German at a Glance: Common German words, phrases and sentences

Berlin Skyline
Berlin Skyline

Master the basic words, phrases and sentences you’re likely to need on your next trip to Germany.

Everyone knows this situation: you’re on holiday, you’re in a shop or bar or restaurant frantically trying to signal what you want with your hands. You look stupid, the shopkeeper is confused and just wants you to pay up and leave and due to the new permanent 1,5-metre distancing rule, the queue behind you is snaking halfway to Belgium. Not exactly your idea of a perfect weekend in Berlin.

Well, perhaps this is less of an issue in Germany than it is in other countries, but I think you get my point that a little bit of basic knowledge of the local language is pretty handy in such a situation. While English is the international business language, with 340 million native speakers and the most studied second language in the world, it’s always nice to get an insight into how other languages function. It’s well documented that different languages use different parts of the brain. Therefore, knowing more than one lanu, no matter how little, can help you to engage more of your brain and when you get more advanced, can help you understand different points of view, ways of thinking in different cultures, break down stereotypes and even delay the development of dementia. So, Jetzt geht’s los!… Let’s crack on!

Greetings in German

Now obviously, we don’t want you sounding so advanced that someone starts talking German to you at 1000 mph, so let’s start with something a little more basic. Say, a few ways of greeting people, saying goodbye, and some introductions:

English German
Good morning! Guten Morgen!
Good afternoon! Guten Nachmittag! / Mahlzeit! (literally meaning meal time, use it around lunchtime)
Good Night! Guten Abend / Gute Nacht
Goodbye! Auf Wiedersehen!
Bye! Tschüss! / Ciao!
Please / you’re welcome Bitte
Thank you Danke
Thank you very much Vielen Dank
Excuse me Entschuldigung
Today Heute
Tomorrow Morgen
Yesterday Gestern
I don’t speak German very well Ich spreche nicht so gut Deutsch
Do you speak English? Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Days of the week, numbers and directions

These are some of the most essential words in any language, especially for tourists.  Asking when something takes place, where it takes place or how much something costs are pretty essential for spending your hard-earned money in shops, attractions or finding that famous döner kebab stand everyone loves. The search for any attraction, product or service starts here:

English German
Monday Montag
Tuesday Dienstag
Wednesday Mittwoch
Thursday Donnerstag
Friday Freitag
Saturday Samstag
Sunday Sonntag
Numbers Nummern
one eins
two zwei
three drei
four vier
five fünf
six sechs
seven sieben
eight acht
nine neun
ten zehn
hundred hundert
thousand tausend
Directions Wegbeschreibung
Where is…? Wo ist…?
left links
right rechts
straight ahead geradezu

Words to use while Shopping

Once you’ve successfully navigated the streets, and can say numbers and days perfectly, you’ll probably find yourself in a shop or business at some point. Now, in order to avoid a similar situation to the one above, you will probably want to know the words for some essentials, like ordering, asking for prices and describing the thing you actually want. This list should help you with that:

English German
Wieviel kostet das? How much does it cost?
Ich möchte…/Ich hätte gern… I would like…
Convenience store/corner shop der Spätkauf
Bakery die Bäckerei
Cafe das Café
Pub die Kneipe
Bar die Bar
Club der Club
Museum das Museum
Supermarket der Supermarkt
Water das Wasser
Food das Essen
Expensive teuer
Cheap preisgünstig
Good value presiwert
Open geöffnet
Closed geschlossen
Do you accept card payments?Akzeptieren Sie Zahlungen per Karte?
I only have a 50 euro note note, is that all right?Ich habe nur 50 Euro, ist das in Ordnung?

Hotels and Accommodation

Now, you’ve got your supplies and you’ve found the hotel successfully. See? It’s easy. Chances are, whoever is in charge of the accommodation or on the hotel reception desk speaks perfect English, but better safe than sorry, especially if you’re winging it and haven’t booked ahead or done your research:

English German
At the Hotel Im Hotel
Do you have a room available? Haben Sie ein Zimmer frei?
I’ve made a reservation. Ich habe reserviert.
How much does one night cost?Wieviel kostet eine Übernachtung, bitte?
Where can I leave my car? Wo kann ich mein Auto abstellen?
Does the room have… Hat das Zimmer…
…a shower? eine Dusche?
…a toilet? …eine Toilette?
…a bathroom? …ein Bad?
I would like… Ich hätte gerne…
…a room. …ein Zimmer.
…a duvet/blanket. …eine Decke.
…a towel. …ein Handtuch.
I would like to keep it in your safe.Ich würde das gerne in Ihrem Safe aufbewahren.
Can you recommend a restaurant? Können Sie ein Restaurant empfehlen?

Phrases to make you sound like a native

English speaking countries (especially the UK) love small talk; if making awkward conversations with strangers about the weather, the place you’re staying or how they don’t serve pints and fried breakfasts here was a professional sport, the UK would finally start winning things. However, it’s not. What’s more is Germans can’t really get their heads around small talk as a concept. So, instead let’s take a look at some German phrases which will have you impressing, or confusing, the locals in no time. Who knows, if you play your cards right, you might even get reprieve from being instantly recognised as the scourge of mainland Europe a.k.a. the Brit abroad. Although the sunburn will probably still give you away.

English German
A blessing in disguise Gück im Unglück
It’s none of her/his business Das geht sie/er nicht an!
Beat around the bush Um den heißen Brei herumreden
Better late than never Besser spät als nie
I don’t get it Ich komme nicht mit
It serves you right Es gechieht Ihnen/dich recht
I can’t help it Ich kann nichts dafür
I get the picture Ich bin im Bild
Kill two birds with one stone Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klippe
Call it day Schluss für heute
Put something on ice Etwas auf Eis liegen
Break the ice Das Eis brechen
Get out of hand Außer Kontrolle geraten
No pain, no gain Ohne Fleiß kein Preis
Cutting corners Am Falschen Ende sparen
The devil is in the detail Der Teufel steckt im Detail
Things are looking up Es geht bergauf
On cloud nine Im siebenten Himmel sein

 Some things are best left to the professionals

After studying these words and phrases, not even the scariest of doormen at Berlin’s clubs should scare you, or at least you’ll know what ‘heute leider nicht’ means (if you still don’t, it means you’re not getting in). You can impress locals and friends, navigating German cities with ease. However, what if you’re considering something more permanent?

On the job hunt in Germany but don’t speak the language? There are a lot of English-speaking jobs here but you will have to navigate the bureaucracy in Germany, and depending on the city you’re planning to move to it can be notoriously difficult if you don’t have any prior knowledge of German. Don’t fear, Berlin Translate is here! Translations of certified documents can’t be done by just anyone, many official documents need a certified translator to ensure they comply with the local laws.

Berlin Translate offers sworn translation services for all of your official documentation needs. Be it CVs, brith certificates, death certificates, or any other critically important document, we can offer competitive prices for translations carried out by certified translators.

Any more questions about certified translations? Chances are we have the answer here.

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