How do you say hello in English when you need to be formal, but you also want to convey enthusiasm? And how do you greet someone in English if you’ve never met them? Is there a difference between hi there and hey you, and why does the same greeting change meaning when spoken in a different way?
It’s vital to be able to recognize and understand the different contexts of how we say hello in English. After all, you don't want to be too informal in a corporate meeting, nor do you want to be overly formal if you're saying hi to close pals.
This article will explore the many ways we say hello in English and will look at the unspoken and subtle wealth of meanings that accompany our greetings and how you can learn to recognize and use them.
And if you need to know how to say hello in different languages, we've written a post for that too.
How do you actually say “hello” and “hi” in English?
“Hello” is pronounced /həˈloʊ/, and “hi” is pronounced /haɪ/. Both are exclamations; we pronounce them strongly and clearly because we use them to signal for someone’s attention.
However, hello and hi can carry extra meaning. This is because we naturally intensify our greetings if we know someone or cool our greetings if we are uncertain about them.