Essential German Phrases

Basic German For Travelers

The Flag of Germany
Birge Amondson

Most Germans speak English, especially younger people in the bigger cities, so you probably won't have any difficulties getting around this diverse country.

Still, a little German can go a long way. The language has a rich history and is the third most widely taught foreign language in the US. It might surprise you to hear that it is the second most widely spoken Germanic language (after English) and one of the major languages of the world. In short, it is a useful language to know.

Try it when dining out or traveling by train, or especially at Oktoberfest. Or start your first lesson of Deutsch here, and learn common German greetings and basic vocabulary that will be helpful for you in many situations.

(You'll find the pronunciation in parentheses. Just read it out loud, the capitalized part of the word should be emphasized.)

Dialects in Germany

For a mid-size country, Germany has a very diverse set of dialects. Linguists say there are as many as 250 distinct German dialects.

These get even more difficult for outsiders to understand in different countries that share a language, like Austria and German-speaking Switzerland. Vocabulary, accent and phrases vary wildly and some native speakers can't even understand their fellow German speakers.

Theoretically, everyone learns Hochdeutsch (high German) and should be able to communicate. 

Note that the pronunciation of "Ich" or "I" depends on dialect. In general, the sound is harder like "Ikh" in the south, while it is softer like "Ish" in the north, particularly in Berlin. However, there are many exceptions. We have used the softer "Ish" pronunciation in this guide.

Basic German Words Every Traveler Should Know

Yes – Ja (yah)

No – Nein (nine)

Thank you – Danke ( DAHN-kuh - not like the very popular Wayne Newton song)

Please and You're welcome - Bitte (BITT-uh)

Excuse me - Entschuldigen Sie (ent-SHOOL-degen see)

I'm sorry - Es tut mir leid (ehs toot meer lite)

Where? - Wo? (Vo?)

Where's the restroom? - Wo ist die Toilette? (vo ist dee toy-LET-uh)

Left / Right - Links / Rechts (linx / rechts)

Do you have.... - Haben Sie... Rechts (Haaben ze...)

Entrance and Exit - Eingang and Ausgang (Eyen-Gong and Ow-S-Gang)

Men and Women - Herren/Männer and Damen/Frauen (Hair-en/Menner and Dom-en/FR-ow-en)

German Greetings

Hello/Good day - Guten Tag (GOOT-en tahk)

Good morning - Guten Morgen (GOO-ten MOR-gen)

Good evening – Guten Abend (GOO-ten AH-bent)

Good night - Gute Nacht (GOO-tuh nahdt)

Good bye – Auf Wiedersehen (Ouf VEE-der-zane)

See you later - Bis später (Biss Sch-PAY-ter)

Informal Good-Bye - Tschüß (t-ch-uice)

German Small Talk

My name is - Mein Name ist.... (Mine NAH-muh ist...)

What's your name? (formal) - Wie heißen Sie? (vee hie-ssen zee)

Nice to meet you – Es freut mich. (As froit mish)

How are you? (formal) - Wie geht es Ihnen? (vee gayt es ee-nen)

How are you? (informal) - Wie geht`s? (wee gates)

(Very) Good - (Sehr) Gut  (zair goot) / Bad - Schlecht (shlekht)

I’m doing well. - Mir geht’s gut. (MIR gates GOOt)

Do you speak English? (informal) - Sprichst du englisch? (shprikhst doo eng-lish)

I would like… - Ich hätte gern… (Ish het-a Gar-en)

I am from…[the USA/Canada/Australia/UK]. - Ich komme aus…(den USA/Kanada/Australien/Großbritannien)

Do you speak English? - Sprechen Sie Englisch? (SPRA-shun see ANG-lish)

I don't understand - Ich verstehe nicht (Ish VARE-stahe nisht)

I can't speak German – Ich kann kein Deutsch. (Ish kun kine doitsh)

How much does that cost? - Wieviel kostet das? (Vee-veal cost-it DAs?)

Cheers! - Prost! (PRO-st)

Have a good trip! - Gute Reise! (GOOta Rise-a)

Regional German

Hi (informal) - Moin (Moi’n) Can also be used to ask if someone is good? (Moin?), and answered with good! good! (Moin! Moin!)

Good - Jut (YOU-t)

Hello/Good-bye - Servus! (Sir-VUS)

Hello (formal) - Grüß Gott or S'Gott (GRu-S GOT)

May god protect you (informal good-bye) - Behüte dich/euch (Gott) (Ba-Hewta DICK)

Yes! (strong) - Jawohl (Yeah VULL)

German Numbers

  • One - Eins
  • Two - Zwei
  • Three - Drei
  • Four - Vier
  • Five - Fünf
  • Six - Sechs
  • Seven - Sieben
  • Eight - Acht
  • Nine - Neun
  • Ten - Zehn
  • Eleven - Elf
  • Twelve - Zwölf

Days of the Week in German

  • Monday - Montag
  • Tuesday - Dienstag
  • Wednesday - Mittwoch
  • Thursday - Donnertag
  • Friday - Freitag
  • Saturday - Samstag
  • Sunday - Sonntag

Months in German

  • January - Januar
  • February - Februar
  • March - März
  • April - April
  • May - Mai 
  • June - Juni
  • July - Juli
  • August - August
  • September - September
  • October - Oktober
  • November - November
  • December - Dezember
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