How to say How are you? as a greeting

The most common way of greeting someone in Spanish by asking how she/he is is with:

¿Cómo estás?
How are you? [informal "you"]

¿Cómo está?
How are you? [formal "you"]

Depending on the level of formality required with the person, you will use:

¿Cómo estás?
  • to greet someone that you already know, for example a young person, a child, your parents, or a friend.

OR

¿Cómo está?
  • to greet someone you don't know very well, for example an elderly person or someone in a more formal context, like in a bank or interview. 

There is also a slightly more colloquial way to greet someone with the same meaning: "How are you?" This is common for both informal and formal situations: 

¿Qué tal?
How are you?

A simple answer to these greetings would be:

Bien gracias.
Good thanks.

Bien gracias, ¿y tú?
Good thanks, and you? [informal]

Bien gracias, ¿y usted?
Godd thanks, and you? [formal]

Note: Greeting someone by using "Señor...", "Señora...", "Don...", "Doña...", which are the equivalent to "Mr...", "Mrs..." etc, is a clear sign of formality. However, even when we greet a person using their first name, we can still use a formal greeting as a sign of respect for an elderly person or because we feel that person prefers a more formal approach - in this instance we can still use the formal question: "¿Cómo está?", for example: 

Carmen, ¿cómo está?
Carmen, how are you? [formal "you"]

 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Carmen, ¿cómo está?
Carmen, how are you? [formal "you"]


¿Cómo estás?
How are you? [informal "you"]


Bien gracias, ¿y tú?
Good thanks, and you? [informal]


¿Cómo está?
How are you? [formal "you"]


Bien gracias, ¿y usted?
Godd thanks, and you? [formal]


¿Qué tal?
How are you?


Bien gracias.
Good thanks.


Q&A Forum 8 questions, 10 answers

KyleA0Kwiziq community member

Multiple choice?

In a multiple choice question, give all possible answers. Got two correct, one wrong. Therefore all wrong?

Asked 2 weeks ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Kyle

In multiple choice questions to get full marks you need to choose all possible correct answers, but the system won't penalise you completely for some of them you miss, only a percentage. 

Inma

Multiple choice?

In a multiple choice question, give all possible answers. Got two correct, one wrong. Therefore all wrong?

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KyleA0Kwiziq community member

Qué tal is formal? How much info do you need for me to ask a question

¿Enserio güey? Qué tal? Formal?

Asked 2 weeks ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Yes Kyle,

¿Qué tal? is a greeting that can be used formally or informally in Spain. It may not apply to other Hispanic countries, but Kwiziq is at the moment focused on Spanish from Spain with plans to extend our content to Latin American Spanish as well.

Inma

Qué tal is formal? How much info do you need for me to ask a question

¿Enserio güey? Qué tal? Formal?

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LynneA1Kwiziq community member

How are you.

Why is qué tal incorrect for how are you?

Asked 1 month ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Lynne,

Which specific question are you referring to?

Inma

KyleA0Kwiziq community member

Its not incorrect. Qué tal is proper in formal and informal settings. Apparently. In any sense of the use it is correct. As long as you are asking how are you

How are you.

Why is qué tal incorrect for how are you?

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AnitaA1Kwiziq community member

Why no pronunciation clips ?

As a complete beginner to learning Spanish, I, for one would find it really useful to have pronunciation clips to the 3 simple answers to these greetings.

Asked 1 month ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Anita,

The three answer have now an audio.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Un saludo

Inma

Why no pronunciation clips ?

As a complete beginner to learning Spanish, I, for one would find it really useful to have pronunciation clips to the 3 simple answers to these greetings.

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IanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Is Que tal also used formally?

I thought Que tal?was an informal greeting.  Given as a correct form in your answers whe greeting an elderly man.


Asked 3 months ago
InmaKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hola Ian

¿Qué tal? is used in both, informal and formal situations, so you can greet an elderly person with ¿qué tal?

Saludos

Inma

Is Que tal also used formally?

I thought Que tal?was an informal greeting.  Given as a correct form in your answers whe greeting an elderly man.


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William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Gerardo - the elderly man?

If you are also an elderly man? Can you use "¿Cómo estás?" when greeting Gerardo?

Asked 7 months ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola William,

It is slightly more common that two elderly people say to each other ¿cómo está? but this varies a bit depending on area, how well people know each other, whether the person prefers a more formal or informal approach... The content and examples in the lesson are reflecting what is more commonly used. However, I added an extra hint to that specific question about "Gerardo" saying that it is "a formal greeting" so it is more clear what we are asking for. 

I hope this helps

Inma

Gerardo - the elderly man?

If you are also an elderly man? Can you use "¿Cómo estás?" when greeting Gerardo?

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ZiaA1Kwiziq community member

First name + formal

Is it common in Spanish to use the first name of a person and the formal form together?

Asked 7 months ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Zia

Yes, we do that sometimes; we call them by their first name and then use the usted form. This happens with elderly people for example, or maybe a neighbour you don't know very well. For example:

Buenos días María, ¿cómo está usted?

Hola Arturo, ¿cómo está?

Saludos

Inma

First name + formal

Is it common in Spanish to use the first name of a person and the formal form together?

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KarenC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

'Como estas' given twice in box at top of lesson

- I suspect it is intended to be once formal and once informal

Asked 7 months ago
ShuiKwiziq team member

Gracias Karen - all fixed now!

BenitoA0Kwiziq community member

¿Cómo estás? 

'Como estas' given twice in box at top of lesson

- I suspect it is intended to be once formal and once informal

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Getting that for you now.