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When somebody calls me on the phone I need to say something when answering. In English (similar to other languages) it may be sufficient to just say

"Hello"

Is it accepted to just say "Hallo" when answering a phone call? Are there any conventions on what to say in a private setting, or in my company?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are indeed many people just saying "Hallo?" or "Ja?". But also very common with most pople answering a private (landline) number and not knowing the caller, is saying their last name. If it's a business phone, then of course you say the name of the company, your full name and a greeting.

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I think it depends if you're answering a personal cell phone or a landline phone which is used by more than one person.

When I answer my cell phone and I the caller ID is shown on the display, I answer according to my relationship to the caller. For example:

(friend)
Hallo, Anna! (or simply) Hallo!

(business related)
Guten Tag! (or very friendly) Guten Tag Frau Schmidt!

If I don't know who is calling (unknown number, of suppressed caller ID etc.), I normally pronounce the hallo as question:

Hallo?
or
Peter Meyer. Hallo?


Related question:
Redewendung wenn man an ein fremdes Telefon gehen muss

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IMO saying at least your last name when answering your phone is a matter of politeness: humans voices tend to sound unfamiliar over the phone, so the caller can easily know if he got the right person without the awkward question "X, is that you?".

I talked to people, which rather not say their name when answering their private phone due to privacy concern, but I don't really get their point there: I'm sure that if I wanted to get their name basic social engineering tricks would do the job.

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I used to do that too. However I don't think you have to be particularly polite when answering a phone anymore. Someone else wants something from me (the least of which is my time). It also creates a lot of confusion when e.g. you still live with your parents and get confused with your father/mother all the time. All this only applies when I don't know/see the caller ID. –  musiKk Jan 10 '12 at 11:38
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It is getting more and more accepted to simply say "Hallo" when answering the phone. Personally, I don't like this kind of greeting. Voices on the phone often sound quite different than they do in real life. I often don't recognize the person on the other end and have to ask something like "Bill, is that you?"

So, I'd suggest that on a private number you simply respond to the call by saying your name ("Hans Mustermann" or simply "Mustermann"). On a cororate line I'd answer something like ("Firma XYZ, Mustermann, guten Tag!").

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I answer the phone by simply saying "Ja?", or my surname and nothing else. The caller greets the callee with a "Hallo", however I see more and more people change that to either localized greetings or general greetings, like "morgen", "guten tag", "guten abend", etc. It seems quite weird to answer Skype calls with a Hallo, for some reason.

For some reason, the localized greetings are also accepted in many places (such as the German military, the Bundeswehr).

It is alright to say "<surname>, moin". When I called customer support in southern areas in Germany, I was greeted with a "grüß Gott", quite often.

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