Handling daily-life German conversation is a high-level skill to achieve when you learn German as a foreign language. It is quite important as you will always engage in conversations more than you will use written skills while traveling.
It doesn’t matter if you want to travel to German-speaking countries or want to make German-speaking friends on apps, work etc., you might want to impress them with your conversational skills, right?
Follow this guide to prepare yourself with useful German words and expressions, and get some advice on how to deal with formal and informal German. Let’s go!
Basic German phrases
Let’s start with some essential German conversational phrases you should always have ready to start off a talk:
Greetings and polite German sentences:
Guten Morgen (Good morning)
Guten Tag (Good day – literally translated)
Guten Abend (Good evening)
Wie geht’s? (How are you?)
Entschuldigung (Excuse me / I’m sorry)
Bitte (Please / You’re welcome)
Auf Wiedersehen (Goodbye)
Bis später (See you later)
If you want to make new friends, you might introduce yourself and ask for their names as well:
Ich bin Sarah / Ich heiße Sarah / Mein Name ist Sarah (I am Sarah / My name is Sarah)
Wie heißt du? / Wie ist dein Name? (What is your name?)
Freut mich, dich kennenzulernen! / Freut mich! (Nice to meet you)
It is always good to have some typical questions prepared to show some interest about another person as well as some appropriate answers to talk about yourself:
Wo wohnst du? – Ich wohne in Atlanta. (Where do you live? – I live in Atlanta.)
Woher kommst du? – Ich komme aus Kanada. (Where are you from? – I am from Canada.)
Was bist du von Beruf? – Ich bin Lehrer. (What do you do? – I’m a teacher.)
Wie alt bist du? – Ich bin 30 Jahre alt. (How old are you? – I’m 30 years old.)
Welche Sprachen sprichst du? – Ich spreche Englisch und Deutsch. (Which languages do you speak? – I speak English and German.)
Sprichst du Deutsch? – Ja, ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch. (Do you speak German? – Yes, I speak a little German.)
If someone asks you a question, there is no need to repeat the same question to ask that person back after you answered. A simple, “Und du?“ (And you? / How about you?) is enough and more authentic.
- “Wo wohnst du? – Ich wohne in Atlanta. Und du?...” (Where do you live? – I live in Atlanta. And you?…).
Keep in mind that unlike in many other languages the German word order in questions is different. After a question word there is always the verb following next and then the subject, For example:
- Was bist du von Beruf? (What do you do for a living?)
Check out some more about German question words in our article on German pronouns.
German expressions and compliments
It is nice to receive compliments but to give them can be a great way to break the ice and open a conversation. In such situations, you will need the verb “mögen” (to like) a lot.
Don’t forget that this is one of the irregular German verbs, so pay attention to conjugation.
If you meet someone and want to tell that person what you like about her/him, you can drop some of the following German expressions:
- Ich mag dein (neutral) / deine (female and/or plural) / deinen (male) … (I like your …)
If you need to use dein, deine or deinen in German depends on the gender of the following noun. Let’s look at some examples:
Ich mag dein T-Shirt. (I like your T-shirt.)
Ich mag deine Frisur. (I like your haircut.)
Ich mag deinen Humor. (I like your sense of humour.)
You can give compliments about the look but also about the personality, which is why you should memorize the following German sentences:
Ich mag dich. (I like you.)
Du bist lustig. (You are funny.)
Du bist schlau. (You are smart.)
Du bist hübsch. (You are pretty/handsome.)
Of course, you can also compliment general things like food or people. Drop one of these phrases when you are visiting a Biergarten in Munich and you will certainly engage in a conversation with some nice locals:
Ich mag das Essen hier. (I like the food here.)
Ich mag die Leute hier. (I like the people here.)
For expressing a general positive attitude about something, keep these phrases and some affirmative adjectives in mind:
Das ist toll / cool / super. (That is great / cool.)
Das gefällt mir. (I like that.)
Ready for more German conversation practice?
Why not take a free German lesson with Busuu and learn the grammar and vocabulary you need to succeed in real German conversations!
German conversation in restaurants, bars, and cafés
If you travel to one of the German-speaking countries you should definitely prepare yourself for how to handle German conversations in restaurants, bars or cafés. These are the perfect places to showcase your German conversational skills.
Check out our articles on German travel phrases and how to order food in German to find lots of other phrases, but let’s have a look at some important basic words and phrases:
die Bar (the bar/pub)
die Kneipe (a German word that means a place similar to a pub but with a more rustic atmosphere)
die Speisekarte, bitte. (The menu, please.)
Was können Sie empfehlen? (What can you recommend?)
Ich hätte gern einen Kaffee / ein Bier / eine Bratwurst. (I would like a coffee / a beer / a sausage)
Einen Kaffee, bitte. (A coffee, please.)
Don’t forget these two German drinking phrases if you meet friends for a beer etc.:
Zum Wohl! (Cheers!)
How to ask for help in German
You will hopefully not end up in a situation in another country in which you urgently need help. However, it is good to memorize a few phrases to ask for help, and in German there are several ways to do that:
Ich brauche Hilfe. (I need help.)
Können Sie mir bitte helfen? (Can you help me, please?)
Ich habe ein Problem. (I have a problem.)
Könntest du mir einen Gefallen tun? (Could you do me a favor?)
Das habe ich nicht verstanden. Können Sie das bitte wiederholen? (I didn’t understand that. Can you repeat, please?)
Even if you would like to practice your German skills, in some situations you might prefer to speak English. So it a good idea to know how to ask if a person is able to speak English:
- Sprechen Sie Englisch? (Do you speak English?)
Sometimes you might ask a stranger for help. So, you should consider if you are in a more formal situation and how your relationship to the person is, which leads us to the next important paragraph.
Formal and informal German: Sie vs du
There is an essential difference between “du” (you, singular, informal) and “Sie” (you, singular and plural, formal), and it is important to know that for German conversation, especially because English doesn’t make this difference.
“Du” is used in informal situations, for friends, family and people of the same age.
“Sie” is always written capitalized and can be used for one person or for a group of people in formal settings. These could be people you simply don’t know, people of a way higher age, or at work.
These “rules” are not set in stone and it might differ from person to person and their respective preference.
For “Sie”, you will use the verb like you use it for the “sie” in lower case (they) – 3rd person plural: “sie kommen” (they come) – “Sie kommen” (you come, formal).
Let’s look at some examples:
Woher kommst du? vs. Woher kommen Sie? (Where are you from?)
Könntest du mir einen Gefallen tun? vs. Könnten Sie mir einen Gefallen tun? (Could you do me a favor?)
Sprichst du Englisch? vs. Sprechen Sie Englisch? (Do you speak Englisch?)
Du bist lustig. vs. Sie sind lustig. (You are funny.)
Spoken language particularities: A little extra hint
If you have ever spoken to native German speakers you may have noticed that they don’t always say everything grammatically correctly. As in other languages, there are some spoken language phenomena that are not actually correct but kind of legitimate when speaking in more informal settings.
Please be aware that the following examples are wrong which is why you shouldn’t use them in formal and especially written German, and it also depends somewhat on the dialectal region how “incorrect“ or "acceptable“ they are considered. It is still good to know that these exceptions exist in case you hear them.
An example for varying grammar is the usage of the cases. If you have learned some more about German, you know that there are four different cases.
The preposition wegen (because of) requires the Genitive which is why a correct usage would be:
- Wegen des schlechten Wetters bleibe ich zu Hause. (Because of the bad weather I will stay at home.)
In some dialects but also in spoken language people sometimes prefer to use another case so that they say:
- Wegen dem schlechten Wetter bleibe ich zu Hause. (grammatically wrong)
The same happens with the preposition während (during):
Während des schlechten Wetters bin ich zu Hause geblieben. (During the bad weather I stayed at home.)
Während dem schlechten Wetter bin ich zu Hause geblieben. (grammatically wrong)
Another example, maybe good news for all the native English speakers: On the one hand, there is no specific progressive tense in German so that the phrase “I am cooking” is usually expressed in simple present: “Ich koche”.
On the other hand, there is a way to say it by using “am + verb”. The usage differs from person to person too. Some people may avoid it since it doesn’t sound perfectly correct and prefer to say “Ich koche gerade.” (I am cooking now.) using gerade” (now) to specify they are doing it in this moment.
However, you can express it with the am-version as well:
Ich bin am Kochen. (I am cooking.)
Ich bin am Fernsehen. (I am watching TV.)
Ich bin am Einkaufen. (I am shopping.)
Funny German words and German slang phrases
Get ready to hear some funny German words and phrases that might be confusing in the beginning. Once you learned them, you can drop them in a German conversation with confidence and impress native German speakers.
Das ist der Hammer! (That is the hammer! – literally translated, meaning: That is amazing!)
So ein Quatsch! (That is nonsense. – This is a phrase for very informal situations.)
Fernweh: This means the opposite of “homesickness”. You can use this word when someone asks you why you want to travel (again): “Ich habe Fernweh” (there is no literal translation but it means you are missing seeing distant places)
der Handschuh (singular) / die Handschuhe (plural) (the glove / the gloves): It literally means it is a shoe for your hand (“Hand” + “Schuh” = hand + shoe)
Don’t hesitate to use them even though it might seem strange at first. But you will seem like a native.
Wrapping up with German conversation
With all these German words and sentences to practice you are ready to engage in German conversations and show your skills!
Don’t shy away from showing your conversational skills when ordering at the restaurant, showing affection on dates and drop some cool German slang. Using the language is always the best practice.
Want to learn more phrases for German conversation?
We’re Busuu, the language-learning app – and we help people really learn German. Get the confidence to engage in conversations with every German-native speaker you meet and all kinds of situations.
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