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In English it is common to reply with "Nice to meet you" when you were introduced to somebody. Likewise you say "Was nice to meet you" on leaving.

Are there any similar phrases a German would use in this context? What is a formal German reply when having been introduced to somebody? Can we say "Es war schön, Sie getroffen zu haben?" when leaving?

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You can say "Es war schön, Sie getroffen zu haben." - when you expect never to see them again. –  Tass Oct 23 '12 at 6:06
    
It should be added that any of the answers are rarely used in everyday life. It all sounds like high-society or politics, or like a german translation of a british TV series... –  hvb Apr 7 at 7:24

6 Answers 6

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I think it is not easy to answer this question because the translations depends on the circumstances. So there are more than one possibilities what you can say.

The direct translations would be: (first English, second German)

  • coming: "Nice to meet you." - "Schön, Sie zu treffen."

  • leaving: "Was nice to meet you." - "Es war schön, Sie getroffen zu haben."

In Germany you have different phrases (which one you use depends on the situation) you can say to greet someone or to say goodbye.

  1. Private meetings:

    • coming: "Hallo", "Servus" (bayrisch), "Guten Tag", "Guten Abend"
    • leaving: "Bis bald", "Auf Wiedersehen", "Ciao", "Tschüß"
  2. Business Meeting:

    • coming: "Schön, heute hier sein zu können.", "(Ich bin) Erfreut, Sie kennen zu lernen.", "Ich freue mich auf unsere Zusammenarbeit.", "Guten Tag/Abend", "Angenehm, . (etwas veraltet, sehr höflich)"
    • leaving: "Vielen Dank für dieses erfolgreiche Treffen.", "Auf Wiedersehen.", "Wir sehen uns morgen."
  3. Meeting, where you have been invited:

    • coming: "Vielen Dank für die Einladung.", "Vielen Dank für die freundliche Einladung.", "Ihre Einladung hat mich sehr gefreut."
    • leaving: "Es war schön, Sie kennengelernt zu haben.", "Vielen Dank für den angenehmen/schönen Abend."
  4. official meetings (high society):

    • coming: "Ich bin sehr erfreut, Sie kennenlernen zu dürfen", "Vielen Dank für die Einladung."
    • leaving: "Ich habe mich sehr gefreut, Sie kennengelernt zu haben.", "Vielen Dank für diesen angenehmen Abend.", "Es war ein gelungener Abend."

This are some examples of normally used phrases in German to greet someone by coming or leaving. All of this phrases can be changed. For example, you can say "Du" instead of "Sie" if you know the person very well. Or change "Abend" to "Nachmittag" or "Mittag" as needed.

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for private meetings: Servus is also used to say goodbye –  Fraggles Apr 7 at 7:46

I disagree with the previous answers, in part:

  • I argue that in German there is no direct translation of "nice to meet you", because German speakers do not express it like that. Clearly, German-dubbed American TV series have already influenced the German language somewhat and some people say that. However being a German native from Bavaria, I find it very artificial to use this expression and believe this is not proper German.

  • "Sehr erfreut" and similar were in fact common in German in the past (without English influence). However, it sounds very old-fashioned if you are talking to people under 35 and I suggest not using it any more, at least not with younger people (e.g. coworkers at tech companies).

Instead, say something different with a meaning being specific to the situation, e.g.

  • It is your first day at a new job, you meet your boss or new colleague: At the end of a conversation say "Ich freue mich auf die Zusammenarbeit mit Ihnen." (I am looking forward to working together with you.)
  • At the end of a pleasant work dinner with your boss or your boss and the wife: "Ich bedanke mich für den schönen Abend." (Thank you for the pleasant evening.)
  • If you meet a nice man/woman who you hope to see again (formal/work situation): Smile a little and say, "vielleicht begegnen wir uns ja einmal wieder" (maybe we will encounter each again some time) or "bis zum nächsten Mal!" (until next time).
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I use the following: Informal: Schön dich kennenzulernen.

Formal: Schön Sie kennenzulernen.

Somewhat casual: Sehr erfreut.

But be careful with "sehr erfreut", because it literally means "very pleased". so it would be best to add "Sie (or dich) kennenzulernen", to make it "Sehr erfreut, Sie/dich kennenzulernen.

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The informal "Freut mich" or "Freut mich, dich kennenzulernen" should also be added.

It must be differentiated also whether you meet someone for the first time, as "to meet" translates into "(wieder)treffen" or "kennenlernen".

Meeting for the first time would be "Schön, dich kennenzulernen". Meeting someone again after some time would be "Schön, dich wiederzusehen/wiederzutreffen".

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Now I got a question about English: While to meet has a lot of definitions, AFAIK wiedertreffen isn't one of them. You need to add again. Thus my question: Would a native English speaker say something along: Nice to meet you again or do they have any other idiom for expressing meeting again in this context. –  Em1 Oct 22 '12 at 15:08
    
Probably I'd say something like Nice to see you again. But I'm not a native speaker. Still I think that Schön, dich wiederzusehen is a valid translation of Nice to meet you even though there may be better translations of the German sentence into English. –  Thorsten Dittmar Oct 22 '12 at 15:22

I've always used and/or come across either "Ganz mein Vergnügen" or "Sehr erfreut (oder Freut mich), Sie kennenzulernen" as the closest equivalents.

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I was taught a common phrase for this is “Es freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen”, often shortened to just “Es freut mich”.

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5  
Even shorter, just Freut mich. –  Em1 Oct 21 '12 at 15:46

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