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Aside from answering your personal phone, are there any other situations where it is considered appropriate to use алло when greeting someone?

I'm assuming that because алло wasn't even mentioned in any of the answers to the question When is it more appropriate to use здравствуйте rather than привет? that it's a very informal way of greeting someone.

If this is not as informal as I'm thinking it is, would saying алло be considered a professional way to answer a phone call (e.g. answering a customer's call to a business)? Or, would this be similar to an in-person greeting where something like Здравствуйте should be used instead?

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  • There i a trend betwenn not so well educated people : when you call them, they don't say "алло", but don't speak until you say it. Which of course is against etiquette and stresses me a lot.
    – petajamaja
    Jun 7 '13 at 17:14
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As Anixx already mentioned, "алло" is a ping-phrase. So it can be used when you are using any other phone-like communication device (e.g. entry phone = домофон) and you are not sure if anyone can hear you.

Алло can also be used when you are not using the phone, but still wish to check if anyone can hear you. However this is informal and sometimes may be considered rude.

For example, you want to buy a ticket to a theatre. You came to the cashdesk, but though the window is open, there is nobody inside. You are waiting for a several minutes, but still nobody came back. Finally you start 'pinging': Есть здесь кто нибудь? Отзовитесь!. Still there is no answer. Алё, меня кто-нибудь слышит?!

Another example. You are visiting some institution with Soviet traditions (post office, bank, etc.). You came to the cashdesk, and though the cashier is there, she is talking to her colleague or a friend (it is very uncommon to see 'he' there). You understand that she is discussing details of her private life (how she spent the weekends etc.) and do not pay attantion to you. You start with 'Девушка...', she still talks to colleague. After other attempts to bring her attantion you start to say 'Алё, меня кто-нибудь слышит?'. But be prepared to hear an aswer like: 'Мужчина, вы что не видите что у нас обед?'.

Also this word can be used when you are trying to say that your opponent is insane, like "У вас все дома? Алё?".

However (I don't remember if I heard it myself, but it is also shown in movies or cartoons) very old people may use 'Алё' (as a synonym to 'can anybody hear me') without any rudeness or insult.

So, as a bottom line, in Russian 'Алло' has no any connection to 'hello'.


Examples of usage from National Russian Corpus. 5 out of first 40 matches are showing usage of 'Алё' when people are not talking by phone. It is interesting that in most cases 'Алё' is used almost identically as 'эй!':

Булат Окуджава. Искусство кроийки и шитья (1985):

― Але, ― сказал Сысоев случайному прохожему, ― тут, кажись, колоночка должна быть?

Вдруг послышались торопливые шаги, и из-за угла вынырнул мужчина. ― Але, ― радостно сказал Сысоев, ― погоди, дорогой… Увидев нас, мужчина отскочил в сторону.

Мужчина выпил и вдруг заплакал. ― Але, ― сказал Сысоев, ― что это ты? ― Письмо ему написать хочу, ― сказал мужчина, ― чтоб разобрался во всем…

Сергей Довлатов. Заповедник (1983):

Затем приоткрыл дверь и скомандовал: ― Алё! Раздолбай Иваныч!

Затем сказал как можно более внушительно: ― Алё, кузен, пожалуйста, без рук! Я давно собираюсь конструктивно обсудить тему брака.

Александр Солженицын. В круге первом (1968):

Алё! ― коротко окликнул прораб, ― и женщина перестала мыть и посторонилась, давая дорогу на одного и не поднимая лица от ведра с тряпкой.

Алексей Слаповский. Синдром Феникса (2006):

Смотри, милиция заинтересуется, в самом деле! Але, гражданин, проснись! Бомж проснулся, сел, протер глаза, увидел Татьяну и обрадовался

Афанасий Мамедов, Исаак Милькин. Самому себе (2003):

Где подобрали и все такое… Але, дед, понял меня? ― обратился бригадир к Семенычу: тот, видимо, показался ему хитрее и несговорчивее меня.


It seems to me that the use of "алё" instead of "эй" goes from phrase "Алё, гараж!" (I found several examples of its usage:

This phrase seems to be a citation from extremely popular movie "Волга-Волга" (released in 1938), where one of the characters, Бывалов, is an authority in small town. Still, he wants to be assigned on a position in Moscow and tries to show it in all posible ways. So, he calls to the so-called 'garage' and says: "Алё, гараж? Заложите кобылу!" (and everyone understands that it is not a 'garage', but in fact stables).

This phrase in it's short form "Алё, гараж!" became an ironic way of addressing a person, and possibly it was later shortened to just "Алё" (at least one of the dictionaries referenced lists both as synonyms).


Interesting information about phone etiquette in Soviet times by Maxim Krongauz on Youtube (5:38 - 7:00).

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  • when speaking over phone, the phrase to attract attention is "эй!". The usage of "алё" is this context is slang at best.
    – Anixx
    Jun 7 '13 at 10:40
  • "So, as a bottom line, in Russian 'Алло' has no any connection to 'hello' anymore." - there was no such connection ever.
    – Anixx
    Jun 7 '13 at 10:41
  • @Anixx I meant that initially it was borrowed from English as a word that one uses when picking up the phone. This was the only connection. But it was never used as greeting of course.
    – Artemix
    Jun 7 '13 at 14:41
  • @Anixx "the phrase to attract attention is "эй!" - I was describing the usage of the word when one is not speaking over phone. In all my examples I tried to describe a situation when 'эй!' does not help - other person is actively ignores you.
    – Artemix
    Jun 7 '13 at 14:46
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    @Anixx Yes, but at some point one becomes annoyed and uses 'alternative' ways of attracting attantion. In this case алло means: "Hey, if we were speaking over the phone I would think that there are some problems on the line, but we are talking face to face! What's up? Listen to me!".
    – Artemix
    Jun 7 '13 at 18:19
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"Алло" is not a greeting, but a ping phrase.

It is not a replacement for здравствуйте. You can perfectly well say "Алло, здравствуйте" and "алло" without "здравствуйте" will be impolite (like talking without greeting at all). If you have a bad connection, you can say "алло" several times to get a feedback or check if the other party is still connected, even in the middle of a call. I think it is appropriate for all phone calls but should not be used by an automated caller or responder, because they do not need a test phrase to get a response so to check the link.

The usage is similar to "ау" in a forest :-)

Note also that the more widespread form is "алё".

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  • Note that it is pronounced [алё], but spelled «алло». Weird, I know.
    – kirelagin
    Jun 7 '13 at 9:22
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    @kirelagin I think it is pronounces and spelled both ways.
    – Anixx
    Jun 7 '13 at 10:36
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    @kirelagin I do not know why people on that site decided so. Yefremova dictionary gives both алло and алё without any reservations about pronunciation.
    – Anixx
    Jun 7 '13 at 10:44
  • I don't know what's wrong with your Efremova's dictionary, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't have «аллё» at all, and «алё» is markes as colloquial.
    – kirelagin
    Jun 7 '13 at 10:49
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«Алло» is very informal. «Слушаю», «у телефона», «у аппарата» are slightly better choices for a businessman (to answer a private call or a call from a partner), but still not polite enough to answer a customer's call.

If you call a company you'll normally hear «Здравствуйте. Компания такая-то…» or simply «Компания такая-то…».

In general you can just use «Добрый вечер. (Иван Петров/Компания «Рога и копыта»). Слушаю Вас», that's always appropriate.

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"Алло, мы ищем таланты" was a title of TV-show in the 1970s. The TV-show used to be quite popular and today "Алло, мы ищем таланты" is used as a name for all kinds of talent show competitions.

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