Hallo, Deutschlerner. Welcome to Lesson #3 in my new Beginner German series. Today I’m going to introduce you to a bunch of different farewells in German. I’ll explain when to use each one and a little bit of the background of each of the German farewells. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you never miss a video.
You can also get the extra materials for this lesson about farewells in German including a worksheet with answer key and mp3 files along with the text guide to help you practice your pronunciation by clicking here.
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Probably the most widely known farewell in German is “auf Wiedersehen”. If you translate it literally, it means “until again seeing” or “until we see each other again”. It is also considered to be pretty formal. I personally almost never use “auf Wiedersehen” unless I want to say something fancier than usual. You don’t have to have the word “auf” at the front. You can simply say “Wiedersehen”. “Auf Wiedersehen” or “Wiedersehen”.
If you are on the phone, you won’t say “auf Wiedersehen”, because you aren’t “sehen” (seeing) that person right now. You are hearing them, so you say “auf Wiederhören”, which means “until we hear from each other again”. Again, you can leave off the “auf” if you want to shorten it a bit. “Auf Wiederhören” or “Wiederhören”.
Wir sehen uns
A similar farewell would be “Wir sehen uns.” This is like the English “see you”. It is more casual than “auf Wiedersehen”, but the general meaning of seeing the other person again is still there. “Wir sehen uns”
My preferred farewell is “Tschüss”. It is a much more casual, everyday farewell and is more than likely what your German friends will say to you when they say “bye”. This farewell evolved from the Latin “ad Deum”, which became the French “à Dieu”. This eventually evolved into “tschö” in some dialects, but “tschüs” in others.
Due to some regions using the long vowel sound and others using the short vowel sound, the spelling of this farewell varies. It can be spelled with two “S’s”, one “S” or an “ß”. I usually spell it with two “S’s”, but vary my pronunciation based on my mood at the time. I usually default to the short vowel sound “tschüss” if I simply want to say bye, but am not overly enthusiastic about it and the long vowel sound “tschüs” or “tschüß” when I am feeling more playful. I personally never spell it with an “ß”, as Duden only lists the single “S” and double “S” version. You will still see the “ß” version, however, as not everyone agrees with the decision to leave that version out. So, it doesn’t matter if you say “tschüss” or “tschüs”, just remember that it is a casual farewell and shouldn’t be the one you choose when you are leaving a fancy dinner with some politicians.
If I am feeling particularly playful, I sometimes say “tschüssi”, which is just a more fun version of “tschüss”.
While we are on the topic of valedictions based on other languages, Germans also sometimes say “ciao”. The recommended spelling from Duden is “tschau”, but many people prefer the original Italian spelling, so you will see both. Just remember to pronounce it as “tschau”. Despite the original Italian meaning being a greeting and a farewell, Germans only use ‘ciao/Tschau’ as a farewell.
In southern Germany and Austria, you can say “servus”. This is another informal farewell and can also be used as a greeting. “Servus” derives from the Latin phrase “servus humillimus”, which translates as “I am a humble servant”, but doesn’t carry this connotation in modern German. “Servus” in modern usage is simply a way of saying “hello” or “good-bye” in a less formal way.
“Guten Morgen”, “Guten Tag” and “Guten Abend” are all greetings, but “Gute Nacht” is a farewell. This is the same as it is in English. I say this every night to my daughter when I put her in bed. “Gute Nacht, Kleine. Schlaf gut.”
In my last video I mentioned the greeting “Mahlzeit” as used when you see people going to lunch at work. You can also use this as a farewell in the same circumstance. “Mahlzeit”
Schönen Tag noch
While you can’t say “Guten Tag” as a farewell, you can say “Schönen Tag noch”, which roughly translates to “have a nice rest of your day”. Literally, it is just “beautiful day still”, but you get the idea. This greeting really only works if there is enough of the day left to merit saying “rest of your day”. As you leave a store, an employee might say “Schönen Tag noch”. Technically speaking, you can use any greeting with the word “noch” behind it to mean something similar. “Guten Morgen noch” would be “have a nice morning”. “Guten Abend noch” would be “have a nice evening”. Those versions, however, are not common and might get you a weird look if you say them. Stay on the safe side and just stick to “Schönen Tag noch”.
Gute Fahrt / Gute Reise
If someone is going on a trip, you can say “Gute Fahrt”. This is like wishing them a good trip. This farewell only works if they are driving. If they are traveling by other means or you don’t know how they are traveling, it is probably safer to say “Gute Reise”. The meaning of these two are basically the same, but “Gute Fahrt” includes the word “Fahrt”, which is a drive as opposed to any other kind of trip. “Gute Reise” is a more general farewell.
There are several ways to say “take care” in German. The first one on my list is “Mach’s gut”. This literally translates as “do it well”. You can respond to this farewell with “du auch”, which is like “you too” or if you are feeling more playful, you can play off of the literal translation of this farewell and say “mach’s besser”, which is like do it better”. “Mach’s gut” “Mach’s besser” “du auch”
Pass auf dich auf
A more literal translation of the English farewell “take care” would be “Pass auf dich auf.” The verb “aufpassen” means “to watch out” or “pay attention”. The literal translation of “Pass auf dich auf” would be “watch out for yourself” or “pay attention to yourself”. I think this gets the general idea of the English farewell “take care”. “Pass auf dich auf”
The last version of “take care” on my list is “Leb wohl”. This is like a final good-bye. It is like saying “have a nice life”. “Leb wohl” is like the word “farewell” in English, as it suggests finality. If you want to be a bit more rude, you can also use a play on the classic “auf Wiedersehen” and say “auf Nimmerwiedersehen”, which is like “Until we never see each other again”. While “Leb wohl” is a bit sad that you won’t see them again “auf Nimmerwiedersehen” sounds more like you are looking forward to the fact that you won’t see them again.
Viel Glück / Viel Erfolg
If you want to say “good luck” in German as a farewell, you have two options. “Viel Glück” is the more common one and literally means “much luck”, but you can also use “viel Erfolg”, which is like wishing someone “much success”. “Viel Glück” is more universal, but “viel Erfolg” can only be used before something that would require success. You can also say “viel Glück” if you kidnap Liam Neeson’s daughter and you don’t think he actually has that particular set of skills that make him a nightmare for people like you.
Speaking of wishing people well, you can also say “Alles Gute”, which is used for wishing people happy birthday and other special occasions, but it can also be used to say farewell, when you want to wish someone well. “Alles Gute” literally translates as “all the best”.
bis + time
The most versatile farewell on my list today is any combination with the word “bis” in it. “Bis” means “until”. This is used like “see you” in English. You simply add when you will see that person again to the end and now you have your farewell. The options are endless.
bis dann – see you then
bis später – see you later
bis nachher – see you afterwards
bis Morgen – see you tomorrow
bis Übermorgen – see you the day after tomorrow
bis zehn Uhr – see you at 10 o’clock
bis heute Abend – see you this evening
bis heute Nachmittag – see you this afternoon
And the one that I use at the end of every video, “bis zum nächsten Mal” – until next time
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