How to ask basic German questions

How to ask basic German questions

by Sandra Köktaş

Updated September 8, 2023

Basic German questions are not so different from basic German sentences. You’ll need to change the word order and add a question word, but you should be able to start asking basic questions in no time. To get you started, we’ll demonstrate where the verb and subject go in “W” questions (wo, was, wie, wer, etc.) and in simple “yes” and “no” questions. We’ll also give you a list of question words to memorize. 

A lot of the important grammatical rules for asking German questions are the same as in English, but there are some pitfalls you should avoid. To keep things simple, let’s start with a list of common questions in German.

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Basic German questions for a quick start

Questions are some of the most useful sentences to learn when speaking another language or visiting another country. From “How do I say this in German?” to “Where can I find a cheap room?,” there are a lot of things to ask! 

Some of these questions are more important than others. Imagine not knowing how to ask “Where is the bathroom?” in German. Before we look into how to ask a question in German, let’s get you started with some of the most common questions in German:

Wie heißt du?What’s your name?
Wer bist du?Who are you?
Was machst du gerade?What are you doing?
Wo arbeitest du?Where do you work?
Wohin gehst du?Where are you going (to)?
Woher kommst du?Where are you from?
Wann wirst du zurück sein?When will you be back?
Wie willst du dort hinkommen?How are you going to get there?
Wie spät ist es?What time is it?
Warum fragst du das?Why are you asking that?

Of course, there is also “Wo ist die Toilette?” (“Where is the bathroom?”).

Question words: What they mean and how to use them

Now that you have a list of the most common questions in German, let’s take a closer look at the question words. These are also known as interrogative pronouns, and all of them start with a “w.

wer who 
was what
wo where 
wohin where (to)?
woher where (from)?
wie how or what

Easy enough, but some things need a closer look.


In German, wo (where) is only used for asking for the location. To ask for a direction, the German language uses compounds built out of the question word wo and a preposition indicating the direction, either hin (to) or her (from). The English language offers a similar solution, using “where” and a preposition (“to” or “from”), but keeps the two words separate: 

Wohin gehst du? Where are you going (to)?

Woher kommst du? Where are you coming from?

[H3] Wie

Wie can be translated to “how” or “what”: 

Wie willst du dort hinkommen? How are you going to get there?

Wie spät ist es? What time is it?

Our recommendation? Learn some examples for questions with wie just like you would memorize new vocabulary.

[H3] Warum

Warum means “why” and asks for a reason. There are several other question words in German that can usually be used interchangeably, although they have a slightly different meaning: 

Weshalb hast du das getan? For what reason have you done this?

Wieso bist du so? Why are you like that?

Wozu willst du das wissen? For what purpose do you want to know that?

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“Yes” and “no” questions in German

Apart from the “W” questions, there is a second way to ask a question in German. The “yes” or “no” questions (Ja-Nein-Frage) don’t even need question words in German. The answer is even more convenient. If you are a beginner and lost for words, a simple “yes” (ja) or “no” (nein) is enough: 

Bist du sieben Jahre alt? Nein.

Are you seven years old? No.

Learn about negation and answer with a complete sentence!

[H3] Word order in German questions

The word order in German questions differs from the word order in other basic German sentences. The subject and conjugated verb change places; in “W” questions, the question word comes even before the conjugated verb:

Schläfst du noch? (Are you still sleeping?)

Was planst du als nächstes? (What are you planning next?)

If the verb consists of two or more parts, the conjugated form still takes the first place (after the question word); the rest comes at the end of the sentence:

Hast du schon gegessen? (Have you eaten today?)

Willst du jetzt essen? (Do you want to eat now?)

Wann wirst du voraussichtlich ankommen? (When do you expect to arrive?)

How to ask a question in German

Basic German questions are useful to know. You can memorize some examples or learn how to use the question words that form a “W” question. Building a question is not that difficult, either. If you know how to build a basic German sentence, you can simply change the place of the conjugated verb and the subject.

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Sandra Köktas

Sandra lives in Istanbul, together with her kids, cat and dog. As a historian she thrives exploring this ancient city with her two- and four-legged loved ones. Together, they also love to go on adventures through all of Turkey and its neighboring countries. If she’s not on the road, Sandra is busy putting her experiences into writing as a freelance copywriter for the travel industry and everything related to language, culture and family. Her particular interest lies in providing information on animal welfare with her website.

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