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That is, a polite, everyday vocative expression that is used to attract attention in case I don't know the person's name. E.g:

Ma'am... you've left your wallet behind.

The only thing that comes to mind is Hey, Sie da, but that doesn't sound too polite :-)

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    A very polite form would be: “Gnädige Frau”. But you can also say: “Entschuldigen Sie”
    – Devon
    May 21, 2017 at 12:25
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    @Devon: Please elaborate it more and make it an answer.
    – Janka
    May 21, 2017 at 12:31
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    "“Gnädige Frau" is rather outdated at least in Germany.
    – FooBar
    May 22, 2017 at 6:02
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    Note that using "Sir!" or "Ma'am" is common in American English, but sounds very old-fashioned (or an Americanism) to this British English ear. May 22, 2017 at 6:51
  • "Junger Mann" or "junge Frau" are also used, even if the adressed person is obviously not young, in which case the expression gains a certain momentum of humor and/or compliment. "Junger Mann, Sie haben ... vergessen!" This is of course only valid in colloquial speech.
    – JimmyB
    May 22, 2017 at 9:17

3 Answers 3

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Modern German does not have an equivalent generic vocative. The use of antiquated forms such as «mein Herr!», «gnädige Frau!» or «Monsieur!» would be extremely unusual and probably lead to amusement or puzzlement.

In the absence of a generic vocative, people use forms such as «entschuldigen Sie!», «hallo!», «excusez!», etc. etc.

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    In which Bundesland is "excusé" used? (and "+1" for not starting out with old-fashioned sentences that would be absolutely outlandish these days...)
    – AnoE
    May 21, 2017 at 16:37
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    @AnoE not a Bundesland, but it is used in Switzerland, or rather: Äxgüsi.
    – Winkelried
    May 21, 2017 at 17:11
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    A schwiizer... :) @Winkelried
    – AnoE
    May 21, 2017 at 17:24
  • This answer is the reasonable one, don't use the forms suggested in the accepted answer! One note; I would suggest Pardon in place of Excusé, it's way more standard. May 22, 2017 at 14:18
  • @FelixDombek: «Pardon!» vs. «Excusé!» is a question of regional varieties of (standard) German. I happen to live in a region where «Excusé!» is more common. But of course, any number of different forms are possible.
    – mach
    May 22, 2017 at 19:00
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Other possible forms (but like those mentioned in other answers here tending to be old-fashioned):

Verzeihen Sie, die Dame [der Herr], Sie haben...

Sometimes people mention some particular element of the person's appearance in order to be sure they feel addressed, especially when they are walking away without eye contact:

Verzeihung, der Herr im grünen Anzug, Sie haben...

Verzeihung, die Dame mit dem kleinen Hund, Sie haben Ihren Geldbeutel liegen lassen.

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    The trick with these old-fashioned forms of address is not to make them sound sarcastic (which will probably offend the addressee!). May 21, 2017 at 19:13
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If you like to use an equivalent of Sir/Madam, you may use

"Junge Frau" or "Junger Mann".

Regardless of the person's age this will be perceived cordially. For elder persons this will add a slight touch of humour.

"Junge Dame" or "Junger Herr"

is also possible but it is rather snobbish and oldfashioned. However you may use this for children or teenagers as this adds a touch of humour.

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