7 ways to say “hello”.

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The meaning of “hello” can change dramatically from charm to fear, or from attraction to annoyance depending on the intonation used. Here are 7 different ways to say it, each with its own meaning:


1. Pleased – “I haven’t seen you for ages”.

Perhaps you haven’t seen someone for a while, or you bump into them in the street. This “hello” starts high on HEL and then goes from low to high on LO.

¯↘↗hello

2. Scared – “Is there somebody out there?”

There’s a noise outside, you’re not sure what it was, but you counter-intuitively start talking to whatever it is. You’re scared – start low on HEL then stress LO rising from low as you do.

_hel↗lo

3. Charmed – “How nice to meet you!”

You’re pleased to meet somebody and you’re playing the charmer. The key is to start really high on HEL – the higher you start, the more positive you sound, then you drop to low on LO.

¯hel↘lo

4. Telephone Greeting – “Say something to me.”

The most common way to answer the phone in English is a kind of “friendly rise”, stressing LO and rising. The first syllable, HEL is quite weak and at a natural tone. It clearly indicates that the next person to speak is the listener.

–hel↗lo

5. Attraction – “I’m really pleased to see you!”

This probably sounds ridiculous, and may be used more often than not as a joke, but the meaning of it is very clear. Do a high falling pattern on both syllables, go on, have a go!

↘he↘llo

6. Everyday – “Greetings, I see you all the time”

You walk past your neighbour who’s doing some gardening, this is a familiar greeting and one that doesn’t necessarily lead to a conversation. Stress the first syllable, start relatively high then step down to a low town on ‘lo’, which can be lengthened.

–↘hello

7. Annoyed – “Why won’t you listen to me?”

You really have had enough of your partner pretending that they can’t understand your simple request to replace the milk in the fridge when they finish it. You’ve had enough – start with HEL in a mid-tone and the do a bending fall-rise on the LO. The longer, the more annoyed you are.

–hel↘↗lo

A note on the intonation markings. The first line _­–¯ indicates roughly whether to start on a low, medium or high pitch. The arrow ↘ ↗ ↘↗ indicates the tone used – falling, rising or fall-rising and appears directly before the main stress. 

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By | 2017-01-23T11:20:00+00:00 August 25th, 2015|Highlights, Intonation, Words|3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Anna Mª Garcia January 4, 2016 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Very helpful! Thanks Joe and all the team! I wish I had time to answer all the mails I get from Pronunciation Studio. I really enjoyed my one-week course and I always recommend it to all my colleagues.

    Hope to come again and join one of your courses… accent reduction probably…Hard work for me…

    I remember a conversation we had about ‘Phonics’, method is taught to very young learners. Could you please consider the possibility of contact any school in the UK you know is using this method? I’d love to ask for a two weeks job-shadowing grant this year. I’d be very thankful!

    Best wishes for this new year 2016,

    Anna Mª

    • Joseph Hudson January 7, 2016 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anna, and happy new year! The Phonics method is used quite widely in UK primary schools these days, I will ask around and e-mail any places to you that may be able to help.

  2. Myriam from Uruguay January 15, 2017 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much indeed, Joe, for all the information. Intonation is a topic you can´t deal with just by reading texts. You need to listen and imitate.
    For us, Spanish speakers, it´s completely different, so it´s not easy to produce the main tunes of English.
    I´d llike to leave a comment on No. 6 in your list of “hellos”. In the recording I hear it as having a rising intonation, not falling. Am I wrong?.
    Happy New Year to you and your readers!

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