german language

Greetings in German

Greetings in German
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Greetings. We all use them in some form or another – whether it’s a polite formality or an enthusiastic meeting with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. In German classes, it’s common to learn phrases like “Guten Tag” or “Guten Abend” right off the bat: but these words can sound formal or old-fashioned, so know when to use them! (Hint: if you would feel comfortable calling the person sir or ma’am, that’s probably a good time to say Guten Abend.)

Here are some other greetings in German that you should be aware of.

Borrowed German Greetings

• Hallo!
This is used often and is great for any situation. “Hi!” is also used in Germany, but just like using it in English, try to use it among people you’re already familiar with.

You’ll not only hear this in Italy, but in various areas across Europe now too. It’s used as a greeting and as a goodbye, especially in the larger, more metropolitan cities.

Back to German: Formal and casual Greetings

• Wie geht es dir? / Wie geht es Ihnen?
Translating to “How are you?” in English, “Wie geht es dir” is the form used for close friends while “Wie geht es Ihnen” is the form you would use for people in authority (Read more about addressing a German: Sie / du). However, this is not used exactly the same as “how are you” is in English; while in English, “how are you” is said to anyone and everyone, “Wie geht es dir” (and “es Ihnen”) tends to be said around people you already know.

• Alles klar?
Literally translating to “is everything alright?”, this greeting reminds me of the Japanese greeting “daijoubu desu ka?” – while it can be used to ask after someone, it is usually used like “how’s it going”. The meaning changes whether the speaker’s tone sounds worried or not. However, because of that very versatility, this phrase is essential to know.

Regional Greetings in German

• Moin Moin!
Now we’re getting into regional variations. For most of its history Germany was not a united region: it was a loose federation of states, and because of that history, there are a lot of regional differences – from the north to the south, and from the west to the east. “Moin Moin!” is considered an all-day greeting in northern areas like Hamburg and East Frisia.

• Grüß Gott!

This one’s from southern Germany; invoking God, this way of greeting in German can sound old-fashioned to those in the north, but is still heard in the south where it means “hello”.

• Servus!
Another one from the south, this one is my particular favorite greeting. It comes from the Latin.

6 thoughts on “Greetings in German

  1. Ich komme urspruenglich aus Hamburg (obwohl ich in Schoenberg, Berlin aufwuchs) und dort gruessen wir einander “Hummel, Hummel!”, worauf der Ansprechpartner erwidert: “Moos,Moos!”

    It’s typical Hamburg, I think. I know of not another German region which have such expressions!

  2. I once said ‘wie geht es?’ to a lady working behind a counter in Frankfurt airport. She was totally confused and assumed that I must know her from somewhere, and reacted as if almost offended when I explained I was just trying to be friendly. This is probably the worst reaction I have ever had from a native when trying out some of my German, these things can really affect your confidence! Was it really such a bad greeting to use for a stranger? She was quite young I should add.

    1. She probably had a “schlechtes Gewissen” when she didn’t remembered you 😉 and didn’t like the embarrassment your informal greeting caused. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was so bad but rather unexpected and in this case there probably was more of a backstory to it which we will never find out about 😉

  3. Hi James,

    we in Germany feel sometimes painful when something goes not in a right way, we think:-)

    I have only limited English, though some times before in my classes, asked an American student to me, “Michael, how it’s going?” This is our first school day and I redden me (?? sich erroeten) and cannot answer.

    I feel Anglo-Saxons are very easy with their language and Germans in the rule not.

    Has sense what I say?

    I hope it helps a little.

  4. Hallo mein Name ist Michael Jeremiah Mabry und ich bin 15 Jahre alt und Ich mag Basketball und football.I wie Pizza und Pommes frites zu spielen, aber nicht viel Ich mag Sprite und Fanta Orange , aber ich mag auch Kaffee und andere Getränke too.I wie jetzt , wie Flugzeuge fliegen und ich mag Deutschland und die Kultur und endlose Land side.But alle Deutschen sind beautiful und gutherzige zu sein.

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