Hi vs. Hey – Difference Explained (When To Use Which)

We all know that “hi” and “hey” are great ways to greet people. But, did you know that there are some differences between the two words? It might help to go over what these are in certain contexts, so this article will explain all you need to know!

Difference Between “Hi” and “Hey”

“Hi” is a more formal greeting that allows you to address a wide range of people (both friends and strangers alike). “Hey” is an informal greeting that works best when you are already familiar with the person you’re greeting. The two salutations are interchangeable.

hi vs hey

It’s second nature to most native speakers when using “hi” and “hey.” Since they’re both common greetings, most people don’t even think about the tone behind them.

They are interchangeable because “hi” and “hey” work both formally and informally.

Typically, “hi” is best when you don’t know the people you’re talking to, but even native speakers will sometimes use “hi” when they are talking to people they’ve known for years.

Similarly, “hey” is better when you do know the person you’re greeting, but there are no specific rules that mean you can’t use “hey” in the middle of a formal email (though, you would have to be very brave to try this).

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When To Use “Hi”

“Hi” works best formally. You should use it as a greeting when you are talking to someone new, or someone that you know likes formal language. It is less familiar when you use this form, so it makes more sense when you’re writing it in formal emails.

“Hi” can work better in written English because written English is a bit more reliant on formal rules. It makes more sense to use it in writing than in speaking because “hi” feels less natural to say than “hey.”

If you want to learn how to use “hi” in a sentence, here’s how it can work:

  1. Hi, there! I hope you’re having a really nice stay in our hotel. Is there anything I can get for you?
  2. Hi! Do you have the bill ready? We would like to pay for this food!
  3. Oh, hi! I’m sorry, but I didn’t see you there! What can I get for you today?
  4. Hi, guys! I need to talk to you about what went down last night. We have to make sure we’re all on the same page with this.
  5. Hi! How are you? It feels like it’s been a long time since we last spoke to each other. I hope you’ve been keeping well.

When To Use “Hey”

“Hey” is the informal variation that works better when you know the people you’re greeting. There are no rules that tell you that you have to know someone for a certain amount of time before using “hey.” You can use it whenever it feels natural for you.

Most younger native speakers will use “hey” as a default greeting today. It’s more uncommon to find “hi” used in spoken English.

Learning how to use “hey” in a sentence is as simple as this:

  1. Hey, guys! Are you all ready to get into the game? I’m going to beat you all!
  2. Hey! I’m so sorry about that! I won’t let it happen again, and I’ll be sure to help you out next time.
  3. Hey, guys! I’m so glad you invited me to this event! I think we’re going to have a really fun time!
  4. Oh, hey guys. I wasn’t aware that we were supposed to be meeting today. I guess nobody told me.
  5. Hey, there! How are you? It’s been a while, but I’d like to meet up for a coffee sometime soon!

Is “Hey” More Informal Than “Hi”?

Generally, “hey” is more informal than “hi.” It’s more common to use “hey” in spoken English because the formal rules are relaxed when speaking. Most native speakers will use “hey” because it feels more natural, whereas “hi” can sound a little more robotic.

Is “Hey” or “Hi” Most Appropriate In Emails?

Both greetings are suitable in emails, but “hi” is definitely better suited for formal emails. You’ll find that “hey” is only ever used as a greeting in an email when you are already familiar with the person you’re emailing, and you know that you don’t have to worry about formality.

Formal emails work better with “hi,” like so:

  • Hi team,
  • I’m writing this email to make sure that you’re all on board with the new changes coming up soon.
  • Kind regards,
  • Mr. Boss
  • Hi sir,
  • Thank you for your comment. I’ll be sure to get on that right away.
  • All the best,
  • Jonathan Woodford

Informal emails can be better when “hey” is used to include a more natural tone:

  • Hey guys,
  • How have you all been keeping? I hope this email hasn’t found you at a bad time.
  • Best wishes,
  • George

You may also like:
“Hi There” – What Does “There” Mean And Should You Use It?
“Hi all” or “Hi All” – Correct Version (Formal Email)

Is “Hey” or “Hi” More Flirty?

“Hey” is the most flirty phrase. If you’re talking to someone that you have a crush on, you will almost always use “hey” to greet them. Likewise, when texting a girl, “hey” is going to be the more natural phrase to use to show that you’re interested in them.

Of course, it isn’t limited to texting girls. “Hey” works just as well when texting a guy too. It would help to use it when you want to be a little more casual in your conversation without sounding like you’re trying to flirt too much.

Also, many people include extra “Y’s” at the end of “hey” when they want to show genuine interest in someone. This is just a trend that has developed over the years since text messages have become more commonplace.

  • Hey, Sarah! How are you keeping? Do you fancy coming to see a movie with me later?
  • Heyyyy! How are you? I’m so glad you decided to text me about this.
  • Heyy! I was wondering if you might like to go to prom with me this weekend!
  • Oh, heyyyy! Long time no speak! I’ve really missed you!

You may also like:
10 Things It Could Mean When Someone Texts You “Heyyy”
“Hey Yourself” – 7 More Appropriate Alternatives