Meeting and Greeting

Meeting and greeting people involves a lot of formulaic language in Spanish, just as in English. And as in English, there are formal and informal phrases suitable to meeting people in different situations. For example, if you are introduced to a business colleague at a meeting, you would use somewhat more formal language than if you were meeting a friend of a friend at a party. Remember that Spanish distinguishes between the formal and informal you: usted and . Though usage varies from country to country, a good rule of thumb is to use usted with someone you would address with a title like señor, señora, señorita, doctor, doctora, etc. If you would address someone by his or her first name, you would likely use . In many cases, you can take your cue by which form the people around you are using.

The honorifics don and doña are used with first names as a way of addressing someone with particular respect. Though they originally meant “Sir” and “Lady,” these terms are now used more with elderly people as a sign of respect as well as affection. For example, you might refer to your friend's grandparents as don Alberto and doña Olivia rather than using señor and señora with their last names.


Let's use introductions as a starting point. Imagine that someone is introducing you to someone else. Read over the following examples of introductions and watch for clues that indicate why each is formal or informal.

Formal and Informal Introductions



Quiero presentarle al señor Martínez.

Quiero presentarte a mi amiga, Elena.

Permítame presentarle a la señora Topete.

Permíteme presentarte a José y Lucero.

Déjeme presentarle a la doctora Sánchez.

Déjame presentarte a mis hermanas, Alba y Tina.

Señora Guzmán, el profesor Blanco.

Sandra, Silvia

Your first clue in each of these is how the person addresses you. If you are addressed with the usted form, for example, permítame or déjeme pre-sentarle, you can be pretty sure that you should respond using the usted form. Both of the command forms in the formal examples are usted commands, and the object pronoun le also refers to usted. The informal introductions use the command forms, permíteme and déjame and the object pronoun te. It is possible that these forms would be used in formal introductions if, for example, a friend of yours were introducing you to someone that you would both address as usted, though your own relationship is informal.

The second clue is how each person is named. Notice that the formal introductions all use titles and the person's last name. The informal introductions use first names. Other subtle clues include references like mi amiga and mis hermanas. If someone is introducing you to their friends or siblings, you would most likely use informal forms of address with them since you are probably being included as a friend or honorary family member. Of course, there may be exceptions where you might address someone formally even though you are introducing a friend or family member and vice versa.

Responding to Introductions

The next step is responding appropriately to introductions. Some responses are completely neutral and can be used in either formal or informal contexts. Some are specifically one or the other. Look at the examples and try to decide why each is considered formal, informal, or neutral.

Responses to Introductions




Es un gusto conocerlo(la).

Es un gusto conocerte.

Mucho gusto.

Mucho gusto


Mucho gusto conocerte.

Un gusto.

Es un placer conocerlo(la).

Es un placer conocerte.

Un placer.

Did you notice that the formal responses mostly include the direct object pronoun lo or la and the informal responses use the direct object pronoun te?

Of course, you might be introduced to more than one person at a time. In those cases, the singular pronouns would change their plural forms, los, las, os, and the singular verb to plural, están. Or you could simply use a neutral response. Look at the following example of a short formal introduction and response:

Ramón, quiero presentarte a los señores Ramos. Es un placer conocerlos, señores.


Most introductions include more than the initial introduction and response. When you say it's a pleasure to meet the person you have just been introduced to, it's common for that person to respond to your response. The easiest response is to use one of the neutral phrases. So, for example, you have just been introduced to Mr. Ramos, who responds with Es un gusto conocerlo. You could respond to him with a simple Mucho gusto or any of the other neutral phrases. An excellent response in Spanish when someone says one of the “it's a pleasure to meet you” sorts of phrases is to say igualmente (likewise).

The direct object pronouns lo, los, la, and las are often replaced by the pronouns le or les. This is a dialectal form that is fairly common, particularly in Spain. Es un gusto conocerlo becomes Es un gusto conocerle.

Meeting and Greeting


Are you ready to give it a try? Listen to the introductions on Track 24 and respond with an appropriate formal or informal phrase. (The text is not listed because this is meant to be a more challenging exercise.) Then listen to and repeat the sample responses. You can find the introductions and sample responses written out in Appendix D.

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