You Only need THESE 6 German Greetings

THESE 6 German GREETINGS is all you need!

MONIKA
Hallo!  
(Hello!)

MARIE
Servus! Wie geht’s?
(Hello! How are you?)

There are three major factors that determine how to greet someone in German:

  • Die Uhrzeit (The time of the day)
  • Deine Beziehung zum Gesprächspartner (Your relationship to the person you’re speaking to)
  • Wo in Deutschland du dich befindest (Where in Germany you are)

I’ll show you how to take all these into account when greeting someone.

Mein Name ist Brunhild und ich bin deine Spring German Lehrerin. (My name is Brunhild and I am your Spring German teacher). Let’s start with greeting someone in the morning:

1. Guten Morgen (Good Morning)

MONIKA
Guten Morgen!
(Good morning!)

BAKERY SALES GIRL
Guten Morgen! Was darf’s sein?
(Good morning! How can I help You?)

MONIKA
Ich hätte gerne eine Brezel mit Butter und Schnittlauch.
(I would like to have a pretzel with butter and chive.)

BAKERY SALES GIRL
Gerne, kommt sofort.
(With pleasure, coming right up.)

Guten Morgen is the standard German way of saying “Good morning”. A friendly way of greeting someone until 11 am. It works wherever in the country you are.

2. Guten Tag (Good day)

Ab ungefähr 11 Uhr tauschen wir “Guten Morgen” mit “Guten Tag” aus. (Starting at around 11, we replace “Good mordning” with “Good day”.) It is an equally universal way of greeting someone as Guten Morgen. Guten Tag literally means “Good Day” and can be used until around 6pm.

MAILBOX
Guten Tag. Sie sind verbunden mit der Vodafone Mailbox von…
(Good afternoon. You are connected to the Vodafone mailbox of…)

Guten Tag is used in a formal context. You can use Guten Tag at work, with your colleagues or your clients. You can also use it with strangers.

RECEPTIONIST
Guten Tag! Wie kann ich Ihnen behilflich sein?
(Good afternoon! How may I help you?)

MONIKA
Guten Tag! Ich hatte eine Reservierung auf den Namen Fischer.
(Good afternoon! I had a reservation for the name Fischer.)

RECEPTIONIST
Ja! Sie haben Zimmer 512. Hier ist Ihr Schlüssel. Das Frühstück ist zwischen 8 und 10.
(Yes! You have room number 512. Here is your key. Breakfast is served between 8 and 10 am.)

MONIKA
Vielen lieben Dank. Schönen Tag noch!
(Thank you so much. Have a nice day!)

RECEPTIONIST
Sehr gerne. Schönen Aufenthalt!
(My pleasure. Enjoy your stay!)

As you can see, Guten Tag (Good afternoon) is very polite, so you can’t go wrong with it, at least between 11am and 6pm. After 6pm, it is better to use Guten Abend (Good evening):

3. Guten Abend (Good evening)

MONIKA
Guten Abend.  
(Good Evening.)

RECEPTIONIST
Abend? Es ist erst 3 Uhr nachmittags!
(Evening? It is only 3 pm!)

MONIKA (looking at her watch)
Erst? Wieso ist es dann schon so dunkel?
(Only? Then how come it is already so dark?)

RECEPTIONIST
Willkommen in Waldmünchen!
(Welcome to Waldmünchen!)

Waldmünchen ist eine sehr dunkle Stadt im südlichsten Bundesland Deutschlands, Bayern! (Waldmünchen is a very dark town in the most southern province of Germany, Bavaria.)

Speaking of Bavaria. They’re kind of a special flower and have their own dialect. A way of greeting someone that always works in Bavaria is Servus (Hello).

4. Servus (Hello)

MONIKA
Hallo!  
(Hello!)

MARIE
Servus! Was geht?
(Hello! What’s up? (informal))

MONIKA
Nicht viel. Was gibts bei dir Neues?
(Not much. What’s new?)

MARIE
Nicht viel.
(Not much.)

Servus (hello) simply means hello. A word that means the same and that might be easier to remember is Hallo (Hello).

5. Hallo, Hi & Hey (Hello, Hi & Hey)

Hallo sounds similar to English and is – surprise – used in the same way. Germany also took the liberty of adopting Hi and Hey as an informal greeting.

MONIKA
Hallo!  
(Hello!)

MARIE
Servus!
(Hello!)

RECEPTIONIST
Hey!  
(Hello!)

EVA
Hi!
(Hello!)

MONIKA
Moin!
(Hello!)

In northern Germany, such as Hamburg, Bremen or Lower Saxony, you could use yet another word for Hallo (hello):

6. Moin (Hello in northern Germany)

Moin (Hello) means the same as Hallo or Servus and works at any time of the day… or night for that matter! But it is used only in certain parts of Northern Germany. Of course you could just keep saying Hallo even there, but Moin would make you sound charmingly familiar right away, which is a great way of quickly creating connection.

MONIKA
Moin!
(Hallo!)

RECEPTIONIST
Moin Frau Fischer. Haben Sie gut geschlafen?
(Good morning Lisa… Did you sleep well?)

MONIKA
Sehr gut! Ich habe geschlafen wie ein Stein.
(Very well! I slept like a log.)

CHUNK ALERT!

Ich habe geschlafen wie ein Stein (I slept like a log) is something I use when I had a really good nights sleep, sleeping throughout the whole night at a stretch, to then wake up voller Energie (full of energy)!

Wie ein Stein literally means “Like a rock”. Why do we say that? I guess people in the past just wanted to express that they were so fast asleep that nobody could possibly move them – Wie ein Stein (Like a rock)! Wenn du eine andere Theorie hast (If you have a different theory)- make sure to let me know below!

For more useful chunks like this in German, make sure to download our free essential German kit, with the chunks most frequently used by native German speakers.

Summary

The common speech varies in different parts of Germany. If you are insecure, just stick to:

  • Guten Morgen (good morning)
  • Guten Tag (Good day)
  • Guten Abend (Good evening).

They work well in all parts of Germany, they’re really polite, and at the end of the day, everyone enjoys politeness. If you’re unsure about the right timing, just stick to Hallo (Hello). It’s a bit less formal but it’s fine.

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