English Usage Topics > Greetings and Goodbyes

Greetings and Goodbyes

This entry deals with ways of greeting someone when you meet them, and with ways of saying goodbye.


The usual way of greeting someone is to say 'Hello'. You can add 'How are you?' or another comment or question.
Hello there, Richard, how are you today?
Hello, Lucy. Had a good day?
Note that the greeting 'How do you do?' is used only by people who are meeting each other for the first time.

Informal greetings

A more informal way of greeting someone is to say 'Hi' or 'Hiya'. In American English, 'hey' is also sometimes used in this way.
'Hi,' said Brody. 'Come in.'
'Hey! How are ya?'
If you meet someone in a place where you did not expect to see them, you can say 'Fancy seeing you here'.
'Well, I never, Mr Delfont! Fancy seeing you here!'

Formal greetings

When you greet someone formally, the greeting you use depends on what time of day it is. You say 'Good morning' until about noon. 'Good afternoon' is normal from about noon until about six o'clock, or until it is dark in the winter. After six o'clock, or after dark, you say 'Good evening'.
Good morning, everyone.
Good evening. I'd like a table for four, please.
These greetings are often used by people who are making formal telephone calls, or introducing a television programme or other event.
'Good afternoon. William Foux and Company.' – 'Good afternoon. Could I speak to Mr Duff, please?'
Good evening. I am Brian Smith and this is the second of a series of programmes about the University of Sussex.
You can make these expressions less formal by omitting 'Good'.
Morning, Alan.
Afternoon, Maria.
You only say 'Goodnight' when you are leaving someone in the evening or going to bed. Don't use 'Goodnight' to greet someone.
'Good day' is old-fashioned and rather formal in British and American English, although the short form 'g'day' is more common in Australian English.
'Welcome' can be used to greet someone who has just arrived. It is quite formal in British English, but is normal in American English.
Welcome to Peking.
Welcome home, Marsha.
Welcome back.

Replying to a greeting

The usual way of replying to a greeting is to use the same word or expression.
'Hello, Sydney.' – 'Hello, Yakov! It's good to see you.'
'Good afternoon, Superintendent. Please sit down.' – 'Good afternoon, sir.'
If the other person has also asked you a question, you can just answer the question.
'Hello, Barbara, did you have a good shopping trip?' – 'Yes, thanks.'
'Good evening. May I help you?' – 'Yes, I'd like a table for two, please.'
If someone says 'How are you?' to you, you say something brief like 'Fine, thanks', unless they are a close friend and you know they will be interested in details of your life and health. It is polite to add 'How are you?' or 'And you?'
'Hello John. How are you?' – 'All right. And you?' – 'Yeah, fine.'
'How are you?' – 'Good. You?' – 'So-so.'

Greetings on special days

There are particular expressions which you use to give someone your good wishes on special occasions such as Christmas, Easter, or their birthday.
At Christmas, you say 'Happy Christmas' or 'Merry Christmas'. At New Year, you say 'Happy New Year'. At Easter, you say 'Happy Easter'. You reply by repeating the greeting, or saying something like 'And a happy Christmas to you too' or 'And you!'
If it is someone's birthday, you can say 'Happy Birthday' to them, or 'Many happy returns'. When someone says this to you, you reply by saying 'Thank you'.


You say 'Goodbye' or, more informally, 'Bye' to someone when you or they are leaving.
'Goodbye, Doctor. Thank you for your help,' Miss Saunders said.
See you about seven. Bye.
'Bye-bye' is even more informal. It is used between close relatives and friends, and to children.
Bye-bye, darling; see you tomorrow.
If you expect to meet the other person again soon, you can say things like 'See you', 'See you later', 'See you soon', 'See you around', or 'I'll be seeing you.'
Must go now. See you tomorrow.
See you in the morning, Pedro.
Some people say 'So long'.
'Well. So long.' He turned and walked back to the car.
You can say 'Take care'or 'Look after yourself' when you are saying goodbye to a friend or relative.
'Take care.' – 'Bye-bye.'
'Look after yourself, Ginny.' – 'You, too, Dad.'
'Cheers' and 'cheerio' are used in informal British English.
See you at six, then. Cheers!
I'll tell Marcus you called. Cheerio.
At night, you can say 'Goodnight' or, more informally, 'Night', to say goodbye.
'Well, I must be off.' – 'Goodnight, Mrs Kendall.'
'Night, Jim.' – 'Night, Rita.'
People also say 'Goodnight' to people in the same house before they go to bed.
In modern English, 'Good morning', 'Good afternoon', and 'Good evening' are not used to say goodbye.
Many speakers of American English use the expression 'Have a nice day' to say goodbye to people they do not know as friends. For example, employees in some shops and restaurants say it to customers.
'Have a nice day.' – 'Thank you.'
When you are saying goodbye to someone you do not know very well, you can use a more formal expression such as 'I look forward to seeing you again soon' or 'It was nice meeting you'.
I look forward to seeing you in Washington. Goodbye.
It was nice meeting you, Dimitri. Hope you have a good trip back.
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