How to Say Happy Birthday in German

The most common ways of wishing “happy birthday” in German are “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag” and “ Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag.” There are also other ways to offer birthday wishes in German, however. Here are several examples you may find useful.

Cheat Sheets
Sample Ways to Say Happy Birthday in German
Sample German Birthday Songs

Basic German
Exclaim “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!”[1] This is the closest translation to “happy birthday” used in German, and it means something along the lines of “all the best for your birthday.”
Alles is a pronoun meaning “everything” or “all.”

Gute is derived from the German adjective “gut,” meaning “good,” “fine,” or “nice.”

The term zum comes from the German preposition “zu,” meaning “to” or “for.”

Geburtstag means “birthday” in German.

Pronounce the entire birthday greeting as ah-less goo-teh tsuhm geh-buhrtz-tahg.

Offer “Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag.” This is an equally common, congratulatory birthday greeting.
It can be translated as “heartfelt congratulations for your birthday” or “many happy returns.”

Herzlichen is derived from the German adjective “herzlich,” meaning “heartfelt,” “sincere,” or “cordial.”

Glückwunsch means “congratulation.”

The term zum means “on” or “for,” and Geburtstag means “birthday.”

Pronounce the statement as hairtz-lich(“ch” as in “aCH” NOT as in “CHair”)-enn glook-vuhnsh tsoom geh-buhrtz-tahg.

Say “Herzlichen Glückwunsch nachträglich” or “Nachträglich alles Gute zum Geburtstag” for late wishes. Both are equivalent to saying “happy belated birthday” in English.
Nachträglich means “later” or “belated.”

Herzlichen Glückwunsch nachträglich means “heartfelt congratulations belated.” Pronounce it as hairtz-lich(“ch” as in “ach” NOT as in “CHair”)-enn glook-vuhnsh nach(“ch” as in “aCH” NOT as in “CHair”)-traygh-lich(“ch” as in “aCH” NOT as in “CHair”).

“Nachträglich alles Gute zum Geburtstag” means “belated all the best for your birthday.” Pronounce it as nach(again as in “aCH”)-traygh-lich(again as in “aCH”) ah-less goo-teh tsoom geh-buhrtz-tahg.

State “Alles das Beste zum Geburtstag!” This is another way of saying “all the best for your birthday.”
Alles means “all” or “everything,” zum means “for,” and Geburtstag means “birthday.”

Das Beste means “the best.”[2]
Pronounce this sentiment as ah-less dahss behsteh tsoom geh-buhrtz-tahg.

Longer Birthday Wishes
Offer “Alles Liebe zum Geburtstag.” This sentiment means something along the lines of “much love for your birthday.”
Alles means “all” or “everything.” The phrase “zum Geburtstag” means “for your birthday.”

Liebe means “love.”

This sentiment should be pronounced as ah-less lee-beh tsoom geh-buhrtz-tahg.

Say “Wir wünschen Ihnen einen wunderschönen Tag.” Use this statement to wish the birthday boy or birthday girl a wonderful day.
Wir means “we” in English.

Wünschen is a German verb meaning “wish,” “want,” or “desire.”

Ihnen is a polite way of saying “you.” To make this statement informal or casual, replace Ihnen with Dir, the informal version of “you.” Pronounce Dir as deahr.

Einen means “one” or “a.”

Wunderschönen means “lovely,” “wonderful,” or “beautiful.”

Tag means “day.”

You should pronounce this sentence as veer vuhnshen ee-nen aye-nen vuhn-deher-shuhn-nen tahg.

Hopefully state “Auf dass Ihr Tag mit Liebe und Freude erfüllt ist.” This phrase roughly means, “May your day be filled with love and happiness.” Auf means “on” or “upon.”

Dass is a German conjunction meaning “that” in English.

Ihr is a polite way of saying “your.” For a more informal way of saying “your,” use Dein, pronounced as dine.

Tag means “day.”

Mit means “with.”

Liebe means love. The term und means “and,” and Freude means “joy” or “happiness.”

The phrase erfüllt ist translates roughly into “filled with.”

Pronounce the whole thing as owf dahss eer tahg mitt lee-beh oond froy-deh ehr-foolt ist.

Tell someone “Schade, dass wir nicht mitfeiern können” when you cannot celebrate in person. This phrase means “Shame we cannot be there to celebrate with you.” Use it over the phone, in a greeting card, or in an e-mail when you cannot give the individual birthday wishes in person.
Schade means “shame” or “pity.”

The word dass means “that” and wir means “we.”

The term nicht means “not,” and können means “can.”

Mitfeiern means “celebrate together.”

Pronounce the sentiment as shah-deh dahss veer neecht(“ch” as in “aCH” NOT as in “CHair” mitt-fy-ehrn keu-nenn.

Ask “Wie geht’s dem Geburtstagkind?” This question asks, “how is the birthday boy?” or “how is the birthday girl?”
Wie geht’s is a German interjection that means “how are you doing?” in English.

The term dem means “the.”

Geburtstagkind can mean either “birthday boy” or “birthday girl.”

The expression as a whole should be pronounced as vee gates dehm geh-buhrtz-tahg-kint.

Also ask “Wie alt bist du?”[3] This question is used to ask someone’s age. Wie means “how” and alt means “old.” Bist means “are.”

The term du means “you.” For a more polite form of the word “you,” use Sie”, prefixed by “sind” instead of “bist”, i.e. “Wie alt sind Sie?”

Pronounce the entire question as vee ahlt bist due (or “vee ahlt zindt zee”)

Sources and Citations
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