"Hello, Vera Ivanovna."
Translation:Здравствуйте, Вера Ивановна.
Exactly! There has to be some way to specify if we have to write it in a formal way or not.
This same type of this applies to so many aspects of the Russian duolingo course. There are so many different ways that you can say something that might be slang or something of the sort but will be accepted in Russia.
I should know, I live in Moscow.
This is when the patronym is used together with the firstname. Russians have a first name and family name, like Ivan Chernov, but also a patronyme which is formed from the first name of their father. If the father's name is Ivan, then the patronyme will be Ivanovich for a man, or Ivanovna for a woman. Dimitry would be Dimitrievich or Dimitrievna... and so on.
There could be some exceptions, for example when addressing a elder which you know or as a small joke, but in general when we address someone using their first name + patronyme, it is a formal situation, or it is calling for respect, and we use вы.
We usually say "алло" without any names when answering the phone. If we know who is calling (as on mobile phones), we either say "алло" all the same, or proceed to a normal greeting of Здравствуйте. "Алло, Вера Ивановна" does not sound fine to me, unless it is a question: "Алло, Вера Ивановна?" - "Hello, is it Vera Ivanovna?"
Здравствуйте is the plural form of the word, it's used when you address to several people, either when you wish to accentuate your respect to the person you're talking to. It is the default form for greeting someone you don't know (especially elder one or your superior). You can use здравствуй form to greet an equal, or someone you know very well, but in those cases you'll want to use much more lightweight greetings: привет (equivalent for 'hi') or an informal reduced form здарова (pronounsed w/ emphasis on 'о'). In the latter case you should be on "yo, man!" terms with your companion (i.e. very familiar to). So basically здравствуй is almost obsolete as it's too cumbersome (as many people here note already).
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