I'm really surprised this question has not been asked. I would like to know, how do you say "Happy birthday!" in German? I plugged this into Google Translate, and got the following.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

I feel like this translates literally to "all is good for (your) birthday". What is the logic behind this? Is it idiomatic? Are there other more common ways, or more concise ways, of saying "happy birthday"?

  • 1
    This hasn't been asked because any dictionary translate this phrase.
    – Em1
    Sep 4, 2017 at 7:53
  • 1
    @Em1 It is hard to pick up a dictionary and figure out the most idiomatic way to say something. Easier to use Google Translate. But for a question like this, where there are many accepted variants, I thought it would be good to ask.
    – ktm5124
    Sep 4, 2017 at 9:20
  • Not to mention, there is an ellipsis involved, which is worth asking about.
    – ktm5124
    Sep 4, 2017 at 9:23

3 Answers 3


»Alles Gute« is an ellipsis. It is the short form of:

Ich wünsche dir alles Gute.
Wir wünschen dir alles Gute.

And so »Alles Gute zum Geburtstag« is in its long form:

Ich wünsche dir alles Gute zum Geburtstag.
Wir wünschen dir alles Gute zum Geburtstag.

A litteral translation is:

I/we wish you all (the) good to your birthday.

Here »good« is a noun (the good) which is not usual in English, but German works this way. Maybe it sounds more English this way:

I/we wish you all good things to your birthday.

  • 1
    "alle Gute"? Nicht "alles Gute"? Komisch.
    – tink
    Sep 4, 2017 at 7:32
  • 3
    Not that alles Gute is Akkusativ (although identical to the Nominativ) just as in guten Morgen, which also does not mean the morning is good.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 4, 2017 at 7:47
  • "note" not "not" ;} /me ducks & covers.
    – tink
    Sep 4, 2017 at 9:19

A more literal translation of Happy Birthday would be

Herzliche Glückwünsche zum Geburtstag!

Nowadays the English Happy Birthday is often use next to the most common variant as it has correctly been translated by Google:

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

Of course there are plenty of other variants where often our wishes are expressed more precisely, e.g.

Viel Glück, Erfolg und Gesundheit im neuen Lebensjahr!
Liebe Käthe, zum Geburtstag gratulieren Frieder, Adam, Klaus und Henning!


To add to the other answers: in the German version of the well-known song the line "Happy Birthday to you" is translated by "Zum Geburtstag viel Glück". Here again you have "Happy" translated by "Glück". The word order is chosen to fit into the metre. Normally you wouldn't speak this way, but you could write it e.g. on a card, of course particularly if you want to refer to the song.

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