Whether you are learning German “just because” or because you are planning to visit — or move to — Germany, getting familiar with some of the basics of German language is not only helpful in day-to-day life, but can also enhance your experience in a plethora of ways.
In this blog post I’d like to introduce you to one hundred (yes, one hundred!) German phrases and expressions that will help you navigate during your stay in Germany.
From introducing yourself to new friends or colleagues to navigating public transportation or letting others know that you’re having a hard time understanding — or making yourself understood — this blog post will hopefully cover all of your linguistic travel needs!
So without further ado, let’s jump into one hundred German phrases and expressions that you should learn to sound like a native speaker!
Introducing Yourself and Saying Hello
There are a variety of ways to introduce yourself in German or to simply say “hello” — some of them are more formal and some of them work in pretty much any situation.
These German phrases will serve as excellent “ice breakers”, especially when you are nervous about your first ventures into speaking German with native speakers.
Guten Tag! — Good day!
→ This phrase works for pretty much any time of the day except for evenings. You can use it when entering a store, approaching a stranger to ask for directions or when talking to somebody on the phone.
Guten Morgen! — Good morning!
→ Used both in person and on the phone, this is the common, yet more formal way to greet others in the morning.
Guten Abend! — Good evening!
→ This is the formal way of saying “good evening” in German. Usually you’d start saying “Guten Abend” around six o’clock in the evening, but some people might use it sooner than that.
You might notice that the German equivalent of the English “good afternoon” doesn’t really exist in German. Instead, you use “Guten Morgen” in the morning hours until approximately eleven o’clock, and after that you could opt for “Guten Tag”.
It is kind of a point of contention in Germany when to stop using “Guten Morgen” as well as when to start using “Guten Abend”, so if you want to be on the safe side, you can always opt for:
Hallo! — Hello!
→ This is a more informal way of greeting someone in German, but it can be used around any time of the day.
When it comes to more informal ways of greeting, you can also simply say “Hi!” — a widely used phrase in Germany as well.
When being introduced to a new group of people, there are several things you might be asked, such as:
Wo kommst du her? — Where are you from? (informal)
Woher kommen Sie? — Where are you from? (formal)
In this case, you could answer with either …
Ich bin aus New York. or Ich komme aus New York. (for example) — I am from New York.
If you just simply want to state what country you are from, you could say:
Ich komme aus Amerika/Kanada/Spanien. — I am from the US/Canada/Spain.
You could also opt for saying:
Ich bin Amerikaner/Kanadier/Spanier. — I am American/Canadian/Spanish.
Note that this expression pertains to the guys. If you are female, the correct expression would be:
Ich bin Amerikanerin/Kanadierin/Spanierin.
After your initial introduction, you could simply say:
Freut mich, Sie kennen zu lernen. — Pleasure to meet you!
Or if you are talking to a younger crowd or in a less formal environment simply choose:
Freut mich, dich/euch kennen zu lernen. — Pleasure to meet you (guys)!
Wie lange lebst du schon in Stuttgart? — How long have you been living in Stuttgart?
Leben Sie schon lange hier? — Have you [polite] been living here for a long time?
On that note …
You are probably familiar with the difference between “Sie” and “du” in German — formal ‘you’ vs. the informal, more familial ‘you’.
When in doubt, always opt for the more polite “Sie”, especially if you have never met the person before.
Usually, when people are comfortable using a less formal way of addressing, they will offer the following.
“Sie können du zu mir sagen” or “Du kannst mich duzen”, which literally translates to “You can say you to me”.
While this phrase might sound rather confusing and illogical to you, it makes perfect sense for German natives!
Out and About — Navigating Public Transportation and Getting Around
It’s no secret that Germany has an excellent public transportation system. While it is somewhat of a national tradition to complain about the trains being a) always late, b) never clean, c) too cold, or d) too hot, deep down every German appreciates the convenience of not having to use their car when trying to get somewhere.
Especially if you are not used to riding on public trains and buses, navigating public transportation system can be hard at first.
With these helpful German phrases, you should have no problem getting around though! Next to that, I’ll be providing some other expressions that might come in handy when out and about in Germany.
When Using Public Transportation
There are various types of trains in Germany. In most cities you will find both U-Bahn (“Untergrundbahn”, ‘underground train’) as well as S-Bahn (“Stadtschnellbahn”, basically an inner-city fast train), as well as regional trains commuting between larger cities (so-called ICE Zug or simply ICE, “Intercity Express”) or trains commuting between different cities which aren’t as fast as the ICE trains.
These following German phrases might come in handy when using public trains:
Mit welchem Zug/mit welcher U-Bahn/mit welcher S-Bahn komme ich nach Pankow? — Which train/U-Bahn/S-Bahn do I have to take to get to Pankow?
Von welchem Gleis aus fährt der Zug? — Which platform is the train leaving from?
Hält diese S-Bahn an der Haltestelle Feuersee? — Does this train stop at the stop “Feuersee”?
Wann fährt der Zug ab? — When is the train departing?
Ist dies der Zug/Bus nach Esslingen? — Is this the train/bus going to Esslingen?
Entschuldigen Sie, fährt dieser Zug/Bus nach …? — Excuse me please, is this train/bus going to …?
→ When approaching strangers to ask questions or for directions, the polite form “Sie” (you) should always be used.
Wann fährt der nächste Bus nach Mitte? — When is the next bus to Mitte leaving?
→ FYI: In this case, “Mitte” — center — refers to a district in Berlin. If you are not referring to the district, but simply to any city center, you could say:
Wann fährt der nächste Bus in die Innenstadt? — When is the next bus to the city center leaving?
Was kostet ein Ticket nach Stuttgart? — How much is a ticket to Stuttgart?
→ The German word “Ticket” (same as in English!) can be used for both bus and train tickets. If you want to be more specific, you can use the word “Zugticket” (train ticket) or “Busticket” (bus ticket). Generally speaking though, the word “Ticket” is usually enough for people to understand what you are referring to.
Ich möchte nach Prenzlauer Berg. Wie komme ich am besten dorthin? — I’d like to go to Prenzlauer Berg. How can I get there best?
Wann fährt der letzte Zug/Bus nach Tübingen? — When is the last train/bus to Tübingen leaving?
Ein Ticket/zwei Tickets nach Stuttgart-Vaihingen bitte. — One ticket/two tickets to Stuttgart-Vaihingen, please.
Exploring New Territories
One advantage of German cities and smaller towns is that a lot of landmarks and sights can be explored by foot. To get from A to B, you don’t necessarily need to use a car.
Especially when in an unfamiliar area it is important to know some basics in case you need to ask for directions. I’ve also included basics like asking for the time in the list below, since it’s something that can be very helpful when you don’t have a watch on you or your phone has run out of battery.
Entschuldigen Sie, ich habe eine Frage. — Excuse me please, I have a question.
Wie komme ich zur Stiftskirche? — How do I get to the Stiftskirche?
Gibt es hier in der Nähe eine Touristeninformation? — Is there a tourist information close by?
Kennen Sie einen Mietwagenverleih in der Nähe? — Do you know of any car rental services around here?
Komme ich auf diesem Weg zum Rathausplatz? — Is this the way to the Rathausplatz (city hall square)?
Könnten Sie mir das bitte auf der Karte zeigen? — Would you mind showing me this on the map, please?
Gibt es hier in der Gegend interessante Sehenswürdigkeiten? — Are there any interesting sights here in the area?
Wo ist der Bahnhof? — Where is the train station?
Gibt es hier in der Nähe eine öffentliche Toilette? — Is there a public restroom close by?
Geht es hier lang zum Museum? — Is it this way to get to the museum?
Geht es da lang? — Is it in this direction?
→ This is a way to ask for confirmation after you’ve already asked for directions, such as to make sure you’re actually going in the right direction.
Ich habe mich verlaufen. — I am lost.
→ Note: When using “Ich habe mich verlaufen” it refers to being lost when walking on foot. It could literally be translated by “I mis-walked”. If you are driving by car and you are lost, you could say:
Ich habe mich verfahren. — I am lost (driving a car).
→ This could more or less translate to “I mis-drove”, and is commonly used when you’ve gotten lost while driving.
Wie viel Uhr ist es? — What time is it?
When Out Shopping …
Whether you’re taking a stroll across the Christmas market in Germany looking for some souvenirs to send home to loved ones, indulging in some retail therapy, or simply want to get some grocery shopping done, knowing how to ask for certain things can certainly prove to be helpful!
These German phrases should come in handy when hunting for the perfect gift to give to a friend (or to yourself) or when shopping at the supermarket.
Kann ich hier auch mit Kreditkarte bezahlen? — Do you accept credit cards as well?
Ich bin auf der Suche nach einer Mütze. — I am looking for a (winter) hat.
Haben Sie das auch in einer kleineren/größeren Größe? — Do you still have this in a smaller/larger size?
Haben Sie das auch in einer anderen Farbe? — Do you have this in a different color?
Ich schaue mich nur um, danke. — I am just looking, thank you.
→ This phrase comes in handy when the salesperson is a little too enthusiastic.
Das steht mir leider nicht. — Unfortunately, this doesn’t look good on me.
Könnten Sie das bitte für mich zurücklegen? — Could you please put this on hold for me?
Danke, ich suche erst einmal noch weiter. — Thanks, but for now I’ll keep looking.
Wie viel kostet ein halbes Kilo Kartoffeln? — How much is half a kilogram of potatoes?
Ich hätte gerne vier Laugenbrötchen. — I’d like four pretzel rolls, please.
Nein, das ist alles, danke. — No, thanks, that’s all for today.
→ Usually this is the answer to the question “Darf es noch etwas sein?” (Is there anything else you need?)
Einen Moment bitte. — Just a moment please.
Nein, danke. — No, thank you.
Ja, bitte! — Yes, please!
Danke, aber ich würde mich gerne noch ein bisschen umsehen. — Thank you, but I’d like to look around a bit more.
→ This phrase can be used when you actually want to shop around for something some more before making a final decision, but it also can be used when a salesperson is being a little too pushy, essentially giving a subtle hint you’re not intending to buy anything there (without bluntly stating that). Most sellers will get the hint when you state that you’d “like to look around some more”.
When Going Out To Eat
Germany offers a variety of different restaurants and street food — from fine dining to your local Döner Kebap shop (which I highly recommend you give a try!), there are plenty of delicious treats to discover.
In this section, you’ll find useful German phrases for making a reservation at a restaurant as well as very specific German expressions that you can use when ordering food.
At a Restaurant
Haben Sie bereits geöffnet? — Are you open yet?
→ Some restaurants in Germany open their doors well after twelve o’clock noon (depending on if they serve dinner rather than lunch), so sometimes it is good to ask whether the establishment is open yet.
Ich würde gerne einen Tisch für zwei Personen für heute um sechs Uhr reservieren. — I’d like to reserve a table for two at six o’clock today.
→ This would usually be said when making a phone call, but can also be used in person.
Ich hätte gerne einen Tisch für eine Person, bitte. — I’d like a table for one, please.
Ich/wir hätten gerne einen Tisch für zwei/drei/vier Personen bitte. — I’d like/we’d like a table for two/three/four, please.
Wie lange ist die Wartezeit für einen Tisch? — How long would we have to wait for a table?
Haben Sie eine Speisekarte auf Englisch? — Do you have a menu in English?
Haben Sie auch eine Kinderkarte? — Do you have a children’s menu as well?
Was können Sie empfehlen? — What can you recommend?
→ If you want to be a bit more specific, you can also say:
Welches Gericht können Sie empfehlen? — Which dish can you recommend?
Welchen Wein würden Sie dazu empfehlen? — Which wine would you recommend with this dish?
Haben Sie auch Spezialitäten aus der Region? — Do you offer regional specialties as well?
Ein kleines Bier, bitte. — A small beer, please.
Ein großes Bier, bitte. — A large beer, please.
Haben Sie eine Dessertkarte? — Do you have a dessert menu?
Ich hätte gerne die Rechnung. — I’d like the check, please.
→ Alternatively, you can say:
Ich/wir würde/würden gerne bezahlen. — I/we would like to pay, please.
Please note: While in the US the check is always brought to your table, in Germany you have to request the check when eating at a restaurant. Otherwise, the staff will just assume that you’d like to stay a little bit longer, and won’t bother you at all.
If you need the waiter’s or the waitress’ attention, usually signing with your hand or your finger (by simply lifting it up in the air) is enough to get somebody’s attention.
German Street food
Germany offers a variety of delicious treats that can be purchased at either permanent booths in towns and cities or at smaller shops, which usually aren’t as full as restaurants, but offer food to go and takeout/deliveries to your home.
There are a couple of phrases or expressions that aren’t necessarily “proper” high German but often coined in dialects, yet they still come in extremely handy when ordering food on the go.
Ich hätte gerne eine Pommes rot-weiß. — I’d like one portion of fries red and white, please.
→ “Pommes” (short for pommes frites, which is French for “french fries”) is the casual term for fries in Germany. Rot-weiß (‘red-white’) stands for a way of topping the fries with both a heaping amount of ketchup and mayonnaise. It’s a delicious snack oftentimes served at (outdoor) pools and parks, although it’s definitely not for those watching their calorie intake.
Einen Döner “mit scharf”, bitte. — One Döner Kebap “with spicy”, please.
→ Before I even go into the details: be aware that in terms of grammar and vocabulary, this sentence is not correct whatsoever.
Yet if using it at one of the Döner shops in Germany, everyone will understand what you mean: you do want the spicy red chili flakes on top that make this already pretty delicious treat even better.
Ein Döner mit allem, bitte. — One Döner with everything, please.
→ A pretty common modification of this phrase is to simply say “mit alles” (with everything) — this is also very much grammatically wrong, but the expression is sort of a cult classic in Germany, hence many people keep using it.
Zum mitnehmen, bitte. — To go, please.
Zum hier essen, bitte. — For here, please.
Bieten Sie auch Gerichte zum Mitnehmen an? — Do you offer takeaway meals as well?
Dealing with Emergencies
I really do hope that you will not run into any unpleasant situations in Germany — whether this might be getting sick and having to go to the doctor or the hospital, having to call the police or requesting an ambulance.
In this case, however, I think the rule “better safe than sorry” applies all too well.
The following German phrases are vital for any trip abroad — no matter if it’s a short vacation or a long-term stay.
Below you can find the most important German expressions that you might need when dealing with an emergency.
Können Sie mir bitte helfen? — Can you help me, please?
Haben Sie ein Handy? Ich brauche einen Krankenwagen. — Do you have a cell phone? I need an ambulance.
Rufen Sie bitte einen Krankenwagen. — Please call an ambulance.
Ich hatte einen Fahrradunfall/Autounfall. — I had a bicycle/car accident.
Ich brauche/wir brauchen einen Arzt. — I need/we need a doctor. (Or: I/we need to see a doctor.)
Ich bin verletzt. — I am hurt/injured.
Gibt es hier in der Nähe ein Krankenhaus? — Is there a hospital close by?
Bitte fahren Sie mich zum nächsten Krankenhaus. — Please drive me to the nearest hospital.
→ This phrase would be commonly used when speaking to a taxi drive or sitting in a cab.
Kennen Sie einen guten Hausarzt? — Do you know any good family physicians?
Gibt es hier in der Nähe einen Kinderarzt? — Is there a pediatrician’s office close by?
Es geht mir nicht gut. — I don’t feel well.
Ich habe eine Grippe. — I have the flu.
Ich habe starke Kopfschmerzen/eine starke Migräne. — I have a very bad headache/a bad migraine.
Ich glaube, ich habe mir etwas gebrochen. — I think I have broken something.
Es tut mir hier weh. — It hurts here.
→ This is commonly used when pointing at the respective body part.
Ich bin auf der Suche nach einer Apotheke. — I am looking for a pharmacy.
Haben Sie auch etwas, das ich ohne Rezept bekomme? — Do you have anything that I won’t need a prescription for?
Er/Sie braucht Medikamente. — He/she needs medication.
Bitte rufen Sie die Polizei. — Please call the police.
Gibt es hier in der Nähe eine Polizeistation? — Is there a police department in the vicinity?
Ich bin bestohlen worden. — I was mugged.
In meinem Hotelzimmer wurde eingebrochen. — My hotel room was broken into.
Mein Auto wurde aufgebrochen. — My car was broken into.
Ich bin unschuldig! — I am innocent!
( → In all seriousness though: I hope you will not need this one.)
As I’ve already mentioned, I really do hope you won’t have to make use of any of the German phrases in the last section of this post.
Other than that, I hope these examples will come in handy when traveling through Germany and communicating with native speakers of German!
Viel Erfolg and until next time!
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