Most useful basic German phrases you need to know

Most useful basic German phrases you need to know

by Jakob Straub

Updated November 7, 2022

So you’re learning German but you’re having a hard time improving? Don’t get frustrated., It’s a notoriously difficult language to master. Common and basic German phrases can give you that much-needed boost to insert a little more German into your daily life. From saying hello and goodbye to customer service and travel, we’ll give you an overview of useful German phrases that will help you better navigate everyday situations.]

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Common German phrases for everyday use

While there are plenty of German-speakers who are eager to speak English with you, there are circumstances when you can’t rely on other people’s language skills—after all, one of your learning goals is to become fluent in German eventually, right?

Using common German phrases is a step towards speaking like a local. For easy reference, we’ve compiled an overview of basic German phrases on various topics and for different everyday situations you can start using right now! We also have more helpful tips for you to start learning German fast.

Most common basic German phrases

These are our top ten basic German phrases you can use in common situations you’ll encounter in everyday life. Combine these with the 100 German words you need to know and you can have basic exchanges in no time.

Sprechen Sie Englisch? (formal)
Sprichst du Englisch? (informal)
Do you speak English?
Ich verstehe (Sie/dich) (nicht).I (don’t) understand (you).
Können Sie das bitte wiederholen? (formal)
Kannst du das bitte wiederholen? (informal)
Could you please repeat that?
Wie viel…
…kostet das?
…ist das?
…Uhr ist es?
…much does it cost?
…much is it?
…late is it?
Können Sie mir helfen, bitte? (formal)
Kannst du mir helfen, bitte? (informal)
Can you help me, please?
Es tut mir leid!Das tut mir leid!I’m sorry!
Wo ist…
…die Toilette?
…die Kasse?
…ein Geldautomat?
…die Haltestelle?
…die Station?
Where is…
…the bathroom?
…the cash register?
…an ATM?
…the stop?
…the station?
Darf ich mal bitte…
…etwas fragen?
May I please…
…ask something?
Achtung!Vorsicht!Attention!Careful! Or: Watch out!
Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe! (formal)
Vielen Dank für Deine Hilfe! (informal)
Thank you very much for your help!

German phrases for when you meet someone

Here are basic German phrases the locals say when they meet someone:

(Es ist) Schön, Sie zu treffen! (formal)
(Es ist) Schön, dich zu treffen! (informal)
(It’s) Nice meeting you / Nice to meet you!
Es freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen! (formal)
Es freut mich, dich kennenzulernen! (informal)
(It’s) Nice meeting you / Nice to meet you! I’m pleased to meet you! It’s a pleasure getting to know you!
Wie geht es Ihnen? (formal)Wie geht es dir? (informal)How are you?
Mir geht es gut / schlecht / einigermaßen.I’m fine / not well / so-so.
Wie heißen Sie? Wie ist Ihr Name? (formal)Wie heißt du? Wie ist dein Name? (informal)What is your name?
Ich heiße… Mein Name ist…I’m… My name is…
Woher kommen Sie? (formal)
Woher kommst du? (informal)
Where are you from? / Where do you come from?
Ich komme aus…I am from…
I come from…
Guten Morgen!Guten Tag! Guten Abend! Gute Nacht!Good morning! Good day! Good evening! Good night!
Danke, dass Sie gekommen sind! (formal)
Danke, dass du gekommen bist! (informal)
Thank you for coming!

Learn these German farewell phrases

Saying goodbye in German is easy with these useful phrases:

Auf Wiedersehen! (formal)
Tschüss! (informal)
Goodbye! Bye! / Bye bye!
Schönen Tag noch!Have a nice day!
Auf bald! Bis bald! Dann bis bald!See you soon!
Es war schön mit Ihnen! (formal)
Es war schön mit dir! (informal)
It’s been nice with you.
Lassen Sie uns in Kontakt bleiben. (formal)
Lass uns in Kontakt bleiben. (informal)
Let’s stay in contact.

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German customer service phrases

If you find yourself worrying over emails and messages you have to write in German, use an online grammar check tool to facilitate your written communication. Sometimes, though, you have to talk to a customer service agent in person. The following basic German phrases are here to help!  

Ich habe eine Reservierung…
…für ein Auto
….für einen Tisch
….auf den Namen XY
I have a reservation…
…for a car
…for a table
…in the name of XY
Ich hätte gerne…
…einen Tisch für zwei Personen
….die Karte
….die Rechnung
….einen Beleg
….eine Fahrkarte / Eintrittskarte
….ein Glas Wein
….das da.
I would like…
…a table for two
…the menu
…the bill
…a receipt
…a ticket
…a glass of wine
Ich würde das gerne zurückgeben / umtauschen.I’d like to return / exchange this.
Kann ich mit Karte / in bar bezahlen?Can I pay with card / cash?
An wen kann ich mich wenden wegen…
…eines Umtausches?
…der Bezahlung?
…einer Beschwerde?
Who can I talk to about…
…an exchange?
…a complaint?

Need-to-know German travel phrases

Near and far, you’ll get around the country if you can use these travel phrases in German:

Entschuldigung, wo ist…
……der Bahnhof?
…ein Taxi?
…der Fahrkartenautomat?
…das Zentrum?
…der Eingang / Ausgang?
Excuse me, where is…
…the train station?
…a taxi?
…the ticket machine?
…the center?
…the entrance / exit?
Wie komme ich zu/nach…?How do I get to…?
Wann fährt…
…der nächste Bus?
…die nächste Bahn?
…the next bus?
…the next train / tram?
Ich muss zum…
I have to go to…
…the train station
…the airport
…the center.
Ist es weit weg (von…)?Is it far (from…)?
Was ist in der Nähe (von…)?What’s near (from…)?
Ich bleibe für…
…2 Tage
…das Wochenende
…eine Woche.
I’ll be staying for…
…2 days
…the weekend
….a week.
Können Sie mir das auf der Karte zeigen?Can you show it to me on a map?

Funny German phrases that are useful and make you smile

Lastly, German has many phrases that’ll put a smile on your face and are nonetheless useful to have in your repertoire, because humor is universal and can defuse nearly any situation. As you’ll see, these can be quite literal, same as literal German words!

  • Ich stehe auf dem Schlauch: I don’t get it. Literally, it means you’re blocking the flow by standing on the hose.
  • Das ist unter aller Sau: This is the worst, meaning not even a pig would accept it.
  • Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst: All or nothing. Germans love their sausage, so when the stakes are high, the stakes are a sausage. This literally translates into “The sausage is at stake”.
  • Mit ihm kann man Pferde stehlen: A partner in crime. It’s a high compliment to want to go steal a pair of horses with someone and is usually reserved for a good and close friend.
  • Er spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst: To be (needlessly) offended. If someone behaves like an offended liver sausage, they’re taking something too much to heart.
  • Da steppt der Bär: High life. Any party with a dubstepping bear is going to be le-gen-dary.
  • Das geht ab wie Schmitz Katze: Similarly, the cat of Schmitz is one hip creature, so you use this expression for where it’s happening. It translates into “like a bat out of hell” or similar.
  • Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof: Life is tough and so much more than feeding sugar cubes to ponies.
  • Du hast nicht mehr alle Tassen im Schrank: Someone who’s cupboard is short a few cups is, well, loco.
  • Ich glaub mein Schwein pfeift: You’re not going to believe it when you hear your pig whistle.

Start using basic German phrases everyday

In any language, using common phrases doesn’t have to be the stilted communication of dusty textbooks. Basic German phrases are easy to memorize and not only unlock the language, but also everyday situations.

Start learning and using the phrases from our compilation above today and you’ll make your life easier and get a better feel for German. You’ll find that soon you’re making progress towards becoming fluent! Want to keep learning ? Here are more German phrases for you to check out.

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Jakob is a freelance writer in Barcelona, Spain, and his favorite books have pages all empty. As an expert storyteller, he publishes creative fiction in English and German and helps other authors shape their manuscripts into compelling stories. Thanks to an expertise in a wide range of topics such as writing, literature and productivity to marketing, travel, and technology, he produces engaging content for his clients. Apart from the escape that books offer, Jakob enjoys traveling digital nomad style and stays active with climbing and hiking. Find out more about him on his website, Twitter or on Goodreads.

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