Do you ever get that lonely feeling?
You know, that nagging little feeling that you could use some company on your journey through life?
Well, imagine how the words in your German vocab lists must feel.
Not knowing where they fit in.
As crucial as it is to learn individual words and understand their isolated meanings, German words are kind of like people: They’re social creatures. They find their fulfillment—a greater sense of meaning—when they join forces with other words to form German phrases.
To really power up your German vocabulary, develop a deeper understanding of Germanophone culture and master more nuanced German expression, immerse yourself in the fascinating world of German phrases.
How to Learn Common German Phrases
There are many ways to learn German phrases and incorporate them into your life. Vary your study routine to keep your interest high and your learning on track.
Begin with the Basics
If you’re new to studying German, start with useful German phrases for beginners. These handy phrases will help you with all the fundamentals—essentials such as greetings and introductions, asking for clarifications, ordering food and even shopping.
As you’re transitioning from beginner to intermediate German speaker, you can incorporate dozens of basic German phrases to help you converse more smoothly with native speakers.
Make German Phrases Come Alive
A textbook or a classroom experience might give you a solid foundation in the grammar and basic vocabulary of the language—but to learn German phrases as they’re actually used by native speakers, you’ll need authentic German multimedia that’s been optimized for learning.
That’s why you need a resource like FluentU.
With videos made for German speakers, by German speakers, you’ll hear native pronunciations of phrases from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and beyond.
And, with FluentU’s interactive captions, you can unlock the meaning behind all the German phrases in each video. No matter what your learning level, you’ll be able to grasp genuine German phrases as they’re really used and pronounced.
Every video you watch with FluentU becomes a tailor-made learning experience. Fun quizzes test your understanding and recall of the phrases from each video. FluentU adapts to you, tracking your progress and giving you extra practice with trickier German words and phrases.
Multimedia flashcard decks are automatically built for you by FluentU. And you can quickly add words and phrases to custom decks to support specific learning goals.
With FluentU’s study reminders, it’s easy to be consistent with your learning. You’ll keep what you’ve learned fresh in your mind as you move forward toward fluency.
Use FluentU where and when it’s most convenient for you, whether it’s on your laptop with your morning coffee or on your smartphone on the subway. FluentU keeps your progress synched, no matter how you access it.
Leg los (Get started) with a free trial of FluentU today.
Get your Schnitzel sizzling and learn about German sentence structure, all at the same time. With simple German sentences like those found in recipes, you can practice German phrases by following practical instructions auf Deutsch (in German).
Maybe cooking isn’t your cup of tea. Try some other activity instead, like learning to play a new card game, while following German-language instructions.
Flip Through German Phrasebooks
If you’re hunting for some new phrases to add to your vocabulary, why not peruse a German phrasebook during idle moments? The phrases are usually categorized by topic and paired with their definitions, conveniently organized for easy study.
As you recite some German phrases aloud, imagine yourself using them to find food, shelter or entertainment in Salzburg, Bonn or Koblenz.
Subscribe to a German Magazine
Periodicals, blogs and literature can all be sources for German phrases. Current issues of modern magazines will use more contemporary phrases; you can learn timeless German phrases from classic works of literature, such as Märchen (fairy tales) from die Brüder Grimm (the Brothers Grimm).
Talk It Out
Once you have enriched your vocabulary with some useful German phrases, give yourself the chance to use them in conversation. If possible, find a patient conversation partner whose German is somewhat more fluent than your own.
If you don’t live nearby to another German speaker, you can try a site like Tandem or HelloTalk to set up virtual conversations via text, email or video chat.
Intermediate and advanced learners might consider taking the ultimate plunge into full-time German immersion with a study experience in a German-speaking country.
Whether you go as an Austauschstudent (exchange student) or Arbeiter (worker), you’ll need to learn important German phrases for getting around and socializing—the kinds of essential, everyday phrases you probably won’t learn in a traditional German course.
Which German Phrases Should I Learn?
With hundreds upon hundreds of possible German phrases—and variations—you could learn, deciding where to begin could feel a little overwhelming.
Machen Sie sich keine Sorgen (don’t worry)! We’re going to help you plan out your German phrase-learning by category, laying the foundation with the groups of phrases you will use the most.
For beginners, we’ll start out with basic phrases that are useful for everyone. Intermediate and advanced learners can dive more deeply into figurative language and idioms.
Everyday German Phrases
As you begin to practice German with others, you’ll need some easy German sentences that will give you the tools to confidently talk about yourself in German. You can learn some phrases for talking about family in German, as well as simple phrases like Ich komme aus… (I come from…) and Meine Hobbys sind… (My hobbies are…).
Indeed, talking about your hobbies in German is a sure-fire way to break the ice with a new, German-speaking friend.
Polite German Phrases
Polite German phrases are some of the most straightforward, common and useful—especially when you’re interacting with people you don’t know very well. As you navigate through your travels and daily life, rely on these trusty phrases to pave the way.
If you’re trying to get directions from a stranger, you might ask, Können Sie bitte etwas langsamer sprechen? (Can you speak a bit slower, please?)
Or, you might ask an acquaintance, Kannst du mir bitte bei meinen Deutsch Hausaufgaben helfen? (Can you please help me with my German homework?) If you’re attending a German-language school, you might learn a few additional phrases for talking about school in German with a Schulfreund (school friend).
In addition to basic niceties and requests, you might break the ice or nurture a blossoming relationship with German compliments. To celebrate achievements, accomplishments and good fortune, you could offer your friends congratulations in German.
German Food and Restaurant Phrases
Keep Hunger und Durst (hunger and thirst) at bay with German restaurant phrases and German expressions related to food.
If you visit a Kaffeehaus (café), you’ll obviously want to know how to order coffee in German. (Surprisingly, knowing how to order a beer in German could also come in handy there.)
And, whether you stop for sandwiches at a Bäckerei (bakery) or a three-course meal at a fancy Restaurant (restaurant), you’ll need to know how to order food in German.
Phrases for Telling Time in German
Catch the next bus, set a dinner-date and make plans to see a blockbuster film: No matter what you want to do in a German-speaking country, you’ll need the right German time phrases and expressions to get your schedule in order.
German Holiday Sayings
Enjoy appropriate German sayings all year round with festive phrases to celebrate the major holidays.
To quote a lively song about the German calendar, “die Jahresuhr steht niemals still” (The year’s clock never stands still). Indeed, as the months of the year go by, you’ll have opportunities to practice everything from Oktoberfest sayings to traditional German Christmas sayings.
Start a new yearly tradition by sprinkling your holiday cards with German Christmas phrases, such as, “An Weihnachten werden Wünsche wahr! Darum wünsche ich dir Glück, Gesundheit, Zufriedenheit und ein erfolgreiches neues Jahr.” (On Christmas, wishes come true! I wish you happiness, health, satisfaction and a successful New Year.)
Bring a little extra love to Valentinstag (Valentine’s Day) with German Valentine’s Day phrases.
All year ‘round, you can wish your friends and family “Happy Birthday” in German, when each of their special days come. After all, what could be a more heartfelt gift than “Alles Liebe zum Geburtstag” (Much love on your birthday)?
Conversational German Phrases
From German small talk to making a phone call in German, learning conversational phrases can serve you in good stead in many common social situations.
Whether you’re visiting with someone or hosting a small get-together, German welcome phrases will help with everything from greeting guests to toasting their health.
And, when you hear Lass die Sau raus, you’ll know that it means “Let your hair down.” (Thanks to your mastery of German party phrases, you won’t take it literally and try to “Let your pig come out.”)
German Slang Expressions
German colloquialisms help you learn the culture, relate to the locals and sound more like a native speaker.
When you learn spoken German, you’ll need phrases to express your like and dislike and to describe people. You can even learn phrases for talking to your friends when you go out on the town!
Hast du Bock (are you in the mood) to keep it real with everyday, casual speech? Take time to learn some German slang phrases that you can use wenn du mit deinen Freunden chillst (when you’re chilling out with your friends).
Of course, slang varies greatly from place to place. Austrian German phrases, for example, might express the same concepts differently than the phrases used in Germany. If you’re planning a trip to Wien (Vienna), Salzburg or Innsbruck, be sure to pack some leiwand (awesome) Austrian slang in your Koffer (suitcase).
Romantic German Phrases
Use romantic German phrases, words and sayings to look for love.
Wenn Sie von Amors Pfeil getroffen werden wollen (If you want to be hit by Cupid’s arrow), equip yourself with the right phrases to flirt in German.
Going to the Disco (nightclub)? Why not try out a few German pick-up lines?
If all goes well, you’ll soon be using German terms of endearment… and maybe even saying “I love you” in German to that special someone!
Frank and funny German idioms help intermediate and advanced learners add more style, color and character to their German conversation.
Common German idioms and everyday German phrases give you the tools you need den Nagel auf den Kopf zu treffen (to hit the nail on the head), conversationally speaking.
The language is certainly colorful. (And I don’t just mean metaphors involving German colors!)
Common German phrases include funny German sayings like Er spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst (He’s in a huff), literally meaning “he’s playing the offended sausage.”
If you’re up for a real challenge, try incorporating some advanced German phrases into your speech. Auch wenn Sie ins Fettnäpfchen treten (Even if you put your foot in your mouth—or, literally, in the “fat bowl”), no big deal. Sometimes, that’s how we learn best.
Often rooted in history and culture, German wisdom quotes are a profound way to dive into topics like family and love, life and death.
Advanced learners bring their language level even closer to fully fluent when they learn German proverbs. These old chestnuts are also an intriguing way to understand more about the cultural history of German speakers.
Keep on learning new German words and phrases all the time, so you can challenge your skills and keep up with the language as it evolves. After all: Wer rastet, der rostet (He who rests grows rusty).
Thanks for joining me on this journey through a world of German phrases. Lass uns das bald wieder machen! (Let’s do this again soon!)
Michelle Baumgartner is a language nerd who has formally studied seven languages and informally dabbled in several others. In addition to geeking out over slender vowels, interrogative particles, and phonemes, Michelle is a FluentU staff writer and education blogger specializing in language learning topics. Find out more at StellaWriting.com.
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