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, a child, your parents, or a friend.

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?Godd 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"]

 

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Examples and resources

¿Cómo estás?How are you? [informal "you"]
Bien gracias, ¿y tú?Good thanks, and you? [informal]
¿Cómo está?How are you? [formal "you"]
Bien gracias, ¿y usted?Godd thanks, and you? [formal]
¿Qué tal?How are you?
Bien gracias.Good thanks.
Carmen, ¿cómo está?Carmen, how are you? [formal "you"]
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