Basic German Words For Travelers

People on the Zeil, the main shopping street
Maremagnum / Getty Images

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 USA, as well as one of the major languages of the world. In short, it is a useful language to know in general.

Try it when dining out or traveling by train, or even at the colorful vocabulary involved in Oktoberfest. Start your first lesson of Deutsch here, and learn common German greetings and basic vocabulary that will be helpful for you in any situation. (You'll find the pronunciation in parentheses. Just read it out loud, the capitalized part of the word should be emphasized.)

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)

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 pronounced in places like Austria and German-speaking Switzerland. Vocabulary, accent and phrases vary wildly and some native German speakers can't even understand people from different regions. However, everyone learns Hochdeutsch (high German) and should be able to communicate by using these uniform words and pronunciation. 

For example, the pronunciation of "Ich" ("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.

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

Northern Germany

  • 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)

Southern Germany

  • 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