How to say “how are you?” in Spanish

How to say “how are you?” in Spanish

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez
July 13, 2021

“What the dilly yo, boss?” 

Cringe, right? Not an appropriate way to talk to your boss at work. 

How do you say how are you in Spanish? It’s important to greet someone the right way. There are lots of ways to ask how people are doing in Spanish. We know from our native English that there are lots of variations on this. Don’t worry, we’ll cover other ways such as how are you feeling in Spanish, how are you today and how to ask in a formal way to your boss. That way, you won’t make the cringe mistake above!

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How are you in Spanish – formal

When talking to your boss, a police officer, and your grandma, we need to show respect by using formal language. This typically means an authority figure or someone older than you. If you’re just not sure, always err on the side of caution and be polite. The good news is you’ve probably heard how to speak to these folks!

  • ¿Cómo está? or ¿Cómo está usted? – Literally means ‘How are you?’ in Spanish and is best for this formal situation. You can omit the usted and it has the exact same meaning.
  • ¿Cómo se siente?’ – How are you feeling? in Spanish. Again this uses the usted form.

If someone asks you this question – look at you getting all that respect! – you can answer:

  • ¿Bien y tú? – Fine thanks, and you? – for a younger person
  • ¿Bien y usted? – Fine thanks and you? – for an older person/authority figure

A bunch of bosses, plethora of police, a gaggle of grannies

When talking to a bunch of bosses, a plethora of police, or a gaggle of grannies we use formal speech in plural format. If you try to say how are you in Spanish to two or more authority figures at once, then we need to change the phrases a little. In Latin America ustedes form is used:

  • ¿Cómo están (ustedes)? – How are you all?
  • ¿Cómo se sienten (ustedes)? – How do you all feel?

Stick to the basics and politeness in these situations where you need to say how are you in Spanish formally. Here are some important phrases for work.

How are you in Spanish – informal

When talking to your friend, your colleague, or someone your age or younger, we can be informal. This is the most commonly used way to greet someone or say how are you doing in Spanish. It uses the tú form and you’ve probably used it!

  • ¿Cómo estás? – How are you?
  • ¿Cómo te sientes? – How do you feel?

For a friend or colleague you see a lot, say how are you today in Spanish:

  • ¿Cómo estás hoy?’ – How are you today?

These three phrases are a great foundation for any informal situation. Make sure you are comfortable using these ways before you start to use slang or other colloquial expressions. 

It is especially important to distinguish between formal and informal situations. Thirty phrases of how to say how are you in Spanish are not helpful if you don’t know when to use them. As a beginner, being polite will go a long way in helping you gain respect in your new Spanish-speaking environment.

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Variations, slang, and colloquialisms

There are a zillion ways to say how are you doing in Spanish. In this section let’s explore some more colourful ways.

  • ¿Qué tal? – How are you? This one is even acceptable to use with your grandma. 

It’s very versatile to ask how anything is:

  • ¿Que tal el vuelo? – How was the flight? 
  • ¿Qué tal tu fin de semana? – How was your weekend?

Learn more essential Spanish words here, we have 100 of them prepared for you!

There are loads of universally-used slang words:

  • ¿Qué pasa? – What’s happening? Literally, “What happens?” 
  • ¿Qué onda? – What´s up? Literally, “What roll/wave?”
  • ¿Qué hay de nuevo? – What’s new?

Here in Mexico, there is a lot of slang for how to say how are you in Spanish.

  • Qué transa? – Literally “What dealings?”
  • Qué pedo? – Literally, “What fart?”
  • Qué flow? – Literally, “What flow?”
  • Qué show? – Literally, “What show?”

The last two use English words to say how are you doing in Spanish. Though they’re in English, make sure you say them with a clear accent. Pronunciation is important in all things including how to say how are you in Spanish slang

Make sure you’re using slang in informal contexts with friends otherwise you might end up saying how are you in Spanish like a chavoruco – a not-cool dad-like figure.


Know your audience

It’s important to have a strong foundation. Let’s get comfortable with the basic ways of how to say how are you in Spanish. That’s “Cómo está?”  and “¿Cómo estás?¨. Most importantly: Know your audience. Some situations will be formal and a mistake could risk you sounding rude. Once you understand the context, branch out and start using some slang for saying how are you doing in Spanish.

Start perfecting your skills with Lingoda! Take advantage of a free 7-day trial with our native-speaking Spanish teachers and improve on your conversation abilities today. 

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her tech copywriting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.