Travelers visit German speaking countries for a plethora of reasons, including leisure, work, or to visit family and friends. The reasons are endless, but one thing is certain: knowing helpful German phrases can make your visit that much more meaningful, and provide insight into culture and customs. Plus, these phrases can inspire conversation and connection with strangers and loved ones in your own community!
The top 10 most useful German phrases
If you’re traveling to one of the several German speaking countries—which include Germany, Austria, and Switzerland—learning ein wenig Deutsch (“a little German”) can make your stay more enjoyable. Below, you’ll find 10 of the most useful phrases to help you navigate various situations. This list balances both formal and informal phrases, so you can tailor your speech accordingly and sound more like a native speaker!
|Entschuldigen Sie bitte… (formal)Entschuldige bitte… (informal)|
|Excuse me, please…|
|Ich habe eine Frage.||I have a question.|
|Können Sie mir helfen? (formal)Kannst du mir helfen? (informal)||Can you help me?|
|Sprechen Sie English? (formal)Sprichst du Englisch? (informal)||Do you speak English?|
|Ich spreche ein wenig Deutsch||I speak a little German.|
|Einen Moment, bitte.||One moment, please.|
|Nein, danke.||No, thank you.|
|Ja, bitte! or Gerne!||Yes, please!|
|Vielen Dank!||Thank you!|
|Ich weiß es nicht or Keine Ahnung||I don’t know / No clue|
How to say hello and start a conversation in German
In your native language, etiquette—or politeness—is second nature. With friends, a quick “what’s up?” and a hug is all you need. In professional settings, a phrase like “pleasure to see you again” is often more appropriate.
Use the list of German phrases below to confidently meet, greet, and strike up a conversation with acquaintances. Just like in English, there are plenty of ways to say hello in German, the most common of which are Hallo (“hello”) and Guten Tag (“good day”). Bitte (“please”), danke (“thank you”), and bitteschön/gern geschehen (which both mean “you’re welcome”) are equally useful. Plus, you can take these conversation starters even further with tips on what to avoid and how to politely end a conversation that’s run its course.
|Guten Morgen||Good morning|
|Guten Tag||Good day|
|Guten Abend||Good evening|
|Moin, moin||Hello (Northern Germany)|
|Servus||Hello (Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland)|
|Guten Tag Frau/Herr Meier (formal)||Hello Ms./Mr. Meier|
|Ich heiße…||My name is…|
|Wie heißen Sie? (formal)|
Wie heißt du? (informal)
|What is your name?|
|Ich komme aus…Spanien/den USA/der Türkei||I’m from…Spain/the United States/Turkey|
|Woher kommen Sie? (formal)|
Woher kommst Du? (informal)
|Where do you come from?|
|Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen (formal)|
Freut mich, dich/euch kennenzulernen (informal)
|It’s a pleasure to meet you|
|Ich bin zum ersten Mal hier||This is my first time here|
|Ich bleibe…über das Wochenende/für ein paar Tage/eine Woche||I’m staying…over the weekend/for a few days/a week|
|Wie lange bleiben Sie? (formal)|
Wie lange bleibst du? (informal)
|How long are you staying?|
|Was sind Ihre Hobbies? (formal)|
Was sind deine Hobbies? (informal)
|What are your hobbies?|
|Was machen Sie heute noch? (formal)|
Was machst Du heute? (informal)
|What are your plans for the rest of the day?|
|Ich gehe heute noch…|
… ins Theater
|Later on I will go…|
…to the theater
…to the museum
…grab a bite to eat
…to the concert
|Haben Sie Lust mitzugehen? (formal)|
Hast du Lust mitzugehen? (informal)
|Would you like to join?|
A couple more tips on the phrases above:
- Among the many ways to say “hello” in German, you’ll find greetings specific to each region. Moin, moin is often used in Northern Germany, while Servus is used across Southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
- Greet women formally with the title Frau (“Ms.” or “Mrs.”) before their last name. Similarly, Herr is used for “Mr.”
- When introducing themselves in a formal setting, German speakers will state their first and last name.
How to ask for directions in German
The conversation starters listed above make for great, meaningful interactions. But when you need to get to the point—or a particular place—you’ll need to know how to navigate transportation and ask for directions.
Let’s say you’re hungry, but you can’t find the nearest cafe. While it is fairly simple to learn Ich habe Hunger (“I am hungry”) or Ich habe Durst (“I am thirsty”), it’s more useful to know the full German sentence used to ask about the closest restaurant or grocery store. This way, people know you’re looking for a particular place rather than making a general statement.
|Wo finde ich…|
… einen Geldautomaten?… ein Taxi?… eine Toilette?
|Where do I find…|
…a cash machine?
…a taxi?…a toilet?
|Wo ist…… der Bahnhof?… die Touristeninformation?||Where is…|
…the train station?
|Wie komme ich……zum Kino?…zum Einkaufszentrum?…zum nächstgelegenen Supermarkt?||How do I get …|
…to the movie theater?…to the mall?…to the closest Supermarket?
|Ich habe mich verlaufen||I’ve lost my way (while walking)|
|Ich habe mich verfahren||I’ve lost my way (while driving)|
… der nächste Bus?
… die nächste U-Bahn?
…die nächste S-Bahn?
…der nächste Zug?
… the next bus?… the next subway?…the next suburban train?…the next train?
|Wieviel kostet…… eine Fahrkarte nach Berlin?…eine Tageskarte?||How much is…|
…a ticket to Berlin?….a day pass?
|Ich bin unterwegs||I am on my way|
|Ich bin gleich da||I am almost there|
How to order food in German
Germany is known for its Biergärtens which are, quite literally, gardens (or more commonly, rustic backyard settings) where beer is served. But there’s far more to Germany than beer! From restaurants to unique fast food, the vibrant German food scene is one that can’t be missed.
Pro tip: When being served, you may hear, Die servieren ein halbes Schwein auf Toast which translates to, “They serve half a pig on a slice of toast.” If that’s the case, prepare to be very, very full at the end of your meal.
Below, you’ll find all the German phrases you need to order and eat well.
|Ich hätte gerne…||I would like to have…|
|Haben Sie…?||Do you have..?|
|Die Speisekarte||A menu|
|Was können Sie empfehlen?||What can you recommend?|
|Das ist alles, danke||That’s all, thank you|
|Das Essen schmeckt lecker!||The food tastes very good!|
|Zum wohl or Prost!||Cheers!|
|Die Rechnung, bitte||The bill, please|
|Ich möchte bitte zahlen||I would like to pay|
|Kann ich mit EC-Karte zahlen? |
Kann ich mit Kreditkarte zahlen?
|Do you take debit cards?Do you take credit cards?|
|Stimmt so!||Keep the change!|
Don’t forget the cultural context:
- From döner to currywurst, fast food is popular in Germany! You’ll find a wide selection of fast food at Imbissbudes, which are small fast food trailers or vendors.
- Germans surprisingly don’t have a direct translation for “snack” but German speakers in Austria say Jause and Switzerland has its own expression, Z’nüni” und “Z’vieri (“I take a short break and snack”).
German slang and regional expressions
It’s one thing to be able to speak German, but what about blending in as a native speaker? Or at least, impressing the people you meet. Learning basic German slang can help you get there. If you know where a speaker is from or if you’re visiting a specific region, you can even break out localized phrases!
The best part about slang is that it actually makes languages more accessible. In German, pairing the word sau (“super”) to adjectives adds emphasis and breaks the mold of German’s notoriously long vocabulary. Gut (“good”) becomes supergut (“above good”).
When it comes to regional expressions, most regions of Germany—as well as some German speaking countries—have their own dialects.
Don’t be alarmed by this—all German speakers will understand the basics! Regional expressions are simply a fun way to deepen your understanding of culture and to connect with locals on a deeper level. Here are several slang and regional expressions to pull from:
- Weisst was ich meine? = You know what I mean? Got it?
- Unglaublich, geht ja gar nicht! = Unbelievable, that can’t be!
- Das ist gehupft. Wie gesprungen. = It’s all the same. It doesn’t make a big difference.
- German phrase in Austria: Ghupft wia ghatscht.
- Nur keine Eile. = Don’t stress or rush.
- German phrase in Austria: Nur ned hudln.
- Mahlzeit! = Going to lunch!
- If greeted with the word “Mahlzeit” in the hallway of your office, the best way to reply is “Mahlzeit!” It doesn’t get more German than that.
- Jetzt mach mal hin! = Hurry up/Get stuff done/Make a decision! (Used in the right context, it can mean all three!)
- German phrase in Switzerland: Chasch nöd dä Foifer und s’Weggli ha!
Idioms are fun in every language. Some may sound nonsensical, but they often function as windows into a region’s history and culture. Inject humor into your next conversation with the list of idioms below, or check out even more expressions to use.
Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm. = The apple doesn’t fall far from the stem.
Replace “stem” with “tree,” and this one will sound quite familiar to English speakers! German speakers use this idiom when comparing the similarities between a child and their parent.
Es regnet in Strömen. = It rains in streams.
No, it doesn’t rain cats and dogs in Germany when it rains heavily. Instead, it rains in streams which makes… a bit more sense, depending on who you’re talking to.
Es ist alles in Butter! = Everything is in butter.
Grease makes everything work smoothly. And for those that eat dairy, butter is a beautiful thing. This idiom can help you express that everything is great. Life is good.
Ich habe zwei linke Hände. = I have two left hands.
When you’re feeling less than talented at what you’re doing, it would be appropriate to say that you have two left hands. You can also use this to describe a general clumsiness.
Seine Zunge im Zaum halten = Keeping one’s tongue in the bridle.
If you need to hold back words or avoid answering in a spiteful way, then bite your tongue and remember this German saying.
Da wird ja der Hund in der Pfanne verrückt! = The dog in the pan gets crazy!
If you see something totally out of the ordinary or hard to comprehend, this would be the expression to use in German.
Ich stehe auf dem Schlauch = I am standing on the hose.
If you hear someone say this expression, get ready to offer help. The speaker does not know what to do or how to solve the problem at hand.
Learn German phrases for every conversation
You don’t have to know much German to feel comfortable striking up a conversation! With the list of German phrases above, you can feel confident when meeting acquaintances for the first time, ordering food, and making people laugh with a cheeky idiom.
If you want to take your German to the next level, Rosetta Stone has everything you need. From bite-sized lessons to immediate pronunciation feedback, you’ll learn every word naturally and immersively. No vocabulary lists or flashcards required.
Ready to jump in? Start your first lesson today at www.rosettastone.com.
GermanGerman foodGerman greetingsGerman idiomsGerman slang
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What are the 100 most common words in German? ›
- der / die / das (def. art.) the; (dem. pron.) ...
- und (conj.) and.
- sein (verb) to be; (aux./perfect tense)
- in (prep.) in [variation: im in the]
- ein (indef. art.) a, an; (pron.) one (of)
- zu (prep.) to, at; (adv.) too.
- haben (verb) to have; (aux./perfect tense)
- ich (pers. pron.) I.
Try hallo (hello), guten tag (good day), auf wiedersehen (goodbye), danke (thank you), bitte (please), ja (yes) and nein (no). And having a few numbers under your belt – eins (one), zwei (two), drei (three) – should come in handy when buying tickets.What is the most famous German saying? ›
1: “Ich kriege so eine Krawatte”
And it comes from the pressure you feel in your throat when you get so angry you could scream. Germans use this saying when they find something makes them really angry.
However, since these are made up of a lot of prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns, limiting yourself to them will not get you very far. Long story short, research says that to understand 85% of German texts you need to know about 1,300 words.Is 5000 words enough to speak German? ›
If you want to reach C1 level of proficiency in German, you'll need an active vocabulary of at least 5,000 words.What is the hardest word to learn in German? ›
1. Eichhörnchen (Squirrel) Although squirrel is also tough to pronounce in English, it's a classic when it comes to difficult German words to pronounce. Many English speakers struggle, and some even consider this the hardest German word to pronounce.What is the easiest German word to say? ›
- Hallo – Hello.
- Danke – Thank You.
- Nein – No.
- Ja – Yes.
- Lecker – Delicious.
- Woche – week.
- Heute – today.
- Morgen – tomorrow.
Officially recognised by the Duden - Germany's pre-eminent dictionary - as the longest word in German, Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung is a 36-letter, tongue-tying way of describing a rather, mundane everyday concept: motor vehicle liability insurance.
Last but not least, we have this behemoth of a word: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. With 63 letters, it's the longest German word on this list, and the longest word in everyday use in Germany. This word describes the law that regulates the labeling of beef.What is the best German motto? ›
- “All beginnings are hard.” ...
- “He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.” ...
- “Starting is easy, persistence is an art.” ...
- “Adversity is the mother of wisdom.” ...
- “Gluttony kills more than the sword.” ...
- “Experience is the mother of wisdom.”
What Germans say as a toast? ›
Zum wohl! Translation: To your health! This toast is similar to “Prost!”, but it's typically used in more formal situation situations like a fancy dinner or retirement party. Prost is typically used as a toast for drinking beers, and Zum Wohl is usually the go-to toast for wine, schnapps, or spirits.What do Germans say when they start eating? ›
Etiquette Rules when Dining Out in Germany
You'll find that most Germans begin the meal with a hearty Guten Appetit! Similar to Bon Appetit, it is an elegant way to phrase "Let's eat!". More informally, especially at lunch, you can expect an exclamation of "Mahlzeit!".
In order to feel comfortable speaking German, you really only need to learn about 3,000 words. In contrast, being fluent in German is defined as understanding 10,000+ words.How many words for C1 level German? ›
If you want to reach C1 level of proficiency in German, you'll need an active vocabulary of at least 5,000 words.How long does it take to fully understand German? ›
So, how long do you need to learn German if you want to reach this level of fluency? According to the U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI), you'll need about 750 hours of study to become fluent in German. This means that if you study 12-15 hours a week, you'll be able to speak like a pro in just a year!Is C1 German tough? ›
So how hard is the C1 exam? There's no doubt that the C1 exam is difficult, but it's certainly not impossible. I'm someone who still makes grammar mistakes more frequently than I'd like, sometimes uses the wrong words and can't always find the right vocabulary, but, thanks to some good preparation, I managed to pass.How many words does a B2 German speaker know? ›
However, if you wish to take German B2 test, you should know around 4000 German words. To reach B2 in German, first of all you need a German language app, functional grammar which you while conversations and lay some strict daily goals.How many words a native German speaker knows? ›
And the average speaker uses only 12,000 to 16,000 words in their vocabulary.What is the most aggressive German word? ›
- Quatsch! Pronounced like “Kvatch,” this is one of the more commonly used terms when showing your angry side. ...
- Schleich dich! ...
- Hau ab! ...
- Ich bin sauer. ...
- Ich bin wütend. ...
- Halt deinen Mund. ...
- Geh mir aus den Augen! ...
- Leck mich!
A 2014 survey showed that only eight percent of Germans favoured Saxon, which, among other research, has crowned Sächsisch the “worst German dialect”.
What is the 1 word order in German? ›
The basic German sentence order is SVO: subject, verb, object. The verb, the main verb or the conjugated part of the verb is always the second element of the sentence. If the subject does not precede the verb, main verb or conjugated part, it must follow it immediately.How can I speak German fluently fast? ›
- Listen in. Every good conversation starts with good listening. ...
- Learn the genders. German has three genders, so it's important to learn nouns along with their gender. ...
- Hack your memory. ...
- Turn up the volume. ...
- Record yourself. ...
- Create a personal phrasebook. ...
- Speak up.
Rinderkennzeichnungsfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz: The official longest German dictionary word.What is the long German word for Jeep? ›
Kübelwagen is a German word, contracted from Kübelsitzwagen (literally: 'bucket-seat car') – originally military slang for doorless cross-country and field-cars, fitted with bucket seats, to prevent riders from falling out of the vehicle – became a household word similar in meaning to the english "jeep".What German word has 79 letters? ›
A 79 letter word, Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft, was named the longest published word in the German language by the 1972 Guinness Book of World Records, but longer words are possible.What is the 80 letter German word? ›
At 80 letters, the longest word ever composed in German is Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft, the "Association for Subordinate Officials of the Head Office Management of the Danube Steamboat Electrical Services".What should I reply to Guten Morgen? ›
Of course, when you're introduced to someone, you need to know how to reply. Very often people just reply with the same thing that has been said to them. Guten Morgen, Franz! – Guten Morgen, Helmut!What is the shortest word in the world German? ›
Ja. “Yes.” There ya go, Ja. Apart from some dialects there are no single letter words in German.What is the old German word for tank? ›
The dated German term is Panzerkampfwagen, "tank" or "armoured combat vehicle". The modern commonly used synonym is Kampfpanzer, or "battle panzer". The first German tank, the A7V of 1918, was referred to as a Sturmpanzerwagen (roughly, "armoured assault vehicle").What is a famous German greeting? ›
"Guten Tag" (Good day) or “Hallo” (Hello) are the most common verbal greetings used in Germany. In the South, some people may say “Grüß Gott” (literally translating as 'Greet God'). In formal situations, one should address another person with their title and last name, “Herr” (Mr.)
What are cool German words? ›
- Ohrwurm (ear worm) ...
- Weichei (soft egg) ...
- Backpfeifengesicht (slap face) ...
- Erklärungsnot (explanation poverty) ...
- Purzelbaum (tumble tree) ...
- Zungenbrecher (tongue breaker) ...
- Schattenparker (shadow parker) ...
- Kuddelmuddel (muddled mess)
What does the Mercedes-Benz Brand slogan mean? The current Mercedes-Benz slogan is “The best or nothing”. This phrase helps represent what Mercedes-Benz as a brand stands for.What do Germans say after burping? ›
In Germany, we do! After somebody burps, you say: Schulz! Sometimes, it is accompanied by putting your thumb on your Stirn (forehead). It is especially popular among Jugendliche (teenagers) to do this as a drinking game.What do Germans yell at Oktoberfest? ›
Starting with an expression you're likely to hear a lot at Oktoberfest, this is how to say 'cheers!What do Germans say when they clink glasses? ›
Prost, it rhymes with toast! Prost us a quick and easy way to toast your drinks, while still adding a bit of German flair to the occasion. You can also say, “ein Prost!” which means, “a toast!”What is lunch called in Germany? ›
Lunch in Germany is called Mittagessen and is usually eaten between 12 pm and 2 pm. Germans traditionally enjoy their main cooked meal for lunch rather than dinner. Lunch is often served after a starter such as potato salad. Lunches cooked at home may include Eintopf, Rouladen, Schnitzel or Sauerbraten.Is burping rude in Germany? ›
While in other cultures, burping or smacking might be a signal that the food was good and enough, in Germany you try to eat as quietly as possible. That doesn't mean you're not allowed to talk; quite the reverse, you should talk as much as you can to boost your German.Why do Germans say Mahlzeit? ›
What does it mean? Die Mahlzeit (which sounds like this) is made up of the words Mahl - meal - and Zeit - time, so it refers to the time that you eat (meal time), although it's not strictly limited to that. It is often used as a general greeting around lunchtime (say, 11am until 2pm).How fast can an average person learn German? ›
German is rated as a category 2 language and considered to be similar to English. The FSI estimates that German takes approximately 30 weeks, or 750 classroom hours to learn. This study was conducted on a group of language students who spent 25 hours per week in class, and three hours daily on individual practice.How hard is C2 German? ›
The C2 level exam: Think “very hard” & multiply that by a thousand. The Common European Framework of References for Languages level C2 is one of the hardest possible examinations you can do in any language.
How long does it take to reach C2 German? ›
The Goethe Institut says you need to have studied German for at least 750 hours to get to this point. But realistically, it might take you up to 3 years to reach the C2 level. You shouldn't feel discouraged if you feel like the C2 level is out of your reach, since even native Germans struggle with reaching this level.Is Level C1 Fluent? ›
CEFR-level C1 (advanced)
You can express yourself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. You can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes.
It takes 600 to 750 hours to learn the German C1 level.
German at the C1 level is considered advanced and demonstrates full command of German grammar and vocabulary.
German A1 exam pattern is quite simple. As it's a language, there are 4 modules- Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. It is 60 points exam and you have to score 36 points (60%) to pass the exam.What level of German is required to study in Germany? ›
Depending on the German federal state, level B1 or B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is required.Is B1 German enough? ›
The third level in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages is level B1. It is definitely a step beyond the A1 and A2 exams. Passing a level B1 exam means that you are entering the intermediate level of your journey through the German language.How hard is German for English speakers? ›
For many English speakers, German is a difficult language to pick up. Its long words, four noun case endings, and rough pronunciation gives your tongue quite the workout each time you speak. German is recognized as a very descriptive language.How can I memorize all German words? ›
- Use repetition: reading, writing and speaking words over and over again.
- Associate words with drawings, pictures and funny scenes.
- Try to use the language routinely in the context of daily life.
- Reading as much as possible, especially the newspaper, helps you to remember words.
Officially recognised by the Duden - Germany's pre-eminent dictionary - as the longest word in German, Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung is a 36-letter, tongue-tying way of describing a rather, mundane everyday concept: motor vehicle liability insurance.What is the longest word in German? ›
There is a long list of long German words. Sometimes, they even show up in the real world. The longest word in the German language—the 63-letter-long Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz—was created to represent a law about beef regulation.
What is ß called in English? ›
The German letter ß is a ligature and is also called a “scharfes s” (sharp s). But it's simpler than it sounds–it actually just means “ss”. The best thing about this letter? It sounds exactly like the “s” sound in English!What letter in German has 2 dots? ›
The Letter Ä With Two Dots Is an Umlaut
If you've ever wondered what those two dots above an “ä” are about, they're generally called umlauts. Particularly common in German, they're used to modify the suggested pronunciation of the letter a.
It is standard to replace ß with SS in all caps: STRASSE.How many words do you need to know for B1 German? ›
The German government recommends to learn 2.700 words to pass the B1 exam.How many words is enough for German? ›
In order to feel comfortable speaking German, you really only need to learn about 3,000 words. In contrast, being fluent in German is defined as understanding 10,000+ words.What is the TeKaMoLo rule in German? ›
TeKaMoLo is short for the German words temporal, kausal, modal and lokal. The rule basically says that the order of boxes in a German sentence usually is: Te – ka – mo – lo. when – why – how – where.What is the longest German word 100 letters? ›
So the longest word to be found in the German dictionary is Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung – "motor vehicle indemnity insurance". As Mark Twain said "a word so long it has a perspective".What is the smartest way to learn German? ›
Best Way to Learn German. As with any language, the fastest and best way to learn German is through total immersion, preferably through living in a German-speaking country.