There are many different ways to say hello in German. German greetings vary, from a simple ‘Hallo’ to an informal ‘Alles klar?’ to a regional greeting like ‘Moin, Servus’ or a rather rarely used ‘Na,’ depending on factors like:
Today, let’s take a look at the different ways people say hello in German and make sure you’re ready for communication with native speakers. Read on – and boost your language learning process.
Surely this is the most common German greeting worldwide – but it’s also pretty popular in almost any language. It’s friendly and serves pretty much any situation, either formal or informal. Whether you’re visiting an English-speaking or a German-speaking country, you won’t go wrong with this one – just make sure to pronounce it right depending on the situation.
German’ hallo’ is also probably the first one you will get familiar with when starting learning German. However, even your German lessons offer only this option for saying hello, you still should learn more about German greetings – this will help you become more fluent quicker.
Guten Tag is the German “Hello” that is used in more formal situations or when you don’t know the person. It’s also the most common German greeting used when talking on the telephone (for example, if you call an office or someone you haven’t been in contact with).
Guten literally means “good” (it’s the masculine accusative form of gut). To create a greeting appropriate for a certain time of the day, you simply have to add the right word after it:
However, please note that unlike ‘Guten Tag,’ ‘Guten Morgen,’ and ‘Guten Abend,’ you can’t use ‘Gute Nacht’ (good night) when greeting someone – only when you want to say goodnight.
Easy German so far, right? You can stick to these two greetings – or learn some more of them. And we strongly recommend you to boost your vocabulary hon this topic so as to create a really good first impression when visiting different parts of Germany or different German-speaking countries.
There are several local distinctions depending on which part of Germany you are in. People from Northern Germany have different greetings than the people in the Southern part. So, it can sometimes easily be detected where someone is from, just by the way they say hello.
Grüß Gott is mainly and, to be frank, only used in Southern Germany in Bavaria (and also Austria). If you have ever been to the famous Octoberfest in Munich, you might probably have heard people saying Grüß Gott many times.
This phrase literally means something like “God greets.” This is because the southern part of Germany is in the majority catholic – so it has its origins in the religious greetings. A better, less literal translation is “God bless you.”
This is a very formal way of saying hello, and it’s often used by an older generation and very traditional Bavarians. Young people would use a slightly more informal ‘Grüß dich!’, which translates to “greetings to you!”
Servus has originated from the Latin word for “servant.” Like ‘Grüß Gott,’ Servus is mainly used in Bavaria and Austria. However, it can also be used to say goodbye.
You can say Servus all day and night to everyone – but be aware that you will be immediately spotted out as coming from the Southern part of Germany.
As mentioned earlier, every region has its own local way of saying hello, and ‘Moin’ has its roots in Northern Germany. You will hear it everywhere around Hamburg and the parts of Schleswig- Holstein up to Friesland. Sometimes you will even hear people doubling it up: ‘Moin Moin!’ (This is especially popular amongst people from the harbor, like fishermen or sailors.)
Up to today, the origins of the word “Moin” are unclear. Some believe that it comes from a regional pronunciation of Morgen (“morning”) – however, it is a common greeting that you can use at all times of the day in certain regions.
Na is one of those German greetings that are more commonly used in the North, while people from Southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have some trouble with it because it is not really a full greeting. It’s a very casual greeting, almost a bit rude to say – so be careful with this one.
It’s hard to translate na into English. It’s best explained by an example: when two (northern) Germans meet, one might say “na,” to which the other replies “na” – and then the conversation begins and ends at the same time. It’s like “hey” all rolled into one versatile syllable that says all and nothing at the same time.
Make sure, though, if you ever choose to use it, to never greet an older person with ‘Na.’ They may see you as a rude person without proper behavior. Stick to it in casual settings – for example, among friends.
This one can be used as a question (alles klar?), a statement, or merely to fill empty space. It’s also used in a work environment when you get a task or when someone gives you directions to an address and wants to know if you understood. A friendly Alles klar can fill in the silence and even serve as an answer. ‘Alles klar?’ – ‘Alles klar.’ (‘Got it? Copy that.)
If you live or travel around Germany, you’ll hear people saying alles klar all the time in different situations. Adding this phrase to your vocabulary and, for example, using it during small talk is definitely a good idea.
Hey is pretty common amongst younger people or when you cross paths with your neighbor on the street, for example. It is a casual German way of saying, “how’s it going?” or “What’s up?”
When you use ‘dir,’ it’s an informal way of saying “you” (when talking to one person). For a more formal version, you should change it to saying ‘Wie geht es Ihnen?’ When you are informally addressing a group, you can say, ‘Wie geht es euch?’
‘Wie geht es dir?’ is also often shortened to ‘Wie geht’s?’ The best response would be a simple ‘Gut, danke’ – “good, thanks” – of course, when that’s really the case.
Greetings are one thing; however, parting with someone correctly is also important. If you want to say goodbye to someone, the German language offers a couple of possibilities here as well.
This is a formal and polite goodbye. ‘Wieder’ means “again,” and ‘sehen’ means “to see.” So the direct translation of ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ into English would be “when we see each other again!”
You may want to say ‘Auf Wiederhören’ when saying goodbye during a phone call, talking to a doctor, or parting with anyone who you wouldn’t consider your friend or whom you don’t know well.
‘Bis bald’ means “until soon.” So it’s like saying “see you soon!” in English. It’s a friendly, informal way of saying goodbye in German. However, note that you should only use it when you will definitely see this person again.
Tschüss – “bye” is the most used and most common goodbye all over Germany. You can use it almost everywhere in non-formal scenarios.
And don’t let the spelling confuse you. The cluster of consonants “tsch” is pronounced just like a “ch” in English (same as Ciao) – so the word is not that challenging to pronounce, even for the English speakers.
Ciao is Italian, of course, but it’s commonly used in Germany, as well as in many other parts of Europe. It’s cute, it’s informal, and a little tacky.
There are many different ways to say “goodbye” and “hello” in German. While some of them you can use in casual settings, others should only be said in formal situations – for example, when talking to older people.
Also, unlike some common greetings like ‘Hallo’ or ‘Guten Abend’ (Good morning), others – like ‘Grüß dich’ – are only in use in certain German regions, so you should be able to use different ways to say hello when visiting Germany.
If you want to learn German – or any other foreign language – learning how to greet someone is definitely the first thing to do. And there are quite a few ways to say hello in German – so you should pay attention to the topic and practice more.
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