“Hey, what’s up?”
“How’s it going?”
“How have you been?”
In our everyday encounters with other people, we use these phrases over and over.
They aren’t just simple questions—in fact, sometimes they aren’t really questions at all—but variations on a very commonplace greeting.
This type of greeting isn’t so different in Spanish, yet if you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in a Spanish classroom, you may think you’ve already learned everything about how to say “How are you?” in Spanish that there is to know.
Maybe your teacher or your language partner starts every session with “¿Cómo estás?”
And you respond, by memory, with “Bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?”
This is a totally fine exchange, and it’ll suffice as a simple greeting.
But, let’s be honest: It can get a little boring. It’s also just not realistic to assume that all your Spanish conversations with native speakers will go this way.
In this post, you’ll learn eight other ways to say “How are you?” in Spanish that are a little more exciting.
We’ll even provide some appropriate responses.
The Basic Greeting: ¿Cómo Estás?
You have to learn the basics before you can move past them, of course.
The most basic greeting that you would use to ask “How are you?” to one person, in an informal setting, is:
¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)
A slight variation on this greeting is ¿Cómo estás tú? This means exactly the same thing, but includes the optional pronoun tú (you).
In Spanish, the way you conjugate a verb changes depending on how many people you’re addressing, and on whether you’re in a formal or informal situation. In this case, the important verb is estar (to be).
(If you’re unclear on verb conjugation, check out this basic guide to conjugating the Spanish present tense.)
So, depending on who you’re speaking to, you may have to slightly adjust your conjugation. For each of the examples below, I’ll provide the appropriate pronoun in parentheses. Just like tú in the example above, these pronouns are optional and do not affect the meaning of the sentence.
¿Cómo está (usted)?
The pronoun usted refers to a singular “you” in a formal situation. Use this greeting when talking to a stranger, someone much older than you or someone in a position of superiority. For example, you might use ¿Cómo está? when greeting your friend’s grandfather, your boss, your professor, the queen of Spain and so on.
¿Cómo están (ustedes)?
Ustedes refers to a plural “you.” Use it when greeting two or more people at the same time.
Across Latin America, ustedes can be used in formal or informal situations. In Spain, it’s used exclusively in formal situations (like usted).
¿Cómo estáis (vosotros)?
If you happen to be speaking Spanish in Spain, use vosotros when talking to a group of people in an informal situation, such as when you’re speaking to a group of friends.
There are many ways to respond to the greeting “How are you?”
In Spanish, a safe response is:
Bien, gracias. ¿Y tú? (Fine, thanks. And you?)
This is a polite and simple way to keep the conversation going.
Of course, if you’re in a formal situation or talking to more than one person, you’ll want to substitute tú for usted, ustedes or vosotros where appropriate.
Why You Should Go Beyond the Basics with “How Are You?”
Sure, the above will get you through basic Spanish conversations. But why stop there? There are tons of ways to greet and be greeted in Spanish—it’s a good idea to know more than one.
Learning alternate greetings can allow you to vary your tone to suit more formal or casual situations. You wouldn’t greet your best friend the same way you would greet a client, right? It’s the same in Spanish—different greetings sound more natural in different company.
Plus, varying your speech patterns helps you sound more like a native speaker. I’ll bet when you talk in English, you don’t constantly repeat the phrase “How are you?” You probably change it up with phrases like “How’s it going?” or “What’s going on?” Moving beyond “How are you?” means moving beyond classroom Spanish and learning real-world Spanish.
Not to mention, learning slangy alternatives to common phrases can be a lot of fun. If you’re ever unsure about a slang term, language learner forums like the ones at WordReference can be great resources.
Finally, it’s good to expand your vocabulary because—duh!—native speakers will use these phrases when they talk to you! When they do, you’ll want to understand and be able to respond.
“How Are You?” in Spanish: 8 Ways to Change Up This Greeting
For each of these greetings, I’ll let you know how to politely respond. You can, of course, also respond to any of these greetings by letting your conversation partner know how you’re actually doing.
But when you’re talking with strangers or acquaintances, it’s good to know how to give a noncommittal response like “It’s all good” or “Oh, nothing much.”
(Pssst—unclear on how to pronounce any of the words in this post? Forvo is a great resource with crowd-sourced pronunciations provided by native speakers.)
¿Cómo andas (tú)?
The verb andar means “to walk” or “to go,” so this greeting is similar to the English “How’s it going?” It’s slightly more casual and slangy than the basic ¿Cómo estás?
Andar is a regular -ar verb, so its other conjugations are:
¿Cómo anda (usted)?
¿Cómo andan (ustedes)?
¿Cómo andáis (vosotros)?
You can respond to this in the same way you would respond to ¿Cómo estás? An answer like Bien (good), Bastante bien (pretty good) or Muy bien (very good) is appropriate.
This greeting is quite slangy. It literally translates to “What do you tell me?” Think of it as a Spanish equivalent to the English “What’s going on?”
It would be a little awkward to use this greeting in the usted form since it’s so informal—but here are all of the conjugations just in case.
For usted: ¿Qué me cuenta?
For ustedes: ¿Qué me cuentan?
For vosotros: ¿Qué me contáis?
Note here that contar is a stem-changing verb!
If someone asked you “What’s going on?” in English, you might respond with “Oh, not much.” It’s similar in Spanish. If someone asks you ¿Qué me cuentas? you might respond with something like:
Nada en especial. (Nothing special.)
Lo normal. (The usual.)
No mucho. (Not much.)
It would sound a little strange to respond with something like Bien, gracias. This might be tricky to keep track of, but if you practice enough, you’ll unconsciously start to realize what response sounds right and what sounds awkward.
This greeting translates to something like “How’s it going?” It can be used in formal or informal situations. In this case, to change the greeting you’ll have to change the indirect object pronoun from te to le, les or os.
For usted: ¿Cómo le va?
For ustedes: ¿Cómo les va?
For vosotros: ¿Cómo os va?
When responding to this, you can re-use the verb va (it goes), from the infinitive ir (to go).
Me va bien. (It’s going well.)
Me va mal. (It’s going badly.)
You can replace bien or mal with any other appropriate adjective you can think of. Some examples are espectacular (spectacular), genial (great), normal (normal), regular (just okay) or terrible (terrible).
Very similar to the last one, this phrase translates to “How’s everything going?”
Luckily, in this case there are no verbs to conjugate and no indirect objects to change around—you can use this same greeting regardless of what situation you’re in.
To respond, you can say Va todo ___, filling in whatever adjective suits your mood. (See above for examples.)
¿Cómo van las cosas?
This greeting means “How are things?” Like the previous case, there is no need for conjugation here, since the verb van (they go) refers to the noun las cosas (the things).
If somebody asks you this, you can respond with a simple Bien (good) or Mal (bad), or you can make a full sentence such as:
Las cosas van bien. (Things are going well.)
This is an informal greeting to be used among friends in a casual setting. It is similar to the English “What’s up?”
However, unlike the English “What’s up?” you should not respond to ¿Qué tal? with “Nothing much” or any variant thereof. Instead, respond with an adjective—bien, mal, regular, genial, terrible, etc.—like you would respond to ¿Cómo estás?
This super informal greeting literally translates to “What is there?” and should only be used in very casual, friendly situations. You can think of it as a shortening of ¿Qué hay de nuevo? (What’s new?). Again, no conjugations to worry about here.
A good, appropriately casual response to this greeting would be something like Todo bien (all good) or No me quejo (can’t complain).
This Spanish greeting has crossed over into English-language slang, so you may already be familiar with it! It’s another super colloquial way to ask “What’s up?” or “What’s going on?”
A normal response would be some variant of Nada or Lo normal. See the section on ¿Qué me cuentas? for some examples of good responses.
The next time you have to greet someone in Spanish, move out of your comfort zone!
You wouldn’t just repeat “How are you?” over and over again in your native language, and there’s no reason to do so in Spanish.
Native speakers will pick up on your varied vocabulary, and it’ll make you sound much more natural.
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