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 or a child. 

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? 
Good 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

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


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


¿Qué tal?
How are you?


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


Q&A Forum 3 questions, 3 answers

Gerardo - the elderly man?

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

Asked 3 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

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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ZiaA1

First name + formal

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

Asked 3 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

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

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

Asked 3 months ago
ShuiKwiziq language super star

Gracias Karen - all fixed now!

'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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