Let's get your German off to a running start with some basic German phrases for beginners.
We wanted this post on the most useful German phrases to be easy to navigate. So we’ve grouped the phrases into categories including shopping, socializing, getting around, eating and drinking, health and safety, flirting, and sharing opinions. Along the way, we also include some practical information about traveling, as well as some cultural notes.
If you haven’t yet seen our post on 60 basic German words you need to know as a beginner, make sure to check it out as well. It will help you with the basic greetings, directions and introduce you to some German verbs and explain how to conjugate them.
Useful German phrases for shopping
Let’s start with a few examples of some useful German phrases for shopping. Will you be paying with cash or credit card? Will you be trying to bargain? Bargaining is more common in the South of Germany and not so common in the rest of Germany. But there are still bargains to be found. Keep your eyes out for sales.
This list will help you save some money while you practice your German each time you go shopping.
- Ausverkauf - Sale
- Sonderangebot! - Special Offer!
- Reduziert - Reduced
- Haben Sie Andenken? - Do you have souvenirs?
- Wo ist die Kasse? - Where is the cashier / check-out counter?
- Nehmen Sie Kreditkarten? - Do you take credit cards?
- Ich habe nur zwanzig euro dabei, und kein Kreditkarte. - I only have 20 euro and no credit card.
- Können Sie einen Rabatt anbieten? - Can you offer a discount?
- Darf ich eine Quittung haben, bitte? - Could I please have a receipt?
Quick notes on exchange rates
Currency exchange rates are known as Wechselkurse in German. Money exchange is called Geldwechsel. When shopping in Austria and Germany, you’ll be using euro. In Switzerland, the currency is Swiss francs. When it comes to getting the best rate for obtaining local currency, you should withdraw cash from the ATM using a debit card. But beware if you use a credit card at the ATM, because you’ll start paying high interest rates from the moment you withdraw the cash. The worst place to change money is at the airports. We’ve seen rates up to 30% worse at airports than in town and local banks (!!)
Another thing is that vendors will often ask if you want to pay in the local currency or in your home currency. You are usually better off paying in local currency because when you choose your home currency, the bank locks in an exchange rate in its favor. So the only way you’d save money by locking in the rate in your home currency is if you happen to buy on a day with the local currency suddenly takes a large spike against you before the merchant processes your payment. And that’s not likely to happen.
Useful German phrases for social encounters
Will you be in social encounters with German speakers? Maybe you already have German-speaking family and friends that you will be visiting. Here are some useful German expressions to help you socialize in German.
- Lange nicht gesehen. - Long time no see
- Dar ich ihnen….vorstellen? - May I introduce you to…?
- Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen. - Pleased to meet you.
- Meinerseits / Ganz meinerseits. - Likewise.
- Bis später - See you later
- Es tut mir leid. - I’m sorry
One group of exchange students from the US to Germany once said, ‘the Germans don’t smile at us when we smile at them.’ But this doesn’t mean Germans aren’t warm and open. It takes time to adjust to a new culture. As you learn a new language, it’s good to be aware of cultural differences.
Keep learning about the culture as you learn German. If you live in a German-speaking area, try not to retreat to an expat bubble. Surround yourself with natives and learn to appreciate the differences between your culture and the locals. You’ll also learn that there are cultural differences within Germany, as well as the unique cultures of Austria and Switzerland.
For example, the Austrians are not so direct and view time and commitments in a way that to an extent can be more Mediterranean than Germanic. It’s also important to mention that if Austria and Switzerland have their own dialects.
Useful German phrases for getting around
If you plan on visiting Austria, Germany or Switzerland, you’ll need to learn to find your way around. If you are able to memorize all these expressions, you’ll be that much farther ahead before you reach your destination.
- Können Sie bitte langsamer sprechen? - Can you please speak slower?
- Ich spreche nur ein wenig Deutsch. - I only speak a little German.
- Bitte können Sie das übersetzen? - Can you translate this please?
- Bringen Sie mich bitte zu dieser Adresse. - Please take me to this address.
- Halten Sie bitte hier an. - Please stop here.
- Um die Ecke. - On the corner.
- Können Sie mir das auf der Karte zeigen? - Can you please show me on the map?
- Bitte schreiben Sie es auf. - Please write it out.
- Darf ich mal vorbei? - May I pass by / get through?
- Wie sagt man ….. auf Deutsch? - How do you say ….. in German?
- Kann ich ins Internet gehen? - May I use the Internet?
- Wo ist das WC? Wo ist die Toilette? - Where is the restroom/loo?
- Außer Betrieb. - Out of order
Useful German phrases for eating and drinking
- Ich habe eine Reservierung. - I have a reservation.
- Ich bin bereit zu bestellen. - I am ready to order.
- Darf ich bitte die Speisekarte sehen? - May I please see the menu?
- Ein Glas Leitungswasser, bitte. - A glass of tap water, please.
- Ich besorge das Bier. - The beer is my treat.
- Guten Appetit. - Bon appetit.
- Stimmt so. - Keep the change.
The stereotypical German meal consists of meat and potatoes. There are many ethnic restaurants around Germany, so if you’re looking for variety, you can find Chinese, Greek, Indian, Thai and Turkish restaurants among others. German-speakers are known for their beer. There are roughly 2000 different breweries in Germany alone.
High-quality wine is also produced in Austria and Germany. Germany has more than 30 varieties of grapes. White wines Müller-Thorgau and Riesling are the two most common. In the winter, look for glüwein, a heated red wine with spices.
Useful German phrases for health and safety
It’s a good idea to memorize the German phrases below in case the unexpected happens. In Austria, Germany, and Switzerland the phone number '112' will get you in contact with the ambulance, fire department, and police.
- Ich bin krank geworden. - I’ve fallen ill.
- Kann ich helfen? - May I help?
- Lassen Sie mich in Ruhe! - Leave me in peace!
- Achtung! - Watch out!
- Können Sie mir helfen? - Can you help me?
- Alles in Ordnung? - Is everything ok?
- Rufen Sie einen Krankenwagen. - Call an ambulance.
Useful German phrases for flirting
Ready for some flirting and a first date in German? Here are some useful German phrases that may help you out in the dating world.
- Du siehst toll aus! - You look great!
- Lass uns ins Kino gehen. - Let’s go to the movies.
- Ich habe eine gute Zeit. - I’m having a good time.
- Du machst mich glücklich. - You make me happy.
- Mit dir kann ich am besten lachen. - With you I can laugh the most.
- Willst du mit mir gehen? - Do you want to go out with me?
- Du hast wunderschöne Augen. - You have beautiful eyes.
Useful German phrases for sharing opinions
- was ist Ihre / dein Meinung? - What’s your opinion?
- Das ist sehr nett. - That’s nice.
- Das gefällt mir sehr gut. - I like that.
- Es gefällt mir nicht. - I don’t like that.
- Ich stimme dir zu. - I agree with you.
- Das ist Bescheuert. - While this literally means that’s bothersome or unpleasant, German-speakers may use it to express any sort of strong disappointment or to say that something is not a good idea.
- Das ist mir Wurst. - This expression literally means ‘that’s my sausage, and is used to say ‘what do I care?’
- Ich habe die Nase voll davon. - This expression literally means ‘I’ve had my nose full of it’ German-speakers use it to say, ‘I’m sick of it.’
- Nicht der Rede wert. - Not at all
- Das macht nichts / macht nichts. - No problem. That’s fine.
- Machen Sie sich keine Sorgen. - No worries.
We want to make learning German worry free so you’ll also have keine Sorgen and you’ll be able to meet your German-learning goals. You may also want to check out our post answering 'How long it takes to learn German' to help you get an idea of what to expect and how to be effective at learning German.
Hope you enjoyed this post!