Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Hi and Hello

Hi vs Hello

You have probably heard many English-speaking people say “hello” and “hi” to other people. These words are greetings, or exclamations, that you say when you first see someone. The difference between these two forms of greeting is in formality: they mean the same thing, but “hello” is more formal than “hi.” Let’s look at the definitions of “hello” first and then talk about when to use each word.

Hello is pronounced /həˈloʊ/ and hi is pronounced /haɪ/; both are nouns and exclamations. This is how the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines “hello”:

“used as a greeting when you meet somebody, when you answer the telephone or when you want to attract somebody’s attention.”
So there are three ways to use “hello”: 1) when you see someone, 2) when you answer the phone (pick up the phone and say “hello?”), and 3) to get someone’s attention.
Plural: “hellos”
Collocations: “Hello, [name of person],” [to say] hello to [somebody],” “[to exchange] hellos.”
Sample sentences:
Hello, Jane! Nice to see you.
On the phone: Hello? Who is this?
Please say hello to Jack for me and tell him I’m sorry I couldn’t come to the party.
Sam and Sue exchanged hellos and smiled at each other.
From across the room: Hello, Sam! How are you?
“used to show that you are surprised by something” (British English).
Sample sentences:
Hello?! What happened here?
“used to show that you think somebody has said something stupid or is not paying attention” (informal).
Sample sentences:
Hello, why did you do that? What were you thinking?
Hello! Are you even listening to me?

Some formal synonyms for saying “hello” are “greetings,” “good morning/afternoon/evening” (depending on the time of day), “good day,” and “nice to meet/see you.” Both “hello” and “hi” are too informal to use in letters and emails; use something like “Dear [name]” instead.

English speakers generally use “hello” and “hi” at the beginning of a conversation. The greeting is often followed by a short, vague conversation before the main topic is addressed. Such a conversation might go like this:
Jane: “Hello, Jim. It’s nice to see you.”
Jim: “Hi, Jane. Nice to see you, too. How are you doing?”
Jane: “I am fine, thanks. How are you?”
Jim: “I am pretty well.”
A more formal conversation using “hello,” perhaps one between an employer (“boss”) and employee (“James”), might go like this:
Boss: “Hello, James. How are you this morning?”
James: “Good morning, Mr. Smith. I am well, thank you. How are you doing?”
Boss: “I am fine, thanks.”
Notice in this conversation how the employee (James), uses an even more formal greeting than “hello” – he says “good morning” to his boss and also uses the full form “thank you.” The boss is a bit less formal, using “hello” and “thanks” because he has more authority in the relationship.

It can be a little bit difficult to know when to say “hi” and when to say “hello” or something even more formal. In general, keep in mind that “hi” is informal and you should use it only with people whom you already know, such as acquaintances, friends, and family. Do not say “hi” to someone you are meeting for the first time. When in doubt, say “hello.”


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3 Comments

  1. Thanks alot for this site, it is wonderful, i will use it to teach English to my students.

  2. hello and hi
    hello is used more things
    such as attention, greeting and so on.
    hello have more definition than hi
    hi is the first time and hello like that.

  3. you know someone is socially awkward when someone looks up the difference between hi and hello. Well not always. Anyways, thank you for this!

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