When you learn German, you’ll naturally spend a lot of time focusing on German grammar and German vocabulary. A lot of the process of learning German vocabulary involves committing lists of lone words and their translations to memory. And these individual words are, of course, important when you want to describe the world around you.
But so much of what makes the German language rich and engaging are the many German phrases that add flavor to the language, the ones you can’t necessarily get from a teacher or a textbook. Learning key German phrases can take you out of the classroom and into actual conversations. Knowing what to say in real-life contexts when you’re introducing yourself, making new friends, making a purchase at a store or even finding your way around on your next vacation is often more important than knowing how to recite vocabulary lists or how use German syntax effectively (though all these elements of course play a part in mastering German in their own ways).
When you learn German phrases, you also get a window into the idiomatic and slang German phrases that take on a colorful meaning all of their own, one more vibrant than the sum of the individual words that make them up. These German slang phrases make German language learning all the more fun!
How To Learn German Phrases
There’s no wrong way to learn and practice German phrases, and it all depends on your learning style and preferences. When it comes to learning individual German vocabulary words, many people like to use flashcards or the sticky note method. But these learning techniques might work better for long lists of vocab, not necessarily for long phrases made of many words or without one-to-one translations.
If you really want to learn how German phrases are used in different contexts, spending time interacting with German media is a great way to do just that. German TV shows and German movies feature dialogue that’s full of the types of German phrases and expressions you’d hear in real-life contexts, so your exposure to German is richer than what you’d get from a textbook. The same goes for German podcasts, German songs and German YouTube videos — anything that lets you hear German spoken by native speakers who are having real conversations.
And if you want to explore how German phrases are used in writing, reading German books is a fantastic way to build up your language skills, to see how authors use German phrases in all sorts of genres and literary styles.
By and large, the best way to practice German phrases is by having real German conversations, either with native speakers or with a teacher or tutor who can give you real-time feedback. To know the German that’s spoken in the world, you’ve got to get out into the world and practice!
Essential Conversational German Phrases
When you have conversations in German (and isn’t that the goal of learning a new language?), you’re going to rely on a handful of conversational German phrases that will become like second nature to you. They’ll become your go-to German phrases in many situations, so they’re important to master from the beginning of your German journey. From “Hello!” to “How are you?” to “Where’s the bathroom?” and everything in between, here’s our list of essential German phrases for conversation.
German Phrases For Travel
When you explore the German-speaking world, you’ll need a repertoire of German travel phrases, whether you’re using them to ask for directions, order at a bar or make that connection at the train station.
- Ich nehme das Fahrrad. — I’ll take my bike.
- Von wo fährt der Bus ab? — Where does the bus leave from?
- Ich steige bei der nächsten U-Bahn-Station aus. — I am getting off at the next station.
- Du musst deine Fahrkarte entwerten. — You have to validate your ticket.
- Wo ist die nächste Bushaltestelle? — Where is the next bus stop?
- Hier ist es gefährlich für Fußgänger. — It is dangerous for pedestrians here.
- Halt an, da ist eine rote Ampel. — Stop, there is a red light.
- Lass uns mit dem Riesenrad fahren! — Let’s go on the ferris wheel!
- Ich fahre nach München aufs Oktoberfest! — I’m going to Munich to the Oktoberfest!
- Gehen wir ins Konzert? — Should we go to a concert?
- Ich möchte gern dieses Museum besichtigen. — I would like to visit this museum.
- Wir wollen an die Ostsee gehen! — We want to go to the Baltic Sea!
- Wie lange fährt man? — How long does it take?
- Wo sind die Toiletten? — Where are the toilets?
- Wo ist die Apotheke? — Where is the pharmacy?
- Wo finde ich eine Bank? — Where can I find a bank?
- Biegen Sie rechts ab! — Turn right!
- Biegt links ab! — Turn left!
Slang German Phrases, German Expressions And German Idioms (That Native German Speakers Actually Use)
To sound like an authentic German speaker, you’ve got to know the German phrases the real people in the German-speaking world actually use. Here’s a selected list of some wacky, eccentric and wonderful German slang phrases and expressions that will make you sound like a native German speaker.
- Das ist nicht mein Bier. — I’m not interested; I don’t like it. (literally, “That is not my beer.”)
- Drück mir die Daumen. — Wish me luck! (literally, “Press your thumbs for me!”)
- Kein Bier vor vier. — No beer before four.
- Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei. — All things end. (literally, “Everything has an end; only the sausage has two.”)
- Jetzt mal Butter bei die Fische. — Get to the point! (literally, “Now butter for the fish.”)
- Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her. — Those at the top are to blame. (literally, “The fish starts stinking from the head.”)
- Das Kind werden wir schon schaukeln. — No worries; we got this. (literally, “We’ll swing this child.”)
- Abwarten und Tee trinken. — Wait and see. (literally, “Wait and drink tea.”)
- Wir sind ja nicht aus Zucker. — The rain won’t hurt you! (literally, “We’re not made of sugar.”)
- So jung kommen wir nicht mehr zusammen. — YOLO, essentially. (literally, “We’re not so young anymore.”)
- Ein gutes Gewissen ist ein sanftes Ruhekissen. — A clear conscience is a soft pillow.
- Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof. — Life is hard. (literally, “Life is not a pony farm.”)
Learn German Phrases With Babbel
When it comes to teaching you the most important German phrases you’ll need for real-life conversations — and making sure they stick — Babbel has you covered.
Babbel is designed by more than 150 linguists and language experts whose goal is to get you speaking German in real conversations with confidence. Our interactive lessons cover all the aspects of learning German — reading, writing, listening, and speaking — with multimedia content to train your ears and eyes. Our speech recognition feature even helps you hone your pronunciation, too.
In addition to the vocabulary and grammar you’ll need to know to speak German, Babbel places an emphasis on teaching you German phrases that you’ll hear and use in the German-speaking world outside of the classroom. Almost all Babbel German lessons feature a real-life dialogue to help you put the German phrases you’re learning into practice in actual conversations.
With Babbel, you can pick and choose the topics and themes that are most relevant to you. Taking a trip soon? Brush up on the German phrases you’ll need for travel and navigating new places. Need to sharpen your German for an upcoming business meeting? Our courses have you taken care of.
Try a free German lesson with Babbel and see for yourself how quickly you’ll be on your way to speaking German with confidence — like you’ve always wanted to!