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How should I greet my customer if I meet him/her at 6pm for a discussion? Should I say "good evening" or should I say "good afternoon"?

From my understanding, "good evening" is used at around 6pm, while "good afternoon" is used for from noon time until around 6pm.

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How about hello? –  onomatomaniak Nov 24 '11 at 8:34
    
I don't think I will greet my customer "Hello" as it seems a bit quite of impolite. –  Larry Morries Nov 24 '11 at 8:39
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Hello isn't impolite, and you could always add welcome. At least in the US, I very rarely hear good afternoon or good evening used as a sincere greeting - they sound stilted and formal. More typical is a hi, welcome when you walk in, followed by a have a nice day when you walk out. –  onomatomaniak Nov 24 '11 at 9:05
    
What @onomato said: “Hello” or “How do you do?” are both perfectly fine. They are not in any way impolite. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 16 at 0:22
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Both "Good afternoon" and "Good evening" are perfectly appropriate greetings at 6pm. Pick one, and don't overanalyze it. If you say "Good evening" at 4pm, or "Good afternoon" at 8pm, you might get funny looks, but near the boundary, either is fine.

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+1. Thanks Peter. Just wanted to look polite and correct when I meet my customer at 6pm and so must be sure which term for greeting is more suitable. –  Larry Morries Nov 25 '11 at 1:27
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Good afternoon before sunset, Good evening after it?

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What about the far north or south, when sunset may be at 3pm or 11pm? Or even further north or south where you will have days with no sunset/sunrise and only darkness or daylight? –  Hugo Nov 24 '11 at 8:14
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@Barrie That seems unlikely to work, as sunset more probably delimits Good evening and Good night. Moreover, in northern climes, sunset occurs too late in summer, eg after 9PM, or too early in winter, eg before 5:30pm, to work well –  jwpat7 Nov 24 '11 at 8:16
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Alright, already. Then I think the answer is, it all depends. –  Barrie England Nov 24 '11 at 8:29
    
And there's a similar problem around midday. –  Barrie England Nov 24 '11 at 8:41
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+1. The answer depends on the time of year; let the sun guide you. –  Monica Cellio Nov 24 '11 at 17:49
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I think this is largely regional. In many places, "evening" starts at dusk, in others it starts at "dinner time" (6-7pm?) or "after business hours" (5pm).

My personal preference is usually to say "Good afternoon" until around 5pm, and then I switch to "Good evening." But you can always just avoid the situation and say "Hello!" instead. :)

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Do you think that "Greeting" would be a better word to greet my customer or are there better word out there? –  Larry Morries Nov 24 '11 at 8:43
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There are many such words, depending on the nature of your business and clients. "Greetings!" would sound corny where I'm from (central U.S.), but "Welcome!" "Come in!" "How are you today?" "Thank you for calling Radio Shack, you've got questions, we've got answers. My name is Larry. How can I help you?" could all have promise. :) –  Flimzy Nov 24 '11 at 8:47
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I think the "good x" greeting is (in theory) expressing a wish on your part that the other person is having a positive experience of x at the moment, and will continue to do so for the remainder of x. It doesn't really include past events.

So "good morning" at 10 am suggests "I hope you are happy at the moment, and enjoy the rest of the morning" but not "I hope you had a good breakfast".

Since by your definition at 6 pm the afternoon ends, you should say "good evening", because there is no afternoon left for them to enjoy.

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It’s all about the sun, nothing else. It can’t be evening until the westering sun has sunk below the horizon. –  tchrist Mar 16 at 0:40
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5pm is the cutoff time for afternoon to evening.

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