20 German Phrases for Beginners
by Brita Corzilius
August 15, 2019

Top 20 German phrases

Starting a new language can be challenging. What to say when and how? We often take too long to create the right grammar, form the words and German phrases in our head, and make it perfect. The moment we are ready to finally say something, the person we want to talk to has either walked away or fell asleep! 

But don’t worry, we have got you covered! We will introduce you to the top 20 phrases for beginners in German. Learn two or three of them at once and practise them in your everyday life. Do not try to analyse them, we will do that in our classes later on. Just learn them by heart and jump into the wonders and joys of socialising and conversing with Germans. 

Please note one important thing in German.

We Germans are quite formal. We love politeness and etiquette. Therefore you need to scan the situation. If you do not know the person or the person is older or in a higher position than you or you are in a formal situation, you have to use the pronoun Sie instead of du and switch the verb into third person plural. But don’t worry, I added the formal version in case it is needed.

Let’s start with the general German introduction:

Wie geht es dir? – How are you? 

Formal: Wie geht es Ihnen?

Answer: Mir geht es (geht‘s) gut. Und dir? – I am fine. And you? 

The formal answer would here be Mir geht es (geht‘s) gut. Und Ihnen? 

In general small talk you would answer this way. If you know the person well, you can be honest and say, for example: Mir geht es schlecht. Ich bin krank. – I feel bad. I am sick. 

Wie heißt du? – What is your name? 

Answer: Ich heiße … und wie heißt du? – My name is… and what is your name?

The formal way: Wie heißen Sie? Ich heiße … und wie heißen Sie?

Schön, dich/Sie kennenzulernen. – It’s nice to meet you. This a very polite and nice way to end conversations with people you just got to know. It spreads good vibes around!

meeting-someone-new

How about some small talk in German?

Woher kommst du? – Where are you from?

You may also hear Wo kommst du her? both questions mean the same.

The second one is a little more slang

Answer: Ich komme aus… und du? – I am from… and you? 

The formal way: Woher kommen Sie? Ich komme aus… und Sie?

Wo wohnst du? where are you living?

If you are travelling or if you are staying in Germany, this is an interesting question.

You may also find the informal expression: Wo bist du gerade? it asks where you are right now. Most Germans, in a context of asking about your whereabouts refer here to your current place of living. It of course also means where are you right now now, e.g. in my kitchen. 

Answer: Ich wohne in… – I live in…

The formal question is: Wo wohnen Sie?

Was machst du beruflich? – what is your profession? 

Answer: Ich bin … (von Beruf) – I am … (by profession)

The formal way:Was machen Sie beruflich? 

Was machst du heute? – What are you up to today? The perfect question if you stroll around in Germany and you have the first encounters with people and want to hang with them a little more. 

An answer could be: Ich gehe heute ins Kino. – I am going to the cinema today.

Wie gefällt dir..? / Wie findest du..? – How do you like..?

While being on your journeys there are for sure things you liked or disliked. Or you would like to know about the preferences of the people around you. Then this is your question.

Answer: Mir gefällt… / Ich finde …. gut/schlecht – I like…. / I find … good/bad.

The formal way: Wie gefällt Ihnen …/Wie finden Sie?

Was geht? – What’s up? This is a slang question, therefore you cannot use it in a formal way. We use this mostly when we meet with close friends. 

informal-welcome-german

The best phrases related to asking for help or assistance

Ich verstehe dich nicht. Kannst du das bitte wiederholen? – I don’t understand you. Can you please repeat that?

Germans are happy to help you learn German, so therefore do not hesitate if you did not understand the first time. 

The formal way: Ich verstehe Sie nicht, können Sie das bitte wiederholen?

Ich spreche kein / nur ein bisschen Deutsch. – I do not speak/only speak a little bit German. If you say this to Germans, we will slow down the speed of talking and be happy to help you understand. 

Wie sagt man…. auf Deutsch? – How do you say … in German? 

Answer: Das heißt – It is called… 

Entschuldigung, ich habe eine Frage. – Excuse me, I have a question. An important sentence especially if you are using public transport in Berlin!

Kannst du bitte lauter sprechen? – Can you please speak louder? Don’t we all know it? We are listening to someone in a foreign language and half of it we sadly do not understand because of the noise around. This will keep you covered to get the complete conversation. 

Formal way: Können Sie bitte lauter sprechen?

Ich brauche Hilfe. – I need help. This phrase can be used if you just need assistance.

If you are in an emergency and you need to reach out, say it like this: Ich brauche dringend Hilfe! – I need urgent help! 

Entschuldigung, kannst du mir sagen, wo … ist? – Excuse me, can you tell me where … is? With this question you won’t get lost in the city anymore. 

The formal way: Entschuldigung, können Sie mir sagen, wo … ist?

Useful phrases for politeness and gratitude in German

Entschuldigung, tut mir leid. – I am sorry. 

Vielen Dank für deine/Ihre Hilfe. – Thank you for your help. 

Gratitude makes Germans so happy, even if they don’t show it sometimes!

Kein Problem, gern geschehen. – No problem, my pleasure. You will often hear this phrase when you ask for your ways in the city. Germans are helpful and this is a way of us to react to your gratitude.

Gesundheit! – Bless you!  This is my favourite and deserves a little explanation. When Germans sneeze, we would assume that you are sick. Therefore we do not give you blessings, no we wish you health

If you want to get to know more useful phrases and wonders about the German language, don’t hesitate to sign up today! Wir freuen uns auf dich!

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