9 Ways to Say Hello:
As mentioned above, this is your typical German greeting. Nice and easy to pronounce, and suitable for just about every situation.
Turns out Germans say this too! Go ahead and use Hi when speaking with young people or in informal settings.
Guten Morgen / Guten Abend / Guten Tag
Literally translates to “Good morning,” “Good evening,” “Good day.” Although you might think of Guten Abend as being similar to saying “Have a good night,” it sounds more old-fashioned in German—more like “Good evening.” Maybe reserve this one for formal situations, or when speaking to people who are much older than you. When talking to someone you would call “Sir” or “Ma’am,” Guten Tag might be an appropriate greeting.
Wie geht es dir? / Wie geht es Ihnen?
This is how to say “How are you?” in German. Use dir when speaking to someone young or someone you know very well; Ihnen is the appropriate formal address for a stranger, especially someone older, and people in positions of authority. In many English-speaking countries, it’s typical to say “How are you?” to everyone you speak with, including waitresses and store clerks. However, in Germany, this is not as common, so it’s best to use this greeting with people you know.
Similar to Wie geht es dir, but more casual. This essentially translates to “What’s happening?” or “How’s it going?” (Geht’s is a shortened form of geht es, so Wie geht’s? literally means “How goes it?”) Use these greetings the same way you’d use the equivalent English phrases. Perfect for your classmates and friends, potentially not cool with your new boss or super-strict professor.
Was ist los?
This one can be a bit confusing. Colloquially, it means the same as Wie geht’s: what’s up, how’s it going, how’s it hanging. Again, fine to use with young people in casual conversation. However, what you have to remember about Was ist los? is that it can also mean “What’s wrong?”, especially when you add in a denn. Was ist denn los? usually means “What’s the matter?” and Was ist hier los? can be used to ask “What’s wrong here?”
But don’t worry: in conversation, you’ll most likely be able to tell the difference between these questions by tone of voice and context.
Similar to Was ist los, Alles klar literally translates to “Everything alright?” However, it’s often used as a casual greeting among young people. When used in that context, Alles klar is basically the same as saying, “What’s up?” in English.
Grüß Gött / Grüß dich / Grüß Sie / Grüezi
I’m including these on the list for those of you who might find yourselves in Austria, Switzerland, or southern Germany, where these greetings are used. Saying Grüß Gött in northern Germany would most likely surprise whoever you’re talking to. Literally translating to “God greets you,” this can seem like an old-fashioned way of saying hello to someone who is not from southern German-speaking regions. However, you’ll definitely still hear it in places like Bayern and Austria, so it’s good to know in case you visit these locations. Remember to only use Grüß dich with people you would address casually, and use Grüß Sie for everyone else.
This is also a southern greeting, which can be used as a goodbye as well. Similar to Grüß dich, you might hear Servus used in Bayern and Austria, as well as elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Servus is the Latin word for “servant,” and as a greeting or goodbye it was originally a shortened version of the Latin phrase “At your service.”
13 Ways to Say Goodbye:
The German equivalent of “bye” or “bye-bye,” Tschüss is a nice, informal way of saying goodbye in just about any situation.
In my experience, Ciao is super common in Berlin, where you’ll probably hear it just as often as Tschüss. Obviously, it comes from Italy (where it is both a greeting and a goodbye), but people tend to use Ciao as a way of saying bye in many European countries.
As mentioned above, this is pretty old-fashioned, and definitely not your typical German goodbye. May be appropriate for formal circumstances. Think of it as like saying “Farewell”—probably too formal for your friends or classmates.
Not as formal as Gute Morgen/Abend, this is the German version of “Goodnight.”
Bis bald / Auf bald
This is equivalent to “See you soon,” and is a good, casual way of saying bye to friends.
Bis dann / Bis später
These both mean “See you later.” Just like Bis bald, these are great options for saying bye to casual friends and acquaintances.
Wir sehen uns
Another nice way to see “See ya later.” If you add a dann to say Wir sehen uns dann, it means “See you then,” which can be a good way to say bye after making plans with someone.
Bis zum nächsten Mal
This is a way to say “See you next time,” and would be appropriate for saying goodbye to someone you see regularly: for example, a classmate or co-worker.
Wir sprechen uns bald / Wir sprechen uns später
This literally means “We’ll speak soon,” or “We’ll speak later.” Equivalent to the English “Talk to you later.” A good way of ending phone conversations.
This is essentially equivalent to “Talk to you later,” and is another good way to say bye on the telephone.
Schönen Tag (noch) / Schönes Wochenende
These are good ways to say bye to just about anyone. Schönen Tag noch (the noch is optional, you may hear people say just Schönen Tag) means “Have a good day,” while Schönes Wochenende means “Have a good weekend.” You’ll often hear store clerks using these phrases. If someone you know says this to you, you could respond with Dir auch! (“You too!”).
This means “Have fun!” and can be used in many conversational contexts—for example, when saying goodbye to friends who are going to a party, on a trip, etc.
Gute Fahrt! / Gute Reise!
This means “Have a good trip!” and is a good way to say bye to someone who’s going on a vacation or journey of some kind.