West Germanic language spoken mainly in Central Europe
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Phrasebooks > German phrasebook
For a phrasebook specifically about the German dialect spoken in Switzerland, see Swiss-German phrasebook

German (Deutsch) is a Germanic language spoken by over 100 million people worldwide. It is the official and main language of Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. It is also an official language of Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium, and a national language in Namibia. German is also spoken by minorities in the French regions of Alsace and Lorraine, in the northern Italian province of South Tyrol, and in a small part of southern Denmark.

German Speaking Areas.

Standard German (Hochdeutsch, or High German) is also generally spoken by many as a second language in much of Central Europe, with small groups of native speakers as well due to the historical influence of Austria (the former Austro-Hungarian Empire) and Germany over the region. Small isolated communities can be found elsewhere in the world, though their language may be far from standard German and interspersed with loanwords from other languages.


A rough division of the dialects of the German language.

There are very strong accentual and dialectic differences in German-speaking countries. Despite forty years of East–West partition, virtually all important distinguishing marks between dialects scale from North to South rather than from East to West and isoglosses (lines separating different ways of saying the same word) are almost always aligned with parallels rather than meridians. A German from the north and one from the south of the country can have great difficulty understanding each other's dialects. A particularly striking mark of standard German and Southern dialects is the "High German consonant shift" that marks High German separate from all other Germanic languages, giving rise to words like "Apfel" (Appel in Low German, apple in English) "Pfirsich" (peach) "Kirche" (church), "machen" (maken in Low German, make in English) or "Kind" (child, pronounced with a hint of "ch" between the K and the i in the extreme South) that sound similar in Low German and all other Germanic languages but different in High German. Standard German, or Hochdeutsch, is universally known and taught, and although not everyone speaks it well, it can be understood by most German speakers. "Broad" dialect has faced a lot of stigma in much of Germany throughout the twentieth century and with increasing media exposure, social and geographic mobility, many people haven't been taught any nonstandard dialect by their parents and hardly picked anything up from their peers. Slightly "colored" German however is still common and the expert will be able to pinpoint the region of origin even though communication isn't usually hindered by these aspects. Generally, the further south one travels, the broader the influence of dialect on standard speech, with the Main River as a rough "border" between the northern and southern German speaking cultural worlds. In Switzerland a (slightly adjusted for local needs) standard form of High German was kept, but the local dialects have retained much ground - even the evening news might conduct an interview in Swiss German - that some Swiss fear a loss of standard German proficiency not the "death of dialect" bemoaned in Germany. Austria is in a middle position with a slightly divergent standard and dialectal usage that is closer to the standard than in Switzerland but further from it than in Germany.

As a rule, one should not expect all people one encounters (especially in the rural areas) of Alsace, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Austria, South Tyrol and Switzerland to speak standard German well, but a dialect instead. In Alsace most people prefer to speak French with outsiders, and do NOT consider their dialect to be German as such! Dialect, where still spoken, is very much for family and home. People in Alsace are often reluctant to speak High German with Germans! They are often less put off speaking their dialect to someone from Switzerland or Baden, due to the fact they are pretty much mutually intelligible.

In the north of Germany, some people speak a related Germanic language called Plattdüütsch or Low German ("Plattdeutsch" in German). It is very similar to Dutch in particular. Nearly all Platt speakers also speak German.

The German spoken in Switzerland is referred to as Schwiizertüütsch (Swiss German). There are various varieties of Swiss German depending on the region and it is even widely used in the media, though news broadcasts are in standard German. Dialects are not usually used in the media in Germany, Austria or Liechtenstein except for regional programming. Thus, this is rare in the German speaking world, as "Hochdeutsch" is more or less the sole language of media outside Switzerland. Nevertheless, all German-speaking Swiss learn standard German in school, and usually write in standard German, so unless you approach somebody really old who has never been to school, you'll be fine with standard German. The German dialects spoken in Vorarlberg (Austria), Baden-Württemberg (Germany) and Alsace (France) are related to Swiss German.

Swiss Standard German (Schweizer Hochdeutsch) is not the same as Swiss German, but a variant of standard German used for writing and formal speech in Switzerland. It has a few spelling and vocabulary quirks, but is otherwise only recognizable as distinct from Austrian or German standard German to the trained eye. The ß is absent in both Swiss German and Swiss Standard German; being replaced with "ss".

Formal German in what was then East Germany also diverged in some points from West German, though never to the extent that Korean between the two Koreas diverged (North Korea and South Korea even use different terms for "Korea" in their official long form names) and many of the "East German" words fell out of use after reunification due to the thing they describe not existing or having been replaced by the Western counterpart. While dialects, particularly Saxon and Berlin-Brandenburgish still color East German speech, the GDR coinings are now mostly unused and unknown to the younger generation.

In the Italian South Tyrol, like in most of Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and southern Germany, most people speak a local dialect. However, standard German and Italian are both taught in the schools. The German spoken in South Tyrol is very similar to that of neighboring Austria and Bavaria to the north.

Outside Europe, a dialect of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch is spoken by the Amish community in the United States. A dialect of German is also spoken by the ethnic German community in Namibia.

Pronunciation guide


German pronunciation is relatively straightforward, although spelling is somewhat more involved.


vowel English equiv. vowel English equiv. vowel English equiv.
a like 'u' in "cup", 'a' in "target". In Austria, it sounds more like "au" in "Paul". e like 'e' in "ten", or 'e' in "emotion"; a schwa at the end of words with 2 or more syllables i like 'i' in "bingo"
o like 'oo' in "door", like 'o' in "mole" u like 'ou' in "you" ä transcribed as ae like 'e' in "ten"
ö transcribed as oe like 'i' in "Sir" (not a sound in English) ü transcribed as ue like 'ew' in "EWWW (disgust)" or the French 'u' in "tu" y same as 'ü', but also consonant "j" in words of foreign origin ("Yacht"), sometimes pronounced more akin to "i", in general "y" shows the most irregularities in pronunciation of all vowels

Length of Vowels


A vowel is shortened when followed by a double consonant.

A vowel is lengthened by a subsequent 'h', or by a double vowel, depending on the word. An exception is 'i', which is lengthened by a following 'e' or 'eh'.

Examples: the h in Hahn makes the a long; the aa in Haar is also long, the e in Tier makes the i long. (See below for "Diphthongs".)

In the Austrian and Bavarian dialect, vowel pronunciations are slightly longer and more pronounced.



Consonants are pronounced quite strongly (except perhaps the 'r').

Consonant English equiv. Consonant English equiv. Consonant English equiv.
b like 'b' in "bed" c like 'ts' in "bits" before 'i' and 'e'; like 'k' in "kid" otherwise "ck" usually shortens the vowel before d like 'd' in "dog"
f like 'ph' in "phone" g like 'g' in "go"; like 'sh' in "shoot" but closer to the back of the throat when after an "i" at the end of a word h ; h : like 'h' in "help"
j like 'y' in "yoga" k like 'c' in "cat" l like 'l' in "love"
m like 'm' in "mother" n like 'n' in "nice" p like 'p' in "pig"
qu like "kv" in "kvetch" or "bank vault" or like "qu" in "quest". "Q" is always used with "u" in German. r like 'r' in "arm". Terminal 'r' are almost silent but with the hit of an 'r' sound. 'R' beginning a word or syllable is pronounced from the back of the throat, almost as in French. In southern Germany (Bavaria), Austria and Switzerland, the 'r' is rolled as in Spanish in all positions except the initial. s like 'z' in "haze"
v like 'f' in "father"; in some words like 'v' in "victory" w like 'v' in "victory", never like 'wh' in "whisky" x like 'cks' in "kicks"
z like 'ts' in "bits" ß transcribed as ss like 's' in "was"

Common diphthongs and other digraphs


Note: these combinations are not always used as diphthongs. At syllable boundaries and sometimes even in a syllable, they are spoken as separate vowels (e.g. soebenzoh-AY-ben)

like 'ow' in "how"
transcription for 'ä' if not available on a keyboard or in URLs
like 'a' in "bar", longer than 'a'.
like 'oy' in "boy"
like 'i' in "wine"
like 'oy' in "boy" (with some exceptions, such as the German words Museum and Eureka, in which all vowels are pronounced separately)
long 'e'
r between vowels or after consonants
like 'r' in French Paris, soft 'r'.
r after consonant e or a
like in German spelled 'ea' or long 'a'.
like 'ee' in "week", longer than 'i'.
like 'ee' in "week", longer than 'i', fundamentally no difference to 'ie'.
transcription for 'ö' if not available on a keyboard or in URLs
similar to "oo" in "floor"
transcription for 'ü' or 'y' if not available on a keyboard or in URLs
like 'ou' in "youth" (without any hint of the "y" sound), longer than 'u'.
ch after 'a', 'o' and 'u'
like 'ch' in Scottish "loch", spoken in the throat, like 'j' in Spanish
ch after 'i', 'e' and consonants
like 'h' in "huge" - many Germans do not perceive the two "ch" sounds to be different, but there is a difference between the "h" sound and the "ch" sound(s)
ch at the beginning of a word
like 'ch' in "character"; in the North it is often pronounced like "sh" (e.g. China is /keena/ in Bavaria and /sheena/ in Hamburg)
like 'ck' in "blocking"; though some words have a long vowel preceding the ck - e.g. Mecklenburg is properly pronounced with a long e
like 'ng' in "singing", never like 'ng' in "finger"
like 'f' in "fish"
like 'sh' in "sheep"
sp at the beginning of a word
like 'shp' in "fish pool" ; in the extreme north: like sp in sports
like 'ss' in "sass"; in contrast to 'ß', makes the preceding vowel shorter. Also used as transcription for 'ß' in URL or on foreign keyboards.
st at the beginning of a word
like 'sht' in "ashtray" ; in the extreme north like "st" in stand



Many languages in northern Europe belong to the Germanic language family, although German grammar itself retains many conjugations and declensions from proto-Germanic that have since been lost by other language relatives such as English. This also means that speakers of another conservative Germanic language like Icelandic will find many aspects of German grammar familiar.

Pronouns Singular Plural
1st Person ich (ih) wir (wir)
2nd Person du (du) (informal)
Sie (zee) (formal)
ihr (ir)
3rd Person
er (er) he
sie (zee) she
es (ez) it
sie (zee)
Pronouns Verb conjugation (suffix)
ich -e
du -st
er/sie/es -t
wir -en
ihr -t
Sie/sie -en

In common with many other European languages, German has two "you" verb forms which denote the relationship the speaker has to someone else. To express familiarity, one uses the du form; for formality, the Sie form. As a general rule the Sie form is used when one might address someone as "Madam" or "Sir". If on first name terms, one uses the du form. However, last name and "du" and first name and "Sie" are not entirely unheard of, especially in the context of certain professions. Unless the person you talk to allows you to use "du" (duzen), use "Sie" - Germans as a whole are more cautious with friendly terms of address than - say - Americans and some people still address each other with "Sie" despite 20 years or more of working in the same office.

German nouns are divided into 3 different genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. The article of a noun depends on the gender: der (m), die (f) and das (n). Unlike in English, inanimate objects frequently have, often arbitrarily, genders assigned to them; for example, Tisch (table) is male, Tür (door) is female, while Tor (gate) is neuter. While the gender nouns denoting a person usually correspond to their natural gender (for example Mutter (mother) is female and Vater (father) is male), there are some exceptions. A grammatical rule that overrides this includes the diminutive -chen noun ending which will result in a neuter. (for example Mädchen (girl) is actually neuter, and not female as you'd expect).

Third-person pronouns also depend on the grammatical gender of the subject: er (m), sie (f) and es (n). However, you will generally be understood if you use the wrong gender as there are only a few (obscure) nouns which mean different things depending on gender, and their correct meaning will always be clear from the context.

Nominative article Akkusativ Dativ Genitiv
der (male) den dem des
die (female) die der der
das (neutral) das dem des
die (plural) die den der

Furthermore, German nouns are declined. There are four grammatical cases: nominative (subject), accusative (direct object), genitive (possessive), and dative (indirect object). Each varies depending on the noun's gender and whether it is singular or plural.

In an example,

Ich gebe dem Mann den Apfel der Frau.
"I give the man the woman's apple."

The Dativ article is invoked in the noun Mann to signify to whom I give the apple, while the Akkusativ article is invoked in the noun Apfel to signify what I am giving, and the genitive article is invoked in the noun Frau to signify whose apple I give.

In common speech, particularly in certain dialects, the cases - particularly the Genitiv - have a tendency to "disappear" or be rendered in ways that would be seen as "wrong" from the standpoint of prescriptivist linguistics. A particularly common phenomenon is replacing the Genitiv with Dativ and "sein" (in this case a possessive meaning "his" or "its") or "ihr" (a possessive meaning "her"). A famous work on the (supposed or real) decline of the German language has thus been titled "Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod" - which could be rendered "The dative is the genitive his death" in English.

All nouns, alongside the word Sie for you, always begin with a capital letter, even in the middle of a sentence. This is an important way to distinguish between some verbs and objects. It also arguably makes reading easier, though writing is somewhat complicated by the need to find out whether a verb or adjective is used in a substantivized form.

Statement sentences generally follow the subject-verb-object structure alongside many other rules which are similar to English. Present tense and present continuous however, are not differentiated by default; one must add the word gerade or jetzt to specifically indicate that the action is happening now.

Ich esse (nicht) den roten Apfel
"I am (not) eating the red apple."

In question sentences, the structure would typically be (question word)-verb-subject-noun.

Was essen Sie?
What are you eating?
Essen Sie den roten Apfel?
Are you eating the red apple?

Addressing people


By default, addressing adult strangers and superiors requires Sie, unless they explicitly use du when talking to you. The latter is commonly reserved for close friends, children and family members, and people of younger age.

Herr (pl., Herren)
for men (equivalent to Mister in English). Note that this word also means "master, owner, ruler, gentleman, sir" and is also a form of address for the Christian God (English equivalent: Lord).
Frau (pl., Frauen)
for women (equivalent to Ms. and Mrs. in English). Note that this word also means "woman" and "wife."
Dame (pl. Damen) (DAH-me, NOT deim)
the polite German word for women/female. The salutation "Ladies and Gentlemen" would be translated to "meine Damen und Herren".

The term Fräulein which literally means Miss in English, is now deprecated and even considered condescending.

As Germans are particularly fond of their academic degrees, a Schmidt with a doctoral degree or as a doctor would be called Herr Doctor Schmidt. While this usage is more common in writing a letter than speaking, it is expected in a meeting with someone of a superior position if they introduce themselves or are introduced as such.

Phrase list


The following phrases are for Standard German, and will generally be well understood across the German-speaking world. A local variation of words (such as those limited to Austria or specific regions of Germany) are indicated where necessary. See the Swiss-German phrasebook for the local variety spoken in Switzerland.



Common signs

Offen, Geöffnet
WC, Toilette(n)
Herren, Männer
Damen, Frauen
Parken verboten / Parkverbot
Vorfahrt gewähren!
Halt / Stop

The right way to say yes

You say Ja when you confirm an affirmative question:

Essen Sie gern Wurst?
Do you like eating sausages?
Ja, ich esse gern Wurst.
Yes, I like eating sausages.

If you wish to contradict a negative question, the reply is Doch:

Essen Sie nicht gern Wurst?
Don't you like eating sausages?
Doch, ich esse gern Wurst.
Yes, I like eating sausages.
Good day (formal)
Guten Tag. (GOO-ten tahk)
Hello (informal)
NOTE: In Northern Germany, locals greet each other with Moin, Moin (MOH-een MOH-een). In Bavaria and Austria, they use Servus (S-AIR-vus) or Grüß Gott (GREW-SS gaw-t). In Switzerland, they use Grüezi (GREW-tsee).
How are you? (informal)
Wie geht's? (vee GATES?) used as a real question, not a form of greeting.
How are you? (formal)
Wie geht es Ihnen? ("Vee gate s eenen?)
Fine, thank you.
Gut, danke. (goot, DAN-keh)
What is your name? (formal)
Wie heißen Sie? (vee HIGH-sun zee?)
What is your name? (informal)
Wie heißt du? (vee HIGHST doo?)
My name is ______ .
Ich heiße ______ . (eekh HIGH-suh):Mein Name ist _____ . (mine NAM-uh ist)
Nice to meet you. (formal)
Nett, Sie kennen zu lernen. (net zee KEN-en tsoo LER-nen)
Nice to meet you. (informal)
Nett, dich kennen zu lernen. (net deech KEN-en tsoo LER-nen)
Bitte. (BEE-tuh)
Thank you.
Danke schön. (DAN-kuh shurn)
Danke. (DAN-kuh)
You're welcome.
Bitte schön! (BIH-tuh shurn)
Ja. (yah)
Nein. (nine)
Excuse me. (getting attention)
Entschuldigen Sie. (en-TSHOOL-dee-gun zee)
Excuse me. (begging pardon)
Entschuldigung. (en-TSHOOL-dee-goong)
I'm sorry.
Es tut mir leid. (es toot meer lite)
Lit: It does sorrow to me.
Auf Wiedersehen. (owf VEE-dur-zane)
Goodbye (informal)
Tschüss (CHUS)
I love you (familial/platonic)
Ich habe dich lieb. (eekh hab-uh deech leeb)
I love you (romantic)
Ich liebe dich. (eekh leeb-uh deech)
I can't speak German (well).
Ich kann nicht [so gut] Deutsch sprechen. (eekh kahn nikht [zo goot] doi-ch shprekhen) better: Ich spreche kein Deutsch (eekh spreh-khuh kine doi-ch)
Do you speak English? (formal)
Sprechen Sie Englisch? (shprekhun zee ENG-leesh)
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Gibt es hier jemanden, der Englisch spricht? (geept es heer yeh-MAHN-dun dare ENG-leesh shprikht)
Hilfe! (HEEL-fuh)
Good morning.
Guten Morgen. (GOO-tun MOR-gun)
Good evening.
Guten Abend. (GOO-tun AH-bunt)
Good night.
Schönen Abend noch. (shur-nun AH-bunt nokh)
Good night (to sleep)
Gute Nacht. (GOO-tuh nakht)
I don't understand.
Ich verstehe das nicht. (eekh fur-SHTAY-uh dahs nikht)
Where is the toilet, please?
Wo ist die Toilette, bitte? (voh eest dee twah-LET-uh BEE-tuh)
With pleasure.
Gerne (GERR-nuh)
Do you know where ... is?. (formal)
Wissen Sie, wo ... ist? (VEE-sun zee voh ... ist)


In Germany, look for the red A symbol for a pharmacy.
Leave me alone.
Lass / Lassen Sie mich in Ruhe. (LAHS(-un) zee meech een ROO-uh)
Don't touch me!
Fass / Fassen Sie mich nicht an! (FAHS(-un) zee meech neekt AHN!)
I'll call the police.
Ich rufe die Polizei. (eekh ROO-fuh dee poh-lee-TSIGH)
Polizei! (poh-lee-TSIGH!)
Stop! Thief!
Halt! Ein Dieb! (HAHLT! ighn DEEB!)
I need your help.
Ich brauche deine/Ihre Hilfe. (eekh BROW-khuh DIGH-nuh/EE-ruh HEEL-fuh)
It's an emergency.
Das ist ein Notfall. (dahs eest ighn NOHT-fahl)
I'm lost.
Ich habe mich verirrt. (eekh HAH-buh meesh fer-EERT)
I lost my bag.
Ich habe meine Tasche verloren. (eekh HAH-buh migh-nuh TAH-shuh fer-LOH-run)
I lost my wallet.
Ich habe meinen Geldbeutel verloren. (eekh HAH-buh mighn geh-ld-boy-tehl fer-LOH-run), or in Austria: Ich habe meine Geldtasche verloren. (eekh HAH-buh miney geh-ld-ta-chee fer-LOH-run)
I'm sick.
Ich bin krank. (eekh been krahnk)
I've been injured.
Ich bin verletzt. (eesh been fer-LETST)
I need a doctor.
Ich brauche einen Arzt. (eekh BROW-khuh IGH-nuh ARTST)
Can I use your phone?
Kann ich dein/Ihr Telefon benutzen? (kahn eekh dighn/eer tay-lay-FOHN buh-NOOT-sun?)
Can I use your mobile?
Kann ich dein/Ihr Handy benutzen? (kahn eekh dighn/eer handy buh-NOOT-sun?)

At the doctor


Body parts

The following is formatted with singular and where possible, plural forms. Plural words always use the die article.

die Hand (HAAND), Hände (HAEND-de)
der Arm (AHRM), Arme (AHRM-me)
der Finger (FING-ger), plural form same as singular
die Schulter (SHOOL-ter), Schultern (SCHOOL-tern)
der Fuß (FOOSS), Füße (FUESSE)
der Zeh (TSEH), Zehe (TSEH-he)
das Bein (BAIN), Beine (BAIN-ne)
der Fingernagel (FING-ger-NAH-gel), Fingernägel (FING-ger-NAEH-gel)
der Körper (KOUR-per)
das Auge (AUH-ge), Augen (AUH-gen)
das Ohr (OOR), Ohren (OO-ren)
die Nase (NAH-se)
das Gesicht (ge-SIKHT)
der Kopf (KOPF)
(m) Arzt (AHRTST), (f) Ärztin (ERTS-tin)
Krankenschwester (KRAHNK-en-shwe-ster)
Krankenhaus (KRAHNK-en-haus)
Medizin (ME-di-tsin)
Emergency room (ER)/Accident and Emergency (A&E)
Notaufnahme (NOT-auf-nah-me)
Apotheke (Ah-po-TE-ke)
I am sick.
Ich bin krank. (eekh BEEN krahnk)
I am hurt.
Ich bin verletzt. (eekh been fer-LETST)
I feel cold/hot
Mir ist heiß/kalt (MEER ist HAISS/KALT)
NOTE: Lit: To me it is hot/cold. Simply saying Ich bin heiß/kalt means you are a hot or cold person in personality.
My _____ hurts
Mein(e) ____ tut weh. (MAYN(ne) ____ toot weh)
schmerzhaft (SHMERts-hahft)
krank (KRAHNK)
juckend (YUK-end)
geschwollen (ge-SHWOL-len)
wund (WOOND)
blutend (BLOO-tend)
schwindelig (SHUIN-de-lig)
verschlucken (ver-SCHLUK-ken)
Fieber (FEE-ber)
husten (HOOS-ten)
niesen (NEE-zen)
Durchfall (DOO-eekh-fall)
brechen (BREKH-hen)
Grippe (GREEP-pe)
Wunde (WOON-de)
Brandwunde (BRAND-woon-de)
Bone fracture
Knochenbruch (K'NO-khen-brookh)


Know how much to pay when shopping.

In German, the roles of dot and comma are swapped compared to their English counterparts. The grouping separator in big numbers is a dot (.), not a comma(,); the separator between decimal fractions and integer is a comma (,), not a dot (.).

Numbers above twenty are said "backwards". Twenty-one (einundzwanzig) is literally spoken as "one-and-twenty". This takes a bit of getting used to, especially in higher regions. Eg. 53,426 (dreiundfünfzigtausendvierhundertsechsundzwanzig) is spoken as "three-and-fifty-thousand-four-hundred-six-and-twenty". Native English speakers may note that the nursery rhyme 'Four and twenty blackbirds' as well as some older literature (Sherlock Holmes for example) uses this convention from medieval English. It's also helpful in learning the number system in the German language by listening to "Eins, Twei, Polizei" by Mo-Do.

Unlike English, German uses the long scale for larger numbers, so eine Billion and eine Trillion are not the same as the English "one billion" and "one trillion".

null (null)
eins (  ighnss)
zwei (tsvigh) or zwo (tsuoo) to distinguish with drei for three.
drei (drigh – sounds a bit like the English word dry)
vier (fear – sounds like the English word fear)
fünf (fuunf)
sechs (zekhs)
sieben (ZEE-ben)
acht (ahkht)
neun (noyn)
zehn (tsayn)
elf (elf)
zwölf (tsvoolf)
dreizehn (DRIGH-tsayn)
vierzehn (FEER-tsayn)
fünfzehn (FUUNF-tsayn)
sechzehn (ZEKH-tsayn)
siebzehn (ZEEP-tsayn)
achtzehn (AHKH-tsayn)
neunzehn (NOYN-tsayn)
zwanzig (TSVAHN-tsig)
einundzwanzig (IGHN-oont-tsvahn-tsig)
zweiundzwanzig (TSVIGH-oont-tsvahn-tsig)
dreiundzwanzig (DRIGH-oont-tsvahn-tsig)
dreißig (DRIGH-sig)
vierzig (FEER-tsig)
fünfzig (FUUNF-tsig)
sechzig (ZEKH-tsig)
siebzig (ZEEP-tsig)
achtzig (AHKH-tsig)
neunzig (NOYN-tsig)
(ein)hundert ([ighn]-HOON-dert)
(ein)hunderteinundzwanzig ([ighn]-HOON-dert-IGHN-oont-tsvahn-tsig
zweihundert (TSVIGH-hoon-dert)
dreihundert (DRIGH-hoon-dert)
(ein)tausend ([ighn]-TOW-zent)
zweitausend (TSVIGH-tow-zent)
eine Million (igh-nuh mill-YOHN).
Also shortened to 1 Mio.
eine Milliarde (igh-nuh mill-YAR-duh)
Also shortened to 1 Mrd.
eine Billion (igh-nuh bill-YOHN)
number _____ (train, bus, etc.)
Nummer/Linie _____ (NOO-mer/LEE-nee-uh)
halb (hahlp)
the half
die Hälfte (dee HELF-tuh)
weniger (VAY-nihg-er)
mehr (mayr)

Ordinal Numbers


Notation for ordinal numbers are the number followed by a period and then the noun. All numbers from 1 to 19 use the suffix -te.

erste / 1. (ayr-sta)
zweite / 2. (tsvigh-ta)
dritte / 3. (dri-ta)
vierte / 4. (feer-ta)
fünfte / 5. (fuunf-ta)
zehnte / 10. (TSAYN-ta)
elfte / 11. (ELF-ta)
zwanzigste / 20. (TSVAHN-tsikhs-ta)

All numbers above 19 end with -ste; numbers that end with 01 to 19 will still use the aforementioned rule.



Telling time

While many Germans use the 24-hour format for times, they often use 12-hour times in conversations. There is not much use of "am" or "pm", although you can add "vormittags" (before noon) and "nachmittags" (after noon) when it's not clear from the context. A significant difference is the convention for 'half past', when at 07:30 English speakers would say "half (past) seven", whereas Germans say "halb acht" ("half {to} eight"). How to express 07:15 or 07:45 is something of a shibboleth for several dialects and even some Germans might not understand the form they did not grow up with. One way to say it is following English logic à la "quarter past x" making 07:15 come out as "viertel nach sieben" and 07:45 as "viertel vor acht". In other areas the hour is told according to the portion of the way to the next hour: "viertel acht" (literally quarter eight) means 07:15, "halb acht" means 07:30 and "dreiviertel acht" means 07:45. People who use the latter system will usually know (but dislike) the former. People who use the former system tend to draw blanks when confronted with the latter. However, it is always "halb acht" and never "halb nach sieben".

jetzt (yetst)
später (SHPET-er)
vor (for)
Morgen (MOR-gen)
in the morning
morgens (MOR-genss)
tomorrow morning
morgen früh (MOR-gen FRUU)
Nachmittag (NAHKH-mit-tahk)
in the afternoon
nachmittags (NAHKH-mit-tahks)
Abend (AH-bent)
in the evening
abends (AH-bents)
Nacht (nahkht)
in the night
nachts (nahkhts)

Clock time

Punctuality is of paramount importance in German-speaking countries!

In German speaking countries as in many other European countries, it's usual to use a 24 hour clock, ranging from 0.00 to 24.00. Okay, 24.00 is actually the same as 0.00, but one day later. In conversation however, a 12-hour format is also commonly used, as long as one understands the context of which time of day it is.

one o'clock AM (01:00)
ein Uhr (IGHN oor)
two o'clock AM (02:00)
zwei Uhr (TSVIGH oor)
noon (12:00)
zwölf Uhr or Mittag (TSVOOLF oor or MIT-tahk)
one o'clock PM (13:00)
dreizehn Uhr (DRIGH-tsayn oor)
two o'clock PM (14:00)
vierzehn Uhr (FEER-tsayn oor)
midnight (00:00 or 24:00)
Mitternacht or null Uhr or vierundzwanzig Uhr (MIT-er-nahkht or NOOL oor or FEER-oont-TSVAHN-tsikh oor)

Mentioning the time with the hour and minute is not unlike the English convention. See exceptions below.

eight oh one AM or one past eight AM (08:01)
acht Uhr eins (AKHT oor IGHNS) or eins nach acht (IGHNS nakh AKHT)
Seven fifty nine PM or one to eight PM (19:59)
neunzehn Uhr neunundfünfzig (noin-ZEEN oor Fünf-und-noin-TSIG) or eins vor acht (IGHNS for TSVAN-tsig) ("eins vor zwanzig" sounds unidiomatic)

Expressing "fractional hours" differs slightly among various regions. The "normal" way of doing it is:

  • Quarter past one (01:15) - Viertel nach eins or Viertel zwei
  • Half past one (01:30) - Halb zwei (half two)
  • A quarter to two (01:45) - Viertel vor zwei or Dreiviertel zwei

The latter form is common in Eastern Germany, Bavaria, and Austria, although the former is universally understood but not without causing cringes. Outside these regions, many have trouble understanding the latter form. Usually Germans who don't understand you will ask and saying the number (11:45 "elf Uhr fünfundvierzig") is sure to get the confusion out of the way, though it may sound somewhat stilted and bureaucratic.

To ask for time:

What time is it?
Wie spät ist es? (Wee SPAET ist es?)
Wie viel Uhr ist es? (Wee VEEL Ur ist es?)


_____ minute(s)
_____ Minute(n) (mih-NOO-tuh [mih-NOO-ten])
_____ hour(s)
_____ Stunde(n) (SHTOON-duh [SHTOON-den)
_____ day(s)
_____ Tag(e) (TAHK [TAH-guh])
_____ week(s)
_____ Woche(n) (VOKH-uh [VOKH-en])
_____ month(s)
_____ Monat(e) (MOH-naht [moh-NAH-tuh])
_____ year(s)
_____ Jahr(e) (YAHR[-uh])
in _____
Im Jahr _____ (im YAHR _____) (also: _____ (the year without any further qualifiers)) Sometimes the old dative ending is used making it "im Jahre..." which sounds somewhat antiquated and quaint


heute (HOY-tuh)
the day before yesterday
vorgestern (FOR-gess-tern)
gestern (GESS-tern)
morgen (MOR-gen)
the day after tomorrow
übermorgen (uuber-MOR-gen)
this week
diese Woche (DEE-zuh VOH-khuh)
last week
letzte Woche (LETS-tuh VOH-khuh)
the week before last week
vorletzte Woche (for-LETS-tuh VOH-khuh)
next week
nächste Woche (NEX-tuh VOH-khuh)
the week after next week
übernächste Woche (uuber-NEX-tuh VOH-khuh)

The week is considered starting on Monday in Germany.

Montag (MON-tahk)
Dienstag (DEENS-tahk)
Mittwoch (MIT-vokh)
Donnerstag (DON-ers-tahk)
Freitag (FRIGH-tahk)
Samstag (ZAMS-tahk), in some regions, especially the North, "Sonnabend" (ZON-ah-bent)
Sonntag (ZON-tahk)


Parish Church of St. Martin (Filialkirche hl. Martin) in Möderndorf, Carinthia, Austria, with 2,119-meter Spitzegel in the distance
Januar (YAH-noo-ahr), in Austria "Jänner" (YEH-nna)
Februar (FAY-broo-ahr.), in Austria "Feber" (FAY-ber)
März (mehrts)
April (ah-PRILL)
Mai (migh)
Juni (YOO-nee)
Juli (YOO-lee)
August (ow-GOOST)
September (zep-TEM-ber)
Oktober (ok-TOH-ber)
November (noh-VEM-ber)
Dezember (day-TSEM-ber)

Time and Date Format


In the clock time, hours and minutes are separated by a '.' instead of ':', though the latter is also widely used. Another way is to write the minutes raised like an exponent.

The date is always written in the order day, month, year, e.g.: 12/10/2003 is in German 10.12.2003. 10th of December 2003 is in German 10. Dezember 2003.

Years prior to 2000 are pronounced like this example: 1957 neunzehn-hundert-sieben-und-fünfzig (the - are only here for clarity, it would be written as one word, when written down, a literal translation would be nineteen-hundred-seven-and-fifty) So far years after 2000 are pronounced like this example: 2014 zwei-tausend-vierzehn (again, written as one word, a literal translation would be two-thousand-fourteen)

Dates are always read like an ordinal number. When it stands alone, add the suffix -r at the ordinal number; Germans will also often mention the months in numbers (i.e. 1st of January= erster erster or der erste erste). When the date is used as part of a sentence (e.g. We fly on the 1st of May), a dativ case is invoked, in which you must add the suffix -n after the ordinal number (i.e. Wir fliegen am ersten Mai).


schwarz (shvahrts)
weiß (vice) - as in "miami vice"
grau (grou) - rhymes with "cow"
rot (roht)
blau (blou) - rhymes with "cow"
gelb (gelp)
grün (gruun)
orange (oh-RAHNGSH)
purpurrot (PURR-purr-rhot), violett (veeo-lett) or lila (LEE-lah)
rosa (ROH-zah) or rosarot (ROH-zah-roht)
braun (brown)
silber (zsil-bur)
gold (gold)
light -
hell- (hell) as in hellblau
dark -
dunkel- (dune-kel) as in dunkelblau



Bus and Train

Pay attention to the signboards for which platform your train is departing from.
How much is a ticket to _____? (bus, train)
Was kostet eine Fahrkarte nach _____? (vass KOSS-tet igh-nuh FAHR-kahr-tuh nahkh _____?)
How much is a ticket to _____? (airplane)
Was kostet ein Ticket nach _____? (vass KOSS-tet ighn TICK-et nahkh _____?)
One ticket to _____, please. (bus, train)
Bitte eine Fahrkarte nach _____. (BIT-tuh IGH-nuh FAHR-kahr-tuh nahkh _____)
One ticket to _____, please. (airplane)
Bitte ein Ticket nach _____. (BIT-tuh ighn TICK-et nahkh _____)
Where does this train/bus go?
Wohin fährt dieser Zug/Bus? (voh-hin FEHRT dee-zer TSOOK/BOOSS?)
Where is the train/bus to _____?
Wo ist der Zug/Bus nach _____? (VOH ist dayr TSOOK/BOOSS nahkh _____?)
Does this train/bus stop in/at _____?
Hält dieser Zug/Bus in/bei_____? (helt DEE-zer TSOOK/BOOSS in/by _____?)
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
Wann fährt der Zug/Bus nach _____ ab? (VAHN FEHRT der tsook/booss nahkh _____ ap?)
When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
Wann kommt dieser Zug/Bus in _____ an? (vahn KOMT dee-zer TSOOK/BOOSS in _____ ahn?)
On which platform is the bus/train to _____ departing from?
Auf welchem Gleis fährt der Zug/Bus nach _____ ab? (auf VEL-khem GLAIS fehrt der tsook/booss nahkh _____ ap?)


How do I get to _____ ? (cities)
Wie komme ich nach _____ ? (vee KOM-muh ikh nahkh _____?)
How do I get to _____ ? (places, streets)
Wie komme ich zum/zur _____ ? (vee KOM-muh ikh tsoom/tsoor _____?)
...the train station?
...zum Bahnhof? (tsoom BAHN-hohf?)
...the bus station / bus stop?
...zum Busbahnhof / zur Bushaltestelle? (tsoom BOOSS-BAHN-hohf/tsoor BOOSS-hahl-tuh-shteh-luh?)
...the airport?
...zum Flughafen? (tsoom FLOOG-hah-fen?)
...zur Stadtmitte? (tsoor SHTUT-mit-tuh)
...the youth hostel?
...zur Jugendherberge? (tsoor YOO-gent-hayr-bayr-guh)
...the _____ hotel?
...zum _____ Hotel? (tsoom _____ hoh-TELL)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate?
...zum amerikanischen/kanadischen/australischen/britischen Konsulat? (tsoom ah-mayr-ih-KAHN-ish-en/kah-NAH-dish-en/ous-TRAH-lish-en/BRIT-ish-en kon-zoo-LAHT?)
Where are there a lot of...
Wo gibt es viele... (?) (VOU gipt ess FEE-luh...)
...Hotels? (hoh-TELLSS)
...Restaurants? (rest-oh-RAHNTS?)
...bars? (pub)
...Kneipen? (KNIGH-pen?) (pronounce the K)
...sites to see?
...Sehenswürdigkeiten? (ZAY-ens-vuur-dikh-kigh-ten?)
Can you show me on the map?
Kannst du/Können Sie mir das auf der Karte zeigen? (kahnst doo/KOON-en zee meer dahss ouf dayr KAHR-tuh TSIGH-gen?)
street, road
Straße (SHTRAH-suh)
links (links)
rechts (rekhts)
Turn left.
Links abbiegen. (LINKS AHP-bee-gen)
Turn right.
Rechts abbiegen. (REKHTS AHP-bee-gen)
straight ahead
geradeaus (guh-RAH-duh-OWSS)
towards the _____
Richtung _____ (RIKH-toong)
past the _____
nach dem(m)/der(f)/dem(n) _____ (nahkh daym/dayr/daym _____)
through the _____
durch den(m)/die(f)/das(n) _____ (DUIKH dayn/dee/dahss _____)
before the _____
vor dem(m)/der(f)/dem(n) _____ (for daym/dayr/daym _____)
Watch for the _____.
Achte/Achten Sie auf den(m)/die(f)/das(n) _____. (AHKH-tuh/AHKH-ten zee ouf dayn/dee/dahss _____)
Kreuzung (KROY-tsoong)
Norden (NOR-den)
Süden (ZUU-den)
Osten (OST-en)
Westen (VEST-en)
bergauf (bayrk-OUF)
bergab (bayrk-AHP)
gegenüber (gay-gen-UEH-ber)
entlang (ENT-lang)
Take me to _____, please.
Bitte bringen Sie mich zum/zur/nach _____. (BIT-tuh BRING-en zee mikh tsoom/tsoor/nahkh _____)
Note: Use 'zu(m,r)' for streets and places and 'nach' for cities and villages.
How much does it cost to get to _____?
Wie viel kostet es bis zum/zur/nach _____? (vee feel KOSS-tet ess biss tsoom/tsoor/nahkh _____?)
Take me there, please.
Bringen Sie mich bitte dahin. (BRING-en zee mikh BIT-tuh dah-HIN)


Yes, you can even stay in a castle!
Do you have any rooms available?
Sind noch Zimmer frei? (ZINT nokh TSIM-mer FRIGH?)
How much is a room for one person/two people?
Wie viel kostet ein Einzelzimmer/Doppelzimmer? (vee-feel KOSS-tet ighn IGHN-tsel-tsim-mer/DOP-pel-tsim-mer?)
Does the room come with...
Hat das Zimmer... (HAHT dahss TSIM-mer...)
...Bettlaken? (...BET-lahk-en?)
...a bathroom? (toilet)
...eine Toilette? (igh-nuh to-ah-LET-tuh?)
...a bathroom? (with cleaning facilities)
...ein Badezimmer? (igh-n BAH-duh-tsim-er?)
...a telephone?
...ein Telefon? (ighn tell-eh-FOHN?)
...a TV?
...einen Fernseher? (igh-nen FAYRN-zay-er?)
May I see the room first?
Kann ich das Zimmer erstmal sehen? (kahn ikh dahs TSIM-mer ayrst-mahl ZAY-en?)
Do you have anything quieter?
Haben Sie etwas ruhigeres? (HAH-ben zee ET-vahs ROO-ig-er-ess?)
...größeres? (GROO-ser-ess?)
...billigeres? (BILL-ig-er-ess?)
OK, I'll take it.
OK, ich nehme es. (OH-kay, ikh NAY-muh ess)
I will stay for _____ night(s).
Ich bleibe eine Nacht (_____ Nächte). (ihk BLIGH-buh IGH-nuh nahkht/_____ NEKH-tuh)
Note: The plural of 'Nacht' is 'Nächte' .
Can you suggest another hotel?
Können Sie mir ein anderes Hotel empfehlen? (KOON-en zee meer ign AHN-der-ess ho-TELL emp-FAY-len?)

Note: It's not a good idea to say this, as it may be taken in an insulting manner. Try saying "Gibt es hier in der Nähe ein Reisebüro?" ("Is there a tourist agency nearby?") instead.

Do you have a safe?
Haben Sie einen Safe? (HAH-ben zee IGH-nen SAYF?)
...Schließfächer? (SHLEESS-fekh-er?)
Is breakfast/supper included?
Ist Frühstück/Abendessen inklusive? (ist FRUU-shtuuk/AH-bent-ess-en in-kloo-ZEE-vuh?)
What time is breakfast/supper?
Wann gibt es Frühstück/Abendessen? (VAHN gipt ess FRUU-shtuuk/AH-bent-ess-en?)
Please clean my room.
Würden Sie bitte mein Zimmer saubermachen? (VUUR-den zee BIT-tuh mign TSIM-mer ZOW-ber-MAHKH-en?)
Can you wake me at _____?
Können Sie mich um _____ Uhr wecken? (KOON-en zee mikh oom _____ oor VECK-en?)
I would like to check out.
Ich möchte auschecken. (ikh MOOKH-tuh ows-check-en)



Mind your Umlaut

One common mistake that non-native German speakers make, which is embarrassing but forgivable for foreigners, is the difference between the pronunciations and writing of the vocal letters a, o, and u and its umlaut counterparts (ä, ö, and ü). Don't forget to write the umlaut where necessary, as a subtle difference changes the meaning by a lot! Here are a few common examples:

Düsseldorf vs. Dusseldorf
the city in Germany vs. village of fools (Dussel is dumb/fool, dorf means village)
drücken vs. drucken
to press/push vs. to print
schön vs. schon
beautiful vs. already
schwül vs. schwul
humid vs. gay
Vögel vs. Vogel
birds vs. bird
Äpfel vs. Apfel
apples vs. apple
Schüssel vs. Schussel
bowl vs. idiot
Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars?
Nehmen Sie US-Dollar/australische/kanadische Dollar an? (NAY-men zee OOH-ESS DOLL-ahr/ouss-TRAHL-ish-uh/kah-NAH-dish-uh DOLL-ahr?)
Do you accept British pounds?
Nehmen Sie britische Pfund an? (NAY-men zee BRIT-ish-uh PFOOND?)
Do you accept credit cards?
Kann ich mit Kreditkarte zahlen? (kahn ikh mit kray-DEET-kahr-tuh TSAH-len?)
Can you change money for me?
Können Sie mir Geld wechseln? (KOON-en zee meer GELT WEKHS-eln?)
Where can I get money changed?
Wo kann ich Geld wechseln? (voh kahn ikh GELT WEKHS-eln?)
Can you change a traveller's check for me?
Kann ich hier Travellerschecks einlösen? (kahn ikh heer TREV-el-er-shecks IGHN-loo-zen?)
Where can I get a traveler's check changed?
Wo kann ich Travellerschecks tauschen? (voh kahn ikh TREV-el-er-shecks TOW-shen?) (TOW rhymes with "cow")
What is the exchange rate?
Wie ist der Wechselkurs? (vee ist dayr VEK-sel-koorss?)
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
Wo ist ein Geldautomat? (voh ist ign GELT-ow-toh-maht?)


No one has a more intimate love for bread than Germans!

Edible adjectives

salzig (ZAL-tsikh)
sauer (ZAU-er)
süß (ZUESS)
scharf (SHARF)
bitter (BEET-ter)
lecker (LEK-ker) or köstlich (KOEST-likh)
fade (FAH-deh) or geschmacklos (ge-SHMAK-los)
kalt (KALT)
kühl (KUEL)
warm (WARM)
Hot (temperature)
heiß (HAISS)
A table for one person/two people, please.
Ein Tisch für eine Person/zwei Personen, bitte. (ighn TISH fuur IGHN-uh payr-ZOHN/TSVIGH payr-ZOHN-nen, BIT-tuh)
Can I have the meal as a takeaway?
Könnte ich das Essen mitnehmen? (KOUN-nte ikh das Es-sen mit-ne-men?)
Can I look at the menu, please?
Ich hätte gerne die Speisekarte. (ikh HET-tuh GAYR-nuh dee SHPIGH-zuh-kahr-tuh)
Is there a house specialty?
Gibt es eine Spezialität des Hauses? (gipt ess igh-nuh shpeh-tsyah-lee-TAYT dess HOW-zess?)
Is there a local specialty?
Gibt es eine Spezialität aus dieser Gegend? (gipt ess igh-nuh shpeh-tsyah-lee-TAYT owss DEE-zer GAY-gent?)
I am (severely) allergic to milk/eggs/fish/shellfish/tree nuts/peanuts/wheat/soy.
Ich bin [stark] allergisch gegen Milch/Eier/Fisch/Schalentiere/Nüsse/Erdnüsse/Weizen/Soja. (ikh bin [shtark] al-LER-gish gay-gent)
I'm a vegetarian.
(men) Ich bin Vegetarier. (ikh bin vay-gay-TAH-ree-er) (women) Ich bin Vegetarierin (vay-gay-TAH-ree-er-een)
I'm a vegan.
(men) Ich bin Veganer. (ikh bin vay-GAHN-er) (women) Ich bin Veganerin (vay-GAHN-er-een)
I don't eat pork.
Ich esse kein Schweinefleisch. (ikh ESS-uh kign SHVIGN-uh-flighsh)
I only eat kosher food.
Ich esse nur koscher. (ikh ESS-uh noor KOH-sher)
Note: outside major cities and some explicitly kosher restaurants true kosher food is not available. If you are not particularly observant "halal", sometimes spelled "helal" is similar enough if you avoid mixing milk and meat.
Can you make it "light", please? (less oil/butter/lard)
Könnten Sie es bitte nicht so fettig machen? (KOON-ten zee ess BIT-tuh nikht zo fett MAHKH-en?)
fixed-price meal
Tagesessen (TAHG-ess-ess-en) / Menü (meh-NUU)
Note: While "Tagesessen" should be used in pubs and taverns, "Menü" is the correct word in classic restaurants.
Without, e.g. I would like spaghetti without cheese
Ich möchte die Spaghetti, ohne Käse (Ikh merkhte dee schpagetti, ohna kayze), "Ohne" being the key word here.
à la carte
a la carte (ah lah KAHRT)
Frühstück (FRUU-shtuuk) | Switzerland: Zmorge (TSH-mor-geh) or Morgenässe (MOR-gen-aess-e)
Mittagessen (mit-TAHK-ess-en) | Switzerland: Zmittag (TSH-mit-tag) or Mittagässe (mit-TAHK-aess-e)
tea (meal)
Kaffee (kah-FAY)
Abendessen or Abendbrot (AH-bent-ess-en or AH-bent-broht) | Switzerland: Znacht (TSH-nakht) or Nachtässe (NAKHT-aess-e)
Note: "Abendbrot" is mainly used in rural areas. Most Germans, even the non-English speaking, understand dinner as well.
I would like _____.
Ich möchte _____. (ikh MERKH-tuh)
I would like a dish containing ____
Ich möchte etwas mit ____ (ikh MOOKH-tuh ett-vahss mit _____)
Literally means "I want something with ____"
Hähnchen (HAEN-chen) Austria: Händel (HAEN-del)
Rindfleisch (RINT-flighsh)
Fisch (fish)
Schinken (SHINK-en)
Wurst (voorst)
pickled cabbage
Sauerkraut (ZAU-er-kraut) (lit. sour cabbage)
Käse (KAY-zuh)
Eier (IGH-er)
Salat (zah-LAHT)
Kartoffeln (kar-TOH-phel'n) | Austria: Erdapfel (ERD-ah-phel)
Spargel (SHPAR-gel)
(fresh) vegetables
(frisches) Gemüse ([FRISH-ess] guh-MUU-zuh)
Tomate (to-MAH-te) | Austria: Paradaiser (pa-ra-da-IH-ser)
(fresh) fruit
(frisches) Obst ([FRISH-ess] OWPST)
Brot (broht)
Toast (tohst)
Brötchen (BRUHT-chen)
Nudeln (NOO-deln)
Reis (raighss)
Bohnen (BOH-nen)
Kuchen (KOO-khen)
May I have a glass of _____?
Könnte ich ein Glas _____ haben? (KOON-tuh ikh ighn glahss _____ HAH-ben?)
May I have a cup of _____?
Könnte ich eine Tasse _____ haben? (KOON-tuh ikh IGH-nuh TAH-suh _____ HAH-ben?)
May I have a bottle of _____?
Könnte ich eine Flasche _____ haben? (KOON-tuh ikh IGH-nuh FLAH-shuh _____ HAH-ben?)
Kaffee (kah-FAY)
tea (drink)
Tee (tay)
Saft (zahft)
(bubbly) water
Mineralwasser or Sprudel(-wasser) (mee-ne-RAHL-wah-ser or SHPROO-del-[wah-ser])
water (tap)
Leitungswasser (LIGH-toongs-wah-ser)
Note: Tap water is quite uncommon in German restaurants; if you ask for it, they may bring you a small cup of room-temperature water, on the assumption that you need to take your medicine with the meal, but you'll really be drinking something else. Plain bottled water without bubbles or extra minerals is called Stilleswasser (SHTILL-ess-wah-ser); the famous French brand Evian is an example of Stilleswasser.
Bier (beer)
Note: At least in Germany and Austria, you should say what kind of beer you want. There are: Export (EKS-port), known as 'Helles' (HELL-as) in Bavaria and as 'Lager' (LAH-ger) in Switzerland; Pils (pilss); Hefeweizen (HAY-fuh-vigh-tsen), known as 'Weißbier' (VIGHSS-beer) in Bavaria; dunkles Hefeweizen (DOONK-less HAY-fuh-vigh-tsen); Alt (ahlt) in the Düsseldorf region; Kölsch (koolsh) in Cologne and probably most of the rest of the Rhineland; Bockbier (BOCK-beer) sometimes in the South of Germany. If you only say beer, you will usually get a Pils.
red/white wine
Rot-/Weißwein (ROHT-/VIGHSS-vighn)
May I have some _____?
Kann ich etwas _____ haben? (kahn ikh ET-vahss _____ HAH-ben?)
Salz (zahlts)
black pepper
Pfeffer (PFEF-er)
Butter (BOO-ter)
Excuse me, waiter! (getting attention of server)
Entschuldigung! (ent-SHOOL-dih-goong)
I'm finished.
Ich bin fertig. (ikh bin FAYR-tikh)
It was (not) delicious.
Es war (nicht) lecker. (ess vahr (neekh) LEK-ker) or Es schmeckt (nicht). (ess SHMEKT (neekh))
Please clear the plates.
Würden Sie bitte abräumen? (VUUR-den zee BIT-tuh ahb-ROY-men?)
The check, please.
Zahlen, bitte. (TSAH-len, BIT-tuh)
Keep the change
Stimmt so! (STEEMT zo!) (Lit: Tally it like so)


Märzen at Oktoberfest, served in the traditional 1-litre Maß.
Do you serve alcohol?
Haben Sie alkoholische Getränke? (HAH-ben zee ahl-koh-HOHL-ish-uh guh-TRENG-kuh?)
Is there table service?
Kommt eine Bedienung zum Tisch? (kommt IGH-nuh buh-DEE-noong tsoom TISH?)
A beer/two beers, please.
Ein Bier/zwei Bier, bitte. (ighn beer/tsvigh beer, BIT-tuh)
See note in previous section.
A glass of red/white wine, please.
Ein Glas Rot-/Weißwein, bitte. (ighn glahss ROHT-/VIGHSS-vign, BIT-tuh)
A quarter/eighth of red wine, please.
Ein Viertel/Achtel Rotwein, bitte. (ign FEER-tel/AHKH-tel ROHT-vign, BIT-tuh)
Note: It's usual to order wine by quarters or eighths (of a liter).
A little/big beer, please.
Ein kleines/großes Bier, bitte. (ighn KLIGH-ness/GROH-sess beer, BIT-tuh)
Half a liter, please. (of beer)
Eine Halbe, bitte. (IGH-nuh HAHL-buh, BIT-tuh)
Note: This probably won't be understood in the North of Germany.
A bottle, please.
Eine Flasche, bitte. (IGH-nuh FLAH-shuh, BIT-tuh)
Rum and coke, please.
Bitte eine Cola mit Rum. (BIT-tuh IGH-nuh KOH-lah mit ROOM)
Note: In German, the mixer comes first. In common parlance some drinks are just named after a list of their ingredients with the alcoholic part mentioned first (e.g. Wodka [red] Bull)
Whiskey (VIS-kee)
Wodka (VOT-kah)
Rum (ROOM)
Wasser (VAH-ser)
club soda
Mineralwasser (Mee-ne-RAWL-vas-ser)
tonic water
Tonicwater or simply Tonic
orange juice
Orangensaft or simply O-Saft (oh-RAHN-gehn-zahft or OH-zahft)
Coke (soda)
Cola (KOH-lah), though "coke" is understood and will get you the brand from Atlanta more likely than not
Do you have (any) bar snacks?
Haben Sie (irgendwelche) Snacks? (HAH-ben zee EER-gent-VELL-khe SNEKS?)
One more, please.
Noch einen(m)/eine(f)/eins(n), bitte. (nokh IGH-nen/IGH-nuh/IGHNS, BIT-tuh)
Another round, please.
Noch eine Runde, bitte. (nokh IGH-nuh ROON-duh, BIT-tuh)
When is closing time?
Wann schließen Sie? (vahn SHLEE-sen zee?)
Prost! or Zum Wohl! (zoom wole)
Note: "Prost" comes from Latin "prosit" which can be translated as "may it be good/beneficial" and is still understood though somewhat antiquated


A Christmas market in Jena, an annual staple for multiple German communities.

How to build a German noun

In a similar way as English, compound words that make a noun are also common in German. The difference however is that all these words are stacked into a single word (agglutinative). While initially anyone reading the word is guaranteed to freak out, breaking them one by one would then make sense. While only few words are useful for travelers and even for Germans themselves, cardinal numbers are the most commonly used examples. (e.g. 678429 : sechshundertachtundsiebzigtausendvierhundertneunundzwanzig).

If you wish to play with compounding words, here are a few examples:

Escalator usage advice
Pedestrian crossing
Legal protection insurance companies.
The color of the labeling on the lid of the Christmas cookie box
Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services (a pre-war club in Vienna). It is well known as the longest German word ever at 80 letters, even though the organization's actual existence is disputed.

In addition to that, another few compound words may sound uncreative and nonsense for English speakers, yet ranging from amusing to sensible once one gives a little more thought. Here are a few examples that a traveler might often see:

Bedding or bed sheets (lit. bed thing)
Diarrhea (lit. through fall)
Television (lit. distant observer). "To watch TV" is simply translated to fernsehen.
Cigarette lighter (lit. fire thing)
Airplane (lit. fly thing)
Gloves/mittens (lit. hand shoes)
toilet seat (lit. toilet glasses)
Sunny-side-up or fried egg (lit. mirror egg)
City hall (lit. advice or council house)
Umbrella (lit. rain shield)
Warteschlange (often just Schlange)
Queue/Line (lit. waiting snake)
Gum (lit. tooth meat)

Yet there are also German words that cannot be directly translated into English:

Slappable face (lit. cheek whistle (slap) face)
a feeling of coziness, contentedness, comfort and relaxation (the general English translation of coziness is only one part of the equation).
Excess weight gained from comfort overeating (lit. sorrow bacon)
catchy tune (lit. ear worm) (this word is adopted into English)
Joy in another's sadness (lit. pity joy)
The desire to wander (this word is adopted into English). Also translated as Fernweh (lit. remote sore)
to make something worse in an attempt of improving it
Do you have this in my size?
Haben Sie das in meiner Größe? (HAH-ben zee dahs in MIGH-ner GROO-suh?)
How much is this?
Was kostet das? (vahss KOSS-tet dahss?) or Wie viel kostet das? (vee FEEL koss-tet dahss)
That's too expensive.
Das ist zu teuer. (dahss ist tsoo TOY-er)
Would you take _____?
Würden Sie es für ___ verkaufen? (VUUR-den zee as fyr _____ vayr-COW-fan?)
teuer (TOY-er)
billig / günstig (BILL-ikh/GUUN-stikh) (Note: "Billig" also can mean "not good/low quality")
kostenlos / gratis (KOS-ten-los/GRAH-tees)
I (don't) like it.
Das gefällt mir (nicht). (Das ge-PHAELT meer nikth)
Lit: It is (not) pleasing to me.
I can't afford it.
Ich kann es mir nicht leisten. (ikh kahn ess meer nikth LIGH-sten)
I don't want it.
Ich will es nicht. (ikh vill ess nikht)
I know that this is not the regular price.
Ich weiß, dass das nicht der normale Preis ist. (ikh vighss, dahss dahss nikht dayr nor-MAH-luh PRIGHSS ist)
You're cheating me.
Sie wollen mich abzocken. (zee VOLL-en mikh AHP-tsock-en)
Note: Actually, the translation would be: Sie betrügen mich. But that sounds too hard. The word abzocken is a rather familiar use of language.
I'm not interested.
Ich habe kein Interesse. (ikh hah-buh kighn in-ter-ES-se)
OK, I'll take it.
OK, ich nehme es. (oh-kay, ikh NAY-muh ess)
Can I have a bag?
Kann ich eine Tüte haben? (kahn ikh IGH-nuh TUU-tuh HAH-ben?)
Do you ship (overseas)?
Versenden Sie auch (ins Ausland)? (fayr-ZEN-den zee owkh [ins AUS-land]?)
I need...
Ich brauche... (ikh BROW-khuh...) (BROW rhymes with cow)
...Zahnpaste. (TSAHN-pahs-teh)
...a toothbrush.
...eine Zahnbürste. (IGH-nuh TSAHN-buur-stuh)
...Tampons. (TAHM-pohns)
...Seife. (ZIGH-fuh)
...Shampoo. (SHAHM-poo)
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen)
...Schmerzmittel. (SHMAYRTS-mit-tel)
Note: You will get medicine in pharmacies ("Apotheke" , with big red A-Sign) only, not in normal stores
...cold medicine.
...etwas gegen Erkältung. (ET-vahs GAY-gen ayr-KELT-oong)
...stomach medicine.
....Magentabletten (MAH-gen-tah-BLET-ten)
...a razor.
...einen Rasierer. (IGH-nen rah-ZEER-er)
...a razor (blade)
...eine Rasierklinge. (IGH-ne rah-ZEER-kling-uh)
...an umbrella.
...einen Regenschirm. (IGH-nen RAY-gen-sheerm)
...sunblock lotion.
...Sonnencreme. (ZON-nen-kraym)
...a postcard.
...eine Postkarte. (IGH-nuh POST-kahr-tuh)
...postage stamps.
...Briefmarken. (BREEF-mahr-ken)
...Batterien. (baht-uh-REE-en)
...writing paper.
...Schreibpapier. (SHRIGHP-pah-peer)
...a pen.
...einen Stift. (igh-nen SHTIFT)
...English-language books.
...englischsprachige Bücher. (ENG-lish-shprahkh-ig-uh BUUKH-er)
...English-language magazines.
...englischsprachige Zeitschriften. (ENG-lish-shprahkh-ig-uh TSIGHT-shrift-en)
...an English-language newspaper.
...eine englischsprachige Zeitung. (IGH-nuh ENG-lish-shprahkh-ig-uh TSIGH-toong)
...an English-German dictionary.
...ein Englisch-Deutsch-Wörterbuch. (ighn ENG-lish-DOYTCH woor-ter-bookh)


The general speed limit across Germany. Outside the Autobahn, strictly do not exceed the speed limits as indicated with a red circle; in the Autobahn, the blue square indicates advisory speed - driving beyond the speed will cause you liability in case of an accident.
I want to rent a car.
Ich möchte ein Auto mieten. (ikh MOOKH-tuh ighn OW-toh mee-ten)
Can I get insurance?
Kann ich es versichern lassen? (kahn ikh es fayr-ZIKH-ern LAH-sen?)
stop (on a street sign)
stop (SHTOP)
one way
Einbahnstraße (IGHN-bahn-shtrah-suh)
Vorfahrt gewähren (FOR-fahrt guh-VEHR-ren)
Autobahn (AU-toh-ban)
exit (on highway)
Ausfahrt (OWS-fahrt)
no parking
Parkverbot (PAHRK-fayr-boht)
speed limit
Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkung (guh-SHVIN-dikh-kights-buh-SHRENG-koong) (a compound noun made from "Geschwindigkeit" = speed and "Beschränkung" = limit)
gas (petrol) station
Tankstelle (TAHNK-shtel-luh)
Benzin (ben-TSEEN)
unleaded petrol
Benzin bleifrei (ben-TSEEN bly-FRY)
Diesel (DEE-zel)
Maut (MOWT)



Most police officers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland will speak functional English. Even if you have some capability in German, you may still want to stick to English just in case you make a mistake.

I haven't done anything.
Ich habe nichts getan. (eesh HAH-buh nikhts guh-TAHN)
It was a misunderstanding.
Das war ein Missverständnis. (dahs vahr ighn MEES-fayr-shtand-nees)
Where are you taking me?
Wohin bringen Sie mich? (VOH-hin BRING-uhn zee meekh?)
Am I under arrest?
Bin ich verhaftet? (been eekh fayr-HAHF-tut?)
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
Ich bin amerikanischer/australischer/britischer/kanadischer Staatsbürger. (eekh been ah-may-ree-KAH-neesh-er / owss-TRAH-leesh-er / BREET-eesh-er / kah-NAH-deesh-er SHTAHTS-buur-gurr) or, if female, amerikanische/australische/britische/kanadische Staatsbürgerin (ah-may-ree-KAH-neesh-uh / owss-TRAH-leesh-uh / BREET-eesh-uh / kah-NAH-deesh-uh SHTAHTS-buur-gurr-een))
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate.
Ich will mit der/dem amerikanischen/australischen/britischen/kanadischen Botschaft/Konsulat sprechen. (eekh veel meet dayr/dame ah-may-ree-KAHn-eesh-uhn / ows-TRAH-leesh-uhn / BREE-teesh-uhn / kah-NAH-deesh-uhn BOHT-shahft / kohn-zoo-LAHT SHPREKH-uhn)
I want to talk to a lawyer.
Ich will mit einem Anwalt sprechen. (eekh veel meet IGH-nem AHN-vahlt SHPREKH-uhn)
Can I just pay a fine now?
Kann ich jetzt einfach eine Strafe zahlen? (kahn eekh yetst IGHN-fakh igh-nuh SHTRAH-fe TSAH-len?)
Note: Be sure that it is clear from the context that you aren't offering a bribe. Trying to bribe an official will get you into real trouble.

Country and territory names


Names of countries in general retain their official name or equivalent to English words, with subtle adaptations suitable for German speakers. Some country names which end with -a are either adapted into -en (e.g.: Egypt to Ägypten, India to Indien, Romania to Rumänien) or retained (e.g.: Malaysia, Nigeria, Panama). Some countries also take a definite article of either "der" (e.g.: der Irak, der Iran, der Libanon) or "die" in singular (e.g.: die Schweiz, die Ukraine, die Türkei, die Mongolei, die Slowakei, all countries ending with -ei, countries containing the name Republik) or plural form (e.g.: die Niederlande, die USA, die VAE (the UAE), all countries of plural form in English).

Countries with significant spelling and pronunciation differences compared to English are listed below.

In general there has been a tendency since about the 1950s to move away from "Germanized" pronunciations and spellings towards more Anglophone or more akin to the local name ones. A somewhat dicey subject are German names for formerly German places (e.g. Wroclaw) which will be understood but might be seen as a revanchist statement by some. Similarly in some country names the c used to be replaced with a k but isn't any more (e.g. "Nikaragua" is hardly used any more) whereas for "Mexiko" and "Kolumbien" the k form is standard.

For indicating the nationality of a person, add the suffix -er at the end or replacing the -en suffix if the country has the suffix. Leave it as it is for male or add -in for female.

Deutschland (DOIT-ch-land)
Frankreich (FRANK-raikh) however a citizen of France is a "Franzose" (men) "Französin" (women)
Czech Republic
Tschechische Republik (CHE-his-che REh-puh-blik) you may also hear the short form "Tschechien"
Cote dIvore
Elfenbeinküste however a citizen of said country is an "Ivorer"
die Schweiz (di shu-WAITS)
Österreich (OEST-ter-raikh)
The UK/Great Britain
Vereinigtes Königreich (ver-REIN-ni-tes KOE-nig-raikh)/Großbritannien (GROSS-bree-TAN-ni-en). The latter is used informally.
England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland
England (ENG-land), Wales (wales), Schottland (SHOT-land), Nordirland (Nor-DIR-land), Irland (IR-land)
Ungarn (UNG-garn)
Spanien (SHPA-ni-en)
Griechenland (GREE-khen-land)
Zypern (TSEE-pern)
Norwegen (nor-WÉH-en)
Estland (Ést-land)
Lettland (LETT-land)
Litauen (LI-tau-en)
Weißrussland (WAISS-russ-land)
Russland (RUSS-land)
Republik Moldau (MOL-daw) or Moldawien
die Türkei (di TUER-kai)
Aserbaidschan (ah-ser-bai-JAN)
Malediven (MA-lé-DI-ven)
China (KHEE-nah) pronounced with a "hard k" in the south and "sh" in the north.
Japan (YAH-pan)
New Zealand
Neuseeland (NOY-see-land)
Fidschi (FID-shi)
Marokko (MA-rok-ko)
Dschibuti (ji-BU-ti)
Vereinigte Staaten (ver-RAIN-ni-te STA-ah-ten) or die USA (dee UH-ES-AH) in colloquial parlance a citizen of the U.S. will often be called "Ami" for either gender.

Learning more

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