For travelers who want to visit Germany or any other German-speaking country, it would be useful to learn a few German words and phrases before your trip. Experiencing a language barrier while traveling can be a big challenge, but you can make it easier on yourself and boost your confidence by learning some of the local lingoes.
This will also help you connect to the local people and culture. With the help of modern technology, it is easier to learn a foreign language because of apps, websites, and games. Yet, many travelers will still find it difficult to narrow down the German language into only a few words or phrases.
Our article will put you on the fast track to learning basic German, so you can travel with ease. With a broad selection of need-to-know German words and phrases, you can think of this as your go-to mini guide or survival kit for the German language.
Countries that speak German:
- Austria – German is official
- Belgium – Dutch, French and German are three official
- Germany – German is official
- Liechtenstein – German is official
- Switzerland – French, German, Italian and Romansch are official
In any language, pronouns are used to identify and speak about yourself or others. German pronouns are one of the first things you should memorize because they can help you effectively communicate your ideas and questions. Proper noun titles will also demonstrate to the locals that you are respectful of them, their language, and their culture.
You want to feel comfortable using German pronouns, but one challenge to overcome is the use of informal and formal pronouns. Whenever you are unsure of which pronouns to use, formal is the best option. A person can later correct or tell you whether it is okay to speak with them informally.
- I, Me — Ich
- You (Informal) — Du
- You (Formal) — Sie (zee)
- He, Him — Ihr (eehr)
- She, Her — Sie
- They, Them — Sie
Formal vs. Informal
German, like many languages, uses a formal and informal version of “you”. When using “du”, you should be addressing friends or family because this is the informal version of “you”. “Sie” is the formal version of “you”, which is used to address strangers or people in power.
Masculine, Feminine, and Neutral
German is a unique language because it uses three genders for its nouns. German nouns have masculine, feminine, and neutral forms. However, unlike in French or Spanish, travelers will simply have to learn the German gender nouns.
Gender in German is determined by the word’s form and meaning, which makes it hard to identify a word’s gender without an article. However, the article can indicate the gender of the word. “Der” is the masculine article. “Die” is the feminine article and “Das” is gender neutral.
Traveling is full of curiosities and you will often find yourself asking questions. When you’re in an unfamiliar place, it is important to know how to ask a question. These common question words can help you get around as you may need to ask for directions, recommendations, or information.
- Who? — Wer?
- What? — Was?
- When? — Wann?
- Where? — Wo?
- Why? — Warum?
- How? — Wie?
Whenever you travel you will also find yourself interacting with the world. Travelers should know how to properly greet others to not only show their manners but also demonstrate their interest in making human connections.
- Hello — Hallo
- Good morning — Guten Morgen
- Good afternoon — Guten Tag
- Good evening — Guten Abend
- Nice to meet you — Freut mich Sie kennen zu lernen
- Nice to see you — Ich grüße Sie
- Welcome —Herzlich willkommen
- What is your name? (Informal) — Wie heißt du?
- What is your name? (Formal) — Wie heißen Sie?
- My name is… — Ich heisse…
ß — No, That’s Not a B!
While this symbol may look like a weird capital “B”, it is not at all similar to a “B” sound. The ß is unique to the German language and it is sometimes called the “sharp S”. Officially, it is called an Eszett and it is used to make a longer “S” sound. However, when pronounced in German, there tends to be a little tang or hint of a “Z” sound. The ß is not the same as “SS”, or the double “S”, in German and the two are pronounced differently.
At the end of a conversation, farewells are polite and commonplace. You shouldn’t leave a conversation hanging. These phrases can be used to help you say goodbye and end a conversation.
- Goodbye — Auf Wiedersehen
- Goodbye — Tschau
- See you later — Bis später
- See you soon — Bis bald
- See you tomorrow — Bis morgen
- Have a good day — Schönen Tag
- Have a great day – Ich wünsche ihnen einen wunderbaren Tag
- Have a nice day – Einen schonen tag noch
- Take care — Mach’s gut
Small Talk — Feelings
Another common scenario in conversations is for you to ask or be asked about your feelings. Small talk is a great way to practice your German and connect with locals. While feelings are complicated, here are the most common phrases for small talk in German.
- How are you? (Informal) — Wie geht es dir?
- How are you? (Formal) — Wie geht es Ihnen?
- How have you been? — Wie ist es dir ergangen?
- What’s up? — Was geht ab?
- I am fine, how are you? — Mir geht es gut, und Ihnen?
- Good, and you? — Gut, und Ihnen?
Small Talk — More Responses
Whenever your conversation goes beyond a basic “how are you?”, you need to know how to respond with more detail. These responses can help you convey your feelings whether or not they are good or bad.
- I am very well. — Mir geht es sehr gut.
- I am good – Ich bin gut
- I am so-so. — Ich bin so-so.
- I am a little tired. — Ich bin müde.
- I am sick. — Ich bin krank.
Manners can go a long way when traveling because they show your hosts that you are respectful. You can also use common courtesy words to show your appreciation when you are traveling or interacting with people. To help you make new friends and connections, here are the common courtesy words in German.
- Please — Bitte
- Thank you — Danke
- Thank you very much — Danke sehr
- You’re welcome — Danke schön
- I am sorry — Es tut mir leid
- Excuse me — Entschuldigung
- Mister — Herr
- Misses — Frau
- Miss — Fräulein
Frau vs. Fräulein
Similar to France’s “mademoiselle”, the German “Fräulein” is falling out of favor. Often seen as sexist and dated, most German-speaking societies have ditched the use of “Fräulein” and women are no longer required to use the title to state their marital status. Travelers can still be respectful towards locals by addressing them as “Frau”, regardless of their age or marital status.
Locals may also progress a conversation towards questions about who you are, where you’ve come from, and what you like or don’t like. Other phrases on this list can be used to ask about local products, and directions, or to express salutations.
- How old are you? — Wie alt sind Sie?
- Where are you from? (Informal) — Woher kommst du?
- Where are you from? (Formal) — Woher kommst Sie?
- I am from… — Ich komme aus…
- What time is it? — Wie biel Uhr ist es?
- What time is it? — Wie spät ist es?
- How much does this cost? — Wieviel kostet das?
- Who are you? — Wer bist du?
- What is this? — Was ist das?
- Do you understand? — Verstehst Sie
- Do you speak English? — Sprechen Sie englisch?
- Where is the bathroom? — Wo ist die Toilette?
- I need help. — Ich brauche Hilfe.
- Enjoy your meal — Guten Appetit
- Cheers — Prost
- Well done — Gut gemacht
- Don’t worry — Mach dir keine Sorgen
Common and Useful Words
The larger your vocabulary, the easier it will be to navigate the German-speaking world. While you may not be able to say complete phrases, having words and short phrases memorized can help you work towards becoming a fluent speaker.
- Yes — Ja
- No — Nein
- Of course — Natürlich
- Always — Immer
- Sometimes — Manchmal
- Maybe — Vielleicht
- Never — Noch nie
- Left — Links
- Right — Recht
- Stop — Halt
- Hotel — Hotel
- Taxi — Taxi
- Food — Essen
- Water — Wasser
- Check or bill — Zahlen
Travelers will also benefit from learning the basic colors, which can be used to identify objects or places. Locals may also provide directions and give color-based descriptions of buildings or landmarks.
- Red — Rot
- Orange — Orange
- Yellow — Gelb
- Green — Grün
- Blue — Blau
- Purple — Violett
- Pink — Rosa
- Black — Schwarz
- White — Weiß
- Grey — Grau
- Brown — Braun
Days of the Week
Many travelers keep a tight schedule that is jam-packed with plans and reservations. Learning the days of the week in German can help you manage your schedule, stay on track, and eliminate confusion.
- Day — Tag
- Week — Woche
- Monday — Montag
- Tuesday — Dienstag
- Wednesday — Mittwoch
- Thursday — Donnerstag
- Friday — Freitag
- Saturday — Samstag
- Sunday — Sonntag
Finally, here are a few more phrases that you might encounter on your travels. These phrases are a useful addition to your personal dictionary.
- Okay — Die Zustimmung
- Come here — Komm her
- My love — Meine Liebe
- I love you — Ich liebe dich
- What are you doing? — Was machst du?
- Very good — Sehr gut
Practice Makes Perfect
Language barriers shouldn’t stop you from traveling the world. With our mini German language guide and some practice, you can work your way towards fluency. Mistakes are common and no one will nail their first conversation. And, that’s okay!
Practice makes perfect and the more you study, the better you will become. So, throw your hesitation to the curb and be bold enough to ask questions and make statements. In no time, you’ll be able to master the basics and communicate with native German speakers.