Wondering how to say hello and goodbye in German? In this post you’ll find the most useful ways of greeting people and saying farewell in the language. Just like in English, there are variations according to the level of formality and depending on the time of day. Some of the words are used throughout the German-speaking lands but others are associated with particular regions. Greetings and farewells tend to come up early in any language course with good reason. Master these set phrases and you can get an encounter off to a good start and, when the time comes, part with the appropriate phrase. Get them wrong and things could be more awkward. So, we’d better have a quick look!
How to say hello and other greetings in German
Guten Tag! is the most common greeting in German but there are a number of alternative greetings that you’ll be sure to hear. For example:
|Hello-/Hi (less formal, also used to attract someone’s attention)
|Hello/Hi/Bye (western and southern Germany)
|Hello/Hi (southern Germany)
|Hello/Hi/Bye (northern Germany)
|Hello/Hi/Bye (northern Germany)
|Good day (used until about 6 pm )
|Good evening (used after about 6 pm)
Gute Nacht is not a greeting. Just like in English, it means good night, either when saying farewell or when somebody is going off to bed.
When somebody greets you, you can reply by repeating the greeting. Another option is to say Ihnen auch (to you to) or, with the informal “you” (du): Dir auch.
How are you? is Wie geht’s Ihnen (formal “you”) or Wie geht’s dir/euch (euch is the informal “you” addressing more than one person). Notice that we use the dative case here: Ihnen / dir / euch mean “to you”, so the literal meaning of the phrase is “How is it going to you”.
A casual greeting among young people is Alles klar? (Is everything clear?). Its use is similar to something like “What’s up?” in English
You might respond to Wie geht’s? or Alles klar? with one of the following:
|Mir geht’s (sehr) gut, danke.
|I’m fine/(very) well, thankyou
|Nicht so gut
|Not so good
|Ich kann mich nicht beschweren (Gespräch 5)
|I can’t complain
In English, we often ask “How are you?” just as a greeting and a way to kick off a conversation. We’re not always really asking how a person is. In German the equivalent phrases are used less often and tend to be asked as a more serious question. The message: don’t overuse Wie geht’s in German (unless you really want an update on somebody’s circumstances).
In the German-speaking lands, it’s common to shake hands each time you meet. A handshake is not reserved for a first meeting or for a more significant or when meeting after a longer break. The younger generation still shake hands but younger people also often hug each other when they meet. It’s not so common to kiss on meeting in the German lands, unlike in the Latin countries.
How to say goodbye in German
It’s pretty good bet that you already know the most common way to say goodbye in German: Auf Wiedersehen! This literally means “Here’s to seeing again”.
Here are some alternative farewells:
|Goodbye (“here’s to seeing again”) Southern Germany (Bavaria) and Austria
|Goodbye (“here’s to hearing again”) Goodbye (on the phone)
|Tschüss / Tschüs
|Tschau / Ciao
|See you in a moment! (literally: till immediately)
|See you later (literally: till later)
|See you soon (literally: till soon)
|Schönen Tag (noch)
|Good day (still)(sounds odd at the end of an encounter in English but the sense of the phrase is “I wish you a good rest of the day”)
|Schönen Abend (noch)
|Good evening (still)(see comment on Schönen Tag)
|Wir sehen uns später/morgen/im Café
|See you…later/tomorrow/in the café (literally: We’ll see us… )
Now you have a lot more ways to say hello and goodbye in German beyond Guten Tag and Aufwiedersehen. Return to this list every now and again as you need to be able to recognised and understand them all when you hear them. As to using them yourself, pull out the key ones you think you’ll need and, if you’re stuck for a response when somebody greets you or says goodbye, don’t forget that you can always fall back on Ihnen / dir / euch auch!
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