President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will confer in Geneva Nov. 19-21, a Reagan administration official said yesterday.

It will be the 11th postwar meeting between leaders of the two countries and the first since June 1979, when President Jimmy Carter and the late Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev met in Vienna.

The place and timing were confirmed in a meeting between U.S. officials and Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin at the State Department on Monday, ending months of negotiations that began in March when Gorbachev assumed power and Reagan, by letter, invited him to a summit.

Officials said a formal announcement is expected to be made by Washington and Moscow later this week.

The two leaders will probably hold at least two sessions together and "do more than just get acquainted and shake hands," an official said. Although officials declined to discuss the agenda for the meeting, arms control and U.S.-Soviet trade relations are likely topics.

"We see this as an opportunity to get acquainted, and exchange some views," said one official. He added that expectations for direct results from the meeting are "quite low."

This get-acquainted session is not the "well-prepared summit" that the Reagan administration had insisted on during the president's first term. Reagan's personal interest in sitting down with the Soviet leader without prenegotiated agreements to sign has increased markedly in recent months, according to administration officials.

The decision to hold the meeting appeared to break an impasse in U.S.-Soviet relations indicated by mixed signals on the summit and by cross fire from Washington and Moscow over arms talks in Geneva.

"We believe we can and should solve all outstanding problems in the agenda before us," a State Department spokesman said in the context of U.S.-Soviet relations. "The United States is always ready to make its contribution."

The two sides settled on Geneva, the site of three sets of arms talks between the two countries, as a "neutral compromise" between Washington and a site in the Soviet Union. Noting that former American presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford went to the Soviet Union during the 1970s, administration officials pointed out that protocol called for the new Soviet leader to come to the United States, and Reagan initially invited Gorbachev to Washington.

The Soviets apparently declined and "a long back-and-forth over the setting for the meeting" ensued, a U.S. official said.

When a Soviet official said in April that Gorbachev would travel to the United Nations in New York for its opening session this fall, it was widely assumed that he would meet with Reagan there. But Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko reportedly did not advance plans for the summit when they met in Vienna in April, and more recently Soviet officials announced that Gorbachev would not appear at the U.N. session.

A U.S. official said that the meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev will not be contingent on progress in Geneva.