There are many different ways to ask ‘how are you?’ in German, just like there are many ways to say hello or goodbye. In this post, we will look at the most common ways to ask ‘how are you?’ and some of the many ways to respond if someone asks you this question.
Asking someone how they are is probably the second thing you will say after meeting someone or starting a phone call with them. It’s normally reserved for someone you already know, rather than a first meeting.
Top tip: Be aware that when you ask a German speaker how they are, you will get a detailed answer. German speakers don’t ask this as an empty question, without expecting an answer. They genuinely want to know how you are feeling.
Wie geht es dir?
- Translation: (Literally) How goes it for you?
- Meaning How’s it going? / How are you?
The most common way to ask ‘how are you?’ in German. Wie geht es dir? is the informal version, so you can use this on anyone you would normally speak informally with; friends, family etc.
This is very commonly shortened to wie geht’s? which means the same thing. Literally translated it means ‘how goes it?’ so you can see how we get ‘how’s it going?’ in English from this.
How to Respond
If someone asks you wie geht es dir? the correct way to respond would be to say:
|Es geht mir gut||(It goes for me good)||I’m fine / good|
|Es geht mir nicht so gut||(It goes for me not so good)||I’m not so good|
Top tip: Note that when asking ‘how are you?’ in German, the pronoun is in the dative case (mir, dir). Whenever you respond to this question, or bounce the question back to the other person, always make sure you are using the dative pronoun.
|Hallo! Wie geht es dir?||Hello! How are you?|
|Es geht mir gut, und dir?||I’m good, and you?|
|Es geht mir auch gut, danke||I’m also fine, thanks|
Do you see how throughout this short conversation, the dative pronouns mir and dir are only used to respond or bounce the question around. They must always match each other. If someone uses the dative pronoun, you must also use it.
For example: ‘Wie geht es dir?’ ‘Gut, und
du?’ In this case du is incorrect, because du is a nominative pronoun so it doesn’t match the dative pronoun.
Wie geht es euch?
Translation: How are you guys / all?
This version is basically the same as the previous, except we use it for groups of 2 or more people. Remember in German, we need to make the distinction between talking to one person, or a group of people. Wie geht es euch? is a bit like saying ‘how are you guys?’ This is the informal variation, as again you would use it for family and friends.
Wie geht es Ihnen?
Can you see a pattern emerging? In this version, with swap the last word again to Ihnen. This changes the phrase to the formal version, so it can be used in more formal situations such as in a work environment. Wie geht es Ihnen? can be used for one or more people.
Wie geht es ihm / ihr?
Translation: How is he / she?
What if you want to ask the person you are talking to, about how another person is. For example, imagine you are talking to a friend whose father is sick. You can ask them wie geht es ihm? or wie geht es deinem Vater?
If the situation is reversed and someone asks you this, you can respond with:
|Wie geht es deinem Vater / deiner Mutter?||How is your father / mother?|
|Meinem Vater geht es gut||My father is fine|
|Meiner Mutter geht es nicht so gut||My mother is not so good|
|Es geht ihm gut||He is fine|
|Es geht ihr nicht so gut||She is not so good|
Note that we we still have to use the dative case when asking about how people are. So we say meinem Vater, meiner Mutter, ihm and ihr (all dative cases).
Alles gut bei dir?
Translation: Everything good with you?
This is another way of asking how someone is. ‘Everything good with you?’ Another nice, friendly phrase. You can also say alles klar bei dir? Which basically means the same thing.
Meaning: Everything ok?
Spend any amount of time in Germany and you’ll hear alles klar! It can be used as a statement to show you understand something. It can also be used as a question, alles klar? It’s a bit like saying ‘alright?’.
- Translation (Literally): How runs it?
- Meaning: How’s it going?
Meaning ‘how’s it going’ this is another way to say wie geht’s? You can also add endings to this phrase such as wie läuft die Arbeit (how is work going?) or wie läuft es in Berlin (how’s it going in Berlin?)
Was geht ab?
Very colloquial phrase, roughly meaning ‘what’s up?’ It’s more of a ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘what’s going on?’ phrase rather than a ‘how are you?’
Use this one to really surprise your friends as it’s so colloquial they won’t expect you to say it!
Was macht das Leben?
Translation: How’s life?
Useful for someone you haven’t seen for a while, this is a good phrase for catching up. Used in the same way as in English.
Was gibt es Neues?
- Translation (Literally): What is there new?
- Meaning: What’s new?
Another casual phrase for catching up with a friend. ‘What’s new in your life?’ Again, useful for finding out what someone has been up to if you haven’t seen them for a while.
How to Respond
So now you know how to ask how someone is, get prepared for answering the question yourself. There are endless ways to answer, just like in English, depending on how you’re feeling.
- Gut danke, und dir? = Good / fine, and you? (informal)
- Mir geht’s gut, und Ihnen? = I’m doing well / I’m fine, and you? (formal)
- Nicht schlecht = Not bad
- Sehr gut = Very good
- Ganz gut = Quite good
- Mir geht es schlecht = I’m not well / I’m not great
- Es geht so = So so (slightly negative, like you’re not feeling great but you want to sound like you’re ok)
So now you know how to ask someone ‘how are you?’ in German. Have I missed any ways of asking or any responses? Let me know in a comment below.