You are spending some of your spare finances and leave credits on a nice, solo trip to Barcelona, Spain.
Apparently, you have already done some research on basic Spanish greetings to get your way around the city.
While you’re buying a few bottles of wine as souvenirs, you attempt to show some respect to the pretty saleslady by greeting her cheerfully with your “Buenas días.”
You are super confident that you’re saying the right words until you notice that almost invisible, quizzical squint in her eyes while responding “Excuse me, come again?” back to you. In Spanish of course.
Our post today particularly discusses what has made the Spanish saleslady a little distracted and uncomfortable at the wine shop — the expression “Buenas días.”
To start with, let’s quickly go over its meaning.
What is the meaning of “Buenas días”?
The expression “Buenas días” is an incorrect version of the Spanish greeting “Buenos días”. “Buenos días” means “good morning” or “good day” when used in actual scenarios.
“Buenas días” vs. “Buenos días”: Knowing the right one
The grammatically correct way of greeting in the morning in Spanish is “Buenos días” and not “Buenas días.”
You also need to put more tonal emphasis on the first syllable of “días” because of the presence of the diacritic in “i” that acts as a stress marker.
Using “Buenas días” instead of “Buenos días” is a common, innocent mistake for English speakers because of the absence of a gender grammatical system in the English language.
Hence, you must not feel terrible for inadvertently using “Buenas días,” but you should also bear the correct grammatical structure in mind from now on to prevent miscommunication.
Getting to know the grammar behind “Buenas días” in detail
“Buenas días” is basically the incorrect version of the greeting “Buenos días,” which will be discussed more in detail a bit later.
You can conveniently use “Buenos días” in greeting people of any gender, as well as to either one or more direct addressees both in writing and speaking.
An interesting thought to note is that “Buenos días” is structured in the plural form; this expression can be used to greet one person, or even more, in actual usage.
“Buenos días” also adheres to a plural masculine grammatical construction, as opposed to the singular form “Buen día” — something that isn’t applicable in greetings.
The plurality of “Buenos días” is quite an irregularity that can be traced back to the 10th century when people had to meet in groups most of the time.
To understand more, the following subsections cover the basic grammatical nuances behind the greeting “Buenos días.”
The grammatical gender of Spanish nouns
As you may already know by now, “Buenas días” is the incorrect form of “Buenos días,” in which the mistake particularly falls in the vowel letter “a” in “Buenas.”
This is because the word “días” is, again, grammatically masculine in gender, even if the base or root word ends in “a” which is “día.”
You may have learned in the past that the trick to knowing whether a Spanish noun is masculine or feminine is by looking at the final vowel.
Generally speaking, nouns ending in “a” are feminine, such as “dentista” (“female dentist”) and “manzana” (“apple”), but “sofa” and “mediodia” (“noon”) are interestingly masculine.
On the other hand, those ending in “o” are masculine, just like “hermano” (“brother”) and “libro” (“book”), although “mano” (“hand”) and “radio” are also exceptionally feminine.
The word “día” (“day”) is also oddly masculine in Spanish — an irregularity that prompts the usage of the adjective “Buenos” instead of “Buenas.”
That is to say, the grammatically correct way of saying “Good day” or “Good morning” in Spanish is “Buenos días” and not “Buenas días.”
The other times of the day, though, are considered feminines such as “tarde” (“afternoon”) and “noche” (“evening”); hence, we say “Buenas tardes” and “Buenas noches.”
By the way, Spanish nouns with the final vowel “e” could either be feminine or masculine in general, so there is no hard and fast rule to know which one is which.
For instance, masculine nouns ending in “e” are “coche” (“car”) and “restaurante” (“restaurant”); therefore, we also need to use the article “el” instead of “la” with these words.
While you may choose to mechanically memorize all of these irregularities, it is still best to expose yourself to the Spanish language to really be able to know the language in context.
Using the right greeting “Buenos días” in appropriate contexts
Moving on, “Buenos días” literally translates to “Good days” in English; however, it means more like “Good morning” or “Good day” when applied in actual contexts.
This greeting is particularly used in slightly formal situations like greeting teachers, salespeople, strangers, or put simply, those who are not as close to us as our friends and family members.
An example situation where you can effectively apply the slightly formal connotation of “Buenos días” is when you greet your teacher at school or when you greet your new neighbor.
If you are going to greet your best friend or sister during the day, you might as well say “Hola” (“Hello”) or “¿Como está?” (“How are you?”) instead.
Gramática Española: An overview of the Spanish grammar
The Spanish language is highly based on Latin, and this is why Spanish mainly adheres to Latin grammatical structures and conventions.
Like English, Spanish is a time-sensitive language, which is why we say “Buenos días” in the morning, “Buenas Tardes” in the afternoon, and “Buenas Noches” in the evening.
But unlike English, Spanish is meanwhile vitally gender-sensitive, which is why Spanish speakers need to be mindful of noun genders to form grammatical sentences.
The Spanish language, just like Russian, French, and Hindi, adheres to what we linguistically refer to as a system of grammatical gender.
Bearing this concept in mind will make you understand why “Buenas días” is a tricky expression to use, particularly if you do not have any background in the Spanish language.
Grammatical gender governs the construction of all nouns in Spanish, as well as how they are related to other elements in both written and spoken discourses.
Spanish nouns contain what we call a “lexical” gender which can be labeled either as “feminine” or “masculine” in general.
The gender of Spanish nouns, in particular, determines the form of the other lexical categories in a sentence, such as adjectives, determiners, and pronouns.
To compare, English also follows linguistic rules related to grammatical gender, but these conventions have been largely declining from the Middle English period.
As an exception, though, English has retained gendered pronouns to date.
In English, we know that “aunt” is a feminine word, and “uncle” is masculine; however, this gender assignment does not necessarily apply to inanimate objects.
In Spanish, even food, places, things, and times of the day have gender assignments, thereby making the language extra challenging to learn.
To completely understand what exactly makes “Buenas días” a peculiar expression, let’s go over its nooks and crannies.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Greeting “Buenas Días”
What does “Buenos días, mi amor” mean?
“Buenos días, mi amor” means “Good morning, my love” or “Good day, my love” in English. This expression is generally used between people sharing a romantic relationship, as opposed to just casual ones.
How can we respond to “Buenos días”?
To respond to “Buenos días,” we can also say “Buenos días” followed by the name of the addressee, as well as honorifics like “señor” and “señora.”
How can we use “Buenos días” in a sentence?
“Buenos días” is particularly used in sentences written or spoken in the vocative case. The term “vocative” is more popularly known as “direct address.”
If you ever get stuck remembering why it should be “Buenos días” and not “Buenas días,” just remember that Dyēus, the Indo-European god of daylight-sky, is grammatically male.
Or, you might as well just think of its English translation “Zeus” in Greek mythology to make your life easier.
Hope the grammatical myth of today’s topic has been busted by now. See you next time for more interesting discussions.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.