Useful German Expressions

I’m sure you have been in this situation: when meeting a German speaker, you’d like to try to speak with him/her. You are listening attentively and want to confirm you are understanding her/him… but how?

1. Saying hi

  • Hallo: You can use this one every time of the day all over the German speaking countries.
  • Hi/hey: We use these English/American greetings very often in Germany.
  • Moin (moin): Typical in northern Germany but it has already spread to the south. (It’s not an abbreviation of Morgen, it comes from low Germ/Dutch mooi[en] meaning “[I wish you a] beautiful [day]”.)
  • Grüß dich!: Literally “(I) greet you”, we use it to say hi or when we are introduced to someone new (“nice to meet you”).
  • Servus: This one is used in Austria instead of hallo (you can use hallo as well) in an informal way.
  • Grüß Gott: This expression is used in Bavaria and Austria. It is a bit more formal than servus. (It’s like saying guten Morgen/Tag in northern Germany.)

2. Asking “how are you?”

  • Wie geht’s (dir)?: Standard informal way to ask “how are you?”
  • Wie läuft’s (bei dir)?: More general question asking “how is it going?”
  • Alles klar/ok (bei dir)?: Meaning “everything ok?”
  • Was gibt’s Neues?: Is for asking “Any news?”
  • Wie geht’s, wie steht’s?: Informal (rhyming) question to ask “how are you?”
  • Wie war dein Wochenende/dein Tag…?: “How was your weekend/day…?”

3. Starting questions or conversations

  • Sag mal, …: Is meant to attract the other person’s attraction (“tell me…”).
  • Und, …?: Is useful for asking to continue telling.
  • Was ist mit (+ dative)…?: “What about…?”
  • Was ich dich noch fragen wollte…: “What I wanted to ask you…”
  • Und dann/danach?: “And after that?/What happened after?”

4. Starting telling something

  • Also…: You can use it to start anything you want to tell or you point of you (“well,…”).
  • Übrigens,…: Very useful if you want to add something new or something you forgot to tell (“by the way”).
  • Was ich dir (noch) erzählen wollte…: “What I wanted to tell you…”
  • Ach…: You can add this interjection before the sentence above or use it alone meaning “What I’ve forgotten/before I forget”.

5. Expressing agreement

  • Genau!: “Exactly!, That’s it!”
  • Natürlich!/Na klar!: “Of course!”
  • (Völlig) klar!/Logisch!/Verständlich!: “(Absolutely) logical/understandable!”
  • (Das) stimmt.: “That’s right.”
  • Richtig/korrekt: “Right.”
  • Da hast du recht.: “You’re right.”
  • You can add ja (“yes”) before each one.
  • Na gut.: “Ok, you can do it/you’re right.”

6. Expressing disagreement

  • Nein!/Nee!: “No!” (The 2nd is more informal.)
  • Nö!: Means also “no” but adds a nuance of “I don’t feel like it/I’m not in the mood.”
  • (Das) stimmt nicht!: “That’s not right/wrong.”
  • Gar nicht wahr!: “Absolutely not true.”
  • Leider nein/nicht: “Unfortunately no(t).”
  • (So ein) Quatsch!: “What a nonsense!”

7. Expressing amazement

  • Echt?/Wirklich?/Im Ernst?: “Really?”
  • Das gibt’s doch nicht!: “This/that can’t be true!”
  • Unglaublich!/Unfassbar: “Unbelievable/incredible!”
  • Ich weiß gar nicht, was ich sagen soll!: “I don’t know what to say!”
  • Da bin ich (aber) platt!/Ich fasse es nicht!: “I can’t believe what you’re telling me!”
  • Alter Schwede!: The same as above but in slang.
  • Boah!: wow!

8. If you are not understanding

  • Wie bitte?: The most typical and polite way to ask “pardon?”
  • Was?: The same as above but informal.
  • Ich verstehe nicht…: “I don’t understand.”
  • (Das) verstehe ich nicht!: The same as above but emphasizing a spacial fact/aspect that you don’t understand.
  • Sorry?/Entschuldigung?: “Pardon?”
  • Wie jetzt?: Slang meaning “I’m lost.”

9. Ending a conversation

  • Alles klar…: Like summarizing in order to finish the chat.
  • Also dann…: Same as a bove (“well then”).
  • Also…: It is useful for starting the last sentence, too.
  • Tut mir leid, aber ich muss los.: “I’m sorry but I have to go.”

10. Saying bye

  • Bis später/morgen/nächste Woche!: See you later/tomorrow/next week!
  • Bis dann!: See you!
  • Mach’s gut!: Literally “do it well” but really meaning “bye/see you”.
  • Tschüss/tschau!: Bye!
  • Tschö!: The same as above but more slang.