The tricky thing about learning polite phrases in a new language is that it always feels like there are so many that you need to know, and if you don’t have them all memorized it’s hard not to feel rude in conversations. Luckily, when it comes to saying “you’re welcome” in German, there’s actually a pretty simple formula that should make it easy to remember.
This is because “you’re welcome” in German is related both to how you say “please” in German and how you say “thank you” (which we covered in this post: “Thank You” in German and Other Expressions of Gratitude, if you want to brush up).
“You’re welcome” in German: The Basics
“Please” in German is Bitte. “Thank you” is Danke (schön). And finally, “you’re welcome” in German is bitte (schön) again (the schön is optional, but often added as discussed in our list below). So, as you can see there is a bit of a pattern there that goes Bitte➝Danke➝Bitte. Pretty easy to remember, right?
Since Bitte is the most popular pick for saying “you’re welcome”, it’s important to know how to pronounce it. The temptation as an English speaker may be to pronounce it like “Bite”, but in reality, the proper pronunciation is something more like “BIH-teh” or [ˈbɪtə] in IPA.
Bitte is an easy-to-remember and universally accepted “you’re welcome” in German. If you’re only concerned about the basics that’s all you need to commit to memory. It’s the simplest option, and you’ll never be wrong to use it in any situation.
However, if you’re looking to expand your options beyond that, there are some fun, and often more colloquial or extremely formal ways to say “you’re welcome” in German that you can pick up.
Bitte sehr is a higher caliber version of Bitte in terms of politeness, and the “amount” in which the other person is welcome. It’s formal enough that you can use it with your boss, but if spoken with a casual intonation Bitte sehr won’t feel out of place within a day-to-day conversation between friends which makes it useful for its versatility.
Bitte schön is a Bitte variant just like Bitte sehr. The main difference between the two is that schön is “nice” and sehr is more like “very” or “much”.
So where Bitte sehr is “very welcome”, Bitte schön is something like “nicely welcome” (which isn’t really something you would say in English, but it is meant to convey a particularly polite or kind quality to the welcome). It is at the same formality level as Bitte sehr.
Note: Bitte sehr and Bitte schön can have the additional meaning of “Here, for you” when you are given or served something. For example, a cashier might say Bitte sehr when handing you your change, before you’ve even said “thank you” for this reason.
Now this one can come across as a little petty, or overconfident because you are implying you expect thanks in the future. Therefore, it’s best used with people you’re close enough to joke with (or if you want to intentionally flaunt your confidence, go ahead! Who am I to tell you what not to say?).
One other element that sets this phrase apart from most of the rest in this list is that it isn’t a response to a “thank you”. Because you’re saying “you’re welcome in advance”, you use this phrase before you’ve completed the task in question, but you are very confident it will go well.
Though the translation for Gern geschehen is not intuitive for an English speaker, think of it like saying “I’m glad I was there to help”. It’s not really a “You’re welcome” in German, but it is a response to being thanked in the same spirit.
Gern geschehen is also a good choice to revert to in all kinds of situations since it is an earnest and not too casual reply to someone thanking you.
Saying Gerne as “you’re welcome“, is like saying “happy to help”. It’s a fairly casual way to say “you’re welcome” in German that’s appropriate to use with your friends or other people you’re close with, but isn’t good for professional environments.
This is similar to saying “think nothing of it” in English. It’s a way of saying “you’re welcome” in German, whereby you let the other person know that the thing they are thanking you for was no burden on you, and therefore doesn’t require thanks. It’s on the informal side, though it’s not necessarily a slang term.
Similar to the above, Ohne Ursache communicates “Think nothing of it”. Although a more direct translation would be “Without cause”, as in, the thanks being offered are without cause because the recipient completed the request gladly. This phrase would not be considered very formal.
The phrase Mit Vergnügen is a very formal and fancy way of saying “you’re welcome”. This is what your butler says to you when you’ve thanked him for bringing you a tiny crystal bowl of caviar on a silver tray, after which he will retreat into the shadows of your 19th-century mansion.
This phrase also expresses something like the two phrases above! The idea that an action that you are being thanked for was no big deal to you, is a common thread in “you’re welcome” phrases and this applies to German too, so here’s another one that means “there is nothing to thank me for”! Another commonality that these types of phrases share is that they are best used for more casual situations.
Nix zu danken is actually just a slang version of the phrase above. It also translates to There’s nothing to thank, but No worries conveys the colloquial and casual nature of this phrase better.
Kein problem is another informal option to say “you’re welcome” in German. It’s a one-for-one translation of “no problem” and is usable in all the same contexts!
This is a colloquial and informal “you’re welcome” from northern Germany. More directly, Dafür nicht translates to “For that? Nah”. So again, not precisely a “you’re welcome”, but it is something you could say in response to a “thank you”.
Since listening is a valuable language learning tool, here are some video examples of people saying “you’re welcome” in German, using some of the various phrases from the above list, to help you get the pronunciation right and to further illustrate the contexts they are used in.
Here’s a great Get Germanized video on saying “you’re welcome” in German with in-depth explanations, pronunciations, and context for many of the examples we discussed here!
And as a fun bonus for any Disney fans, here’s the German version of You’re Welcome from “Moana”, translated into Voll Gerne from “Vaiana”. The titular phrase Voll gerne is a less common derivative of #5 from our list, Gerne (my pleasure/gladly), and means something like “my utmost pleasure” without the formality that it conveys in English.
Here are a few more resources for common phrases you might need to know in German outside of “you’re welcome”.
For your hellos and your goodbyes check out “Hello” in German: “Hallo!” and Other German Greetings and “Goodbye” in German: A Comprehensive Guide to German Parting Words!
For seasonal and holiday phrases stop by “Merry Christmas” in German – Holiday Traditions and Greetings.
And, of course, you can never go wrong familiarizing yourself with the ever-useful 100+ Common German Phrases and Expressions to Sound Like a Native Speaker!