Imagine a German speaking friend or family member has just received good news. They’re dying to tell you about it but how do you respond?
As you spend time in Germany or chatting with German speaking language partners, you may find that you need to wish someone ‘congratulations’ in German. There are many happy occasions that may call for this expression to be used:
- einen neuen Arbeitsplatz = a new job
- eine Beförderung = a promotion
- Hochzeit = marriage
- bestehen einer Prüfung = passing an exam
- Ruhestand = retirement
Whatever the occasion, offering congratulations on a happy event will certainly make you popular with the recipient! So let’s take a close look at how to say ‘congratulations’ in German, as well as plenty of example sentences to get you started! Auf geht’s!
Meaning: Heartfelt congratulations
Herzlichen Glückwunsch is a widely used expression for ‘congratulations’. Herzlich means ‘heartfelt’ and Glückwunsch means ‘congratulations’. We add the -en to the end of herzlich because it’s an adjective and needs to change it’s ending to ‘agree’ with the masculine noun Glückwunsch, which it is describing. The phrase can be used on it’s own as an expression, or as part of a longer sentence.
You may be familiar with this phrase already because it is commonly used to wish someone a happy birthday in German:
- Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag = Heartfelt congratulations on your birthday
In fact, you can use herzlichen Glückwunsch along with the preposition zu then add the happy event after. Remember to use the dative case because we are using zu.
- Herzlichen Glückwunch zu Ihrem neuen Job = Congratulations on your new job (formal)
If herzlichen Glückwunsch is a bit of a mouthful, you can also just say Glückwunsch! This is a bit like the shortened version of ‘congratulations’ in English, ‘congrats’. It can be used in the same way the full phrase above.
- Glückwunsch zur Geburt eures Sohnes / eurer Tochter / eurers Babys = Congrats on the birth of your son / daughter / baby
Similar in use to Glückwunsch, Gratulation is a quick way to offer congratulations in German. Again it can be used with the preposition zu and can be used informally or formally, for all sorts of occasions:
- Gratulation zu Ihrer / deiner Beförderung = Congrats on your (formal / informal) promotion
- Gratulation zur bestandenen Prüfung = Congrats on passing the exam
Meaning: to congratulate
Gratulieren is a verb, so we need to conjugate it depending on the subject. It is a fairly formal way of offering congratulations in German, and is often used in written German. Again we use the preposition zu and the dative case. When the direct object is specified (the person who is being congratulated), the phrase means ‘I would like to congratulate you’.
- Ich gratuliere dir zu deinem Ruhestand = I would like to congratulate you on your retirement (informal)
- Wir gratulieren Ihnen zu Ihrem Ruhestand = We would like to congratulate you on your retirement (formal)
If no direct object is used after the verb (the person who is being congratulated) it just means ‘congratulations’.
- Ich gratuliere zu Ihrem Erolg = Congratulations on your victory
You can also just say gratuliere! (congrats!) on it’s own as an informal exclamation.
Meaning: Well done
If you feel that a full on ‘congratulations’ is a bit much for a certain occasion, you can tone it down to gut gemacht (well done). You’re still appreciating someone’s achievement, but it’s not quite as ‘full-on’. Gut gemacht can be used as a stand alone phrase, or as part of a sentence:
- Gut gemacht, dass du diesen Test bestanden hast = Well done for passing that test (informal)
Meaning: All the best / congratulations
Alles Gute can be used to offer congratulations or to wish someone good luck. For the former, it can be used for all occasions.
- Alles Gute zu eurem Hochzeitstag = Congratulations on your anniversary / wedding day (informal)
Ich freue mich
Meaning: I’m glad / pleased
If you want to go the extra mile or want to phrase your congratulations a bit differently, you can say ich freue mich (I’m pleased) as part of a longer sentence:
- Ich freue mich sehr für dich = I’m very happy for you (informal)
- Ich freue mich, dass Sie den Job bekommen haben = I’m pleased you got the job (formal)
You can also say das freut mich (that pleases me = I’m pleased) as a stand alone phrase.
So now you know 7 different ways to say ‘congratulations’ in German. In case someone offers their congratulations to you in German, remember to learn a few ways to say thank you.