Do you need to go to Germany to learn German, or are German lessons just as effective? In addition to Germany, this foreign language is also spoken in Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, and even Liechtenstein.
There are plenty of different dialects in German so listening to a range of fluent speakers speaking German during your language learning journey is essential. German pronunciation in Hanover is not the same as spoken German in the Swiss Alps. This is just like the dialect differences between British English and American English. You need to adapt to the different accents before you can even dream of being anything close to a native speaker!
Fortunately, there’s plenty of useful German learning tips that you can use everywhere and every day, and which can be acquired via online language courses or one-to-one German lessons.
When it comes to speaking the language, you should try and make sure your accent and pronunciation are as clear as possible so that every German speaker can understand you fluently!
You needn’t be an expert in German conjugation, spelling, or grammar, you just need to know enough to integrate into the local German culture and get to grips with a few of the basics of your second language.
The German for learning German is “deutsch lernen”! So, now we know a couple of new words, let’s get to work!
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German Basics: Useful Words & Expressions To Know
Before you make a list of useful German phrases and tell yourself that German’s too difficult, there are two or three things you need to know to make your German speaking and writing better:
- German differentiates familiar and formal language.
- There are masculine, feminine, and neutral nouns. This is a bit like Latin languages even though German isn’t one.
- There are 4 cases in German: the nominative, genitive, dative, and the accusative. The nominative is for the subject, the genitive is for a modifying noun, the dative for the indirect object, and the accusative is for the direct object.
- Finally, in German, every noun starts with a capital letter, regardless of where they appear in a sentence.
These things are useful to know if you want to modify any of the expressions in this article; for example, using the informal "du" rather than the formal "Sie" with people you know well, changing a gender or replacing one word with another.
Are you heading off to Germany or Austria for a few days or weeks? Would you like to go skiing for a few days in the Swiss Alps and speak with the locals in their own language? Here are a few tips and expressions that you can use to make yourself understood in everyday German situations.
If you need help with pronunciation, you can find German expressions and how to say them on Loecsen! In fact, there are plenty of websites teaching you how to learn German. And if you aren't sure that you can successfully acquire a second mother tongue, then just look at this great example of how somebody learned to speak German in just over a month.
- Yes: Ja
- No: Nein
- How are you? (informal): Wie geht es dir? / Wie geht’s?
- How are you? (formal): Wie geht es Ihnen?
- Well, thank you! And you?: Danke, gut! Und Ihnen?
- I don’t speak German: Ich spreche kein Deutsch / Ich spreche nicht Deutsch
- Do you speak English?: Sprechen Sie Englisch?
- What time is it?: Wie spät ist es?
There are plenty of ways to say “hi” in German and, just like in English, it depends on the time of day.
Remember to pay attention to whether you’re in a formal or familiar situation.
Learn these expressions off by heart. These are the German expressions you’ll need to practice to participate in any conversation:
- Hello!: Guten Tag!
- Good morning!: Guten Morgen!
- Good evening!: Guten Abend!
- Hi!: Hallo!
- Goodbye!: Auf Wiedersehen! / Tschüss (in familiar situations like “see ya!”)
- See you in a bit!: Bis gleich!
- See you!: Bis bald!
- See you tomorrow!: Bis morgen!
Introducing Yourself in German
Once you’ve started the conversation, you’ll need to introduce yourself to the people you’re talking to.
- My name is...: Ich heiße... (ß is pronounced like a “ss” in English)
- What’s your name?: Wie heißen Sie?
- I’m British: Ich bin Brite
- Where are you from?: Woher kommen Sie?
- I’m from...: Ich komme aus...
- Here’s Mr. / Mrs. ...: Das ist Herr / Frau...
- This is my wife / my husband: Das ist meine Frau / mein Mann
- Welcome: Willkommen
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German Conversation Basics
Now that you know how to start a conversation and introduce yourself in German, you’ll need a few expressions to interact with people. Let’s go up a level!
Ask, Answer, and Give Opinions
Showing that you have an opinion, can answer questions, and being curious and reacting to conversations is a good way to converse with German speakers.
- What’s that?: Was ist das?
- That was really good!: Das war sehr gut!
- That suits me perfectly!: Das passt mir sehr gut!
- I don’t agree: Das finde ich nicht
- In my opinion, ...: Meiner Meinung nach…
- Can I ask you a question?: Kann ich Sie etwas fragen?
Just a bit of vocabulary will help you.
Getting a German-English dictionary is a great idea when you’re first starting out by giving you the vocabulary to give more nuanced opinions. It also makes a great impression to speak a bit of your hosts’ language.
Understand Better and Be Understood Better
When you first land in a German-speaking country, you’re probably going to need to ask people to repeat themselves from time to time.
This will show that you’re interested in what they have to say and that you want to learn the basics to better communicate with them:
- What? / How?: Was? / Wie bitte?
- I don’t understand: Ich verstehe das nicht
- Could you spell that, please?: Können Sie das bitte buchstabieren?
- Could you repeat that, please?: Können Sie das wiederholen bitte?
- Can you repeat that more slowly, please?: Können Sie etwas langsamer wiederholen, bitte?
- Could you speak more loudly, please?: Können sie bitte lauter sprechen?
Germans will be impressed by your enthusiasm for their language and this will help you to socialise more easily!
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German Connecting Words
To make your conversations more fluid and show you know what you’re saying, you can use a few of these connectors!
Here are the basics:
- First: Zuerst
- Then: Dann
- Finally: Endlich
- Also: Ebenfalls / auch
- But: Aber
- With: Mit
- Nevertheless: Trotzdem
- Really: Wirklich
- Partly: Zum Teil
- To: Nach
By incorporating a few of these words into your active vocabulary, you’ll be able to have more fluid conversations.
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Further Basic German Phrases For Visitors
When you arrive in Germany or another German-speaking country, there are a few expressions that you’ll learn immediately.
You should always be polite and courteous in Germany.
You have to master these and be able to function in mundane situations like looking for accommodation or ordering food! These expressions can make all the difference for an amateur German speaker and show the locals that you want to integrate into the culture.
In order to be welcome wherever you go and show that you want to be a part of the local culture, you need to work on your German manners.
- Please / You’re welcome: Bitte / Bitteschön
- Thank you: Danke / Dankeschön
- Thank you very much: Vielen Dank
- You’re welcome: Bitte
- Excuse me: Entschuldigung!
- Thank you for your help: Danke für Ihre Hilfe.
- Good luck: Viel Glück
The locals will appreciate your manners and thank you for making the effort.
It’s also always nice to get a few compliments as it shows that your hard work is paying off. It’s even better when you can pay the compliment back. Germans appreciate these details.
- Congratulations!: Herzlichen Glückwunsch!
- Well done!: Gut gemacht!
- Very good!: Sehr gut!
- That’s good!: Das ist gut!
- It was delicious!: Es war köstlich! / Es war lecker!
When you’re in a German-speaking country, you won’t always have the chance to get out your dictionary or smartphone and look up words in German.
Even if you have a satnav or a map, it’s always useful to be able to ask for more information on where you are or where you’re going. This information could prove vital on your first few days in Germany or if you’re just spending a weekend in Berlin, Frankfurt, or Bonn!
You might even help another tourist who’s lost!
- Where is Mozart Street? Where is Berlin?: Wo ist die Mozartstraße? Wo ist Berlin?
- How do I get to Berlin, please?: Wie komme ich nach Berlin, bitte?
- Right: Rechts
- The first street on the right: Erste Straße rechts
- Left: Links
- The second street on the left: Zweite Straße links
- Straight on: Geradeaus
- Can you show me on the map where we are?: Können Sie mir auf dem Stadtplan zeigen, wo wir sind?
Who’s never ended up lost in a new town? Once you’ve learned a few of these expressions, you’ll be ready for anything. You should always have a map to hand as it’s much easier for people to explain where to go on one!
On the Phone
If you’re going to use a phone at any point, whether to ask for information or to speak to someone, make sure you ask the person on the other end to not speak so quickly in order to avoid misunderstandings which can happen much more often on the phone than in real life.
Here are a few phrases to use:
- Hello: Hallo
- I would like to speak to...: Ich möchte mit ... sprechen, bitte.
- Can you pass a message on to ...: Könnten Sie ihr (for a woman) / ihm (for a man) etwas ausrichten
- I’m sorry, I can’t hear you: Entschuldigen Sie, ich verstehe Sie schlecht
- I would like information about your hotel: Ich hätte gern Informationen zu Ihrem Hotel
Staying in Hotels
Are you looking for the perfect German student town? Have you just landed? Haven’t dropped your bags off yet?
This is the perfect time to find somewhere to stay and a hotel is often the first place you’ll go to when you get to a new town!
If you haven’t reserved a room or you’d like to reserve a room before your arrival, here are a few phrases you can use:
- Have you any rooms available?: Sind noch Zimmer frei?
- How much is the room?: Was kostet das Zimmer ?
- I would like to stay an extra night: Ich möchte eine Nacht mehr bleiben.
- Is breakfast included?: Ist das Frühstuck im Preis inbegriffen?
- Where is the room, please?: Wo ist das Zimmer, bitte?
- Is there Internet access?: Kann ich das Internet benutzen?
- Is there a pool?: Gibt es ein Schwimmbad?
Ordering Food in German
You obviously can’t go to Germany or Austria without eating! Make sure to try the local specialities! The Germans eat a lot of pork (Schwein), Maultaschen (a ravioli-esque dish), sausages (Wurst), and Sauerkraut!
These expressions should stop you getting muddled up.
- Can I have ...?: Kann ich … haben?
- Can I have a beer, please?: Kann Ich ein Bier haben, bitte ?
- I have a reservation for ... : Ich habe eine Buchung auf den Namen…
- Can I get the bill please?: Die Rechnung, bitte!
- No-smoking, please: Nichtraucher, bitte
- Can I have a bit more ... ? Kann ich bitte mehr von … haben?
- Can I have a menu?: Kann ich das Menü sehen?
- A table for 2: Ein Tisch für zwei Personen
It should be noted that Germans almost never drink tap water and when you order water, it may not be what you wanted. They prefer sparkling water. If you ask for water without specifying, you’ll probably get sparkling water.
If you want to ask still water, you should say: “Kann ich bitte Wasser ohne Kohlensäure haben?” If you prefer tap water, ask: "Kann ich bitte Leitungswasser haben?"
Knowing a few German expressions can help you break the ice. Whatever you do, don’t worry about the literal translations of them! Idiomatic expressions in English don’t often make much sense if you’re not familiar with them!
Here’s a list of a few German expressions:
- Faint: Aus den Latschen kippen (fall out of your slippers)
- Make mountains out of molehills: Eine Sache mächtig aufbauschen or Aus einer Mücke einen Elefanten machen (to make an elephant out of a mosquito)
- A freezing cold: Eine Hundekälte / Eine Saukälte (cold of a dog / sow)
- Nothing to write home about: Er hat die Weisheit nicht mit Löffeln gegessen (he didn’t eat knowledge from a spoon)
- Take French leave: Sich auf Französisch verabschieden
- You can’t judge a book by its cover: Es ist nicht alles Gold, was glänzt (literally another well-known expression: All that glitters is not gold)
- At the last moment: Im letzten Augenblick / in letzter Minute
- Not know your arse from your elbow: Einem schweren Irrtum aufsitzen (to make a grave mistake)
- Count your chickens before they’re hatched: Den Tag vor dem Abend loben (praise the day before it’s over) / Vögel, die morgens singen, holt abends die Katze
The last example is perhaps a little a bit more poetic than the English version as it literally means “The birds that sing in the morning are eaten by cats in the evening”.
Why not learn a few German expressions in Germany? Even if you can’t have a fluent conversation, German speakers will be happy to hear foreigners making an effort to learn their language.
This shows respect and that you genuinely want to communicate with the locals. If you can get the basics right, you’re less likely to be ripped off by taxi drivers, souvenir shops, and waiters.
It’s also not true that every German speaks English. Even in big cities, you can find people who know very little English. You don’t want to have to find other English speakers when you have a question.
Enhance your German Speaking Skills with a Private Tutor
You should make sure you know all the basic vocabulary before you head off to a German-speaking country.
The expressions in this article are sort of a Swiss Army knife for most situations. If you want to carry on learning about the German language and the German culture, you can take a few private German tutorials with a tutor.
Your tutor will be able to also evaluate your level in German. They can take your likes, needs, and expectations into account in order to tailor their tutorials and their language course to you before you travel to a German-speaking country. German tutorials should make the student a confident user of German.
Whether you need to move for professional reasons or you want to learn specialised vocabulary, your tutor will know which exercises you should be doing, which apps you should get for your iPad, and which vocabulary you should be learning off by heart!
Your German classes don’t stop once your tutor goes home! You can travel once you’ve mastered the basics! There’s nothing stopping you from learning from immersion!
Having a good level when it comes to speaking and writing German and knowing when to say what will go a long way in German-speaking country, not to mention, impress your friends.
To help with your German lessons read our article German Work Ethic.
- Learning a language is extremely complicated. German is no exception and, despite its similarity to English, can still be a very challenging language to learn.
- This article only includes a few expressions and words for beginners wanting to go to a German-speaking country for work or for study. It won’t make you bilingual but it should give you just enough to head off to Bavaria, Berlin, or Vienna, for example. Thanks to these expressions, you should be able to get by in basic German conversations.
- Before you set off, we recommend also learning a few basic verbs and how they’re used. You can also learn a few words specific to your field or things you’re interested in.
- Taking intensive private tutorials or normal private tutorials in German will help you to work on your spoken German including pronunciation and conversation skills. While not entirely necessary, it is highly recommended.
- Finally, you should, at least for the first few days, take a pocket German-English dictionary everywhere with you!
There’s nothing else we can tell you except Viel Glück!
A quick Recap On the German Phrases you'll need the most
Check out our top phrases below and their UK translations.
|German Phrase||English Translation|
|danke||thank you / thanks|
|Kein problem||no problem|
|Entschuldigung!||Sorry / Excuse me|
|Es tut mir leid.||I'm sorry|
|wie geht's?||how are you?|
|Guten Morgen||Good morning|
|Guten Tag||Good afternoon|
|Guten Abend||Good evening|
Now that you have some phrases under your belt, why not discover more about the German culture?
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