Greetings in English

Greetings in English

There are 3 ways to start a greeting in the English language which are; Hello, Hi, and Hey. There are some differences between them in the way of usage. Which one do you choose to use in your conversations? The person you greet is determining which one you should choose. 

Hi, hey, and hello are common words that are used when greeting someone in the English language. The person/s you are going to meet and greet, the situation, and the relationship you have with them is determining which words to use in your greeting in the English language.


Hello is the most common word for greeting in English and it is used generally in most situations. Hello is the formal way of greeting in the English language grammatically. In other words, if you want to greet someone in English who is older than you or if you are in a formal situation with that person, you need to say “hello” for your greeting. Anyway, if you want to greet someone who is unknown to you or someone/s who doesn’t know you, it is better to use hello for your greetings.

Hello is used all over the world as an accepted way to greet people. If you want to greet someone who is older than you, or if you want to greet people who don’t know them, especially when they are older than you, and if you are in a formal situation it is a good idea to use hello instead of hi, or hey.

Even if you want to greet people in written format, e.g. replying to emails, it is better to use hello instead of hi, or hey especially if you have a formal relationship with people who you are corresponding with. You can use hi in your mails, and emails If you have a more casual relationship or if you have a strong business relationship with them, even using hello is much better in these situations too.

Greetings in English
Hello, Hi, Hey


If you want to greet someone who is familiar with you, or you have a friendly relationship with, or if you are in a less formal situation you can use “hi” or even “hey” for your greetings. While most people use “hi” and “hey” interchangeably without thinking much about their differences, others feel that the two are not the same or synonymous, and there are differences between them. Let us take a closer look at “hi” and “hey”.


Hi is a word used to greet people of all ages. It is considered more formal than “hey” though somewhat less formal than “hello”. This is the reason why it has become acceptable among people of all classes. It is also a term that is showing respect and does not offend people of old age. Anyway, it is better to use “hello” instead of “hi” for a formal situation and if you greet someone who is older than you.


Hey is a word that is rather informal but increasingly being used by the young generation these days to greet buddies and even strangers. There are many people who believe that using this word is offensive and rather cold. They say that to say “hey” is to treat a person as if you do not care much about them. Hey is a greeting term that is mostly used in casual and informal situations. Please note that using “hey” in formal situations is completely forbidden.

Hello, Hi, Hey
Hello, Hi, Hey

Hey vs Hi

“Hi” and “hey” are both words used to greet others but whereas “hi” is formal and commands respect, it is not the same as “hey”. “Hey” is less informal and cold than “Hello” and “Hi”. Some even go to the extent of saying that “hey” is an offensive term and more suitable to catch the attention of a person. When a policeman shouts ‘Hey man’ when he sees a man running away after committing a crime, it is completely informal and shows no respect, and it is showing offensive behavior toward the criminal. “Hey” seems more aggressive and admonitory in this situation, but when some people use it while chatting together online, it seems cool and matches their style.


o “Hello” is the most polite and formal term.

o “Hi” is less formal than “Hello’ and it’s more friendly.

o “Hey” is less formal, and more friendly than “Hi”.

About Ahmad Osmani

Ahmad Osmani
I am Ahmad Osmani, an English teacher, and translator. I have more than 15 years of experience. I have been the administrator and writer of the website since its creation. I have studied Translation Studies and English Language. I love learning and teaching different languages. My main profession is writing and translating and sometime I teach English in my free time.

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