Hallo, Deutschlerner. Today I’m going to introduce you to a bunch of different greetings and farewells in German. I’ll explain when to use each one and a little bit of the background of each of the German greetings and farewells.
This lesson is a part of Herr Antrim’s new e-book “Beginner German with Herr Antrim“. Within the e-book, this lesson includes a worksheet and answer key to practice the skills you are about to learn. You will also get access to online flashcards and a whole lot more. Find out more about the e-book here.
The first greeting on my list for today is the easiest, as it is basically the same as the English “hello”, but the Germans spell it with an “A” and, due to the two “L’s”, we use the short “A” sound when we say “Hallo”. It is used exactly the same as the English is, but is considered to be a bit more informal than other greetings on our list for today. This isn’t what I would use when greeting my potential boss at a job interview in German, but I might greet friends with “Hallo” and I even used it at the beginning of this video to greet you all. “Hallo, Deutschlerner”.
You can also greet more than one person without addressing them individually by saying “Hallo zusammen”, which is like “hello together”. This makes it so you don’t necessarily have to go around the group and shake each person’s hand and say hello. “Hallo zusammen” is again casual, but used in groups.
Hallo with flair
While “Hallo” on its own is casual enough, but you can make it even more casual by adding some flair to your “Hallo”. I personally find the following examples completely ridiculous, but some people use them, usually in an attempt to be humorous, so I kept them on the list. You can say “Hallöchen”, which is literally a “little hello”, because the suffix “-chen” is a diminutive, which is used to indicate that something is small. For example “eine Blume” is a flower, while “ein Blümchen” is a little flower. “Hallöchen” then is a little “hello”.
You can make it even more ridiculous by saying “Halli Hallo Hallöchen”, but that is basically like saying “howdily doodily”, which makes you sound like Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. If that’s the kind of personality you want to portray, maybe this is the greeting for you, but suffice it to say that “Hallöchen” and all of its other variations are very casual greetings and should be used with people you know well.
The “Gutens” – Guten Morgen, Guten Tag, Guten Abend
The standard three greetings in German follow a similar pattern to English greetings. In the morning you say “Guten Morgen” (good morning). From the middle of the day up until the afternoon you say “Guten Tag” (good day). In the evening you say “Guten Abend” (good evening). These are more formal than saying “Hallo”, but aren’t considered stiff in any way. I personally use these more often than any other greeting in German.
The times of the day are pretty flexible with “Guten Tag”, as you can use it most of the day, but you wouldn’t say “Guten Morgen” in the evening or “Guten Abend” in the morning. There isn’t a specific hour of the day that constitutes time to use “Guten Tag”. While it is pretty obvious that you can’t really use “Guten Morgen” after noon, there isn’t really a deadline for when you need to switch to “Guten Abend”. In fact, you can get away with never using “Guten Abend” and just say “Guten Tag” the entire day to everyone you see. It is that versatile. If you are unsure which greeting to use, use “Guten Tag” and you will be safe. If it is morning use “Guten Morgen”. In the evening “Guten Abend”.
If you are at work and your colleagues are going to lunch, you can greet them in passing with “Mahlzeit”. This basically translates as “mealtime”. This may sound like a weird way to greet people, but this is like saying “enjoy your lunch” as someone leaves to go to lunch. It is kind of a greeting for when people are leaving. “Mahlzeit” is not used to start a conversation or to end one necessarily. It is simply used in passing when you don’t really intend to talk.
Regional German Greetings
Now let’s get into some regional greetings. If you haven’t heard this yet, Germany is full of many different dialects and variations of how German is spoken. This leads to some fun ways to say hello, but you need to know where they are used so you can avoid using them in the inappropriate region.
“Moin” is used in northern Germany. The etymology of this word is disputed. My money is on the theory that it is a derivative of a dialect version of “Morgen”, which morphed into “Moin”, but there is also a theory that says it came from a Middle Low German word for “nice”, “bright”, or “shiny”, which indicates it could mean something like “have a good one”. Whatever the case, the greeting “Moin” is used in northern Germany and is considered to be a pretty casual greeting.
“Servus” is commonly used to greet people in southern Germany and Austria. This one doubles as a farewell, so it is basically like the Bavarian “Aloha”, as it means both “hello” and “good-bye”. “Servus”
Grüß dich & Grüß Gott
A casual greeting in southern Germany and Austria would be “Grüß dich”. Both “Grüß dich” and its more formal counterpart “Grüß Gott” share the same etymology. They both stem from the phrase “Grüß dich Gott”, which means something like “God bless you”. I generally translate it as “greet you” for “Grüß dich” and “greetings from God” for “Grüß Gott”. While these translations are less accurate than the previous one I just gave you, it does help to convey the difference in the casual nature of “Grüß dich” and the more formal nature of “Grüß Gott”. You will often hear “Grüß Gott” when you walk into a store in Bavaria and are greeted by an employee.
A third variation of this greeting is “Grüß Sie”, which basically just switches out the “dich”, which is a form of the informal “you” in German, for the formal version “Sie”. Again, I would translate it as “greet you”, but this time it is considered to be more formal than “Grüß dich” and doesn’t include the direct reference to God, although the origin sentence is the same for all of these greetings. “Grüß Sie” is also used in southern Germany and Austria.
If you travel to Switzerland you might hear yet another variant of this greeting as “Grüezi”. This is basically the same as “Grüß Sie”, as you can hear in the pronunciation, but the Swiss dialect, morphs this greeting just a bit more to make it “Grüezi”.
I don’t know why, but the southern Germans have a lot of casual greetings. Next up on the list is “Sei gegrüßt”, which is literally “be greeted”. It is considered casual, as “Sei” is the informal command form of the verb “sein” (to be). This greeting is also listed as archaic in some dictionaries, so it is unlikely you are going to encounter it, but some people still use it, so I thought I would include it. “Sei gegrüßt”
You can also say “Glückauf” (also “Glück auf”) in southern Germany. This one is listed as a “bergmännischer Gruß” in my dictionary, which means it is a “miner greeting”. It is thought to have originated as a way for miners to wish the others good luck and that they hoped the mine didn’t collapse. “Auf” means “up”, which indicates that they were wishing luck for the other miners to go back up when their work was done. “Glückauf”.
The last one on my list for today is the fantastic German word that Trixi from Don’t Trust the Rabbit made an entire video about, because it means everything and nothing in German. That word is, of course, “Na”. While there are a wide range of uses for this word which aren’t greetings, when it is used as a greeting, it roughly translates “well”.
I think of it as “yep” as used in the intro to King of the Hill when the guys are standing by the fence and just saying “yep” to each other. “Na” is kind of a prompt for more information. It is a conversation starter. It is a way of getting your friend to tell you about their day without having to go through the whole phrase of “how are you” or “what’s going on”. “Na” is the perfect casual greeting.
The greeting that isn’t on my official list is “Ahoi”. It is a sailor greeting and is used exactly as it is in English when it is spelled “Ahoy”. It even shows up in the Rammstein song “Reise, Reise”. Now click below listen and enjoy.
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
Beginner German with Herr Antrim
Herr Antrim’s new e-book “Beginner German with Herr Antrim“ is your guide to having your first conversation in German. Within the e-book, each lesson includes a worksheet and answer key to practice the skills in that lesson. You will also get access to online flashcards and a whole lot more. Find out more about the e-book here.
Lessons within “Beginner German with Herr Antrim”
- Download the E-Book
- #1 – Pronunciation
- #2 – Greetings
- #3 – Farewells
- #4 – Du vs Ihr vs Sie
- #5 – How to Say You Don’t Speak German
- #6 – das Alphabet
- #7 – 24 Most Common Verbs with Example Sentences
- #8 – Subject Pronouns & Conjugation
- #9 – Basic Questions & Answers
- #10 – Formation of Questions
- #11 – Describe Yourself in German
- #12 – Present Tense of “sein”
- #13 – Present Tense of “haben”
- #14 – Family Vocabulary
- #15 – The Ultimate Guide to German Numbers
- #16 – Word Order with Time
- #17 – Read & Write Dates in German
- #18 – Word Order Basics
- #19 – Shopping
- #20 – A Beginner German Conversation