Saying hello to someone is the best way to start a conversation on the right foot. But how do you do that in German?
How do you greet someone formally and how do you say hi to your friends?
With this article, we will cover some of the different ways on how to say hello in German.
How to Say Hello in German
1 - Hello in German: Hallo
“Hallo” is probably the most commonly used form of saying hello in German. It is a casual way of greeting someone and can be used to greet your friends or say hi to your neighbor.
There are some variations of this, like “Hallöchen” or “Huhu”. These should only be used to greet your friends, though. We are sure you would get some weird looks if you say “Huhu” to a neighbor you don’t know too well.
2 - Greetings in German: Grüße Sie/Grüß Dich
A formal yet warm and welcoming way of saying hello in German. You can use it in business settings, especially addressing your boss or someone you do not know.
If you are talking to a person you know well, you can also say “Grüß Dich”. Remember, in German, there is a difference in how you address people based on how well you know them. To strangers and people that you do not know personally, you say “Sie”, while you use “Du” for friends and relatives.
3 - Good day in German: Guten Tag
This is the go-to of German greetings. It is the most formal way of saying hello in German and can be used at any time of the day.
You can say it when you enter a place of business (like the postal office) or speak to someone on the phone.
Note that there is also an informal version of this where you just say “Tag” or “Tachchen” (sometimes written as “Tagchen”). Which you should only use when you are talking to relatives or good friends.
4 - Good morning/afternoon/evening in German: Guten Morgen/Nachmittag/Abend
While ‘Guten Tag’ does not specify the time of day, these three ways of saying hello in German depending on the time.
‘Guten Morgen’ is commonly used in the morning until 11 am, while ‘Guten Nachtmittag’ may be used up until 4 pm – 5 pm and ‘Guten Abend’ can be used for anything later.
If you are greeting someone casually, you can also just say “Morgen”. Beware, though, as this might make you seem like a morning grouch!
The same goes for “Abend”. By leaving out the adjective “Guten” (which means “good”), you can still use it in a context that makes sense and saves everybody precious milliseconds. A win-win situation, if you ask us.
5 - What’s up in German: Na, Du/Wie geht’s?
We should probably say this before we explain this way of greeting someone: No, you should NOT say “Na, Du?” to your friends in the same way you would say “What’s Up” to them!
Here’s why: It is a cute form of “How are you doing?” and is more popular with women than with men. This does not mean that men never use it, it is just more commonly used by women. And it should only be used when you know the other person well, as it might be understood as some sort of flirting.
If you talk to your friends, using “Wie Geht’s?” is the better option. This translates more closely to “How are you” and can be used for friends and people that you know personally.
6 - The English form of saying hello in German: Hi!
Over the past decades, more English words have found their way into the German vocabulary. One of these words is Hi (or Hey).
It is a short, straight-to-the-point, timesaver of a greeting. Be wary that this form of saying hello in German is informal and may only be used among friends or people that you know personally.
7 - Regional forms of saying hello in German: Grüezi, Servus and Moin
Like many other languages, German has a lot of regional dialects that are often made up of very different vocabularies. This also affects things like how to say hello.
In Bavaria and Austria, you will commonly be greeted with “Servus”, followed by a tip of the (imaginary) hat. Alternatively, you may be greeted with “Grüß Gott”, usually layered with a strong Bavarian or Austrian accent. It might be worth noting that “Servus” can also be used as a way to say goodbye in German.
In the northern regions of Germany, most people will greet you with “Moin”. Even tough it translates to morning, it may be used at any point of the day. There is also another variation called “Moinsen” which is more common in the most northern parts of Germany, near the Danish border.
In the German-speaking areas of Switzerland, you will often hear “Grüezi” as a form of greeting. If you have problems pronouncing the word “Grüezi”, do not worry—you can just use any of the previous greetings!
8 - Honorable mention: Mahlzeit!
This is a bit of a strange case. Mahlzeit is no equivalent in the English language, at least none that we know of.
Generally speaking, “Mahlzeit” is another German term used to greet someone. So far, so good.
The catch? It is only used during a very specific time of the day.
Most commonly used for the time frame between 12 am and 1pm, Mahlzeit is a way of greeting someone during lunchtime. It is most often said to greet colleagues at work and is more present in the southern regions of Germany, but can also be heard in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg, or Düsseldorf.
Now that you know at least eight different ways of saying hello in German, you are well prepared to greet a German-speaking person.
Just make sure you know who you are dealing with so that you avoid using an informal term in the wrong context. And if you are unsure, you can just always use “Guten Tag".