I am not a native speaker. I really want to know what's the difference between Hi and Hey in writing an email? In daily conversation? Is it too girlish or childish for a man to say hey in his email? What's the bottom line in using them?

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    Hi and hey are two different expressions, the first is the informal equivalent of hello whilst the second is used to grab somebody's attention as in "Hey, what's that unidentified flying object?", "Hey, did you see last week's episode of ...?"; "Hey man, how you're doing?" and "Hey man, how's it going?" You don't use hey to address someone in an email.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 20, 2014 at 0:37
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    Thank you. Because I always see a lot of girls using that, that's why I ask.
    – Daniel
    Jun 20, 2014 at 0:49
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    @Mari-LouA: I grew up with the assumptions you presented in your comment. However, I have found that Americans under about 35 years of age tend to say hey instead of hi, which they hardly ever say. It's a case of an invasive interjection. Jun 20, 2014 at 5:09
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    @JohnLawler that's why I asked the OP where he was living? Hey is not a greeting that I read or hear from my British friends or family, instead hiya is frequently used in emails and in speech but that's quite different from hey.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 20, 2014 at 5:47
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    @Mari-LouA I would not use "Hey" in a work setting - unless the content was personal (i.e. want to go for a beer after work?). It's not generally used with a name - you just open the mail with "Hey".
    – Bob Tway
    Jun 20, 2014 at 11:27

6 Answers 6


As a greeting, Hey is more informal than Hi. I wouldn't use Hey in an office e-mail.

Hey is not considered childish or girlish. Most commonly used amongst young men I'd guess.

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    This must be regional. Adults in the UK don't use Hey, in fact it would be considered rude, more like an alternative to Oi. Hi is quite informal already!
    – JamesRyan
    Jun 20, 2014 at 11:00
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    I am from the UK and in my 40s, and I find "Hey" very rude. As James says, it's like someone shouting "oi!" at you. Definitely not for business communication, especially with older people. Jun 20, 2014 at 11:48
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    It's not being used to call for someone's attention in this context, I wouldn't ever use it that way either. It's more like a lazy hi.
    – Neil W
    Jun 20, 2014 at 13:46
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    @JamesRyan I'm from the UK and I'd use "Hey" with close friends, or people I see every day. (10 years ago I would have seen "Hey" as American, but not any more.) As Neil said, you don't shout it or say it abruptly, it's said slowly and lazily. Similar to how you'd pronounce "Hi" but possibly warmer. In summary, it could be generational (I'm late 20s and most of my friends are mid 30s) but I disagree that it's regional. Jun 20, 2014 at 14:22
  • I just moved to the UK from North America and was about to send an email to an older man starting off with "Hey". Good thing I read these comments first! In North America, "Hey" is completely fine as long as you or the person you're talking to doesn't take themselves too seriously. In fact, being too formal in email communication there often comes across as not being personal.
    – Dennis
    Sep 16, 2014 at 16:09


Hey or Heya are much less formal. You could use them if you were writing to friends.

Hey Dave, not spoken to you in a while. How're things? What've you been up to?

You could possibly use it in a more casual email (like a single question) to a colleague that you speak to often:

Hey Bob, just wondering if you've had a reply from Customer X yet?

Hi is the standard greeting for office e-mails. If you're not sure, stick with Hi.

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the information on [foo]. Do you know whether item 10 is for all customers or just Y?

I'll get back to you on [question] when I've had more time to look at the data.



You could also use Hi for friends.


Hey or Heya can be used to greet people you already know. Friends or colleagues. It's warmer than Hi so probably isn't suited to colleagues that you're less close to.

  • Hey Dave, glad you could make it. How're you?

  • Hey guys, what's up?

Hi can be used to greet people you already know, or those you don't.

  • Hi Bob, how's Sylvia?

  • Hi Kate, nice to meet you. How do you know Dan?

There is no gender differentiation in who can say either term, or who they are said to.

  • British vs American usage is different, I think. Also, missing category -- people you don't know and won't know after talking to them, like those working in retail.
    – MWB
    Sep 18, 2017 at 9:33

Hi is used to greet someone and is a shortened version of hello. "Hello George". "Hi Mary". Hey was used to beckon someone. "Hey boy! Come here!". It is in recent times that Hi became too formal whilst meeting friends and Hey somehow found it's way into such colloquial meetings. "Hey Mary, How have you been?" If you are going to be using the written word or an email, stick to using Hi.


Speaking as a native english speaker living in england, I occasionally greet my friends with any of: Hi, Hey, Hola, Yo, Dobradien, Ciao, or Wazzup, although of course never bonjour (I am english, after all)*.

In other words, when casually greeting a friend, or even when meeting someone in a casual setting, you can say pretty much anything. In an email or other written context, I would always use "Hi" or something more formal ("Dear X", "To whom it may concern", etc).

Nowadays, "Hello" tends to sound a little stilted, although no one would fault you for using it, especially if you have an accent.

Supplementary to this, I present for your consideration: hot dog squirrel comet

* This is a joke. England and France have a long history/tradition of rivalry.

  • Capital letters for English, England? Where's your pride? :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 20, 2014 at 9:09
  • You know that the hot dog squirrel comet article is citing work by Christian <insert-french-word-here> Benoît?! Jun 20, 2014 at 11:28

I agree with Mari-Lou A's statements, but hey can also be used for a very informal greeting, during an informal conversation. In an email, the person will write dear X or hello or hi.


My observations are that hey is rapidly overcoming hi as an informal greeting, originally on a personal level, but increasingly in business environments where the parties already know each other. There is a certain robustness to greeting a friend or colleague with "hey," making "hi" sound a bit effete--it is interesting that the original questioner got that backwards, thinking that hey sounded girlish. BTW, the British commenters are not really qualified to comment on a question of evolving usage like this, since they speak British, which is a dialect, rather than English. Current Standard English means American English. The language of Shakespeare, referring to current, articulate, vigorous, expressive use of the English language, means American English, not what is spoken on the increasingly insignificant little island where the language happened to originate.

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    That must be why more language students travel to Ireland, for example, every year to learn English than go to the US to do so... interesting! Don't disagree with your hey/hi thing. Your ridiculous idea that some variety of English is better than another is very entertaining and good for a laugh. Cheers! :) Oct 17, 2014 at 0:24
  • There is no such dialect as British English. I, an Englishman living in Lancashire, no more speak the same dialect of English as a Scot or someone from Wales than a New Zealander speaks Strine. Aug 22, 2016 at 13:00

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