The Opinionated German Learner’s Guide to Worthwhile Conversation
Opinions: Germans love to share them.
And yes, sometimes they’ll share them at the expense of your feelings!
But just how far can you get when you want to express an opinion in German? If you’re asked for a comment on how you find das Wetter (the weather), my guess is you can probably give a passable answer. But what if the subject shifts to a mutual friend’s questionable choice in boyfriends? A workmate’s plans to introduce Hawaiian shirt Fridays in the office? Or, heaven forbid, politics?
Maybe you don’t want to talk about any of these things. But it’s undeniable that getting the hang of asking for someone’s Meinung (opinion) and expressing your own is a major breakthrough in your German-learning progress.
Sure, there’s vocabulary to learn, basic greetings and telling the time—essential tools—but there will come a time when you might just want to go a little deeper than es ist mir kalt (I’m cold).
One of the frustrations that most of us experience when starting out learning German is the inability to express yourself—and by extension to really be yourself with others. This is a reality for all language learners, but can be a hard one to come to terms with.
Think about it! Your authentic self, and how you present it to the outside world, is intrinsically linked to—and conversely limited by—what you have to say and your ability to communicate it. With limited German skills, some of your best qualities are often at least partly muffled: You might not be as funny, compassionate, quick-witted, diplomatic or persuasive as you know you can truly be.
Training yourself with some phrases and vocabulary to request and express opinions is the key to getting past this roadblock.
And there’s good news here: You’re spoiled for choice. There’s an incredible number of ways to give an opinion in German! Here’s a 6-part overview of some common ones, taking you from your first baby steps (learning how to ask for someone else’s opinion) to having a proper argument.
To keep it simple, let’s assume you’re talking to a friend—maybe the German tandem partner you’re getting to know—and using the du (you, informal singular) form.
Practice these and take a step closer to really speaking German like your true self!
- 1. Asking for Someone’s Opinion
- 2. Expressing a View
- 3. Agreeing
- 4. Sitting on the Fence
- 5. Disagreeing
- 6. Moving On
Express Yourself: The Essential 6-part Guide to Opinions in German Conversation
1. Asking for Someone’s Opinion
There are many ways to ask for someone’s opinion. The best thing about these questions is that they take you out of the hot seat. So ask away—then sit back, relax (surreptitiously consult handy list and line up your next question) and repeat!
Was ist deiner Meinung nach…?
What’s your opinion about…?
Wie findest du…?
How do you find…?
Was ist deine Ansicht über…?
What is your view of…?
Bist du der Meinung, dass…?
Are you of the opinion that…?
Was denkst du über…?
What do you think about…?
When a theme is already established, try adapting this one as follows:
Was denkst du darüber?
What do you think about it?
Note: You’ll come across this structure time and again in German, and it takes some practice. English speakers tend to want to say was denkst du über es. Resist the urge! The general German stand-in for “it”, where “it” is linked to a preposition, is da.
In this case, and many others, the da travels to the front of über, and attaches itself there, but with an r in between to make it pronounceable. It works with all manner of prepositions: mit, von, zu, auf, aus…though only those beginning with vowels need the r. That’s a discussion for another time, but if you’re keen to learn more about da, there’s a nice guide to it here.
2. Expressing a View
Okay, so you might not always get away with just asking for people’s opinions and nodding along to their replies. Sometimes you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of the questions above. Get started speaking your mind with these possibilities:
Ich meine/Ich finde…
Meiner Meinung nach…
In my opinion…
Ich bin überzeugt, dass
I’m convinced, that…
Ich bin dafür.
I’m in favor of it.
Ich bin dagegen.
I’m against it.
(There’s our stand-in friend da popping up again!)
Aha, now for the elusive German art of Zustimmung (agreement). The following are expressions that you probably WON’T hear so often in meetings or group discussions with Germans! But they happen to be very useful for getting someone on side without being expected to say much more—and, of course, for those times when you do just genuinely want to agree with someone. Hey, no one’s judging!
Ich stimme dir zu.
I agree with you.
Du hast (vollig) recht.
You’re (completely) right.
Ich bin einverstanden.
Ich bin der gleichen Meinung.
I agree (Literally: I am of the same opinion)
4. Sitting on the Fence
You might not have a strong view one way or the other. Your friend’s unfortunate taste in men might be of no concern to you. Or you might have mixed feelings about it.
Plenty of situations just aren’t black and white! How to express your Gleichgultigkeit (indifference), Unschlüssigkeit (indecision) or the nuances of a divided opinion? Here are a few ways:
Ich bin da geteilter Meinung.
My opinion’s divided.
Es kommt darauf an. / Es hängt davon ab.
Das ist mir egal.
It doesn’t matter to me.
Ich habe dazu nicht viel zu sagen.
I don’t have much to say about that.
Ich habe nichts dagegen.
I’ve got nothing against it.
Ah, Widerspruch (objection). Life’s no box of chocolates. There are bound to be times when you don’t agree with someone—and you need to say so. This is where things get interesting! It’s one thing to give your opinion, agree with someone or sit on the fence, but it’s quite another to express disagreement, and then defend your argument. Gulp!
You might want to start slowly…
Das kann sein, aber…
That might be so, but…
Ich widerspreche, weil…
I disagree, because…
Ich bezweifle, dass…
I doubt that…
..and work your way up.
Das ist einfach nicht so.
That’s simply not so.
Das ist nicht wahr.
That’s not true.
Auf (gar) keinen Fall.
When things get heated, the last thing you want is to be lost for words!
Du hast keine Ahnung!
You’ve got no idea!
Das ist total falsch!
That’s completely wrong!
Das ist Quatsch!
6. Moving On
Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. If you’re already persuading people with your flawless arguments in German left, right and centre, then Hut ab! (hat’s off to you!) It might instead be the case that you need to find a way out of a disagreement where there’s no real Einigung (agreement), but neither party’s prepared to back down. If you’ve reached a Sackgasse (stalemate) with a difference of opinion, here are some phrases to wrap it up diplomatically—without necessarily giving in!
Ich habe meine Meinung nicht geändert.
I haven’t changed my opinion
Ich bin (nicht) überzeugt.
I’m (not) convinced.
Lassen wir uns das Thema wechseln.
Let’s change the subject.
Kommen wir weiter.
Let’s move on.
Belassen wir es dabei!
Let’s leave it at that!
Obviously learning to talk about opinions isn’t just a case of memorizing the right phrases. The examples here will help get you started, but applying these in conversation naturally and spontaneously—that’s the real secret to expressing yourself, and it’s something you’ll need to work at.
The next time your colleague presents you with his wacky Friday dress-up plans, just try expressing yourself!
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