One of the first greetings that English learners are introduced to in textbooks is usually:
“Hello, how are you?”
To which the other person would usually reply
“I’m fine, and you?”
These kind of greetings are correct and polite, but not used very often amongst family or friends. In practice, even “hello” is actually seldom heard in daily conversation.
I’d like to introduce you to a few casual greetings and ways of sounding more friendly or casual when greeting friends or family. We’ll cover some common expressions, and I’ll try to explain some of the nuances that are commonly associated with them.
“Hi” is a simple alternative to hello, which can sound a little bit friendlier. How friendly it comes off, of course, depends on how you say it. “Hi” is probably the most respectful of the casual greetings, I personally use it when I talk to older people who I am friendly with, such as; friends’ parents, doctors, the dentist, teachers, and so on. If in doubt, “hi” can usually be used.
Hi Bob! How’s it going?
Hi John! It’s going really well, how about you?
“Hey” is used in the exact same way as “hi”. It is a little bit more casual than “hi”, and is probably the most-used greeting amongst people who are familiar with each other. “Hey” can also be used when trying to get someone’s attention. Let’s look at some examples:
Hey Trav, how are you doing?
Oh hey! I’m doing good!
NOTE: “I’m doing good” is not actually grammatically correct; the proper way to say it would be, “I’m doing well /fine.” However you will still commonly hear people say “I’m doing good” in daily conversation.
Hey Mom, how’re you?
When trying to get someone’s attention:
Hey Trav! Look over here, someone dropped a wallet!
“Yo” is mostly used by young people as it’s fairly slangy (used as slang). It can sound blunt and can be considered disrespectful or inappropriate if used towards someone older or of higher authority. I personally use it amongst friends who I see very often. It may not be a good idea to say “yo” to your parents, teachers, or elders in general.
Yo man, what’s up?
Not too much man, I just woke up, you?
What’s up is a very casual way to ask how someone is. Usually, the set response is “not much” or “not too much”, which is then often followed by further explanation.
4. What’s up? / Sup? / Wassup?
Yes, “what’s up” can be used as a greeting all by itself as well! It can also be added to “hey”, “hi” and “yo”:
What’s up Mike?
Yo! Not much, what’s up with you?
Sometimes the second person will reply with “not much “and then will continue to further explain how they are doing. Other times the second person will simply also just reply back with “What’s up?” or ”sup”. “What’s up” is extremely common, and is probably used just as much as "How are you?” or “How are you doing?” amongst young people. The popularity of “sup?” is linked to internet slang. A very typical exchange between people texting and talking online would be:
Where “sup” is short for “what’s up” and “nm” is short for “not much”. Note that people sometimes say “sup” out loud, although “nm” is never said instead of “not much” out loud.
5. Say the person’s name when you greet them.
Saying a person’s name comes off as more sincere and friendly in most circumstances, it also shows that you actually remembered their name!
Hi Tina, how are you?
Hey Doug! I’m good! What’s up?
6. Add a 'there'
Adding “there” is an easy way to come off a little more friendly. It is slightly casual, but can usually be added no matter who you are talking to. It does not really add any additional meaning to the greeting, however just like saying someone’s name, it comes off as more familiar.
Hi there Nick!
Hey there, how are you?
7. Add a 'dude/buddy/man'
These are usually used by young men greeting other young men but are also occasionally used by women as well. Adding these to “hey”, “hi”, or “yo” can make the greeting sound more friendly and familiar amongst friends. However, caution should be taken when using these expressions, as it can come off as rude if used towards people you are not overly familiar with.
Hey buddy, how are you?
Good man, what’s new?
Don’t worry too much about which greeting to use, as often times they depend on a person’s personality and will differ between people. If in doubt, when someone greets you, you can always greet them back using the same greeting they used on you. To really understand the nuances, try and notice how people greet each other when they meet. You may notice that depending on the relationship between the two people, the greetings will vary in length and in choice of words. I hope this article gives you an idea of a few different greetings that you can use with friends and family!
Hero Image by Stefano Leotta (CC BY 2.0)