When do you start saying “Good evening”?

Serious question to all you folks with four seasons: when do you stop saying “good afternoon” and start saying “good evening”?
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Here in the Philippines, our sunsets are rarely, if ever, more than half an hour before or after 6 PM. It gets dark at practically the same time whole year, so we generally start saying “good evening” at 6 PM.

When I’m in a place where the sun sets really early or late, though, that’s when I get confused.

Do you start saying “good evening” at a certain time, say, 6 PM? Or do you wait until it gets dark?

Like — if it’s gotten dark by 5 PM, do you start saying “good evening” then?

If it’s still bright outside at 8 PM, do you say “good afternoon” or “good evening”?

I’ve tried spying on locals but…it seems to vary…or, I don’t know, maybe they weren’t locals and were as confused as I was.

I know it’s not the most critical question in the world right now but it would be nice to know! 🙂 I think it’s little variations like this that make the world such an interesting place and travel so satisfying.

(And let’s not get started on dinner/supper/tea.)

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8 thoughts on “When do you start saying “Good evening”?”

  • I’m a native English speaker from Australia and after 5pm feels right to say good evening, especially after 5:30. It ties in with the term “after-5 wear” which is semi-formal attire such as cocktail dresses or semi-formal suits. I don’t think it matters if the sun goes down any later than that, for example, 8pm.

    • Hi Marty, thanks for weighing in. I’ll keep that in mind the next time in Australia! (And good point about after-five attire, which I hadn’t really thought about.) And you know, it’s interesting — since you mentioned you’re a native English speaker — I’ve read that in *some* parts in other native-English-speaking countries (US, Britain), some people would actually refer to the period after noon (or after lunch) as “evening.” The term seems to have evolved differently in different parts of the world, even within the same language.

  • Funny I never even thought of this. I say “evening” when it’s already getting dark or already dark. In the states we have daylight savings time so it’s dark by past 5pm and by then I think most say good evening rather than afternoon.

    • Also, the word supper is mainly used in the southern parts of the states. If you’re in California, people would laugh if you say supper. But here in Texas, it’s not so strange to say it.

      • You know, when I was younger, we actually called the evening meal supper! But as American shows/movies became more popular, we started calling it dinner.

    • Hi Boots! Thanks for weighing in. Saying “evening” when it’s getting dark actually seems to stick pretty close to the origin of the word (or the English word anyway, which was in relation to sunset). The question came to mind because I remembered being confused about when to start saying bonsoir / buona sera.

  • No set rule in western Canada, regardless of winter or summer- good evening after 4:30 is okay. Evening is formal sounding and in casual conversations with friends you would substitute night for evening.

    • Hi Dave! Thanks for chiming in — I’ll keep that in mind if I find myself in Canada — and also for that interesting bit about substituting night for evening when with friends. I had thought of “good night” as more of a closing thing, like when someone’s headed to sleep or when parting with someone at night.

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