19 Ways to Say How Are You in Spanish [Includes Formal Language and Slang]
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If you are planning to travel to Mexico, the least you could do is learn how to say How are you in Spanish. In this post, I will teach you all the possible ways of saying How are you in Mexican-Spanish as well.
Keep reading because you are going to have a lot of fun with this and a the end of this post you will talk like a local!
Aside from its variety, my favorite aspects of my language are its color and versatility.
Those who are familiar with the Spanish language, culture, or specifically Mexican culture are aware that there are even books on Spanish words used informally by us Mexicans, for example, that have a profound and direct relationship with culture and individuals’ personalities.
Writing this article makes me very happy because it is a straightforward and “back to basics” approach to introducing you to our culture by “letting you in” on the nuances of our language.
What better place to begin than with our various greetings and questions like “How are you?” in Spanish?
If you are learning Spanish as a new language, this article will definitely be useful to you.
Let’s get started.
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How to say How Are You in Spanish: overview
For the greeting: “¿Cómo estás?” (koh-moh ehs-tahs) we need first to consider certain “facts” that matter:
► It is a question, and in Spanish, question marks are used at the beginning and end of a sentence.
► Take note of the “accents.” If you don’t use accents when writing, you won’t be asking “how are you?” You will actually say, “I eat this.” (I know, it’s very confusing.)
► For Spanish speakers, “¿Cómo estás?” is the very common way to ask “How are you?” in a variety of situations and with a lot of different expressive intonations.
How to say “How Are You?” in Spanish, at a Glance
Use this part of the article as your cheat sheet for the most “formal” context or “polite” different ways to ask “¿Cómo estás?”
► ¿Cómo te/le/les va? – How is it going?
► ¿Qué tal? – How is it?
► ¿Cómo te encuentras? – How do you find yourself?
► ¿Cómo has estado? – How have you been?
As a note, please consider that the above is not a literal translation and that the examples given are very reductive.
However, in real life, our language is more “colorful” and we don’t use simple phrases like in the above examples.
In our everyday life when we talk to friends and family members we put together more complex phrases to say How are you and here below I will explain more of that.
In fact, we will go over more ways to say “How are you” in informal situations and slang.
Also read: How to say I love you in Spanish
HOW TO SAY HOW ARE YOU IN SPANISH
19 Ways to Say How Are You in Spanish
1. ¿Cómo estás? ¿Cómo está? ¿Cómo están?
As we have already mentioned, “Cómo estás?” is not the only greeting we have in our language, despite the fact that it is the first greeting taught in a Spanish class.
The question “¿Cómo estás?” can be uttered in a variety of situations and tones. It can be used with strangers, acquaintances, relatives, or friends, and it can be linked to other greetings like the ones we shall include below.
But it’s important to note that, according to Spanish etiquette, we should never inquire “¿Como estás?” with a “S” at the end, if the person is older than us and we don’t know them or if a person in a position of authority hasn’t given us permission to speak with them informally. In these cases, we should always ask: “¿Cómo está?”
Yes, it is still customary in Spanish to wait for permission from a higher authority figure or an elderly person before addressing them informally.
A basic example on how or when to use “¿Cómo está?” would be usually attached to a “buenos días” or a “buenas tardes”, like this: “¡Buenos días! ¿Como está?”.
Or, when calling someone over the phone: “¡Hola! ¡Buenas tardes! ¿Cómo está?”.
“¿Cómo están?” this is used when addressing a couple or a group of people. Meaning, the plural.
2. ¿Cómo te va? ¿Cómo les va?
Everyone translates this one to “How is it going?”, but, literally and grammatically it means in English, “¿How does it go for you?”.
In order for the Spanish to match the English we need to ask: “¿Cómo te está yendo?”. This literally means “How is it going for you?”.
So, in the case of “¿Cómo te va?” remember, the formal way always has to be considered, so, to authority or an elder, we ask: “¿Cómo le va? “
And, simple, “¿Como les va?” is the neutral plural form.
I use “¿Cómo le va?” when running into an older person that I had constant contact with like for example a former teacher or an acquaintance of my parents with whom I didn’t have a close relationship, or, when I am introduced for a second time to someone, like this:
- Person 1: Bianca, ¿Ya conoces al Señor Marcos? (Bianca, Have you met Mr. Marcos?)
- Me: Si, claro, lo conocí en un evento el año pasado. ¿Cómo le va Señor Marcos? (Yes of course, I met him at an event last year, how does everything go for you Mr. Marcos?)
And, another case in which I would use it with a close friend would be when I know he or she has gone through something that had to go well, for example, organizing an important event, like this:
- Me: Hola Mariana, ¿Como te va con tu evento? (Hello Mariana, how’s the planning of your event going?)
- Mariana: ¡Muy bien gracias! (Very well thank you!)
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3. ¿Cómo va todo? ¿Cómo van las cosas?
This one means literally: “How does everything go?”
But, more colloquially it translates into: How is everything going? So, it’s just a bit more “intense” or “emphatic” than “¿Cómo te va?”
A good way to explain the difference between “¿Cómo te va?” and “¿Cómo va todo?” is that in the first, we are asking about the person, and in the second, we are opening up to every event, situation, problem or news that the person we are greeting has or is living.
For example, when our best friend is hosting an event and she invites us for moral support and we arrive to see her we can ask: “¡Hola! ¿Cómo va todo?” (Hello, how is everything going?)
And, used in similar contexts with different words, we can use “¿Cómo van las cosas?” and we mean, in English, How do things go?
4. ¿Cómo andamos? ¿Cómo andan? ¿Cómo andas?
This one literally means: How are we walking? How are you walking?
When would we use this one? Usually at an event, at a family reunion, at a work meeting, at a wedding.
For example, at a wedding or a party where there are only a couple of hosts and many guests spread out.
Usually, the host does not have time to interact with all of the guests but stops by their tables to say hello, and if they all know each other well through a working relationship, family, or friendship, the host or hosts will ask: “Cómo andan? or Cómo andamos?”
This includes everyone, it’s friendly and informal, and it’s a greeting with “movement,” if that makes sense.
Alternatively, a manager or other authority figure could inquire, “¿Cómo andamos?” upon entering a room where their team or staff was engaged in work.
“¿Cómo andas?” Would be used in a singular form.
5. ¿Qué hay de nuevo?
This one is comical because it is a greeting attached to a 1990s cartoon. Have you ever seen it? Bugs Bunny.
We obviously dubbed all the English-speaking cartoons, so we watched Bugs Bunny in Spanish, and his “What’s up Doc?” was translated into “Qué hay de nuevo viejo?”, but please keep in mind that it literally means “What’s new?”
To give you an idea, the word “tal” can be translated as “such” or “like.” However, because “Qué tal?” does not have a literal translation, I might well explain it as if we were asking, “How is it?”
It is used in simple everyday conversations or as a simple greeting. We use it a lot when meeting someone for the first time and when shaking hands, for example:
- Me: Rodrigo, te presento a Dulce (Rodrigo, meet Dulce)
- Rodrigo: Es un placer, ¿Qué tal? (It’s a pleasure, how is it like?)
In a personal situation, I would use it to “dig” for more information on something a friend or a family member is telling me about, for example, their holiday or dinner with someone or any experience.
- Daniela: La semana pasada fui al concierto de Bon Jovi (last week I went to Bon Jovi’s concert)
- Me: ¿Ah si? ¿Y qué tal estuvo? (Really? How was it like?)
7. ¿Cómo te encuentras?
I don’t really teach this one much as I feel we don’t use it often in México, but it is quite used in Latin America.
“¿Cómo te encuentras?” means literally How are you found? But something that makes more sense would be, How am I finding you?
A situation where I see it being used is when someone was sick and you go see them you can say
“¡Hola Lourdes! ¿Cómo te encuentras hoy?” (Hello Lourdes, How do I find yourself today?)
8. ¿Cómo has estado?
This one is a super simple and common phrase. It is basically another tense, what would be the past participle in English, and, instead of “How are you?” It means, ¿How have you been?
The same rules of plural or formal context apply: “¿Como han estado?” for the plural and, “¿Como ha estado?” for a more formal greeting.
Usually instead of “¿Como estás?” I would use the “¿Cómo has estado?” (how have you been) past tense with someone I haven’t seen in a long time and I feel very connected to and happy to see and know him/her.
Do you remember what I explained about “¿Cómo andamos?”, well, same situation, same contexts, same examples.
One other situation besides a greeting, “¿Como estamos?” can be used at clearing a bill in a group dinner for example. We would say this: “¿Cómo estamos? ¿Estamos tablas?” (How are we? Are we settled?)
Or, maybe a lecturer at a conference would ask his/her audience: “¿Cómo estamos? ¿Estamos cansados o no?” (How are we? Are we tired or are we ok?)
10. ¿Qué me cuentas? ¿Qué dices (dicen)? ¿Qué es de ti? ¿Qué ha sido de ti? ¿Qué es de tu vida? ¿Qué has hecho?
Each of the above means literally as follows:
¿Qué me cuentas? – “What can you tell to me?”
¿Qué dices (dicen)? – “What can you say?” / “What do you have to share?”
¿Qué es de ti? /¿Qué ha sido de ti? -“What has been of you?”, “What’s up with you?”
¿Qué es de tu vida? – “What is of your life?” “What’s up with your life?”
¿Qué has hecho? – What have you been doing?
The reason I bundled them up together is that the situations and contexts in which they can be used are the same, and in fact, we can greet someone by using many of them at the same time.
For example, when we run into a good friend that we haven’t seen in a long time and we are really happy about running into them we can say:
“¡Hola! ¡¿Cómo estás?! ¡¿Qué me cuentas?! ¡¿Qué es de tu vida?!”
Note the punctuation. I added the exclamation mark because of course the intonation of the greeting would be a happy one, an excited one, an emotional one.
HOW TO SAY HOW ARE YOU IN SPANISH
The funny (and pretty Mexican) ways to ask “How are you?”
Now the fun begins!
Please keep in mind that you would most likely not learn these in a typical Spanish class. Some are incorrectly written words, while others are slang.
Some or many of the greetings listed below are used between very close friends, family, and even people of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Some people with a higher income, as well as intellectuals or people who don’t want the language destroyed, would frown upon hearing some of these greetings. But they do exist and they are part of our culture. So here it goes.
11. ¿Cómo está usté’?
This is just the same thing as the normal “¿Cómo está? But it’s taking the formality of “usted” and making it an endearing way of addressing someone, or, just plainly making the greeting fun.
Note that you would only do this with a trusted friend. You could be judged as it definitely is a very informal way to speak.
The examples above are clearly grammar errors. LOL. They are, however, cute and heartfelt ways to address your family or loved one. Just the basic “Cómo estás?” but completely transformed.
13. ¿Qué onda? ¿Qué ondiux? ¿Qué hongo?
I’m sure many of you reading this who are fluent in Spanish have been waiting for this one. I mean, we Mexicans are certainly known for this one!
The infamous “Qué onda?” (What wave?) greeting is definitely the one we use with everyone we know, are friends with, date, work with, and so on.
Also, keep in mind that the “Qué onda?” is usually followed by another greeting, as in when calling someone after a long time: “Qué onda? “¿Qué me cuentas?” (Which wave? What do you have to say to me?)
Alternatively, when we are waiting for someone and they arrive late, we greet them as follows: “Qué onda con tu vida?” (What’s going on in your life?)
14.¿Que hubo? ¿Quiubo? ¡Quiubole!
Here, I can actually listen to my mom’s voice. Lol. She uses this one all the time!
“¿Qué hubo?” means literally what was there? what happened?
One situation in which I can see myself saying it is when you told your friends you weren’t going to a party and then you show up and they greet you pleasantly surprised with a “Qué hubo?“.
But, of course, as perfect Mexicans, we would eat words or destroy them to make them funny or slang and say either “Quiubo?” or “Quiubole?”
It’s worth noting that the last two words don’t actually exist in the language, but they are part of Spanish culture, particularly in Mexico.
15.¿Qué pez? ¿Que pedo? ¿Que pedín? ¿Qué pex? ¿Qué pedo güey?
Okay, this one should only be used in genuine confidence, as a joke, if your receiver allows it, or if you live in certain areas where it is commonly used.
I’ve grouped them all together again because they’re used in the same contexts and situations, but these greetings are listed in order of “vulgarity.”
They are not vulgar words, but some of them may be frowned upon.
The literal meaning of the words above is: What fish? What fart? And güey means mate or dude.
To explain a bit what we want to ask when greeting with these Spanish phrases is simply:
“¿Qué pasa?” (What happens? What’s happening?)
This example that follows instead, may be entertaining, but it absolutely cannot be used with anyone.
“Qué pedo guey?”
Since this phrase appears frequently in movies or stand-up comedies performed by Mexicans, it’s part of a stereotype, and it sounds like common language but it’s not.
It’s harsh slang, typically used in central Mexico, and it’s not really the nicest way to say how are you in Spanish, so I would keep it either with close friends or when you want to mimic a character or a movie scene.
Otherwise, it’s better to use other “softer” ways.
16.¿Que tranza? ¿Que show?
The above are basically more slang expressions that are used to ask “¿Qué pasa?” (what’s happening?)
From the formal greetings, I would say that these can be used in conversational Spanish as a parallel to “Como andamos?” or “Como va todo?”
“Qué tranza?” literally translates to “What theft?” And “Qué show?” literally means “What show?”
Many of my uncles use the phrase “Qué tranza?” in my family. You’ll notice that the intonation is very much that of Mexicans, and it comes with hand gestures that I won’t even attempt to describe.
When a group of people is talking and a “lost soul” approaches and wants to know what is going on, he or she will ask, “Qué show?” Even if it sounds impolite, it is effective, and someone in the group will undoubtedly share the fundamentals.
17.¿Y tú qué? ¿Dormimos juntos?
This one is very funny, definitely slang, and definitely occurs between family or friends who are in the same place at the same time but haven’t greeted each other in the time they’ve been there.
Does it make sense?
The greeting’s meaning is: And you? Do we sleep in the same bed?
So, basically, it is a form of complaining to the other for not being greeted while still being amusing or endearing.
18. ¡Dichosos los ojos! ¡Qué milagro!
This is a very expressive phrase, and it is usually followed by a “Cómo estás?” in one of its many forms, but we definitely greet someone with this phrase and a big smile if we haven’t seen them in a long time and have been wanting to see them.
It translates as “Blissful eyes!” What a miracle!
If I’m not mistaken, the best way to understand its use is by making reference to the English phrase: “What a sight for sore eyes,” and we use it in Spanish for the same situation.
19. ¿Qué pasión? ¿Qué pachó? ¿Que pachuca por toluca?
Lastly, (for now), this one is another form of transforming the normal “¿Que pasa?” into slang or a funny way to speak.
The phrases mean: What passion? And pachó and pachuca are just transformed words to ask What is happening? Or What happened? which in correct Spanish would be “Que pasó“
HOW TO SAY HOW ARE YOU IN SPANISH
How to say how are you in Spanish: final thoughts
Honestly, I believe you will enjoy reading this post, but, I bet you that you would have had a much better time being in my head.
It was quite entertaining to go looking for context, personal experience, movies, and all the many circumstances in which I would use the different expressions and forms of “¿Cómo estás?”I definitely laughed all the way.
So, with all that you learned today, have your Spanish language skills improved? Which one of the new phrases will you use?
Word of warning! Make sure that you hold on to the slang or the funniest ones to use with people you know and trust, and in informal settings, ok? Not all of the phrases that you learned today are appropriate for every situation.
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If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form that you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine.
Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards.
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About the Author: Bia
Bianca is a woman, Mexican, a traveler, an ally, a dreamer, a creative, 100% human and so much more. Bianca has +20 years of experience in personal travel throughout 3 continents, and many countries, cities, towns, and communities. She also comes with +20 years of experience with customer service in the hospitality and tourism industries. A passionate advocate of her country (despite it all), an amateur writer & blogger, art lover, certified yoga teacher, entrepreneur, neophyte researcher, philosophy fan, and knowledge obsessed, she has one dream and mission in life:
“To achieve, through her venture, for travel to be considered and used as a tool for a better education and human development in Mexico”
And, even if in baby steps, she is making the dream, come true through her brand: