Today I want to teach a few different ways to ask ‘how are you?’ in Spanish for your next trip to Spain or Latin America. Spanish-speaking people are generally very friendly and warm, so these expressions are customary.
People don’t always use the same greeting (also varies from country to country), so I’ll cover the most common expressions used.
Spanish is easy to learn, but it has formal and informal ways to greet people, including the use of the formal and informal ‘you’ singular pronouns: “tú” (informal ‘you’ singular), and “usted” (formal ‘you’ singular), so there are some differences which I’ll point out for you (also see our guide on Spanish nicknames).
Let’s take a look at how to ask ‘how are you’ in Spanish.
The expression ¿Cómo estás? is the most common and widely used greeting across Spanish-speaking countries, and it’s an informal but safe way to ask ‘how are you?’.
For this question, a textbook response in Spanish is: Muy bien, gracias, ¿y tú? — “very well, thanks, and you?”.
The formal, polite version of this question is ¿Cómo está?, based on the use of the formal ‘you’: “usted” (“vosotros” in Spain).
The answer would be the same except for the use of ”usted” instead of “tú”. So we could say: Muy bien, gracias, ¿y usted?. This formal greeting is used when interacting with older people, strangers, or people in a higher rank/position in work-related situations in order to show respect.
This answer assumes you’re fine, but if things aren’t so well, you could say: No muy bien — ‘not very/so well’.
These are two forms of a standard greeting that can be used in just about any Spanish-speaking country you visit, with any person you meet, in pretty much any context.
Now, let’s go beyond this textbook expression and look at some other variations so you can understand Spanish speakers when they greet you in a different way.
Most other forms of ‘how are you’ in Spanish are rather informal, so the next few expressions you’ll learn are better used with friends or people you know fairly well. But I’ll show you the formal version where appropriate.
¿Cómo va todo?
Many Spanish speakers will ask ¿Cómo va todo? when they meet up with friends or colleagues.
This translates to ‘how’s everything going?’, so it’s a somewhat informal greeting.
You can answer this by saying: Todo (muy) bien, ¿y tú? — ‘Everything’s (very) well, and you?’.
You can also reply using the verb: Todo va bien — ‘everything is going well’, and no matter what the question is, you can always include gracias — ‘thank you’ in your answer (as you would in English).
¿Cómo te va?
An alternative to this greeting is ¿Cómo te va?, which translates roughly to ‘how’s it going?’, and you can respond the same way as above, or you can say: Me va (muy) bien — ‘it’s going (very) well / I’m doing (very) well’.
The negative form of this would be: No me va (muy) bien — ‘I’m not doing very well’.
This is a greeting that you can make polite or formal by asking ¿Cómo le va? instead.
If someone asks you this way, in a polite manner, you can respond the same way as above.
¿Cómo van las cosas?
Yet another similar greeting people often use is ¿Cómo van las cosas? which means ‘how are things (going)?’.
The same responses are possible here, or you can say: Las cosas van bien — ‘Things are (going) well’.
People typically use a single adjective to describe how things are going for them as well (like English). For example: “genial” — ‘great/fantastic’-, “normal” — ‘average’-, “terrible” — ‘terrible’, “regular” — ‘just okay’, “bien” — ‘fine’.
You may also choose to use one of these adjectives to answer any of the questions introduced here, considering they’re all variants of the same question.
The greeting ¿Cómo andas? is very similar to “¿Cómo te va?”, but this one is a bit more slang, so save it for close friends.
It also translates to ‘how’s it going?’.
¿Qué hay de nuevo?
You may hear people ask you ¿Qué hay de nuevo? — ‘What’s new?’ — and this greeting is also slang, so make sure you use with someone you know and in an informal context.
An easy response is: No mucho which means ‘not much’, or Nada (nuevo) — ‘nothing (new)’ — if you don’t have much to tell.
You can also just say “todo bien” — ‘everything’s well’.
¿Qué me cuentas?
In a similar way, you can ask: ¿Qué me cuentas? which literally translates to ‘what do you tell me?’, which is a bit like asking ‘what’s going on?’.
This is another question to save for casual/informal contexts.
The possible answers to this question are the same ones as above since you would also say something like: ‘not much’, ‘nothing new’, or ‘everything’s okay’.
¿Cómo te ha ido?
Two more variations of this greeting are ¿Cómo te ha ido? and ¿Cómo has estado?, which both mean ‘how have you been?’.
You can choose from any of the answers you have learned so far, since they all fit this question appropriately.
Another slang way to ask ‘how are you?’ in Spanish is ¿Qué tal?, which is used in casual or informal contexts as it is similar in use to ‘what’s up?’.
When you reply, you may choose pretty much any of the previous answers we have shared here.
Most people would answer the same way you answer “¿Cómo estás?“, that is: “(Muy) bien”, or you may also say: “Todo bien”.
‘How are you’ variations in different Spanish-speaking countries
There are some variations that are specific to certain Spanish-speaking countries, so here are a few common ones:
In Spain and Colombia, ¿Cómo vas? roughly translates to ‘how are you doing?‘.
This is an informal greeting used regularly among friends in these two countries.
The phrase literally means ‘how are you going?’, and when used in other countries it has a more literal meaning.
When someone asks “¿Cómo vas?” in any other country, they are asking how it’s going for you with a specific process or situation that’s in progress.
If you visit Mexico, people will ask you ¿Qué onda?, which is similar to ‘what’s up?’. It’s the most common greeting among Mexicans and you can answer any way you have learned here.
Another very particular greeting is Pura vida, which is used in Costa Rica.
It literally means ‘pure life’, and Costa Ricans used it to say ‘hello’, to ask ‘how are you?’, and also to answer with the meaning of ‘I’m great’, so don’t be surprised if you hear it over and over when you visit this country.
It can be used as a question and as an answer, to say hello and to say goodbye.
It’s also very common for Spanish speakers to combine two greetings.
You may hear them say, for example, ¿Cómo estás? ¿Cómo va todo?, or ¿Qué tal? ¿Qué me cuentas?. In cases like these, you can simply choose how you would like to answer, but rest assured there is no right or wrong.
Here’s a sample conversation:
Julia: Hola, Pablo!* *Qué sorpresa. ¿Cómo has estado?
Pablo: Hola, Julia. Estoy muy bien, ¿y tú? ¿Qué me cuentas?
Julia: Nada nuevo. Todo bien, gracias.
Pablo: Qué gusto verte.
Now you have a list of choices for asking ‘how are you’ in Spanish, so next time you meet a Spanish speaker, get creative and use one these variations of ‘how are you?’.