German Culture: German Language & Useful Phrases

Robert Easton

Lonely Planet Phrasebook.

German is the official language of Germany, Liechtenstein and Austria, as well as being spoken in parts of Switzerland, eastern France, northern Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, and a few places in Eastern Europe.

There are also large German speaking communities in North and South America.

In total it is the mother tongue of about 100 million people. It is an Indo-European language particularly closely related to English, Frisian, Yiddish, Dutch, and Afrikaans.

English is fairly widely understood in Germany, especially in larger cities, but for those that are interested in getting off the beaten track, as in any country, an understanding of the native language is very useful.

Reasonable pronunciation of German should not be too much of a problem for English speakers.

Rapid German: Buy this audio CD from Amazon.

The most important differences to remember are that a German 'w' is pronounced like an English 'v', a German 'v' is pronounced like the 'f' in 'father', and a German 'j' is pronounced like an English 'y' as in 'yoghurt'.

Regional dialects are still strong in Germany especially in Bavaria, Swabia, Cologne and areas of Saxony. German retains polite forms for gender and case and any serious student of the language must make an effort to understand these clear distinctions.

Nouns are represented in three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter (der, die, das) and a common plural form die.

Below are a number of German phrases with English tramslation which will help out in most common circumstances visitors will encounter while in Germany.


Hello - Guten Tag!
Good morning - Guten Morgen
Good evening - Guten Abend
Good night - Gute Nacht
How are you? - Wie geht es Ihnen? (polite)
Very good - Sehr gut
Fine thanks - Danke, gut
Ok, so so - Es geht
Good bye - Auf Wiedersehen
Bye! - Tschüs
If I gave you my phone number, would you keep it or throw it away? - Wenn ich ihnen meine Telefonnummer gäbe, würden Sie sie wegwerfen oder behalten?

Requests etc

What would you like - Was möchten Sie?
I would like - Ich möchte
May I? - Darf ich?
Can you help me? - Können Sie mir helfen?
Please, yes please - Bitte
Thanks, no thanks - Danke (in German, 'thanks' in answer to an offer means no thanks. To accept, say please – 'Bitte')
Thanks a lot - Danke schön!
You're welcome - Bitte schön! (in response to Danke schön)

Out and About

How do I get to...? - Wie komme ich zum/zur …?
To the train station - zum Bahnhof
To the town centre - zur Stadtmitte
To the bus station - zur Bushaltestelle
Can you show it to me on the map? - Kannen Sie mir das auf der Karte zeigen?
One ticket to … please - Bitte eine Fahrkarte nach ...
When does the bus/train for Berlin leave? - Wann fahrt der Bus/Zug nach Berlin ab?
Why can't I have a parachute? I want to speak to the pilot at once - Warum kann ich keinen Fallschirm haben? Ich will sofort mit dem Piloten sprechen!

Eating and Drinking

A small/large beer, please - Ein kleines/großes Bier, bitte
When do you close? - Wann schließen Sie?
Can I look at the menu, please? - Ich hätte gerne die Speisekarte
I'm a vegetarian - Ich bin Vegetarier
Chicken - Huhn
Beef - Rindfleisch
Sausage - Wurst
Fish - Fisch
Salad - Salat
Bread - Brot
Beer - Bier
Red/white wine - Rot-/Weiß-wein
Rum and coke, please - Bitte eine Cola mit Rum
Whisky - Whiskey
Vodka - Wodka
Water - Wasser
Orange Juice - Orangensaft
Coke - Cola
You are not drunk so long as you can lie on the ground without holding on - Solange Du auf dem Boden liegen kannst, ohne Dich festzuhalten, bist Du noch nicht betrunken.


We would like to go to a football match - Wir möchten gerne ein Fussballspiel ansehen.
Football - Fussball
World Cup - Weltmeisterschaft
Goal - Tor
Penalty - Strafe
Corner kick - Eckball
Red card - Rote Karte
Yellow card - Gelbe Karte
Referee - Schiedsrichter
Goalkeeper - Torwart
Piss off - Verpiss dich
Shit - Scheisse
I'd prefer to play tennis - Ich spiele lieber Tennis

Everything else

How much is that - Was kostet das?
That's too expensive - Das ist zu teuer
I would like to talk to the British Embassy - Ich will mit dem britischen Konsulat sprechen
I need a doctor - Ich brauche einen Arzt


0 - null
1 - eins
2 - zwei
3 - drei
4 - vier
5 - fünf
6 - sechs
7 - sieben
8 - acht
9 - neun
10 - zehn
11 - elf
12 - zwölf
13 - dreizehn
14 - vierzehn
15 - fünfzehn
16 - sechzehn
17 - siebzehn
18 - achtzehn
19 - neunzehn
20 - zwanzig
21 - einundzwanzig
22 - zweiundzwanzig
30 - dreißig
40 - vierzig
50 - fünfzig
60 - sechzig
70 - siebzig
80 - achtzig
90 - neunzig
100 - hundert
298 - zweihundert achtundneunzig
1000 - tausend
4567 - viertausend und fünfhundertsiebenundsechzig
1000000 – eine Million

Other articles by Robert Easton
The Amber Room
The Berlin Wall
German Philosophers
German Cars
German Beer
German Food
German Politics
German Music

Related Language Resources

Polish Words & Phrases

Germany Travel Book Shop

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