‘Hola’ is the most common way of greeting someone in Spanish, and if you’re visiting a Spanish-speaking country, chances are you’re gonna find yourself on the receiving end of ‘hola’ A LOT (and I mean a lot!).
But how to respond …
Well, the easiest way to reply to ‘hola’ is with a simple ‘hola’ in return.
So, there you have it! Thanks for reading … just kidding!
There are in fact numerous ways to respond to ‘hola’ (or ‘hello’) in Spanish, some of which are likely to befuddle you the first time you hear them.
With that in mind, the following list is aimed to give you a bit of an upper hand …
… hopefully by the end you´ll have something up your sleeve for every conceivable situation AND be able to understand when native Spanish speakers respond to you with something other than, well, ‘hola’.
Are you ready? Let’s get to it!
Simply put, ‘hola’ means ‘hello’, and according to the Royal Academy of Spanish Language, not only are these two words equivalents, but they´re also very closely related.
Both words are thought to come from the same linguistic root: ‘hallo’ (which also means ‘hello’ in German).
Oh, and ‘hola’ is also a synonym of ‘hey’ and ‘hi’ … so, as you can probably imagine, it´s by far the most common greeting in the Spanish-speaking world!
¡Hola! Qué gusto saludarte, ¿cómo has estado?
Hi! Nice to see you, how have you been?
Anyway, let´s get into the many ways in which you can respond!
1 Buen día – Morning
If you don’t feel like responding to ‘hola’ with a simple ‘hola’, you can greet the person you´re talking to according to the time of day instead.
If it´s morning, you can whip out a ‘buen día’ which literally means ‘good day’.
This one´s super common in most Latin American countries, but in Spain and Central America you´re more likely to hear a full-blown ‘buenos días’.
Dos vecinos se saludan en la calle
¡Buen día! ¿Cómo está?
Two neighbors greet each other on the street
Morning! How are you?
2 Buenas tardes / noches – Good evening / night
Following the same logic, you can use ‘buenas tardes’ when it’s past noon (kinda like ‘good afternoon’ in English), and ‘buenas noches’ if the sun´s already done a runner.
Just as in English, both can be used as a greeting (‘good evening’) AND as a farewell (‘good night’).
En la oficina
Gerente – ¡Hola, Javier! Toma asiento, por favor.
Analista – Buenas tardes. Claro, gracias.
At the office
Manager – Hi, Javier! Have a seat, please.
Analyst – Good afternoon. Sure, thank you.
‘Buenos días’ (and all its variations) is a very polite greeting, so it´s a great way of responding to ‘hola’ in more formal situations or if you don´t know the person you´re speaking to very well.
3 Buenas – Hi
‘Buenas’ is just an abbreviation of ‘buenos días’, ‘buenas tardes’ etc., and it’s an informal greeting used in Mexico, Central America, and Spain.
¡Hola, Miguelito! ¿Cómo está tu papá?
¡Buenas, Don Luis! Está bien, gracias.
Hey, Miguelito! How’s your dad?
Hi, Don Luis! He’s all right, thank you.
4 Qué tal – What’s up
‘Qué tal’ is one of the most common greetings in the Spanish-speaking world!
It’s short for ‘qué tal te va’ (or ‘how’s it going’ in English), and although it’s a colloquial expression, it’s so commonplace that people use it in both formal and informal situations.
¡Qué tal, Pepe! ¡Qué gusto verte!
What’s up, Pepe! How nice to see you!
5 Qué hay – What’s up
In a similar vein, the phrase ‘qué hay’ is the Spanish equivalent of ‘what’s up’ (well, actually, it´s one of MANY different ways to say ‘what´s up’!)
¡Qué hay, chicos!
What’s up, boys!
You may also encounter this expression in its longer form, ‘qué hay de nuevo’ (or ‘what’s new’).
¡Qué hay de nuevo, Lisa! ¿Todo bien?
What’s up, Lisa! Everything good?
6 Holi / Holis – Hi
You can think of ´holi´ and ´holis´ as the new kids on the block!
They´re especially popular amongst the younger generations, so if you’ve ever heard your favorite Spanish-speaking Tik-Toker or influencer greet their audience with ‘holi’ or ‘holis’, you now know what it means!
¡Holi, bienvenidos a mi canal!
Hi! Welcome to my channel!
7 Aló / Bueno – Hello (when answering to a call)
If you’re answering a phone call, there are two main greetings used by Spanish-speakers in Latin America:
- ‘aló’ – which obviously comes from ‘hello’ –, which is commonplace in Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and Ecuador.
- ‘bueno’ (or ‘good’), a greeting customary in Mexico.
Just say ‘hola’ or ‘diga’ in Spain and Argentina, and you’ll be good to go.
Fun fact: back in the 19th century, when there were still intermediaries between calls, people used to ask ‘¿bueno?’ to verify that the line was a good’un.
So, ‘bueno’ was basically a shorter (and much easier on the ol’ tongue!) way of saying, ‘Is the line good?´.
It´s modern day equivalent would be ‘hello’.
Una llamada de Ecuador a México
Fer – ¿Aló? ¿Puedo hablar con Rodrigo?
Rodrigo – ¿Bueno? Soy yo, ¿quién habla?
A call from Ecuador to Mexico
Fer – Hello? May I talk to Rodrigo?
Rodrigo – Hello? Rodrigo speaking, who’s calling?
8 Quiubo / Quiúbole / Quiúboles – What’s up
These funny looking words are very popular greetings in both Mexico and Colombia.
‘Quiúbole’, ‘quiúboles’ and their shorter version ‘quiubo’ are contractions of ‘qué hubo’, which literally means ‘what happened’ (or ‘what´s up´)
What’s up, bro!
Erika´s note –‘quiúbole’ and its many variations are pretty curious words (don´t you think?!); check out our article on all the different uses of ‘quiúbole’ if you wanna know more!
9 Cómo te va – How’s it going
‘Cómo te va’ literally means ‘how are you doing’, but it’s also the equivalent of ‘how’s it going’.
It´s already a pretty polite way to reply to ‘hola’, but if you want to be extra respectful and formal (when speaking to a stranger, an elder or an authority figure, for example), you can say ‘cómo le va’ in the formal “usted” form instead.
Dos amigos se encuentran en el cine
Hola, Andrés ¡qué milagro verte por aquí!
¿Ale? ¡Cómo te va! ¿Hace cuánto que no nos vemos?
Two friends run into each other at the movies
Hey, Andrés, long time no see!
Ale? How’s it going! How long has it been since we last saw each other?
10 Cómo vas – How are you doing
‘Cómo te va’ is used pretty much everywhere in the Spanish-speaking world, but if you visit Colombia, you’re more likely to hear ‘cómo vas’.
It´s just another way of saying ‘how are you doing’.
David – ¡Hola, parce!
Ramón – ¿Cómo vas?
David – Hey, bro!
Ramón – How you doin’?
11 Qué onda – What’s up
‘What’s vibing?’ is the literal translation of this Mexican greeting – which has its roots in the swinging sixties and is still used ALL THE TIME in the Mexico of today – but it’s just another way of saying ‘what’s up’.
12 Qué pedo – What’s up
One of the most popular Mexican slang expressions is ‘qué pedo’, or ‘what fart’.
It isn’t an actual inquiry about your bowel health (phew!), but instead a very common greeting amongst ‘chilangos’ (that is, people who live in Mexico City).
13 Qué pex – What’s up
A gentler – but still informal – euphemism of ‘qué pedo’ is ‘qué pex’.
14 Qué quieres – What do you want
Hopefully, you’ll never be on the receiving end of ‘qué quieres’ (or ‘what do you want’) as a response to ‘hola’.
It’s impolite, cold, hostile and the perfect way to let your interlocutor know that you DON’T want to chat!
15 Cómo has Estados Unidos – How have you been
This phrase makes absolutely no sense … until you remember that Mexicans love a good wordplay, and ‘cómo has Estados Unidos’ (or ‘how have United States’) sounds a lot like ‘cómo has estado’ (or ‘how have you been’ in English).
Surprise your Mexican friends and respond to their ‘hola’ with this clever little phrase that all ‘chilangos’ are sure to appreciate.
Go on, I dare you!
And there you have it, a super useful list of ways to respond to ‘hola’!
It’s worth mentioning that there are many other greetings that didn’t quite make the cut!
If you wanna know more, shimmy on down to my magnum-opus on all the different ways to say ‘what´s up‘ in Spanish.
¡Nos vemos allá!