You will know many of these expressions but may not be sure exactly how they are used.

Greetings : ‘Hello’

Hi/Hello, How are you?  

This is the normal greeting when you meet someone you know. (also: How’s it going? in informal situations)
The usual reply is: Fine thanks. And you? Or possibly, Not bad. How about you?

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening    

These expressions are used at different times of the day (most people say Good morning until lunchtime). British people do not usually say Good day, but Australians do.

How do you do? 

For formal situations when you meet someone for the first time.
The reply can be the same (How do you do?) or Pleased/nice to meet you.

Farewells: ‘goodbye’

Nice to meet you. (Nice to have met you.)       

For formal situations, when you say goodbye to someone you have just met for the first time.

Bye. See you later.     

If you plan to see someone you know later the same day.

Bye. See you soon.      

When you know you will see them again, but have no specific plans to meet them.


When you say goodbye to someone late at night, or if you (or they) are going to bed.

Have a nice weekend. Yes. Same to you

The statement and reply when you say goodbye to a colleague / friend at work, school or college on Friday afternoon.

Happy occasions and celebrations

Happy Birthday  

To someone on his/her birthday. You can also say Many Happy Returns, and write either expression in a birthday card.

Happy/Merry Christmas 

To someone just before or on Christmas Day. You also write this on a card.

Happy New Year  

To someone at the beginning of the year.


To someone who has just done something, e.g. passed an exam or got a job. In many cases, we can also say Well done.

This lesson aims to teach you what to say in some specific situations and special occasions.

Special conventions

Excuse me 

(a) To get someone’s attention (b) When you want to get past, e.g. in a crowded place. (c) To tell others you are going to leave the room.


(a) To say sorry, e.g. you stand on someone’s foot. You could also say I beg your pardon in this situation. And (b) When you want someone to repeat what they said.


To express good wishes when you have a drink with other people. Informally it can also mean ‘goodbye‘ (also cheerio) and ‘thank you‘.

Good luck 

To wish someone well before a difficult situation, e.g. a job interview, an exam, a driving test, etc.

Bless you 

To someone when they sneeze. They can reply by saying Thank you.

Note: In English, there is no special expression when people start eating. If you want to say something, you can use the French expression Bon appetit, but it is not common.


Test your knowledge now by passing this test from here:


What message could you say on the phone or write in a card to these people?

1. A friend. Next week is 25 December.
2. A friend who is 21 tomorrow.
3. A friend on January 1st or soon after.
4. A very good friend who has just passed some important exams.
5. A friend who is going to take his driving test in three days’ time.
6. A friend you know you are going to meet in the next few days/weeks.

What could you say in these situations?

1. You are in a meeting. Someone enters the room and says you have an important telephone call. What do you say as you leave?
2. Someone says something to you but you didn’t hear all of A. What do you say?
3. You met a new business client for the first time fifteen minutes ago, and now you are leaving. What do you say?
4. You are on a crowded bus. It is your stop and you want to get off. What do you say to other passengers as you move past them?
5. You are staying with some English friends. What do you say to them when you leave the room in the evening to go to bed?
6. You are in the street. A woman walks past you and at the same time something falls out of her bag. She has her back to you. What do you say?
7. A friend tells you they have just won a competition.
8. Another friend is going for a job interview this afternoon.

Here are some more special expressions. When do we use them and do you have equivalent expressions in your own language?

1. Hard luck
2. Say `cheese’
3. Watch out
4. I’ve no idea