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How to Say 'How Are You?' in German: Understanding the Grammar Behind It

Updated: Feb 24

In everyday conversation, asking someone how they are doing is a common and polite way to show interest in their well-being. In German, the equivalent phrase is "Wie geht es dir?" (when addressing a friend or family member informally) or "Wie geht es Ihnen?" (when addressing someone in a formal way). Understanding the grammar behind this expression can deepen your understanding of the language and enhance your communication skills. In this blog post, we'll explore the grammar behind "How are you?" in German, focusing on the dative verb construction, and provide examples in the form of a dialogue.

1. The Grammar Behind "How Are You?" in German:

In German, the phrase "How are you?" is constructed using a dative verb. Unlike English, where the verb "to be" is used in this context ("How are you?"), German employs the dative verb "gehen" (to go) to ask about the subjective feeling of that person. In fact, subjective feelings in the language usually involve the dative case. Other examples would be "I'm hot" or "I'm cold in German", which translate as "mir ist heiß" and "mir ist kalt".

2. The Dative Verb "Gehen":

The dative verb "gehen" is conjugated based on the subject pronoun and is followed by the dative pronoun for "you," which is "dir" in the informal singular form ("du") and "Ihnen" in the formal singular form ("Sie").

  • Informal (singular): "Wie geht es dir?" (How are you?)

  • Formal (singular): "Wie geht es Ihnen?" (How are you?)

3. Examples in a Dialogue:

Let's see how this grammar is applied in a dialogue between two people:

Anna: Hallo, Lisa! Wie geht es dir? (Hello, Lisa! How are you?)

Lisa: Mir geht es gut, danke! Und dir? (I'm doing well, thank you! And you?)

Anna: Mir geht es auch gut, danke! (I'm also doing well, thank you!)

4. Conclusion:

Understanding the grammar behind expressions like "How are you?" in German adds depth to your language skills and allows you to communicate more effectively with native speakers. By grasping the concept of dative verbs and their usage, you can confidently engage in conversations and express yourself in German-speaking environments. So, the next time you greet someone in German, remember to use the dative verb "gehen" to inquire about their well-being.

If you enjoyed reading this post, leave me a like or post your comments and questions below. You might also be curious to learn about the difference between viel and viele and why we say vielen Dank but viel Erfolg.


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