Greetings in Spanish
The three common greetings used in Spanish:
Buenos días = good morning
Buenas tardes = good afternoon
Buenas noches = good evening / good night
From the moment you wake up you can start using buenos días (assuming you are not getting out of bed in the afternoon as some people do).
After midday (el mediodía) you use buenas tardes until sunset (la puesta del sol).
After sunset you would say buenas noches which is similar to our good evening though literally translates as good night. However, unlike in English where good night is used to say goodbye or when you are going to bed, in Spanish buenas noches can be used as a greeting.
The tricky part is during the early morning hours from midnight (la medianoche) until around 4 in the morning (called la madrugada in Spanish). At this time you could use either buenos días or buenas noches.
If you are getting up VERY early (you might be a baker or in some other profession that has to get up much earlier than everyone else) then you would use the greeting buenos días.
If you are still awake at that time and you haven’t gone to bed yet, you would use buenas noches as a greeting.
Buenos or Buenas?
Why do you use buenos with días and buenas with tardes and noches?
el día = the day
la tarde = the afternoon/evening
la noche = the night
Día is a masculine word so buenos needs to be in masculine form too (ending in -OS).
Tarde is a feminine word so buenas needs to be in feminine form too (ending in -AS).
Noche is a feminine word so buenas needs to be in feminine form too (ending in -AS).
(Don’t worry, we will see more about masculine and feminine words later)
Other ways of greeting in Spanish
Some people may use a shortened form of the typical greetings and just say Buenas. This is informal.
You may also hear Buen día.
The most common greeting at any hour of the day is hola (=hi). This is of course informal.
How do you say good morning in Spanish? Buenos días
How do you say good afternoon in Spanish? Buenas tardes
How do you say good evening in Spanish? Buenas noches