Spoken German Bits 1 – “Alles gut”

alles-gut-imageHello everyone,

and welcome to a brand new mini series called Spoken German Bits. In this series, we’ll look at the colloquial side of German. It can be a word, a common expression, a weird grammar structure or even a feature of pronunciation. All these things that you get to hear every day in Germany but that are absolutely not part of standard learning material – maybe because the material hasn’t caught on yet or maybe because the stuff is considered “wrong”. But wrong, shmong. Language is super democratic and if everybody does something, then that’s the language.
Anyways’… so this is what the new series is all about and today we’ll start with a look at a very useful phrase :

Alles gut

Now you’re like “What? That’s like All Good. Doesn’t seem particularly special to me.” But my observation is that the phrase has gotten pretty damn trendy recently. It has two usages and while one has been pretty standard for a while, I noticed that the second usage really caught on recently. Like… I hear it from all different kinds of people – teens, retired people, managers, models, TV hosts. And then, last night, when the neightbors’s cat that hangs out in our courtyard a lot, used it I realized: it is time to cut back on the dru… uh… I mean, it’s time to tell you about the phrase. So you can impress your friends with how much you sound like a native speaker. And you can use it every day.
So are you ready to take a look? Perfect.

“Alles gut” for greetings at work

I’m pretty sure most if not all of you know the phrase

“Wie geht’s?”

Or the more personal sounding version

“Wie geht’s dir?”

What many non native speakers don’t know is that the phrase is nothing to throw around like the English “How’s it going.”

For example, if a random barista at Starbucks were to greet me by saying:

“Hey, wie geht’s dir heute?”

I would be really confused. Like… “Wait, do we know each other? Why should I tell you how I am?”.
And it’s similar at work. Like… back a couple of years ago I’d work every Sunday morning. I’d get there all tired and my German colleague would be like “Hi” or even just wave and I’d wave back. And we do like each other. My Italian colleague however, he would be like “Heeey, wie geht’s dir?” and that always felt a little tiny bit annoying. Well, annoying sounds so strong. Just… slightly uncomfortable. I’d feel like “Jesus, don’t make me assess how I am and then word it.“. I’m not used to just responding with something like “Good”, let alone “Great!!”. I mean… some aspects of my life are good, others are okay and some could be better so I don’t want to say just “Gut” because that would neglect that there’s ample room for improvement. Okay seriously, German just doesn’t have this automated script and when being asked “Wie geht’s” a part of me feels compelled to give an accurate assessment of how I am. Like…

“Yeah, well I didn’t sleep very well and I’m still a bit sad about
that Maria thing but it’s not too bad. It’s okay. Don’t wanna complain. Could be worse.”

Now, these were personal impressions, but I think to an extent it is true for all Germans. The question “Wie geht’s” and even more so “Wie geht’s dir?” is not for a quick small talk between strangers and half strangers. And asking people you’re not really friends with “Wie geht’s” all the time, especially when they’re in a hurry or have work to do, can quickly get on their nerves. Not really badly, of course. Just a bit.

And that’s where Alles gut? comes into play. Because that question works much better.

  • “Hey na, alles gut?”
    “Ja, bei dir?
    “Auch.”
    “Cool, bis später.”

This feel natural and comfortable. I think it’s because this is a yes or no question, not an open question like “Wie geht’s”. I have only two options to respond and saying “Ja” is just much easier for me if life is like 67,31 percent good than saying “Gut.” Sounds stupid but it really makes a difference.
Now, of course this is not to be taken literal. Some people do greet each other at work using “Wie geht’s?” and some people find “Alles gut?” a bit presumptive. But I think overall, using “Hi, alles gut?” for the greeting small talk at work or at school feels more natural and it’s easier on your co-workers than the emphatic “Na, wie geht’s dir?”.

Cool. Now let’s get to the other alles gut.

“Alles gut” as “don’t worry”

This is the usage that I think is super trendy at the moment. Literally, alles gut means all good and people throw it in more and more as just a slight casual way to say “There’s no reason to worry.”
It’s really hard to explain, so let’s look at some examples

  • “Hey, ich weiß wir wollten eigentlich Burger essen gehen, aber ich glaub’ ich will doch lieber Pizza. Find’st du das voll scheiße?”
    “Nee, Pizza ist auch ok, alles gut.”
  • “Hey, I know we said we’ll go eat burgers but I think I’d rather eat pizza. Do you hate me now?”
    “Nah… pizza is fine, no worries.”
  • “Hey sorry, ich hab die Bahn verpasst und komm ein bisschen zu spät.”
    “Kein Stress, wir trinken eh erst noch Kaffee, alles gut.”
  • “Hey sorry, I missed my train and I’ll be a little late.”
    “No rush, we’ll have a coffee first anyway, don’t worry.”
  • “Oh hey Schatz, was machst du denn hier? Äh, die Frau mit der ich grad’ geredet hab, ist die Frau von meinem Kollegen. Nicht das du denkst, ich hab’ die angemacht oder so. ”
    Alles gut, kannst ruhig flirten.”
  • “Oh, hey honey what are YOU doing here? Uhm the woman I was just talking to, she’s the wife of a co-worker. Just so you don’t think I was hitting on her or something.”
    “All good, you can flirt.”
  • “Hmm… sorry, dass die Suppe so scharf geworden ist.”
    Alles gut, ich find die super so.”
  • “Hmm… sorry, that the soup is so spicy.”
    “Oh, it’s fine. It’s perfect as it is.”
  • “Oh Entschuldigung, ich hab Sie nicht gesehen.” (someone bumping their bag into someone in the train)
    “Alles gut, nix passiert.”
  • “Oh sorry, I didn’t see you.”
    All good, nothing happened.” (I guess that’s not too idiomatic)
  • “Wie lief das Meeting?”
    “Naja… wir haben so ein bisschen Probleme mit dem Zeitplan für das Projekt aber … alles gut. Wird schon.”
  • “How was the meeting?”
    “Well… we have a few problems with the schedule for the project but… no worries, it’ll work out okay.”

I hope these examples gave you an impression of how the phrase is used. It’s really for small everyday worries or problems. I use the phrase a LOT. I don’t know… it just feels nice and relaxed. And as I said… I feel like the use is increasing and spreading. So if you throw one in here and there, you’ll sound super uber native because you’re using the stuff that’s not even canon yet :).

So that’s it. This was our quick look at the phrase Alles gut. If you want to do a quick recap you can take the little quiz I have prepared for you :)

If you live or have lived in Germany, what are your experiences with the phrase? Have you heard it? Do you use it? And if you have a job here, what are your experiences with Wie geht’s? And if you’re a German native speaker, do you agree with what I said? Or do you call BS?
I’m really curious to read your thoughts about it so leave me a comment.
I’m out for now, schöne Tage euch und bis nächstes Mal.

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German Joe
German Joe
7 months ago

TOP! Simply a master class! Vielen Dank.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

For a more idiomatic USA-English version of “All good. Nothing happened”, I might suggest. ” ‘s okay. No harm, no foul!” (For anyone who needs an explantation: “No harm, no foul” is a principle of basketball refereeing that has been extended to figurative use in other situations. It means that if a player commits a violation against an opposing player but the offense does not affect the outcome of the play, a foul will not be called against the offending player.)

rhea
rhea
2 years ago

Thank You for sharing such a nice and informative blog and your knowledge with us.

pcbernabeu
pcbernabeu
4 years ago

‘Language is super democratic and if everybody does something, then that’s the language.’ Nicely put!

Angie
Angie
5 years ago

So the guy was talking to his colleague about an ‘event’. I do think I’ve heard it used in t.v adverts here too. Thanks.

Angie
Angie
5 years ago

Hi Emanuel, I have a translation question, but it isn’t related to this post. What does “Haut nah” mean, I know Haut is skin, and together it’s coming up as “Up close” in translation searches. Does it mean skin to skin, and if it does, why would a Tankstelle Arbeiter use it? Thanks.

Audrey
Audrey
5 years ago

Hi Emanue! I was in Germany for 2weeks with my host family and every time my correspondent started arguing with his mom, she stopped the argument by saying “alles gut! ” but yeah for me it was mostly the adults who used this expression the most :)

Audrey
Audrey
5 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Haha yeah like that XD

Deborah
Deborah
5 years ago

Hi there. Thanks for the offer of sponsorship help. It’s really appreciated. I’m going to get stuck in now but just quickly…I can’t hear anything in the audio files. Deborah

Adam
Adam
5 years ago

Ich bedanke mich für die Hilfe. Ich habe zwei Jahre in Deutschland verbracht und ich habe dort Deutsch gelernt, aber man muss die Sprache üben, sonst wird das Deutsch eingerostet :)

Jen
Jen
5 years ago

Ooh, ich freue mich sehr darauf, mehr Artikels in dieser Serie zu lesen :) Ich rede oft online mit deutschen Sprecher, und es kann sehr schwer für mich sein, ihre informelle Sprache zu verstehen. Als ich zum ersten Mal mit “alles klar?” gegrüßt worden war, war ich so verwirrt, dass ich vorgegeben habe, dass ich offline war :P. (Ich hatte damals gedacht, dass ‘alles klar?’ bedeutet, dass man sich auf etwas Bestimmtes bezieht.)

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Would ‘läuft bei dir?’ or something like this be another alternative to ‘alles gut?’?

Paul C.
Paul C.
5 years ago

Hey great post Emanuel. My one quick questio: Can you use “Schon gut” to mean the same “no worries” or “it’s cool” or “it’s all good”? That was the impression that I have been under for many years now and have used the phrase a few times talking with German penpals. They never corrected me. Thanks

Chuck Gleaves
Chuck Gleaves
5 years ago

Thanks for the insight on “Was ist los?” I have a totally different interpretation of my aforementioned interaction. Now I imagine the German guy was saying to my female German companion, “What the hell are you hanging out with that guy for?” It is shocking how little I really know about what is going on with personal interactions when I visit Germany.

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

From your examples “Kein Stress, wir trinken eh erst noch Kaffee, alles gut.” called my attention, because I am living in Vienna now and “eh” is used ALL the time. Könntest du bitte es mir (uns) eklären? I think it is used as a “really” sometimes like in “es ist eh alles gut” but some other times like in your example it’s not really clear, but probably its one of those things for which one just have to develop a feeling, right?

Laney1999
Laney1999
5 years ago

Hallo! Ich heisse Morgan und ich moechte nur hi zu sagen! Vielen dank zu jedermann, weil ich eine neue kostenlos Mitgliedschaft bekam haben, weil ich pleite bin, und du hast mich geholfen!

berlingrabers
5 years ago

I definitely hear both senses of this a lot. It’s taken a while to get used to the “how ya doin'” version of it. I think that’s a particularly American difficulty. I was in England a few months back, and you hear a lot of “you all right, mate?” with the same meaning – for an American, this really sounds like you’re worried that something’s wrong.

berlingrabers
5 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Although, by the way, you can also say “it’s all good” in American English to mean “no worries.”

berlingrabers
5 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Haha, yeah… I think you could hear it from just about anyone, but it’s a little slangy and not as current as “alles gut” is in German.

Chuck Gleaves
Chuck Gleaves
5 years ago

Several years ago I was working at a German youth hostel. My German was not very good, so I was very surprised when my very friendly and attractive German co-worker shot daggers at a male stranger who approached and said Was ist los? I assumed she thought he was hitting on her. I know this is not Wie gehts, but I wonder if it has some of the same trappings.

Thulasi Sasi
5 years ago

Hey I’ve come across this phrase a lot of times. Although I think “Alles Klar?” seems to be the more popular one in my uni. And I’ve picked up on it too.. so much better than “Wie geht’s” when people actually take the question literally. Anyways great job on your part with this post! You somehow have a way to make something so banal sound interesting.

Benjamin Geer
5 years ago

It might help to clarify the difference between “Alles gut” and “Alles Gute” (as in “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag”), because this confused me at first.

TtC
TtC
2 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

‘Gute’ is actually the Dativ of ‘Gut’, which is a noun/Substantiv. That is why it’s capitalised. ‘gut’, uncapitalised, is the adjective/Adjektiv.

https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Gut
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Gut

Spandy
Spandy
5 years ago

This is a great idea for a series! I enjoy learning conversational German the most, so I will check in for this one every time!