Polite ways to greet someone

The Universal GreetingThere are plenty of different ways to greet someone in English; some are considered formal, some informal, while others might even be considered rude when used in the wrong setting. When greeting someone, especially when you’ve been introduced to a person for the first time, some greetings more polite than others. Considering how important first impressions can be it is a good idea to learn which greetings to use and when you might to use them. The following are a few of the different ways that you can greet someone in a formal setting.

Hello

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Example:

Hello, Frank.

Meaning:

While hello is considered the standard greeting in English, people don’t seem to use it in speech as often as you might think. Still, especially when coupled with a person’s name, it is considered a practical way to greet someone in both formal and informal settings.

Pleased to meet you

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Example:

Pleased to meet you, Mr. Edwards!

Meaning:

Pleased to meet you is commonly used when greeting someone for the first time, and is considered very polite. By saying it you are indicating that you are happy to have the opportunity to meet someone. You can also say It’s a pleasure to meet you or it’s nice to meet you.

There is a variation of this greeting that you can use when greeting someone you’ve already met: it’s nice to see you again.

How do you do?

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Example:

How do you do?

Meaning:

By the example I’ve used you might guess that when you say how do you do? to someone, it usually comprises the entirety of the sentence. When using it you’re basically asking, how are you? – but in a more polite way. Note that in English, many times people will not actually respond with how they’re doing… they might simply respond, how do you do? – thus ending the greeting. It might seem strange to ask someone how they are doing and not to expect a response, but that’s just how it is!

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening

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Example:

Good morning, Emily.

Meaning:

By saying good morning, good afternoon or good evening, you’re bidding a person a good morning, afternoon or evening, depending on the time of day. Good morning is very commonly used when you first arrive at an office building to start the day of work.

Note that you should never use good night as a greeting; goodnight almost always means goodbye.

Greeting a person using their name

For formal greetings it is often considered polite to use the name of the person you are greeting. For people of authority you will likely want to refer to the person using Mr., Mrs (for married women) or Miss (for unmarried women) and their last name – Mr. Johnson, for example. In an office setting the first name will usually work. Master, technically the equivalent of Miss but for gentlemen, is very rarely used… both married and single men are referred to as Mr. You should also know that a few women, married or unmarried, prefer to be called Ms., which sounds like “mizz”. This is a way to refer to both married and unmarried women.

Make sure that you know the person’s name, and how to correctly pronounce it, before greeting a person using it. While it is polite to greet someone using their name, it is extremely impolite to greet someone using the wrong name.

Finally, this may be self explanatory, but in conversation, never greet someone using both of their names. It would be awkward to say Good morning, Joe Johnson!

What about in outer space?

Cup offers the Universal GreetingWhen you’re in outer space, you probably won’t know how to speak or understand the strange languages of the various alien races that you will meet. In this case, you should do what the Transformers do, and offer the Universal Greeting.

(Scene taken from The Transformers: The Movie. Just having a bit of fun… I don’t seriously advise you to offer the Universal Greeting in a business setting or otherwise!)

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PMP Exam Prep:  Seventh Edition

About the Author


Website: Brian Crawford
I'm a Canadian and British dual citizen with an internationally-focused American MBA and an MS in International Project Management from a French business school. I am PMP, ScrumMaster, and ITIL Foundation certified. I'm particularly into travel, writing, and learning about different languages and cultures.