For many German speakers, the phrase How are you? in English is confusing because, in English, it’s more of a casual greeting to almost anyone you encounter throughout the day.
In English, saying “How are you” or some regional variation (how’s it going, or how ya’ goin) is almost like saying hello. Often, an actual honest response isn’t expected.
This is different from saying “How are you?” in German. When you ask this, make sure you have some time, because you won’t always get a short response. Some Germans will tell you how they actually are.
Read on to learn about all of the different ways to say “How are you?” in German, about the context to use each one, and how to respond.
How Are You in German at a Glance
How's it going?
How are you?
How are you (formal)
How are you?
How is your work/your family/the house?
All the Ways to Say How Are You in German
Wie geht’s?Wie geht’s? is the most commonly used expression for saying “how are you” in German.
The phrase Wie geht’s literally translates to “How does it go?”. It can be used with anybody really but might be best used with people you know, as it’s rather informal.
You can use this phrase when you first meet someone but also when repeatedly seeing someone. It can be directed at one person or at several people.
Wie geht’s dir?Wie geht’s dir? , a variation of Wie geht’s? is used to say “How are you?” in German.
You will direct it to one person that you are familiar with. It is an informal way of asking someone how they are, which you can note with the use of dir.
Wie geht’s Ihnen?Wie geht’s Ihnen is a variation of the previous expression, wie gehts.
You use the expression Wie geht’s Ihnen for strangers or when you meet someone the very first time as it’s more formal, as denoted by the use of Ihnen.
Check out this article to learn when you should use Ihnen and Dir when referring to “you” in German.
Read next: 18 Ways To Say Good Morning in German
Wie geht’s Euch?Wie geht’s Euch is the last variation of Wie geht’s. It is used when speaking to several people in an informal way. You can use it when you meet a larger group of friends and don’t want to ask every single person how they are individually.
Alles gut?Alles gut? This common expression literally translates to “Everything good?”.
You can say Alles gut? with a single person or several people in any context, formal or informal which makes it a great choice if you don’t really know where you stand with someone.
You guessed it, Alles okay? means “everything okay?”.
Use this expression with caution, you might insinuate that everything is actually not okay and get a lengthier response than you expected. A bit like asking “Is everything alright?” in English.
Similar to “alles gut?”, you can say “Alles okay” in any context.
Was ist los?Was ist los? can be translated to “what’s up?” or “what’s happening?”.
Similar to “alles okay?” it can imply that something is happening. You might say it when someone is visibly upset or crying but also when a group of people is laughing and you want to know what happened.
Was geht ab?
I have unfortunately aged out of being a cool teenager but I remember this one being a popular expression back then.Was geht ab? is a very informal, colloquial way of asking “What’s up?”. Usually used with casual acquaintances and friends.
Similar to “how are you?” in the United States it doesn’t necessarily require an answer and can simply be used to start a conversation.
Was macht die Arbeit/die Familie/das Haus etc.?Was macht die Arbeit / die Familie / das Haus?
This more specific expression invites you to ask about someone’s work, their family, their house, or anything else. This is a nice way to show off your German manners.
It can be translated to “How about work/your family/the house?”. It’s a good way to initiate some small talk and keep things light.
Na?Na? might just be one of the most versatile words in German. It translates to something like “so?” and possible answers range from no answer to telling your conversation partner about your last therapy session or the bagel you had for breakfast. “Na?” can stand on its own or be used together with any of the other expressions.
You might recognize und from other posts and examples. It simply means “and”, and has a function similar to “Na?”. You can also use it to keep a conversation going and encourage the other person to keep speaking.
Check out the video below if you prefer learning through video! It only provides two ways of saying How are you in German, but she provides good commentary on different responses and what to say and not to say.
Respond to How Are You in German
You might be wondering, how can you respond in a quick and concise way to “How are you?” in German? Let’s look at some options:
Remember that you can pair questions and answers as you please and even combine several questions and answers. This makes for some real fun exchanges such as “Na, alles klar? Wie gehts dir?” and “Ja, so lala, geht so”. But don’t ask “how are you?” to every person you know unless you know you’ll have time to really find out how they’re doing!