Asking Questions in German: A Guide to Question Words, Example Sentences and More
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!
- German Question Words
- Yes or No questions in German
- Using German Statement Additions
- Using Prepositions to Ask German Questions
- Addressing the Subject when Asking German Questions
- Why Learn How to Ask (and Answer) Questions in German?
- How to Practice Asking Questions in German
German Question Words
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 — Who
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 — What
Was hast du gestern gemacht?
What did you do yesterday?
Was ist los mit dir?
What is up with you?
Wann — When
Wann hast du Geburtstag?
When is your birthday?
Wann kommen deine Eltern an?
When are your parents arriving?
Wo — Where
Wo hast du deinen Rock gekauft?
Where did you buy your skirt?
Wo ist meine Brille?
Where are my glasses?
Warum — Why
Warum sprichst du Deutsch?
Why do you speak German?
Warum bist du hier?
Why are you here?
Wie — How
Wie kommst du zur Schule?
How do you get to school?
Wie hast du das gemacht?
How did you do that?
Wieso — Why/How come
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 — How much
Wie viel kostet die Halskette?
How much does the necklace cost?
Wie viel Zeit hast du?
How much time do you have?
Wie viele — How many
Wie viele Kinder haben Sie?
How many children do you have?
Wie viele Stühle brauchen wir?
How many chairs do we need?
Woher — From where
Woher kommst du?
Where are you from?
Woher kennt ihr euch?
Where do you guys know each other from?
Wohin — Where to
Wohin gehen wir heute Abend?
Where are we going this evening?
Wohin fahren deine Eltern?
Where are your parents driving to?
Wovon — What about / what by / what from / what of
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?
Welche / Welcher / Welches — Which
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 — For what reason / Why
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 in German
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.
At the same time, you can also use conditional responses such as vielleicht (maybe), wahrscheinlich (probably), eigentlich nicht (not really) or any number of other responses.
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.
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!
Using German Statement Additions
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.
Using Prepositions to Ask German Questions
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.
Woher kommst du?
/ Wo kommst du her?
Where do you come from?
Wohin gehst du?
/ Wo gehst du hin?
Where are you going [to]?
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.
Addressing the Subject when Asking German Questions
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.
Why Learn How to Ask (and Answer) Questions in German?
- When you’re interreacting with others, questions come up often. The majority of the conversations you have on a daily basis include questions, whether direct or indirect. You probably ask your friends and family how they’re doing, how their day went and maybe even what their plans are later.
- It’s important to know how to ask questions to demonstrate manners. Being polite is key to many successful business meetings. This is especially true in German, where the improper use of “you” (du (informal) vs. Sie (formal)) can be insulting.
- Equally important is your ability to receive, confirm and relay the correct information in any given situation. Questioning your speaking partner to make sure you’ve heard them correctly is also key.
- Finally, it’s important on a basic level to know how to manipulate the language in order to demonstrate fluency. This is crucial when traveling. Most people pick a few key phrases they’ll memorize, such as “Where’s the bathroom?” but having the foundation to work from the words you already know could mean the difference between a memorable trip and a disaster.
How to Practice Asking Questions in German
Though we’ve demonstrated quite a few examples for you below, here are a few resources you can take advantage of to further practice your questioning skills.
- PurposeGames: This German question game on PurposeGames, a site with educational games, tests your knowledge of question words and their meanings. After you’ve matched the correct meanings to their corresponding German counterparts, you’ll receive a score sheet detailing your performance. You can play this game as many times as you like.
- Deutsche Welle (German Wave): For a great model for asking questions, try watching this mock interview from Deutsche Welle, a German broadcasting company. It will do a lot to prepare you for the real thing or to simply practice asking and answering questions in German. The most important thing, as with all conversation, is to remember to speak clearly and calmly to get your point across.
- Quizlet: If you’re more of a flashcard type, check out this set on Quizlet. Study question words with the flashcards and then use the tools at the left to quiz yourself in a variety of ways, from typing in the correct English word to choosing the meaning from the provided responses. This game is great for beginners, as it offers suggestions for further study when you get a question wrong. For more advanced speakers, Quizlet also offers a number of conversation starter resources.
- Experteer: For even more practice, you can use these interview questions on Experteer, a recruitment and career site, to practice for any leads you might pick up in Germany. Or, grab a friend or family member and try role-playing with them to see how many you can answer
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!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.