Hey, you! Congratulations!
Or, as they say in Germany, “Herzlichen Glückwunsch!”
That’s right, you deserve some congratulations.
I don’t know you, but I know it’s true.
Whoever and wherever you are, there’s a lot you’ve had to accomplish to get to this point. And though you may not always have huge life events to celebrate, taking time to recognize the positive results of your actions is good for your health.
Hey, even starting to learn a new language is an accomplishment worth celebrating!
So take a few minutes out of your day to learn these congratulatory phrases in German. You can use them to celebrate yourself, or the other amazing people in your life.
Trust me: Learning how to congratulate others on their accomplishments in German makes saying “congratulations” even cooler.
By the end of this article, you’ll gain the necessary vocabulary and German cultural knowledge to congratulate others on their accomplishments.
Why Learn How to Say Congratulations in German?
No matter how you slice it, there are many things to celebrate in life. Every culture marks milestones of various kinds, from the birth of a child and the first day of school to weddings and retirements. German is no exception.
You’ll probably be surprised to learn that Germany shares some cultural events with your home culture. And even learning about unfamiliar cultural celebrations will help you add to your knowledge of German vocabulary and phrases.
The most common way to say “congratulations” in German is Herzlichen Glückwunsch! But in this article, we’ll go way beyond that, giving you the necessary tools to really connect with the German speakers in your life.
Causes for Celebration in German
Congratulations can come in large and small packages. Let’s start out by learning the German words for some of the reasons you might be congratulating somebody:
Birthday — der Geburtstag
Birth — die Geburt
Engagement — die Verabredung
Promotion — die Beförderung
Retirement — der Ruhestand / die Pension
First day of school — der Schulanfang
Interestingly enough, Germans do have a unique tradition for the first day of school.
This tradition encompasses mostly the first few years of schooling, and might be something you’d like to incorporate into your life. German schoolchildren receive a Schultüte, which translates to “school bag.” Much more than a backpack, this cone-shaped cardboard bag contains sweets and little toys meant to make the first day of school a fun and exciting event.
Graduation is another congratulatory event that holds much value in America, but doesn’t necessarily translate directly to German culture. American graduation parties held at both the high school and college level can become rather large events, but in Germany, students are more focused on the Abitur (final exams) than anything else. After they’ve received a passing grade and are able to enter the workforce in their desired position, then there’s time to let loose.
How to Practice Saying Congratulations in German
Any time you have a moment to congratulate someone, see if you can use your newfound German-speaking skills to do so. Congratulate your coworkers on another year, your friends on their wedding anniversary or even your grandmother on her birthday.
If you’re looking for places online to practice, test your knowledge of congratulatory phrases with this quiz.
You can also learn how to say related phrases like “Happy New Year” and “Happy Birthday” with these flashcards.
Once you’ve mastered congratulating others on the major events and holidays sprinkled throughout life, build up your vocabulary with this list of synonyms and antonyms. These resources will improve your congratulatory vocabulary and have you ready to give praise whenever the moment arises.
For immersive practice, check out the videos on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos in German—like movies, music videos, news clips and inspiring talks—and transforms them into language-learning experiences. Each video features native German speakers, so you know you’re learning German as it’s really spoken. And since each video comes equipped with interactive subtitles, you can follow along as you watch and quickly look up unfamiliar words.
Doing a quick search for “congratulations” or any of the other words on this list will bring up a list of videos that include that word. So, you can immediately hear how each vocabulary word is pronounced and see how it’s used in context by native German speakers.
You can even use FluentU to create a customized flashcard deck of vocabulary words, to practice all the different ways of saying “congratulations.”
Check out the FluentU free trial if you want to give it a spin!
“Congratulations” in German! Your Guide to German Praise, Compliments and Well-wishing
Basic Phrases for Saying Congratulations
Sometimes giving congratulations takes only one or two words. Here are a few short phrases you can use to offer congratulations:
Congratulations! (formal) — Herzlichen Glückwunsch!
Congrats! — Glückwünsch!
Well done! — Gut gemacht!
All the best! — Alles Gute!
Best wishes! — Alles Beste!
Cheers! — Prost!
For example, if you wanted to congratulate your friend on winning first prize, you could say, “Gut gemacht! Du hast ersten Platz gewonnen!” (“Well done! You won first place!”)
Or if you want to wish your relatives a safe trip home, you could say, “Beste Wünsche! Sichere Reisen! (“Best wishes! Safe travels!”).
And if you ever find yourself lost for words, a simple cheer of “Yay!” or “Woohoo!” translates in almost any language.
How to Say “Congratulations on Your…” and More
A simple Prost! is a great way to spread German cheer.
But you’re a German learner, and you’re probably looking to go beyond basic, one-word congratulations. Of course, that means we’re going to have to incorporate a little grammar.
First, let’s look at the verb “to congratulate,” which is gratulieren in German.
Take a look at the following examples to see how you can conjugate that verb to congratulate someone on their accomplishment(s) (die Leistung or die Leistungen), or achievement(s) (der Erfolg or die Erfolge).
Tom gratuliert mir zu meinem Geburtstag.
Tom congratulates me on my birthday.
Ich gratuliere meiner Freundin zu ihren Erfolgen.
I congratulate my [female] friend on her achievements.
Um mir zu meinen Leistungen zu gratulieren, nahm mich meine Tante zum Abendessen mit.
In order to congratulate me on my accomplishments, my aunt took me out to dinner.
All of these milestones and events happen in the span of a lifetime. And our celebrations of many things can vary as well. Sometimes you want to just say a quick congratulations while other times more merry-making is called for.
If you’re just looking for a quick, obligatory “congratulations on,” use the phrase “Glückwünsche zu.” Whatever event you’re marking comes after the zu and takes the dative case. Here are a few examples from the events we’ve been talking about:
Glückwünsche zu deiner Hochzeit.
Congratulations on your wedding.
Glückwünsche zu deinen neuer Job.
Congratulations on your new job.
Glückwünsche zu deiner Beförderung.
Congratulations on your promotion.
Glückwünsche zu dein neues Baby.
Congratulations on your new baby.
Glückwünsche zu dein neues Haus.
Congratulations on your new house.
Glückwünsche zu deinem Ruhestand.
Congratulations on your retirement.
There you have it! All you have to do is review the dative case, and you’ll be congratulating others in no time.
Whatever the cause for celebration, you should now have the tools and vocabulary you need to express congratulations in German. The best way to give congratulations varies from person to person, but sincerity is key. So however you say it, and in whatever way you show it, give congratulations as if you were the on the receiving end.
Oftentimes it’s a hard journey to accomplish your goals, but when it comes time to celebrate, treat yourself.
Whether it’s sticking to a workout routine, earning a degree, saving up for the car you’ve always wanted or just passing your German exam, congratulations and recognition are in order.
And don’t forget, it’s always polite to say “thank you” when you receive congratulations, too. So job well done on mastering the art of congratulating. Now get out there and spread the positivity!
Rebecca Henderson holds a degree in German and Creative Writing. She is the editor behind The Kreativ Space and hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.
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