140 Common German Phrases That’ll Make You Sound Like a Native
There are certain words and phrases that every language uses on the daily.
If you can learn these phrases, you’ll find everyday conversation much easier to navigate.
This post will show you 140 useful German phrases sure to boost your conversational skills and help you out in any situation.
- Most Common Phrases
- Basic Greetings
- Asking for Help
- Conversational Phrases
- Food and Drink
- In Case of Emergency
- Common Slang
- Why You Should Learn German Phrases
- How to Learn Common German Phrases
Most Common Phrases
You’ll come across these words in almost every German conversation you have, so they’re good to know:
1. Entschuldigung — Excuse me / Sorry
From apologizing for bumping into someone on the tram, to getting a stranger’s attention to ask which stop to get off at, this phrase is an absolute essential in civility when living in or travelling in Germany.
You’ll also likely hear the contracted version mumbled at you when out and about: ‘Schuldigung.
Entschuldigung. Wie komme ich am besten zum Flughafen? (Excuse me, how do I best get to the airport?)
2. Darf ich mal durch? — Can you let me through?
If you’re trying to run for that train but that crowd of gossiping pensioners just won’t budge, you’ll certainly be thankful for learning four letter phrase.
It’s still polite, so no making enemies with fellow commuters, and should hopefully let you part the seas of crowd with ease.
You might also hear: “Darf ich mal vorbei?”, which is very similar. Only difference is that vorbei gives the implication that you are trying to walk around a person, rather than through a group of them.
3. Hallo — Hello
Just as you use “hello” in English, this is a universal greeting good for any situation.
Hallo! Wie geht’s dir? (Hello! How are you?)
4. Danke schön / Danke — Thank you / Thanks
Use this to be polite and express your gratitude. Danke schön is the longer form, like “thank you” in English, whereas danke is the shorter former, like “thanks”.
Ich habe den Tisch gedeckt. / Danke! (I’ve set the table. / Thanks!)
5. Bitte — Please
This word actually has several functions in German: It’s not only used to say “please” but also “you’re welcome”. So be prepared to say and hear this word a lot in ordering situations.
Können Sie mir bitte helfen? (Can you please help me?)
6. Ja — Yes / Yeah
Yes, this word does simply mean “yes.”
Wohnst du in Hamburg? / Ja. (Do you live in Hamburg? / Yeah.)
7. Nein — No
It’s no more complicated than that: Nein simply means “no.”
Kommst du mit? / Nein. (Are you coming along? / No.)
8. Gern geschehen — You’re welcome
Use this in response to someone telling you danke (thank you). One of the many ways to humbly express acknowledgement of someone’s gratitude, be it earnestly or passive aggressively.
Danke für Ihre Hilfe! / Gern geschehen! (Thanks for your help! / You’re welcome!)
9. Tschüss! — Bye!
Goodbyes don’t have to be so hard after all with this short and snappy farewell in German.
Ich gehe jetzt. Tschüss! (I’m going now. Bye!)
10. Gesundheit! — Bless you!
You may have even heard this before as many English speakers will use this German phrase when someone sneezes! Literally meaning “health”, there’s perhaps nothing more apt to say when someone’s respiratory system starts revolting.
Hatschi! / Gesundheit! (Achoo! / Bless you!)
11. Es tut mir leid — I’m sorry
Should you ever need to apologize, this is your phrase! Don’t worry, we won’t pry and ask what for…
You might also hear the shortened version: tut mir leid.
Es tut mir leid, dass ich dich angeschrien habe. (I’m sorry for yelling at you.)
Now, let’s learn how to make first contact and exchange some basic pleasantries.
12. Guten Morgen — Good morning
This is a common greeting used up until noon.
Guten Morgen Kinder! (Good morning children!)
13. Guten Tag — Good afternoon
This one is used between noon and 6pm.
Guten Tag Frau Merkel! (Good afternoon Mrs Merkel!)
14. Guten Abend — Good evening
This greeting is used from 6pm to bedtime.
Guten Abend. Was habt ihr vor? / (Good evening. What are you guys up to?)
15. Wie geht es Ihnen? — How are you? (formal)
Use this form of “how are you” with any strangers, or to someone who commands respect, such as a boss, teacher or elder.
Wie geht es Ihnen Herr Scholz? (How are you Mr Scholz?)
16. Wie geht’s dir? — How are you? (informal)
You should then use this version of the phrase in more casual interactions like with friends and family.
Hey Alter, wie geht’s dir? / Hey man, how are you?
17. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! — Happy birthday!
Use this phrase to wish someone the best of birthdays!
Hey Bruder! Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! (Hey brother! Happy Birthday!)
18. Mir geht es gut, danke — I am fine, thank you
This is a common response to someone asking how you are.
Wie geht’s dir? / Mir geht es gut, danke.
19. Mir geht es nicht so gut — I’m not so good
This might be another response to someone asking how you are, or you might use it to generally say you’re not feeling well.
Wie geht es Ihnen? / Mir geht es leider nicht so gut. (How are you (formal)? / I’m not doing so good, unfortunately.)
20. Freut mich zu hören! — Glad to hear it!
If you ask someone how they’re doing and they say they’re doing well, you might say this to acknowledge their response.
Mir geht’s bestens! / Freut mich zu hören! (I’m doing great! / Glad to hear it!
21. Machs gut! — Take care!
You’ll mostly use this following a conversation when you’re finally parting ways.
Bis bald! Mach’s gut! / See you soon! Take care!
22. Bis später! — See you later!
If you know you’re seeing this person again within the next day, you can bid them farewell with this phrase.
Wir sehen uns also heute Abend. Bis später! (We’ll see each other this evening then. See you later!)
23. Bis bald! — See you soon!
I’d use this phrase over the last if you think you’ll see this person again in the near future, but you’re not exactly sure when.
Hat mich gefreut! Bis bald! / It’s been a pleasure! See you soon!
24. Auf Wiedersehen! — Goodbye!
This is a more general way to say bye.
Mach’s gut! Auf wiedersehen! (Take care! Goodbye!)
25. Einen schönen Tag noch! — Have a nice day!
This is a particularly pleasant way to part ways with someone, whether it’s your brother or the cashier at the store.
Danke für die Hilfe! Einen schönen Tag noch! (Thanks for the help! Have a nice day!)
26. Gute Nacht! — Good night!
This is a nice way to say farewell when the sun has fallen.
Ich muss jetzt schlafen. Gute Nacht! (I need to sleep now. Good night!)
27. Schönes Wochenende! — Have a nice weekend!
This one is probably most commonly used with your co-workers, since you see them before the weekend and typically not again until after.
Wir sehen uns am Montag. Schönes Wochenende! (We’ll see each other on Monday. Have a nice weekend!)
Asking for Help
As a stranger in a German-speaking country, you will find yourself needing help from a local at some point or another. The phrases below will make this a little easier.
28. Sprechen Sie Englisch? — Do you speak English? (formal)
Whether you don’t speak a lot of German or maybe just need to see who’s available to help you with unfamiliar words, this is a handy phrase to know.
29. Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch — I only speak a little German
If you’re not quite confident in your German skills yet and want to ask for some help or patience, this is the phrase to use.
30. Ich brauche eine Auskunft — I need some information
Whether you’re lost in a train station or asking a tour agency for details, this phrase can be useful to open on when requesting info.
Entschuldigung. Ich brauche eine Auskunft. Hat der Zug eine Verspätung? (Excuse me. I need some information. Is the train delayed?)
31. Ich brauche Hilfe — I need help
If you’re on vacation, there might be a time that you need to ask for help.
It might be an emergency or you might just be lost, but it’s certainly advantageous to know how to ask for help in the native language of anywhere you visit.
Ich brauche Hilfe. Ich habe meine Fahrkarte verloren! (I need help. I lost my travel ticket!)
32. Bin ich hier richtig? — Am I in the right place?
Sometimes you might just not be too sure of your surroundings, so use this to confirm with a local.
Ich suche das Bürgeramt. Bin ich hier richtig? (I’m looking for the registration office. Am I in the right place?)
33. Wie sagt man… auf Deutsch? — How do you say… in German?
As a German learner, you’ll never know every single word, but a great way to learn is by asking a native!
Use this phrase and you’re sure to learn tons of new German vocabulary!
Wie sagt man, “I love you”, auf Deutsch? (How do you say, “I love you”, in German?)
34. Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe! — Thanks a lot for your help! (formal)
After someone’s given you help, it’s always polite to thank them for it.
Now it’s time to learn some phrases that will help you actually hold a conversation in German.
35. Wie ist Ihr Name?/Wie heißt du? — What is your name? (formal/informal)
A good start to getting to know someone, of course, is enquiring as to their name. Even better if you can do it in German!
36. Ich heiße…/Mein Name ist… — My name is…
It’s also good to know how to tell someone what your name is if they ask.
Wie heißt du? / Ich heiße Karl. (What’s your name? / My name name is Carl.)
37. Woher kommen Sie?/Woher kommst du? — Where are you from? (formal/informal)
If you’re visiting a German-speaking country, odds are that you will be asked this question once they recognize that you have an accent.
38. Ich komme aus… — I’m from…
Respond to the last question with this phrase.
Woher kommst du denn? / Ich komme aus Kanada. (So where are you from? I’m from Canada.)
39. Wie lange bleiben Sie in [Deutschland/Österreich/der Schweiz]? — How long are you staying in [Germany/Austria/Switzerland]?
You’ll probably encounter this phrase the most when interacting with border control, whether it’s on the train or in the airport.
40. Ich bleibe [eine Woche/zwei Wochen/drei Wochen] hier — I am staying here for [one week/two weeks/three weeks]
It’s good to know how to respond to the last phrase properly so you don’t get yourself into any trouble!
Wie lange bleiben Sie in Österreich? / Ich bleibe eine Woche hier.
41. Wie alt sind Sie?/Wie alt bist du? — How old are you? (formal/informal)
Age can be a touchy subject for some, so all the more reason to get the formality right when asking.
42. Ich bin… Jahre alt — I am… years old
If you are asked the last question, this is how you respond.
Wie alt bist du? / Ich bin dreißig Jahre alt. (How old are you? / I’m thirty years old.)
43. Was machen Sie/Was machst du beruflich? — What do you do for work? (formal/informal)
This is a pretty common phrase that will come up in small talk.
44. Ich bin…— I’m a …
To tell someone what you do for work, use this phrase. Notice how in German you don’t need an article (words like “a” or “the”) before the job title, so you’re literally just saying “I am teacher”.
Was machen Sie beruflich? / Ich bin Lehrer. (I am a teacher.)
45. Was machst du sonst so? — What else do you do? (informal)
Maybe someone just told you what their job is and you want to ask them what else they do with their time, you might use this phrase.
46. Ich… gerne — I like to…
If you want to tell someone about your hobbies, you begin with this.
Was machst du sonst do? / Ich male gern. (What else do you like to do? / I like to paint.)
47. Ich stimme dir zu — I agree with you
Perhaps you’re having a thorough political debate, and you need to let your German buddy know that you agree with what he’s saying.
This phrase can be used for that.
Ich denke wir sollten mehr Geld in Bildung investieren. / Ich stimme dir total zu! (I think we should invest more money in education. / I totally agree with you!)
48. Können Sie/Kannst du langsamer sprechen? — Can you speak slower? (formal/informal)
Sometimes a native speaker may speak too quickly for you to understand. Use this phrase to politely ask them to slow down.
49. Können Sie/Kannst du das bitte wiederholen? — Can you repeat that please? (formal/informal)
Maybe someone is speaking slowly enough, you just missed a chunk of what was said. You can use this phrase to have them only repeat what they just said.
50. Verstehen Sie?/Verstehst du? — Do you understand? (formal/informal)
If you’re looking a little lost or maybe the information is important, a German speaker may ask you this to gauge if they should repeat or rephrase what they said.
51. Ich verstehe nicht — I don’t understand
If you need to, you can use this phrase to hint that you may need things to be explained differently.
52. Hat mich gefreut Sie/dich kennenzulernen — It was nice meeting you (formal/informal)
After having a conversation with your new German friend, you can say this to express you enjoyed making their acquaintance.
Food and Drink
Nice job, you actually got a conversation going! If you continue like this, you might just end up going for some food with your new German acquaintances.
In that case, the next batch of phrases will be a real life saver:
53. Haben Sie/Hast du Hunger? — Are you hungry? (formal/informal)
If your German friend asks you this, it will probably be followed by a suggestion for a place to eat.
54. Haben Sie/Hast du Durst? — Are you thirsty? (formal/informal)
Don’t be surprised if this question leads to you being led into a bar for a beer somewhere.
55. Wollen wir zusammen was essen/trinken gehen? — Shall we get something to eat/drink together?
This will be the outright invitation to accompany someone to eat or drink.
Wollen wir zusammen was essen gehen? / Gerne! Ich kenne ein schönes italienisches Restaurant. (Shall we go get something to eat? / Sure! I know a nice Italian restaurant.)
56. Frühstück — Breakfast
A typical German breakfast might consist of lots of bread, meats and cheeses accompanied with jam!
Ich trinke gern Kaffee zum Frühstück. (I like to drink coffee at breakfast.)
57. Mittagessen — Lunch
German lunch will usually have a small starter dish followed by some kind of meat or fish, a vegetable and a starch like potatoes or rice.
58. Abendessen — Dinner
Dinner usually has breads, cheeses and deli meats and may even include mustard or pickles.
59. Ich möchte einen Tisch für … Personen um … reservieren — I’d like to reserve a table.
If you’re trying to eat at a popular restaurant (especially in the bigger cities), you often want to reserve a table ahead of time.
When Germans eat out, they tend to take their time, so if you don’t reserve a table, you run the risk of having to wait a very long time for a table to open up or maybe not getting a table at all.
Don’t forget, Germans tend to use the 24 hour clock system, so when asking for a table at 7pm, you’ll need to say “nineteen o’clock”.
Ich möchte einen Tisch für vier Personen um zwanzig Uhr reservieren. (I’d like to reserve a table for four people at eight pm.)
60. Einen Tisch für zwei/drei/vier bitte — A table for two/three/four, please
At most German restaurants, you’ll just seat yourself at an open table, but for those that do greet you at the door, you can use this phrase to communicate how many are in your party.
61. Ich habe eine Reservierung — I have a reservation
If you did make a reservation, let the staff know so they can take you to the proper table.
62. Einen Augenblick, bitte! — Wait a minute, please!
You might hear this phrase if a restaurant is busy but is trying to accommodate you.
63. Kann ich/Können wir die Speisekarte/Getränkekarte/Weinkarte haben bitte? — Can I/Can we see the menu/drinks/wine menu please?
You might want to check out a menu before you sit down, so you can ask for it using this phrase.
64. Was ist das? — What is this?
If you don’t understand something on the menu, you can ask the staff to explain it with this phrase.
65. Können Sie etwas empfehlen? — Can you recommend something?
If you’re feeling adventurous, this is a great way to try new things and learn about local delicacies.
66. Haben Sie etwas vegetarisches/veganisches? — Do you have something vegetarian/vegan?
For those with diet restrictions, it’s good to know this phrase, especially since a lot of German delicacies are very meat-based.
67. Ich esse kein/keine…. — I don’t eat…
If you need help finding a dish that matches your needs, you can tell this to your server and they can tell you what dishes will be suitable.
68. Ich bin allergisch gegen… — I am allergic to…
Letting a restaurant know your allergies can be very important to avoid your evening turning sour.
69. Ich hätte gerne… — I’d like to have…
Use this to order your meal. Just pop the name of your dish at the end of the phrase.
70. Ein Bier bitte! — A beer please!
German beer is world-renowned, so you’ll likely order at least one!
71. Einen Kaffee bitte! — One coffee, please!
Most people will have some coffee with their breakfast. You might also want to specify whether you want a Milchkaffee (milky coffee) or a Kaffee ohne Milch (coffee without milk).
72. Prost! — Cheers!
You will hear this a lot on a night out. Don’t forget to look your fellow revellers in the eye whilst toasting for good luck.
73. Guten Appetit — Bon appetit
Your server will likely say this as they deliver you your food. You might also hear: Lass es schmecken! (Enjoy your meal!)
74. Nichts für mich, danke — Nothing for me, thank you
Maybe you already ate but still joined your friends out at a restaurant. Use this to politely decline a request for your order.
75. Ich bin satt! — I am full!
This is a good way of turning down a server’s offering of desert.
Möchten Sie noch etwas zum Nachtisch? / Nee, ich bin schon satt! (Would you like something for desert? / Nah, I’m already full!)
76. Entschuldigen Sie bitte, wo ist die Toilette? — Excuse me, where is the bathroom?
This is an essential phrase anywhere you go, when you need to go.
77. Die Rechnung bitte — The check, please
Once you’re ready to pay, you can politely ask for the bill with this phrase. Don’t worry about sounding curt or impolite just because its short; it’s the standard way of asking.
78. Kann ich eine Quitting haben bitte? — Can I have a receipt, please?
Use this phrase if you want a receipt after paying up.
79. Stimmt so — Keep the change
Tipping isn’t as big of a deal in Germany as in the U.S, but you can use this phrase to let your server know to keep the change as a small tip.
Even though you might have already made some friends to hang out with, that is no reason to neglect your sightseeing. Study the phrases below so you don’t get lost in the process.
80. Entschuldigung, wie komme ich zum/zur…? — Excuse me, how do I get to the…
The locals will likely know the area you’re visiting best, so use this phrase to ask for directions.
Only thing to watch out for with this phrase is the gender of the place you’re going to. You use zum for masculine and neuter nouns like der Bahnhof (the train station) or das Rathaus (the town hall) and zur for feminine nouns like die Kirche (the church).
Wie komme ich zum Theater? / Gehen Sie geradeaus dann links. (How do I get to the theater? / Go straight ahead and then to the left.)
81. Ich suche das Museum/den Park/das Hotel — I am looking for the museum/park/hotel
If you know what you’re going to, but not where it’s at, use this phrase to tell someone what your goal is.
82. Ist das in der Nähe? — Is that close by?
Use this to see if something is near you.
Sie sollten den Marktplatz mal besuchen. / Ist das in der Nähe? (You should visit the market place. / Is that nearby?)
83. Ist das weit von hier? — Is that far from here?
If you’re more worried about something being too far, use this phrase.
Den Fernsehturm muss man gesehen haben. / Ist das weit von hier? (You have to see the TV tower. / Is that far from here?)
84. In welcher Richtung ist das? — Which direction is that?
If you need a starting point, use this question.
In welcher Richtung ist das Stadion? / Nach rechts. (Which direction is the stadium in? / To the right.
85. Nach links/rechts — To the left/right
These are words you’ll probably hear if you asked for directions.
Gehen Sie nach links dann nach rechts. (Go to the left then to the right.)
86. Geradeaus — Straight on
Another phrase that’s used for giving directions.
Gehen Sie fünfzig Meter geradeaus dann nehmen Sie die erste Straße links. (Go straight on for fifty meters then take the first street to the left.)
87. Wo ist die nächste U-bahn/Bushaltestelle? — Where is the nearest subway/bus station?
This is an especially useful term in the city.
88. Fährt dieser Bus/Zug nach/zu/in…? — Does this bus/train go to…?
Bus and train lines in the city can be tricky to navigate, but most locals are familiar with which stops are near certain attractions and landmarks.
The type of preposition you use depends on the type of place you’re traveling to. Generally, you use nach when referring to specific stations or geographic locations:
Fährt dieser Zug nach Wittenau? (Does this train go to Wittenau?)
You generally use zum (masculine and neuter nouns) or zur (feminine nouns) for places or sites, such as a bank, museum or the park.
Fährt dieser Bus zur Nationalgalerie? (Does this bus go to the National Gallery?)
And then sometimes you use in for traveling into generic terms for certain parts of a city, like Stadtmitte (city center).
Fährt dieser Bus in die Stadtmitte? (Does this bus go to the city center?)
89. Wie viel kostet eine Fahrkarte nach…? — How much is a ticket to…?
Most German public transportation is pretty affordable and often bought at a ticket machine, ein Automat. But if you do need vocal confirmation on prices before you buy, use this phrase, although maybe not when the driver has their eyes on the road.
Wie viel kostet eine Fahrkarte nach Köln? / Fünfzig Euro und neunzig Cent. (How much does a ticket to Cologne cost? / Fifty euros and ninety cents.)
90. Muss ich umsteigen? — Do I have to change?
Another useful phrase to have if asking the locals for help with the public transportation system.
Muss ich umsteigen? / Ja, Sie müssen an der nächsten Haltestelle in die U8 umsteigen. (Do I need to change? / Yes, you need to change at the next stop to the U8.)
91. Wo finde ich ein Taxi? — Where do I find a taxi?
Maybe you prefer a private vehicle. This phrase can help you find where to catch a taxi.
Wo finde ich hier ein Taxi? / Da um die Ecke. (Where can I find a taxi? / Around the corner there.)
92. Zum Bahnhof/Flughafen bitte — To the train station/airport please
Once you’ve found a taxi, you’ll probably use one of these phrases. Remember, you use zum for masculine and neuter nouns like der Bahnhof (the train station) or das Kino (the movies) and zur for feminine nouns like die Bushaltestelle (the bus station).
93. Bitte halten Sie hier an — Please stop here
Use this to ask your taxi driver to pull over.
94. Haben Sie einen Stadtplan? — Do you have a city map?
It’s usually good to keep a physical map handy in case something happens to your phone.
95. Können Sie mir das auf der Karte zeigen? — Can you show me that on the map?
If you already have a map, it might be easier to ask someone to show you where something is on the map rather than trying to memorize directions.
96. Ich habe mich verlaufen — I’ve gotten lost
Use this phrase if you don’t know where you’re at and need help.
Entschuldigung, ich habe mich verlaufen. Wie komme ich zum Bahnhof? (Sorry, I’ve gotten lost. How do I get to the train station?)
97. Haben Sie noch Zimmer frei? — Do you have rooms available?
Use this to ask a hotel if they have openings. Hopefully, there’s room at the inn.
Haben Sie noch Zimmer frei? / Sie haben Glück. Wir haben noch ein Doppelzimmer für hundert Euro frei.
98. Ich bleibe [eine Nacht/zwei Nächte/drei Nächte] — I am staying [one night/two nights/three nights]
If there are available rooms you need to tell the attendant how long you’re staying. Notice how the vowel changes from a to ä in the plural. (an “ey” to an “eh” sound.)
99. Ich hätte gerne ein Zimmer/ein Doppelzimmer – I’d like to have a room/double room
It’s also important to know how to tell someone how long you need your room to be reserved for.
100. Ist das inklusive Frühstück? — Is breakfast included?
Asking this question might save you some money!
101. Bis wann muss ich auschecken? — When is check-out?
Be sure to ask this so you don’t get charged a late fee for taking too long to leave your room!
Bis wann muss ich auschecken? / Bis zehn Uhr. (When is check-out? / At ten o’clock.)
For more German travel phrases, check out the article here.
Whether you need everyday things during your stay or are looking for something to take home to your loved ones, these sentences will get you what you want.
102. Was möchten Sie? — What do you want?
If someone asks you this, you can tell them what you’re looking for.
103. Suchen Sie etwas Bestimmtes? — Are you looking for something specific?
You might hear this from a worker in a shop.
104. Ich schaue mich nur um — I’m just looking around
If your shopping doesn’t really have a purpose, use this to tell someone you don’t need help finding something specific.
105. Ich suche… — I am looking for…
If you are looking for something specific, tell a worker with this phrase
106. Verkaufen Sie…? — Do you sell…?
If you want to know if a store sells something specific, use this phrase.
Verkaufen Sie Alkohol? (Do you sell alcohol?)
107. Was kostet das? — How much is this?
It’s always good to use this to find out the price of something. Even better, with this phrase, you don’t need to know the name of the thing you’re buying, you can just point.
108. Haben Sie das auch in einer anderen Größe/Farbe? — Do you have this in another size/color?
Sometimes you find something that you love, but it’s just a little bit off. Use this to request a different size or color in something.
109. Das ist zu teuer — That’s too expensive
If you’re not willing to pay the determined price for something, you can say this. In some markets, a shopkeeper may bargain with you a bit until you agree on a different price (but I wouldn’t expect it).
110. Können Sie mir einen Rabatt geben? — Can you give me a discount?
If you think that you deserve a discount on something, you can ask for it with this phrase.
111. Kann ich bar bezahlen? — Can I pay in cash?
Particularly after the pandemic, some places in Europe started to request card payments to reduce cash-handling. Although in Germany the adage, nur bar ist wahr (only cash is true), is still widely the case, it’s still might be worth asking in more modern establishments.
112. Kann ich mit Kreditkarte bezahlen? — Can I pay with a credit card?
Many restaurants and smaller shops in Germany still do not take card payments, preferring the good old notes and coins. So it’s definitely worth being able to ask whether you can pay with card, rather than anxiously brandishing your bit of Visa plastic at your server.
113. Um wieviel Uhr [öffnet/schließt] das Geschäft? — What time does the shop [open/close]?
Knowing business hours is always useful, especially on a tight schedule. And don’t forget about the 24h clock!
Um wie viel Uhr schließt das Café? / Um achtzehn Uhr. (What time does the café close? / At 6pm.)
In Case of Emergency
Finger’s crossed you never have an emergency whilst in a German speaking country (or in your home for that matter), however, it’s always good to be prepared!
114. Hilfe! — Help!
Saying this word will draw attention to you and let others need that a situation is urgent.
115. Feuer! — Fire!
This is probably the quickest way you can summon emergency responders to a fire.
116. Rufen Sie die Polizei/die Feuerwehr/einen Krankenwagen! — Call the police/firefighters/an ambulance!
If you need someone else to make an emergency call, you can tell them this. While we’re here, we’ll note that you can call 112 in all German-speaking countries in Europe to access emergency services.
117. Wo ist das Krankenhaus? – Where is the hospital?
This is a good term to know in case you have a medical emergency.
118. Wo ist die Apotheke? — Where is the pharmacy?
You probably won’t need this term in more urgent situations, but if you need any kind of medication, first-aid or even general wellness needs, this is a useful question.
119. Mir ist schlecht. — I feel ill.
If you are sick and need to tell someone, use this phrase.
120. Wie komme ich zur … Botschaft? — How do I get to the… consulate?
Being aware of consulate/embassy locations is a good safety tip for visiting any foreign country, but here is the verbiage in case you need to ask. You just need to put insert the demonym into the gap above:
Wie komme ich zur amerikanischen Botschaft? / How do I get to the American embassy?
121. Lassen Sie mich in Ruhe! – Leave me alone!
If someone is bothering you, you can shout this out so you can get your message across and let others in the area know that you’re uncomfortable.
122. Es ist ein Notfall — It’s an emergency
To convey a sense of urgency, tell someone this to let them know the circumstances.
Phew, now that we got through that, I think you deserve some fun. These German slang phrases are fun and will definitely give you extra street cred.
123. Moin, moin! – Morning/Hi/Hello/Good day/How are you?
This multi-purpose phrase is extremely friendly and mostly used in Northern Germany.
124. Geil! – Awesome! / Cool! / Sexy!
This is a very ubiquitous and slangy term for all things good. Just tread carefully, as it can refer to sexual arousal too.
125. Dit jefällt ma. – I like it
This is Berlinian dialect for Das gefällt mir.
126. Na? – Hey, what’s up/how are you?
Rarely has one syllable expressed so much. You can even answer with Naaa? to say “I’m good, how about you?”
127. Basta! – Period!
This one is useful when you’re not interested in hearing any backchat or excuses.
Du kommst, basta! (You’re coming, period!)
128. Quatsch! — That’s nonsense
For Germans, quatsch has the same meaning as “baloney!” It literally translates to “trash” in English, and expresses disbelief, like the phrases “that’s nonsense!” or “that’s ridiculous!”
129. Ich habe die Nase voll — I’m fed up
In German, you say: die Nase voll haben. That literally translates to “have your nose full,” and while you might be inclined to think that this means “to have a head cold,” it actually more accurately describes the feeling of being fed up with or “sick” of something.
Ich habe die Nase voll von dieser Bürokratie! (I’m fed up with this bureaucracy!)
130. Das ist nicht mein Bier — Not my problem
Whilst a frothy, cold beverage is usually a pleasant thing, in this phrase it translates to an issue or problem, and one that you don’t fancy taking responsibility for. You can also say das ist dein Bier to point out that the thing in question is someone else’s burden to bear.
Kannst du das bitte tun? / Nein, das ist nicht mein Bier! (Can you please do it? / No, it’s not my problem!)
131. Abwarten und Tee trinken— Just wait and see
While this literally translates to “wait and drink tea,” it means “just wait and see!” So get the water boiling, ’cause you might be in for a wait.
Das Ergebnis kommt Ende nächster Woche! Solange heißt es ‘Abwarten und Tee trinken’! (The result is coming next week. Until then we’ve got to just wait and see.)
132. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof — I don’t understand any of that
Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. “I only understand the train station.” Huh?
The intended meaning of this one is a little confusing because it’s actually supposed to mean, “I don’t understand anything.” This phrase can be used in situations where you’re confused or don’t want to get involved.
Vielleicht könnt ihr mir helfen, ich verstehe nur Bahnhof! (Maybe you guys can help me, I don’t understand any of it!)
133. Es ist mir Wurst — I don’t care
Es ist mir Wurst literally translates to “it’s sausage to me.” While this literal translation doesn’t make much sense, it’s used to give the meaning of “I don’t care.”
Ist mir wurst, was du machst. (I don’t care what you do.)
134. Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof — Life is no picnic
Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof literally translates to “the life isn’t a pony farm.” Its intended meaning equates to the English “life is no picnic,” and it’s used to mean that life is hard but you shouldn’t let it get you down.
Das ist so unfair! / Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof! (That’s so unfair! / Life’s no picnic!)
135. Da haben den Salat — Everything is a mess
Da haben wir den Salat literally translates to “here we’ve got the salad,” and while this would be a somewhat anticlimactic announcement to make at a German barbecue, it actually means something more along the lines of “everything is a mess.”
This is used to describe a situation that’s gotten out of hand or something that’s hopelessly complicated.
Ich habe dir doch gesagt, dass das nicht funktionieren wird! Nun haben wir den Salat! (I told you that that won’t work! Now everything’s a mess!)
136. Leben wie Gott in Frankreich — Live like a king
There was one point in time when the kingdom of France was booming and poor German city-states struggled to feed themselves.
That’s where this phrase comes from. Leben wie Gott in Frankreich literally translates to “live like God in France,” and it’s a reflection of how fancy and rich the royalty in France was in the past while Germans lived in relative poverty.
Ich lebe hier wie Gott in Frankreich. (I live like a King here!)
137. Der Zug ist schon abgefahren — That ship has sailed
This phrase is roughly equivalent to the American expression, “that ship has sailed.” If a situation is irredeemable, or there’s nothing else you can do to change something, you’d use this phrase.
It translates directly to “the/that train has already left.”
Ich wollte doch auch mitkommen! / Sorry, der Zug ist schon abgefahren! (But I wanted to come too! / Sorry, that ship has sailed!)
138. Innerer Schweinehund — Devil on your shoulder
You know the English language concept of an angel sitting on one shoulder telling you the right thing to do, while a little devil sits on your other shoulder, trying to persuade you to wander down his irresponsible road?
The innerer Schweinehund is the German equivalent of this concept. The phrase translates directly to “inner pig-dog.” The innerer Schweinehund is the voice inside your head that steers you wrong.
Überwinde mal deinen inneren Schweinehund und fange endlich damit an! (Stop listening to the devil on your shoulder and get started already!)
139. Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund — The early bird gets the worm
This phrase literally means “morning hours have gold in mouth.” This is basically the German equivalent of “the early bird gets the worm”—if you wake up, get out of bed and start work early, you’ll be a lot more productive.
Mein Motto ist: Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund! (My motto is: The early bird catches the worm!)
140. Hunde, die bellen, beißen nicht — His bark is worse than his bite
This means that people who make a big fuss about things or seem fearsome are often not so scary at all. The phrase in German translates directly to “dogs that bark don’t bite.”
Der alte Lehrer wirkt streng, aber Hunde, die bellen, beißen nicht. (The old teacher seems strict but his bark is worse than his bite.)
Why You Should Learn German Phrases
- Even if you can’t have a fluent conversation, native German speakers always appreciate when foreigners put the effort into learning a bit of their language. It shows respect and demonstrates that you truly want to reach out and connect with people while abroad.
- You won’t be totally reliant on your German phrasebook. Conversation will flow much smoother if you’re able to simply respond rather than having to flip through your book to find the appropriate phrase to use.
- Contrary to popular belief, not all Germans speak English. Knowing basic German can really come in handy if you find yourself in a situation where you need to communicate with someone who only speaks German.
How to Learn Common German Phrases
The best way to learn common German phrases is to get out and interact with German speakers.
However, this isn’t always possible, so here are some other ways to pick up on useful phrases:
- Watch TV shows or listen to music. Television shows and music are often great ways to pick up the idiosyncrasies and slang terms of a language.
- Try using an immersive language learning program. FluentU, for example, takes authentic German videos that natives would actually watch and uses tools such as interactive subtitles, flashcards and quizzes to boost learning efficiency. The program is available on iOS, Android, or through the web.
- Ask your German friends for a list of phrases. Ask your German friends to provide you with a few phrases and idioms that they use on a daily basis, and work on learning those.
- Make sure to integrate phrases into your daily conversations. Use these phrases as often as possible in your everyday speech and you’ll find yourself speaking more fluently.
Now you’re all ready to go have conversations with these common German phrases and idioms!