Asking questions is the pathway to knowledge of any kind, and the same goes for your journey to learn German.
Knowing how to ask questions in German opens so many doors! All it takes is understanding the basics behind German questions and German question words.
That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this post!
One of the most obvious ways to ask a question in any language is to use a question word. If you’ve ever asked who, what, when, where and/or why, you’re on the right track.
Here are common question words you’ll find in German, along with some example questions.
Wer kommt mit dir zur Hochzeit?
Who is coming with you to the wedding?
Wer ist der Bundeskanzler von Deutschland?
Who is the Chancellor of Germany?
Was hast du gestern gemacht?
What did you do yesterday?
Was ist los mit dir?
What is up with you?
Wann hast du Geburtstag?
When is your birthday?
Wann kommen deine Eltern an?
When are your parents arriving?
Wo hast du deinen Rock gekauft?
Where did you buy your skirt?
Wo ist meine Brille?
Where are my glasses?
Warum sprichst du Deutsch?
Why do you speak German?
Warum bist du hier?
Why are you here?
Wie kommst du zur Schule?
How do you get to school?
Wie hast du das gemacht?
How did you do that?
Wieso hast du mich nicht angerufen?
Why didn’t you call me?
Wieso siehst du so traurig aus?
Why do you look so sad?
Wie viel kostet die Halskette?
How much does the necklace cost?
Wie viel Zeit hast du?
How much time do you have?
Wie viele Kinder haben Sie?
How many children do you have?
Wie viele Stühle brauchen wir?
How many chairs do we need?
Woher kommst du?
Where are you from?
Woher kennt ihr euch?
Where do you guys know each other from?
Wohin gehen wir heute Abend?
Where are we going this evening?
Wohin fahren deine Eltern?
Where are your parents driving to?
Wovon redest du?
What are you talking about?
Wovon handelt der Roman?
What is the novel about?
Wovon sind Sie nicht überzeugt?
What are you still not convinced by?
Wovon lebt er?
What does he make a living from?
Welcher Arzt hat Sie behandelt?
Which doctor treated you?
Welche Mannschaft hat gewonnen?
Which team won?
Welches Kleid gefällt dir am besten?
Which dress do you like the most?
Weshalb kommst du so spät?
Why are you so late?
Weshalb hat er das getan?
Why did he do that?
Like most basic vocabulary terms in German, you should be able to memorize question words and recall them whenever necessary.
But, if you’re still not satisfied, keep reading. We’ve got more questions for you!
Yes or no questions are probably the easiest. As the name implies, these are questions that can be answered with a simple ja oder nein (yes or no). Questions like these always start with a verb.
First, pick the correct tense for the question you want to ask. You can use nearly any tense to ask a question. Then, simply conjugate the verb to the subject in the sentence using the proper tense.
Place the conjugated verb first in the question and the subject second. The rest of the sentence should follow.
Questions beginning with verbs are somewhat limited. However, this does make it easier to formulate an answer to these types of questions.
Here’s an example:
Spielen Sie Tennis?
Do you play tennis?
Ja, ich spiele Tennis mit meinen Freunden.
Yes, I play tennis with my friends.
As you can see, asking and answering the question simply requires flipping the main verb and the subject.
Kaufst du ein neues Auto?
Are you buying a new car?
Vielleicht kaufe ich mir ein neues Auto. Ich bin mir immer noch nicht sicher.
Maybe I’ll buy myself a car. I’m still not sure.
If a question requires more than one verb, the extras go at the very end.
Können Sie mir helfen?
Can you help me?
Ja, ich kann Ihnen gleich helfen.
Yes, I can help you in a moment.
Now we’re working with two verbs: können (can) and helfen (to help). Conjugate the first verb and put it at the beginning, just like we did before.
The second verb goes all the way at the end, and in this example, it’s untouched. No conjugation necessary.
Hast du deine Hausaufgaben gemacht?
Have you done your homework?
Ich mache heute Abend meine Hausaufgaben.
I’ll do my homework in the evening.
Again, for this example, the first verb haben (to have) is conjugated at the beginning. Then we have our subject, du, and our object, deine Hausaufgaben. At the end, we have the second verb we need: gemacht (done).
This time, that second verb is conjugated. That’s because we’re working with a verb tense that requires this. You can read more about German verb tenses and word order here.
Asking questions with a verb is as easy as picking a verb and formulating a question from it. Try your hand at a few!
To see these different German question words and structures in action, you can study how native speakers use them on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Asking about what someone is doing is one thing, but adding meaning to the question can be simple, too.
For instance, think about some of the questions you might ask your friend. If you’re asking something and want a certain response, you’ll likely show that in how you say it.
Du kommst doch morgen zur Party, nicht wahr?
You’re coming to the party tomorrow, right?
Depending upon the situation and inflection in the speaker’s voice, the “right?” inclusion could mean various things. Here, the speaker might be trying to confirm attendance to the party on Saturday night.
Another highly versatile way checking whether something is true or not, is to use oder at the end of your statement:
Du glaubst mir doch, oder?
But you believe me, right?
Using the term richtig (right) can also be a type of statement addition. The terms oder, nicht wahr and richtig are nearly all interchangeable. Each is requesting a confirmation type of response from the recipient.
These types of inclusions could be considered indirect questions. Indirect questions don’t include question marks but use some of the same phrasing you’d see.
Here’s an example:
Wo warst du Montagabend?
Where were you Monday night?
Ich habe dich gefragt, wo du Montagabend warst.
I asked you, where you were Monday night.
The direct question uses the question word first while the same word comes second in the indirect question below it.
Most often, you’ll hear the indirect question after the direct question has been asked, as a polite way to elicit a response once again.
Just like verbs, prepositions can be used to introduce a question. You’ll need to shift any prepositions to the beginning of the question and sometimes this even requires a bit of compounding.
You’ve seen a few examples above already. Remember wohin, wovon and woher?
Wovon redest du?
What are you talking about?
“What-about are you talking?” doesn’t really work in English. We don’t have a compound word like that to begin with. This is where direct translation can get you into trouble.
When using the question word wo (where) with a sense of motion or direction, you’ll need to add an equivalent of “to” or “from” most of the time. This is where woher (where-from) and wohin (where-to) become mandatory.
However, after all the explaining I just did about moving prepositions and compounds to the beginning of the question, this is actually the one area where the German rule is starting to break down and look a bit more like what we do in English.
Most German textbooks will still teach you sentences like Woher kommst du? But then if you actually come to Germany, you’ll hear people say Wo kommst du her? all the time.
Another simple example of prepositions at the beginning of a sentence is this one:
Mit wem arbeitest du?
Who do you work with?
The most direct translation here would be “With whom do you work?” The only problem is that most people don’t really speak that way anymore in English, so it might feel a bit odd to think of it that way.
This is because the wo- words like wovon and womit can only be used when talking about objects or ideas. When talking about people, you need to use the preposition and the article separately.
Finally, one of the best ways to personalize a question is to include the recipient’s name in the question itself.
This is quite easy to do in both speaking and writing. Begin with the question that’s already formed and then insert the person’s name ahead of everything.
Alternatively, you can also insert their name at the very end of the sentence.
Maria, woher kommst du?
Maria, where are you from?
Hast du einen blauen Stift, Abigail?
Do you have a blue pen, Abigail?
Ben, du und deine Frau kommen morgen, richtig?
Ben, you and your wife are coming tomorrow, right?
Gegen wen kämpfst du, Hans?
Who are you fighting against Hans?
In each case, the answer can be formed using either the question word (woher), the verb (hast) or the preposition (gegen), as we discussed above.
Though we’ve demonstrated quite a few examples for you, here are a few resources you can take advantage of to further practice your questioning skills.
Learning is all about asking questions and seeking out knowledge.
Satisfy your curiosity by delving deeper—there’s no telling what new perspectives you’ll find!
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