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I am talking about situations when you want to greet someone, without stopping to talk to them. In Russian, people usually say "добрый день" which means "hello." This is a greeting, not a valediction.

In English, it seems to be opposite. Can I say "hi," or should I say something like "have a nice day" or "bye" when I am passing them?

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Hello is a greeting; good-bye is never a greeting. Do you want to know what is possible, or what is normal? Or what is impossible? Is this someone you know? Are you close personal friends, or colleagues, or are you merely passing acquaintances? Is it a complete stranger? It is on the trail, on the street, in a shop, at work, in class, at church? How old are you, and how old are they? – tchrist Feb 13 '13 at 0:23
I would like to know which one sounds more normal. It doesn't really matter of it's someone I know, or how old they are. Basically, is it ok to say "hi" or "hello" to someone I am passing by, without actually stopping to talk to them? – Konstantin Kowalski Feb 13 '13 at 0:27
Be short: howdy or hey or hi are certainly commonly enough heard as casual greetings go, and would normally be used on people you already know or were in an informal setting with; don’t use those on the judge in his own courtroom, for example. Hello is getting on the formal side, much like “good morning/afternoon/evening”, which are all quasi-formal. Don’t use valedictions like “bye” or “see ya” or “hasta” or “have a nice day” or “good night” as though it were a greeting. That would only confuse people. – tchrist Feb 13 '13 at 0:44
"Good morning" (or just "morning") and similar seem more appropriate when you want to acknowledge some random stranger but not actually greet them, e.g. if you are out for a walk, or entering a building, you pass someone and feel it is polite to acknowledge them - but without inviting or expecting a conversation. – lessthanideal Dec 10 '14 at 17:52
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Usually I wouldn't say anything and just nod my head or something if I was just passing by and I didn't know the person. If you were to say something though, "hi", "hey", "hello", etc. would be what someone would normally say. Depending on the time you also might say something like "good evening." "Have a nice day" and "bye" would usually just be said after talking though or if you were leaving a place you had both been for a while, not as a greeting.

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