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What is the difference between "nice to see you" and "nice to meet you"?

Are they the same or not?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 21 down vote accepted

They are different, "nice to see you" implies that you have already met or seen the person before. "Nice to meet you" means that it is your first time being introduced to that person.

"Nice to see you, it's been a while since we last met."

"Nice to meet you, what's your name?"

Another phrase that is commonly used is "Nice to see you again". It is interchangeable with "Nice to see you".

"Nice to see you again, it's been a while since we last met."

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Usually, say "Nice to see you again", not nice to see you. "Nice to meet you again" sounds wrong –  Freakishly Aug 14 at 2:38
I've heard both "Nice to see you again" and "Nice to see you". I updated my answer with "Nice to see you again". –  TheIntern Aug 14 at 12:56
Interesting that in your first and third examples, you use a form of the verb “meet” in a different way (“met” to mean “saw each other”). –  Tyler James Young Aug 14 at 17:25

You normally only say "Nice to meet you" the first time you encounter someone. You might reasonably say something like "It was nice to meet [up with] my brother again, after not having seen him for years", but you certainly wouldn't have greeted him with "Nice to meet you [again]".

But "Nice to see you" has no such "first time" connotations. In fact I'd go so far as to say that because meet has such strong associations as given above, discarding it in favour of see actually carries the implicature that you've met the person before.

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My sister once ran into Hillary Clinton alone in a stairwell. Upon being recognized by my sister Ms. Clinton greeted my sister with "Nice to see you" even though my sister knew they had never met. In discussing it later we concluded that it was a clever speech strategy where one can finesse a greeting when you can't recall if you have met the other person. It wouldn't offend someone you've already met but isn't technically incorrect or even too strange for someone you are meeting for the first time. –  BKay Aug 13 at 17:50
@BKay: Good example. I'm sure that many times I've deliberately chosen to say "It was good to see you" on parting company with some business contact where I honestly couldn't recall whether I'd actually met them before. That's the kind of context where you might well think it could be a very bad move if you used meet because you'd forgotten having met them (if they remember, but you don't, they'll obviously think you're dumb and/or don't really care about them). –  FumbleFingers Aug 13 at 19:28

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