
now that you know how to greet someone, the next step is usually to introduce yourself.
- i’m sara.
- my name is gary.
if you are introducing someone else, you can just change the pronouns and verbs to match. the my name is form is far less common but it is sometimes used in academic settings or formal environments.
- this is amy.
the standard response is to say the same in return after expressing pleasure.
- nice to meet you. i’m brian.
there are other versions of this you’ll sometimes hear like a pleasure to meet you or lovely to meet you. you can assume those are usually more formal and you can substitute positive nouns or adverbs to emphasize but nice to meet you is the expected answer in almost all situations.
when you leave, unlike many other languages, there are different greetings.
- bye. / goodbye.
- see you. / see you later. / see you [time]. (see you tomorrow / see you next week / see you thursday)
- night. / good night.
goodbye is the more formal version of bye. in the same way, see you is less formal than adding a time description like later or next week and good night is more formal than night on its own. this is a good thing to remember about english – informal versions are usually the same phrases as formal versions with some of the words or syllables removed. there are few common english phrases that don’t get shortened when the circumstances become informal.
now you have all the building-blocks for a simple conversation where you introduce yourself. try this with your own names.
nice to meet you. i’m mary.
nice to meet you. how are you doing?
i’m ok. how are you?
great! what’s new?
nothing much. you?
ok. see you later.
of course, with only greetings this sounds a little artificial but we’ve used all the pieces and had a real conversation in english. first katie greets mary and mary responds. they introduce themselves, ask how they are, if there is anything new then they greet each other again and leave. this is a typical conversation between two friends passing each other on the street who don’t have time to stop and talk for long.