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‘How are you’ in German: Make no mistake about it!

‘How are you’ in German: Make no mistake about it!

How are you in German?

The true meaning and semantics of words and phrases is an incredibly interesting, yet very complicated topic. A phrase as simple as “How are you” can have many different meanings depending on when it is used, where it is used, and how it is used.

In English, for instance, ‘How are you’ is a set phrase to simply greet someone. It comes in the form of a question; however, it is not a real question. People in the US, for instance, won’t expect an answer to their ‘How are you.’ It is more like saying hello; therefore, just used to greet someone.

In German, however, things are a little bit different.

The literal translation of ‘How are you’ in German would be “Wie geht es Dir”?

The big difference here is that Germans, as well as Swiss and Austrian people, we (I am Swiss, folks) do indeed expect an answer to our “Wie geht es Dir?”.

In the following, we will have a closer look at the question of how you can actually translate ‘How are you’ into German, taking into account both meanings, the simple ‘Hello’ meaning, but also the extended meaning of ‘How are you’, which is embodied in the German phrase “Wie geht es Dir?.

In this latter case, the purpose of saying “Wie geht es Dir?” is usually to inquire about how someone is actually doing, asking about their mood/mental state and in some cases even their health. 


“How are you” in German when used as a simple greeting

If you would like to have German equivalents to the “How are you” as used in the US, then here you go. All of these can be used as simple greetings.

Nobody will necessarily expect you to speak more than one of these when greeting someone. So if somebody will greet you with a “Guten Morgen!”, you could very well just reply with a “Guten Morgen!” and that could be the end of the story.

Guten Morgen!Good morning!
Guten Tag!Lit: Good day!
Guten Abend!Good evening!
Servus!Hi!Servus is mainly used in Austria and also in Southern Germany, namely in Bavaria.
Grüss Gott!God bless you!Lit: Greet god.


How are you as a Greeting in Swiss-German

If you would like to greet someone in Swiss German, then you should go with one of these fellas here.

Hey!HeyHey is rather informal. Mostly used by teenagers.
Hallo!HelloMore formal than hey but still informal register.
Ciao!HiItalian is an official language in Switzerland and this is used by Swiss-German people as well. Ciao is an informal greeting, just as Hallo.
Salut!HiFrench is an official language in Switzerland and this is commonly used by Swiss-German people as well. Salut is an informal greeting, just as Hallo.
Grüessäch / GrüeziHiThis is a rather formal greeting and you just use it with people that you don’t know well. In a familiar setting, you would not use this at all, unless you would use it in a humorous way or as a joke
Tschüss!HiOk, wait a second. I thought “Tschüss!” means “Bye” in Swiss German. Well, it does. But in some places, such as in the canton of Solothurn, Tschüss can actually also be used as a greeting.


“How are you” in German when used to actually inquire about someone’s mood/mental state & in some cases someone’s health

If you would truly like to inquire about how somebody is actually doing (asking about their feelings/current mood/health & and/or mental state), you can use one of the following German expressions.

Please note that the Germans definitely expect an answer to these questions.

Wie geht es Dir?How are you (doing)?Use this expression if you seriously would like to know how the other person is doing. It is both used for inquiring about the general mood of the person at this very moment and can also be used to ask about someone’s health, depending on the circumstances.
Wie läuft’s?How are you?Rather informal
Was geht ab?How is it going?Very informal
Was geht?What’s up?Very informal
Wie geht’s, wie steht’sWhat’s up?A playful way to ask about how someone is actually doing
Bist du fit?Are you doing alright?
Alles klar?Everything good?This expression can be used if you are not sure how the other person is doing. Maybe you got a hunch that your friend might be upset about something…and then you could ask “Alles klar”? However, it all depends on the tone of the question. You could very well use this in the sense of “Wie geht es Dir” as well.
Alles in Ordnung?Everything alright?Same as with “Alles klar”


“How are you” in Swiss-German when used to actually inquire about someone’s mood/mental state & in some cases someone’s health


As I am Swiss, I thought I could make things yet a little bit more complicated and confusing and throw in some Swiss-German expressions that you could use in this context. There you go:

Hey, bisch fit?Hey, bist du fit?Are you doing alright?
Hey, fit?Hey, bist du fit?Are you doing alright?
Aues klar?Alles klar?Everything’s ok?
Bisch zwäg?Geht es Dir gut?Are you doing fine?
Geits?Wie geht’s?What’s good?
Was geit?Was geht (ab)?What’s going on?
Fit und muntär?Alles klar bei dir?Everything alright?
Was louft?Was geht (ab)?How is it going?


How to respond to “How are you” in German

‘How are you’ as a greeting:

If somebody greets you with a “Hi,” “Hallo,” “Guten Morgen,” “Guten Tag,” or “Guten Abend,” you can simply answer saying the exact same thing. That is perfectly fine.


Samantha: Guten Morgen!

Fritz: Guten Morgen!


‘How are you’ in the sense of inquiring about how someone is actually doing: 

If somebody will ask you “Wie geht es Dir”? (informal) or “Wie geht es Ihnen?” (formal), then you will actually need to give an answer to that question. One simple word like “gut” for instance, would not be sufficient here. The shortest possible answer would be something like “gut, danke.” However, in some cases, that wouldn’t be very polite.

In most cases, it makes sense that you will elaborate a little bit more about how you are actually doing. You could very well give some context here:


Petra: Wie geht es Dir?  / How are you doing?

Caroline: Mir geht es sehr gut, danke. / Ich habe zwar viel zu tun, aber genieße das schöne Wetter sehr! / I am doing great. Thanks for asking! I have lots of things to do. However, I really enjoy the nice weather!


“How are you” in German: Sample Dialogues | Greetings


#Example Nr. 1: [Guten Morgen]


Setting: Chantal begibt sich auf ihren Schulweg und läuft dabei ihrer Nachbarin Trudi über den Weg. // Chantal sets off on her way to school and runs into her neighbour Trudi.


Chantal: Guten Morgen!

Trudi: Guten Morgen!


Remarks: It could very well be that only those words are spoken. It is perfectly fine to say “Guten Morgen” and then walk further/away. On the other hand, you could also very well start a conversation after saying “Guten Morgen.” The same is also true for Guten Tag and Guten Abend.


#Example Nr. 2: [Hallo!]


Setting: Marcel und Peter treffen sich auf der Geburtstagsparty von gemeinsamen Freunden. Die beiden kannten sich bis anhin allerdings noch nicht. // Marcel and Peter meet at the birthday party of mutual friends. But they didn’t know each other yet.


Marcel: Hallo. Ich bin Marcel.

Peter: Hallo, freut mich dich kennenzulernen. Ich bin Peter.


Remarks: Greeting someone with Hello is rather informal; however, in many situations, it would not be considered rude to use it to greet some strangers. You wouldn’t necessarily use this in a very formal setting, though. Especially not if you are of lower rank or lower age than your counterpart.

As a student, for instance, you would not use “Hallo” to greet your professor. In this case, you would rather use something along the lines of “Guten Morgen, Guten Tag, Guten Abend” and then probably add something like Herr XYZ, so you would say Guten Morgen, Herr (Professor) Bichsel.


Example Nr. 3: [Hey!]


Setting: Sandra und Mischa treffen sich per Zufall im Theater. // Sandra and Mischa meet by chance at the theatre.


Sandra: Hey!

Mischa: Hey, Sandra! Schon lange nicht mehr gesehen. Schön, dich wieder einmal zu treffen!


Remarks: Hey is an informal greeting in German and is not very common with adults. It carries a certain amount of being surprised that you actually met someone, usually a friend.


“How are you” in German: Sample Dialogues | when inquiring about the health & mental state of someone


#Example Nr. 1: [Wie geht es Dir?]


Setting: Caroline und Peter treffen sich per Zufall im Bus. // Caroline and Peter meet by chance on the bus. 


Caroline: Hey Peter! Wie geht es Dir?

Peter: Hey, Caroline. Danke. Mir geht es gut. War gerade im See schwimmen und gehe jetzt nach Hause. Wie läuft’s bei Dir so?


#Example Nr. 2: [Alles in Ordnung bei Dir?]


Setting: Mischa und Daniel treffen sich zufällig in der Stadt. // Mischa and Daniel meet by chance in the city. 


Mischa: Hey Daniel, schon lange nicht mehr gesehen. Alles in Ordnung bei Dir?

Daniel: Hey Mischa! Schön dich wieder einmal zu sehen. Ja, bei mir ist alles bestens. War gerade zwei Wochen in Tokyo und bin jetzt wieder zurück in Zürich. 



“How are you” in Swiss German: Sample dialogues | when used as a greeting


#Example Nr. 1: [Grüezi!]


Setting: Yannick arbeitet in einem Restaurant in der Stadt Zürich. Pascal ist zu Gast im Restaurant. Die beiden kennen sich nicht. / Yannik is working in the city of Zurich. Pascal is a guest. They don’t know each other.


Yannick: Grüezi! Willkomme im Restaurant zum Löi

Pascal: Grüezi!


Remarks: Grüezi is mainly used in the canton of Zürich. In Bern, people would say “Grüessäch.” It is exactly the same thing, just in another dialect.


“How are you” in Swiss German: Sample dialogues | when inquiring about someone’s mood & mental state 


#Example Nr. 1: [Hey (Name), bisch fit?]


Setting: Michael meets his buddy Daniel at the train station. They are pretty tight with each other.


Michael: Hey, Dänu (Dänu is a Swiss nickname for Daniel), bisch fit?

Daniel: Hey, Michu (Michu is a swiss nickname for Michael). Ja vou. Ha hüt frei, mues nid ga bügle. 


Remarks: This phrase “Hey, bisch fit?” can be used when physically meeting someone, but it is also very common to use this expression online, let’s say on Facebook, Instagram, or maybe even a dating platform like Tinder.


Related Questions


What are some informal ways to say ‘How are you in German’?

If you would just like to greet someone, you could use: “Hey,”Hallo,”Yo.” If you actually want to know how the other person is doing, here are some ways to ask this in an informal way: “Was geht?”, “Wie läuft’s,”Bist du fit?”, “Alles klar?”


What are some formal ways to say ‘How are you’ in German?

If you would like to greet someone in German using formal language, you can use “Guten Morgen,” “Guten Tag,” “Guten Abend.” “Guten Morgen” is obviously just used in the morning and “Guten Abend” only makes sense in the evening. You can use “Guten Tag” throughout the day, but you wouldn’t necessarily use it at night.


How do you say ‘You are an idiot’ in German?

This one is pretty straight forward. You could simply say “Du bist ein Idiot.” Another way to say that would be “Du bist ein Trottel.” Yet another way to get this message across is to say “Du bist ein Dummkopf” which would literally be translated as “You are a dumb head” in English.


How do you say ‘You are awesome’ in German?

‘You are awesome’ translates as “Du bist toll” in German. Another way to say it would be “Du bist genial.” Other ways to say the same would be something like “Du bist super” (‘you are super’), “Du bist einfach nur geil” or “Du bist (echt) der Hammer” (lit.: you are really the hammer).


What is the difference between “Wie geht es Dir” and “Wie geht es Ihnen”?

Wie geht es Dir is informal. You will use it when speaking to a person that you know well (family, friends)

“Wie geht es Ihnen” is formal. You will use it when speaking to adults that you don’t know well (strangers). However, if you are let’s say 35 and you might meet another guy that is around the same age, depending on the setting, you could also use “Wie geht es Dir.”

The more formal the setting, the more likely you would use “Wie geht es Ihnen.” As a child, when talking to adults, you would always have to use “Wie geht es Ihnen” unless you speak to close friends or family.

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