"How Are You?" in German – An Introduction to Small Talk in Germany

"How Are You?" in German – An Introduction to Small Talk in Germany

When you start learning a new language, it’s important to practice your speaking skills as soon as possible. Engaging native speakers in conversation is a way to go. Of course, that’s extremely difficult if you’re a beginner.

 

In today’s article, you’ll learn how to say “How are you?” in German together with other ice-breaking phrases.

 

How to Say “How Are You?” in German

Whenever you learn a German phrase, you need to decide whether it’s formal or informal. The simplest translation of “How are you?” is Wie geht’s? Here, you aren’t addressing anyone. However, the shortened geht’s is considered rather informal. It’s actually short for geht es.

 

It’s pronounced something like [vee gates] or [viˈɡeːts] if you prefer the IPA transcription. Literally, it means “How is it going?”.

 

  • Wie geht’s dir? [viˈɡeːts diːɐ̯] – Dir is informal singular (you).
  • Wie geht’s euch? [viˈɡeːts ɔɪ̯ç] – Euch is informal plural (You’re informally addressing more people.)
  • Wie geht’s Ihnen? [viˈɡeːts iːnən] – Ihnen is formal singular or plural. It’s always capitalized. Even though you use a shortened geht’s, this question is perfectly suitable in any formal context.
  • Wie geht es Ihnen? – That’s the most formal translation of “How are you” in the German language.
  • Wie geht’s ihnen? – How are they? (The pronoun ihnen with a lower-case “i” is an object form of sie – they.)

 

How Would You Translate “How Are You Today?” and Other Phrases

 

Wie geht’s is too short for you? We’ve already mentioned that it’s one of the classic ice-breaking phrases. You can also say Wie geht’s dir heute? – “How are you today?”

 

Like in English, it often follows a greeting, such as Guten Tag. Wie geht’s Ihnen heute? – "Hello. How are you today?"

 

Let’s revise the most common greetings in German:

 

  1. Guten Tag.– Hello. (formal)
  2. Hallo. – Hello. (It’s friendly and can be used in basically any context.)
  3. Guten Morgen. – Good morning.
  4. Guten Abend. – Good evening.

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How to Answer “Wie geht’s?” in German

First things first, let’s clarify what not to say – Ich bin gut. English speakers are prone to say that as it literally translates as “I’m good.” However, in German in suggests that you are good at something.

The most common answer would be Mir geht es gut, danke. – “I’m fine, thank you.” Other options are:

 

  • Gut, danke. – Fine, thanks.
  • Gut. Und wie geht’s dir/Ihnen? – Very well. And how are you?
  • Es geht. – Not too bad.
  • Leider nicht so gut. – Unfortunately, not that well.
  • Es geht mir schlecht. – Things are bad. (You can also start the sentence with Es geht mir…as opposed to Mir geht es…When you start with mir, you emphasize it. However, the difference in meaning is very little here.)

 

“Wie Geht’s?” in German Slang

You probably ask this question several times a day. Like in English, Germans don’t say only Wie geht’s. Let’s take a look at some colloquial expressions.

 

  • Was geht ab?– How is it going? It’s mildly informal.
  • Alles klar?– All good?
  • Na?– Well? In informal situations, you can use only Na?when asking how things went.
  • Wie läuft’s? – How is it going? It’s informal. It literally means “How is it running?”

 

“How Are You?” – a Summary

You only need to remember two basic phrases:

 

  1. Wie geht’s dir? For informal situations.
  2. Wie geht’s Ihnen? Or alternatively Wie geht es Ihnen? For formal situations.

 

The simplest answer would be Gut, danke. Don’t use Ich bin gut, though.

 

Small Talk in the German Language

Germans generally don’t have a liking for idle chit-chat. They tend to stick to the time-proven Guten Tag when interacting with strangers. If you looked up “small talk” in a dictionary, one of the possible translations would be oberflächliche Konversation. Oberflächlich means superficial. You can see that they frown upon (das) Geplauder (another word for small talk).

 

If you want to learn their language, you should try and engage them in conversation. Here is a list of handy expressions:

 

  • Schönes Wetter heute, nicht wahr? – The weather is nice today, isn’t it?
  • Woher kommen Sie? Or Woher kommst du? – Where do you come from? (Sie is formal, du is informal). You would answer Ich komme aus… – I’m from…
  • Wo wohnen Sie? Or Wo wohnst du? – Where do you live? Instead of wohnen, you could use leben. Wohnen means “to live” or “to stay” whereas leben only means “to live.” Ich wohne im Hotel. – I’m staying at a hotel. X Ich lebe/wohne in Berlin. – I live in Berlin.
  • Was macht die Arbeit? – How is work? Literally, it means “What is your job doing?” You could answer Wie immer. – (The same) as always.
  • Was haben Sie heute vor? Or (informally) Was hast du heute vor? – What are you up to today? Remember that vorhaben, with a separable prefix (vor-), means “to plan.”
  • Was machen Sie beruflich? Or Was machst du beruflich? – What do you do? You can answer for example Ich bin Lehrer. or Ich arbeite als Lehrer. – “I’m a teacher.” Or “I work as a teacher.” Professions are used without an article in German. Ich bin ein Lehrer is incorrect.
  • Wie heißen Sie? Or (informal) Wie heißt du? – What is your name? Literally, "How are you called?" The answer would be Ich heiße… – My name is…
  • Wie alt sind Sie? Or Wie alt bist du? – How old are you? You can answer for example Ich bin 20 Jahre alt. – I’m twenty years old. Or simply Ich bin 20. – I’m twenty.
  • Wie fühlen Sie sich heute? Or Wie fühlst du dich heute? – How are you feeling today? Don’t forget to change sich to dich in the informal question! Ich fühle mich besser heute. – I’m feeling better today. Let’s take a quick look at the reflexive forms of personal pronouns:

 

      1. Ich – mich (accusative)/mir (dative)
      2. Du – dich (accusative) /dir (dative)
      3. Er – sich
      4. Sie – sich
      5. Es – sich
      6. Wir – uns
      7. Ihr – euch
      8. Sie/sie – sich

 

Conclusion

 

In today’s article, you’ve learnt how to say “how are you” in German. Now, you can use it in formal and informal situations. You can even impress teenagers with some cool slang expressions, such as Na? Not only can you answer now truthfully depending on how you feel ranging from Bestens. – Splendid. to Schlecht. – Bad. You don’t have to get stuck on only Wie geht’s now. You’ve learnt a lot of other ice-breaking questions to start small talk in Germany and practice your speaking skills.

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