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Saying Hello in Filipino: How to Say Hello in Tagalog and More

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The Filipino people are well-known for being hospitable and friendly. In fact, there are a couple of cities in the country described as “The City of Smiles” and “The City of Love.” The Philippines even dominated the top four spots in the list of the World’s Friendliest Islands a couple of years ago. And one way Pinoys express their congeniality is by never failing to greet friends and strangers alike with, Kumusta? whenever they meet them someplace. Hence, when you learn Filipino, how to say hello is one of the most essential things you’ll need to know.

Since there’s no direct equivalent of the English word hello in Tagalog or Filipino, they greet each other with this question instead, which translates to, “How are you?” So, in a sense, kumusta is one way of saying how are you in Tagalog. English is considered a second language in the Philippines, so it’s not uncommon to hear Pinoys greet their fellows with a “hi” or “hello.” If you want to do it the authentic way, though, saying kumusta is the way to go.

There’s more than one way of saying hello or hi in Tagalog, and that’s what this article is going to be all about. Before we show you some of the most common ways to use this Filipino greeting, let’s first talk about the background of the expression Kumusta?

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Table of Contents

  1. Kumusta or Kamusta? What’s the Correct Spelling?
  2. When and How to Say “Hello” or Kumusta in Filipino
  3. More Ways to Say Hello in Filipino
  4. Responding to Kumusta
  5. What’s Next?


1. Kumusta or Kamusta? What’s the Correct Spelling?

If you’re familiar with Filipino history and culture, you’re probably aware that the Philippines was under Spanish rule for 333 years. Before the foreigners came, the main communication channel of the Filipinos was Baybayin, an indigenous Indic script used by mostly the Tagalog people, or those who dwell in Luzon. At first, the Spaniards did their best to learn the native language and think like Filipinos. But as time went by and the colonization became more widespread, it was the Filipinos who were forced to learn the Spanish language instead.

That’s the reason many of the words and expressions used by Pinoys sound like they came straight out of a Dora the Explorer or Handy Manny episode. Kumusta isn’t an exception.

Just like any other language, the Filipino language consists of many variants, or words spelled or pronounced differently. Perhaps the 175 dialects spoken in the archipelago are to be credited for these variants. But that’s what makes the language in the Philippines interesting! Speaking of variants, kamusta is basically a variant of kumusta. So the original spelling is with a “u” rather than an “a.”

But that’s not the main explanation. If you’re also a fan of the Spanish language, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the greeting, ¿Cómo está?, which is “How are you?” when translated.

That’s right. The Filipino kumusta actually originated from the Spanish, ¿Cómo está? And that’s the reason kumusta is more proper than kamusta.

Nevertheless, the two are interchangeable, and kamusta is actually the version that’s often used by many Filipinos today. In writing, however, see to it that you pick a version and stick to it. In this case, we’ll use the proper term, which is kumusta.

This matter out of the way, let’s learn how to say hello in the Philippines (or more specifically, how to say hello in the Filipino language)!


2. When and How to Say “Hello” or Kumusta in Filipino

Say Hello

So, how do you say hello in the Philippines?

Here, we’ll go over a few different ways of how to say “Hello, how are you?” in the Filipino language. Unlike the greeting “hello” in English, the Filipino greeting kumusta? can be used in several different instances, with slightly varying meanings.

1- When Greeting a Friend

Friends Happily Chatting

A. Kumusta ka? - “How are you?”

As already mentioned, the most direct translation of Kumusta ka? is “How are you?” The most common use of this expression is when greeting a friend, especially when the two of you haven’t seen each other for a while. Nevertheless, it’s still okay to ask someone kumusta even if it’s only been twenty-four hours since you last saw each other. In that case, Kumusta ka? could translate to, “How are you today?”

This greeting can also be used if you want to say hello to a stranger you meet in the hallway or the streets. Since FIlipinos are naturally friendly, they’ll definitely acknowledge your greeting with a smile or a greeting of their own.

B. Kumusta ka na? - “How have you been?/How are you now?”

When the adverb na is added to kumusta ka, the meaning of the expression changes. Now, it’s no longer simply “How are you?” but “How have you been?” implying that you haven’t seen the person for some time. This expression is also used when you’re checking on the condition of the person. If your colleague has been on sick leave, for instance, you greet them with this question to show concern. In this case, it translates to, “How are you now?”

Ex.

Uy, antagal nating hindi nagkita ah. Kumusta ka na?
“Hey, it’s been a while since we’ve last seen each other. How have you been?”

Balita ko nagkasakit ka raw. Kumusta ka na?
“I heard you were sick. How are you now?”

C. Musta?

This is a shortened version of kumusta. This is often used when greeting a close friend or relative.

D. Anong balita? - “What’s up?”

Balita is Filipino for “news.” Pinoys are often straightforward and aren’t embarrassed to ask close friends personal questions. Greeting someone with Anong balita? is basically asking them about the latest news in their personal life. This isn’t always the case, though. Among very close friends (barkada), this expression is just an informal greeting.

E. Long time no see ah!

How do Filipinos say hello? Sometimes in English! This one is broken, or pidgin, English, but is often used by Filipinos to greet someone they haven’t seen for a long time.

F. Hoy! Ba’t ngayon ka lang nagpakita? - “Hey! Where have you been all this time?”

This is an informal way of greeting a very close friend who hasn’t been showing up to the group for some time.

2- When Greeting a Group of People

Man Greeting People at Get-Together

Kumusta kayo? - “How are you?”

The pronoun kayo is used instead of ka when referring to more than one person. A teacher who’s just arrived in the classroom, for instance, would ask her students, Kumusta kayo, mga bata? or “How are you, children?”

3- When Greeting Someone Older or Someone in Authority

Kumusta po kayo?

This phrase is the same as “How are you?” but with the word po, which indicates respect. In some cases, po can be eliminated, since kayo can also be used when speaking with someone older or someone in authority.


3. More Ways to Say Hello in Filipino

Kumusta is the most direct way to say hello in Filipino, but it’s not the only way Pinoys greet each other.

1- Greetings for Different Times of the Day

Cartoon Happy in the Morning

  • Magandang Umaga. - “Good morning.”
  • Magandang Tanghali. - “Good noon.”
  • Magandang Hapon. - “Good afternoon.”
  • Magandang Gabi. - “Good evening.”

Depending on the time of the day, it may be more appropriate to use good wishes than to say kumusta. There are instances, though, when you can add kumusta to such greetings:

Magandang umaga. Kumusta ka?
“Good morning. How are you?”

2- When Meeting a Person or a Group of People for the First Time

When meeting a person or a new group of people, you can use this phrase:

Ikinagagalak kong makilala ka/kayo.

It essentially means “I am glad to meet you,” or “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

This is a rather formal way to converse with someone and is often used in writing rather than in conversations since most Filipinos aren’t comfortable with this kind of expression anymore.

3- Formal Greetings

Speaking of formal greetings, here’s another one:

Mabuhay!

This is an alternative to kumusta and is often used as a formal greeting.

In the Philippines, this expression became popular when the 1994 Miss Universe beauty pageant was held in the country. The seventy-seven contestants of this event greeted everyone with an opening number entitled, Mabuhay.

The lyrics go like this:

Here in the Philippines, they have a word.
A great way to start up
each day,
When you want to say “Welcome, we wish you the best”:
Just smile up a smile as you say,
Oh, oh, Mabuhay!

The root word of mabuhay is buhay, which literally means “life” or “alive.” When you use the formal greeting, Mabuhay!, you’re basically saying, “Live!” or “Long Live!”


4. Responding to Kumusta

Now that you know how to say hello, good morning, and good evening in Filipino, it’s time to learn how to respond when you’re the one greeted with a good morning in Filipino or How are you? in Tagalog.

You’ve probably been taught to reply with, “I’m fine. Thank you,” when greeted with, “How are you?” Well, in Filipino,this is spoken as, Mabuti naman ako. Salamat.

  • mabuti = “fine”
  • naman = “also”
  • ako = “me”
  • salamat = “thank you”

You can also respond with Okay lang ako or Ayos lang ako, which translates to “I’m okay,” or “I’m just fine.”

If you want to return the greeting, simply say, Ikaw? or Kayo? or Kayo po?

Ikaw and kayo are both “you” in Filipino, but as a response to “How are you?” they would imply “How about you?”


5. What’s Next?

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We hope you found this article helpful and that you now know how to say hello in Filipino and are now aware of the different instances you should use the greeting.

Do you know how to say hello in Filipino Tagalog after reading this article? Is there anything you’re still struggling with, or other greetings you would like to know? Let us know in the comments!

If you want to learn more Filipino expressions, one place you can visit online is FilipinoPod101. Here, you can study and learn key Filipino phrases in a fast and easy way. It doesn’t matter if you’re an absolute beginner, because we have a pathway designed for learners like you. Most importantly, we provide free resources if you want to try out our services first.

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