English greetings as a form of the speech etiquette світлана баранова, Алла свирид (Суми, Україна) icon

English greetings as a form of the speech etiquette світлана баранова, Алла свирид (Суми, Україна)

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Світлана БАРАНОВА, Алла СВИРИД (Суми, Україна)

У статті розглянуті основні формули привітання в англійській мові як один із проявів мовленнєвого етикету, роз’яснені особливості вживання цих проявів ґречності, проаналізовано значення правильного добору привітання для встановлення мовленнєвого контакту.

Ключові слова: мовленнєвий етикет, формули привітання, мовленнєвий контакт, ґречність.

The main English greeting formulae as a manifestation of the speech etiquette are investigated in this paper. Peculiarities of using these courteous expressions are explained. The importance of correct choice of a salutation for creating a speech contact is analyzed.

^ Key words: speech etiquette, greeting formulae, speech contact, courtesy.

Exchanging some meaningful data during a conversation is possible only after arranging a speech contact and this is fulfilled while paying attention to the rules of this harmonious system of prohibitions and permissions which should be kept during a conversation, i.e. instructions of everyday courteous and respectful way of treating others. Among them the rules of salutation, making acquaintance, conducting a conversation, telephone talk, letter exchange, etc. play a significant role and have the general name of speech etiquette.

Our speech suffers many-sided influence: on the one hand that of the social role of speakers (their age, level of education, upbringing, living in a city or in a village) and role position towards each other (a parent — a child; a teacher — a student; an older — a younger person); on the other hand, the influence of the character of their mutual relations and the formality or informality of a situation as well.

It is obvious that we are able to choose the most necessary and suitable variant depending on the circumstances of communication. We also have the ability to differentiate the shades of somebody's speech: this is a conversation between the teachers of old age, and this one presents a talk of old people in the village; this is the way of speaking of the youth and that one belongs to people with low level of education; these expressions are suitable for an official meeting, and those can be easily used at a party in a warm company of friends of the same age; this text sounds cold and distant, the other one is warm or even intimate; this case is elevated and solemn and that one seems rude and unceremonious. All these are sociostylistical characteristics of speech units, which we can easily define [2: 14].

Among plenty of ways to express our joy caused by a meeting with someone dear to us we can choose a group of stylistically marked greetings: I am very glad to see you! If we want to emphasize our friendly mood we often use inquiries about life, business, family of our partner together with the forms of greetings: How is life?, How is your business? If a person is familiar to us and we are more or less well informed about his life, it is possible to define more precisely: What's new?, Well, how are things?, etc. We are also interested in his success at work, in the state of things in his family: How is your wife?, How is your mom?, What's new in the office?

To put it briefly, we should admit that no successful conversation is possible without good beginning of it. And everything depends on the first impression which your partner will make of you, based only on your salutation, especially if you are not acquainted yet but eager to get closer.

There are many ways of saying "Hello!" in English and the difficulty is to choose the right word at the right time in the right place. It is clear that there are appropriate linguistic "manners" for the different types of situations, in which language is used. The ways of greeting people and saying good-bye to them in English have a great deal to do with the social etiquette. There are a lot of different forms of greetings and all these depend upon who the speaker is, who he is talking to, the relationship with each other and their position in the society, how long they know each other and various other factors. To learn about this kind of social etiquette from a distance is very difficult. The only real way of learning the "intricacies" is actually to spend time in the country where the language is spoken. Unfortunately this is often not possible, but there are certain rules which can be taught to foreign speakers [3:17].

The usual way of greeting somebody is simply to say "Hello!" It is fairly informal, but it can also be used in a formal situation, it can be used to strangers and it can be used to friends, in any circumstance:

.... ^ Enters Cliff.

Cliff: There you are, dullin'. Hullo, Helena. Tea ready? ...

Jimmy enters.

Cliff: Hullo, boyo. Come and have your tea [8:46].

The given example shows the way the greeting "Hello!" is used among friends. We feel that these people know each other for a long time and now they share some special, informal relations. Their "Hello!" expresses their very friendly attitude towards each other and from the very beginning creates free and easy atmosphere of the talk.

The word "Hello!" also has a very specific meaning. It becomes obvious during a telephone conversation:

^ Jimmy: Hello... Braintree 1854

Mike: Jimmy? This is Mike.

Jimmy: Ah...Hello. Mike. Did you get home all right last night?

You say "Hello!" and then your phone number normally, and then you hear somebody saying "Hello!" It is a clear example of an introductory remark, the first "Hello!" means "Are you there?" and it is one of the most typical linguistic features of a telephone situation. And then you say "Hello!" as a greeting. So this is a different use of this word which is employed here in its primary function.

At the most informal level, among friends and particularly among young people, the most common greeting would probably be "Hi!" to which the response is "Hi!" In fact, "Hi!" is an Americanism, but it has become very widely used in Great Britain these days:

^ A small boy looked out into the hallway. He was perhaps eight years old. 'Hi', he said. 'Hi', Carella said. 'You looking for Mr. Clarke?' [5:56].

The author deliberately emphasizes the boy's age in order to justify the subsequent violation of the etiquette rules, when a little boy addresses an adult with this too informal way of greeting — he is just not in the know of all the shades of speech politeness.

The questions "How are you?", "How are you keeping?" usually follow the word "Hello!" and the answers may be: (I am) very/fairly/quite well, thank you! on formal and semi-formal level. "Quite/ fairly" are synonymous here (meaning "moderately") but "quite" is now more common. Other possible replies are also semi-formal or informal ones: Fine, thanks! Not so/too bad (thank you/thanks!) (with unstressed so pronounced as [sa]), All right, thank you/thanks! OK, thanks! A bit tired, otherwise all right

On the most informal level of communication, if the answer to the inquiry is unfavourable, "^ I am afraid" (meaning "unfortunately") is often used: Not very/too well, I am afraid. Possible reactions to this are: "Oh dear. I am sorry to hear that” [1:18]. There is also a great difference between the phrase "How are you" and the question "How are you feeling?" or "How do you feel?" The latter are asked only in case you are really interested in health of your partner and there is a weighty reason for this. For example, it is a situation when your colleague was ill and missed the previous meeting. If this question is mistakenly used as a greeting, the addressee may think he does not look well today, and it will be your fault of making an unintentional blunder. But if your colleague really felt bad, the phrase "How are you?" will show your concern for his health. However, as a rule it is used as a simple greeting which requires detailed answer neither about health, nor about private life.

If you know someone fairly well you may ask a more general question: ^ How are you getting on? (semi-formal), How's life?(informal), How are things (with you)?(semi-formal, informal).

'How's the world treating you?'

I shouldn't have asked him. He spread wide his hands in despair and raised his black-and-white eyebrows in accusation to heaven [1:19].

The most formal way of addressing someone is "How do you do?" It is not used very much, especially by younger people, these days. When you are introduced to a stranger you would normally address him with "How do you do?" It is in fact a question but it does not expect an answer. The reply to "How do you do?" is "How do you do?" and it is accompanied by a formal handshake. Then it would be a matter of getting straight down to the business in hand.

^ Alison: Hullo, Cliff.

Cliff: Hullo there.

Alison: Daddy - this is Cliff.

Colonel: How do you do, Cliff?

Cliff: How do you do, sir? [8:69]

The dialogue consists of two levels. First, young people greet each other and it becomes clear that they are equal and, most probably, they are friends. Then one of them gets acquainted with a person superior to him because of several reasons: he is a father of Cliff's friend, he is much older and he possesses a higher social position as he has the rank of a Colonel. All these factors cause the choice of greeting which displays the distance between communicators.

It may happen that you have already met the person who is being introduced to you. The phrase "I believe we've met" is pertinent in this situation:

Simon scurried to the door of the next office and half fell in. Danby looked more at ease although his eyes were now just microscopic glitters behind his gig-lamp-like spectacles. 'Good morning, Mr. Mortmain,' he said, ^ I believe that you have already met Mr. Suttle and Miss Watt' [7:50].

But if it becomes clear that your partner does not remember the previous meeting, the rules of politeness advise not to insist and remind him of the details but emphasize its fleeting nature instead:

^ That was two years ago in Helsinki. But we talked just a few minutes. And I am very glad to see you again [3:119].

The other way of greeting people is to use the time of day to say "Good morning!", "Good afternoon!", "Good evening!" The first phrase can be used until lunch time (12-2 p.m.), the second salutation is pertinent until 5-6 p.m. and the greeting "Good evening!" would do until 10-11 p.m. One should remember about the difference in tone. For formal greeting we use the low fall, for less formal and warmer greeting we use the low rise and the friendliest tone for greetings is the fall-rise. Or you may just say "Morning!', "Afternoon!", "Evening!'

We passed into the control room. Commander Swanson was reading out ice thickness figures in a quiet unemotional voice. He looked up from the chart. 'Morning, Doctor. John, I think we may have something here' [6:47].

Such shortened form of greeting creates less formal atmosphere of the situation, the words sound friendlier and warmer. But at the same time it can render some imperceptible shade of superiority, as in the following example:

^ Setting into the chair with a preliminary rock, Milly lifted the receiver. The caller was James Howdan. 'Morning. Milly', the Prime Minister said briskly [2:70].

The minister greets the secretary with such a shortened form of salutation. It produces an impression that the addressant is a very busy man, he has no time to waste for long sentences, but at the same time he does not allow himself to forget about the rules of etiquette and still greets such an insignificant person as a secretary, at least, with this kind of salutation.

As the greetings of this kind contain information about the time of the day when a conversation takes place, there are some restrictions in their usage, some rules, the violation of which is felt by the parties very distinctly:

^ Lammiter stepped into the doorway,

'Good evening,' he said to the frightened Maria.

'Or good morning, perhaps.'

'Oh,' the princess said, 'Good morning it is. Mr. Lammiter' [4:137].

Talking about different types of greetings, we cannot fail to mention such an essential part of the speech etiquette as paying compliments to the partner after the first expressions of salutation. When meeting after a certain period of time, a compliment, especially for a person that is not very young, is an indication of the fact that his appearance has not changed and he still remains young and good-looking:

^ I said to him: "My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking today!" [9:291]

There are lots of other etiquette formulae used in the situation of greeting, and one of them is "Welcome!" as a marker of gladness caused by someone's arrival to your place :

He twisted, looked up and recognized the figure of Major Stephan, commander of the Western Gap. Welcome, welcome... Welcome to Yugoslavia, Captain Mallory. Your battalion with you?' [6:165]

In various situations when you meet people on business, for instance, in shops and offices, the usual salutations are replaced by other kinds of greetings, e.g. "What can I do for you?"

^ He was still debating his approach when the girl behind the desk said, 'Yes, sir, may I help you?" [5:136]

In conclusion it should be said that a deliberate evasion from greeting sometimes also conveys a certain sense. Its intention is mostly to hurt or offend a person you are talking to:

^ I said: 'Good afternoon, Miss um"

"Engine failure?" she asked coldly.

"Well, no"

"Mechanical failure? Of any kind? No? Then this is private property. I must ask you to leave. At once, please" [6:89].

From the very beginning of the dialogue it was clear that the woman had no wish to talk to the intruder. She let it be understood with just several sentences and was looking for a chance to leave. That is why she saw no point in greeting the man and in this way somehow encouraging him to continue conversation.

Everything mentioned above proves that there is nothing insignificant in our everyday communication, each detail, even if unnoticed at the first sight, plays its role in achieving contact between people, and it is not an easy task to follow all the rules of the speech etiquette. To be successful in this sphere requires patience and experience.

Mastering a foreign language is really a very complicated task. It demands great patience, persistence, diligence and, of course, talent. But a person must possess not only the firm knowledge of grammar and spelling, wide passive and active vocabulary or correct pronunciation to have the right to say he knows the language of the other country. If she is eager to feel herself at ease among foreigners, it is extremely necessary for her to be aware of the cultural peculiarities of the nation which language is being studied, and understand the mentality of its representatives. The best results can be achieved only with the help of direct communication. And in this case knowledge of different rules of conducting a conversation can be of great help.

The nature of linguistic models of greetings discourse in the English language is rather difficult for a foreign student because there is a distinction between the sets of phrases accepted in formal and informal circumstances, breaking the rules of their usage may seem strange to native speakers and in some cases cause unexpected misunderstandings between interlocutors.

Speech etiquette in Ukrainian is rich on various formulae suitable in any situation of life and proper mastering of them will surely make the texts of English fiction translated into this language really authentic, colourful and sounding natural for Ukrainian audience. The abundance of such displays of courtesy offers an excellent opportunity for determining the best equivalent in every separate case, for the majority of source language units have almost absolute correspondences in Ukrainian. However, certain deviations do exist and this circumstance requires constant attention of a translator/interpreter and more profound grasp of the described material.


1. Иванов А.О., Поуви Д. Английские разговорные формулы. — М.: Просвещение, 1989. — 128 с.

2. Формановская Н.И. Речевой этикет и культура общения. — М.: Высшая школа, 1989. — 159 с.

3. Dubovsky Yu.A., Kucher O.V. Functional Communication in English. — Kyiv: Visca Skola Publishers, 1991. — 311 p.


1. Aldiss Brian. The Malacia Tapestry. — London: Granada Publishing Ltd., 1984. — 292 p.

2. Hailey Arthur. In High Places. — London: Pan Books Publishers, 1985. — 427 p.

3. Innes Hammond. Golden Soak. — London: Collins Publishers, 1974. — 238 p.

4. Maggines Helen. North from Rome. — London: Collins Publishers, 1969. — 169 p.

5. McBain Ed. Long Time No See. — London: Pan Books Ltd., 1979. — 256 p.

6. McLean Alistair. Ice Station Zebra. — London: Collins Publishers, 1969. — 256 p.

7. Merlin David. The Simple Life. — London: Pan Books Publishers, 1965. — 160 p.

8. Osborne John. Look Back in Anger. — London: Faber and Faber Publishers, 1989. — 96 p.

9. Poe Edgar Allan. Prose and Poetry. — Moscow: Raduga Publishers, 1983. — 416 p.


Світлана Баранова — кандидат філологічних наук, доцент кафедри теорії та практики перекладу Сумського державного університету.

Наукові інтереси: теорія дискурсу, лінгвокогнітивні аспекти квантитативності і квалітитативності

Алла Свирид — здобувач кафедри германської філології Сумського державного університету.

Наукові інтереси: теорія дискурсу.


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