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What is the most universally-used greeting when answering the phone (i.e. way to say, "Hello?")? Are there any circumstances where the greeting would be different (for example, when answering a phone call where you already know who is calling)? What regional differences are there in this area from country to country?

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I am not answering because I can't remember where I heard the following phrases: "¿Aló?", "Hola", "¿Diga?", "Oigo", "¿Si?" ... –  belisarius Dec 7 '11 at 22:32
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Complementing Alenanno's answer, I summarized this Wordreference thread :

  • ¿Bueno?: Mexico
  • ¿Sí?: Mexico, Spain
  • ¿Aló?: Colombia, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Venezuela
  • Hola: Argentina
  • ¿Diga?: Spain, Argentina
  • ¿Dígame?: Spain
  • ¿Oigo?, ¿Dígame?: Cuba
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I always heard bueno in Mexico. In Guatemala I remember alo. –  hippietrail Dec 8 '11 at 16:16
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¿Sí? is also used in Spain –  Javi Dec 8 '11 at 21:57
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The origin of Mexico's "¿bueno?", which means "good?", is that when the phone first came to the country, the operator would always answer like that in an attempt to verify if the connection was good. To this day almost everybody still answers the phone like that in most parts of the country. –  Sergio Romero Apr 30 '12 at 21:56
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I found a page with some polite language on the phone in Spanish.

The "¿Bueno?" you see at the beginning is maybe understood by any Spanish speaker, but it seems it's mostly used in Mexico. In other Latin American countries they say "¿Aló?". In Spain they use "¿Dígame?" or ¿Diga?".

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