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Asking Questions Politely in German

When you’re in a German-speaking country, you’re bound to find yourself in a number of situations where you need to ask a lot of questions as you find your way around — for example, where the nearest bank is or how long the train will be delayed — or you may simply need to ask someone to speak more slowly. You many find the following vocabulary useful in various situations.

These expressions can help you get the attention of someone, excuse yourself, or ask someone to repeat himself:

  • Entschuldigung! (I’m sorry./Excuse me.)

  • Entschuldigen Sie, bitte! (Excuse me, please./I beg your pardon.)

  • Entschuldigung? (Pardon?)

  • Verzeihung bitte. (Excuse me./Pardon me.)

  • Verzeihung! (Sorry!)

  • Wie bitte? (Pardon?/Sorry?/I beg your pardon?) You use this phrase when you don’t understand what someone has said.

After you get the person’s attention, you may need to follow up with a request for help. The following are some common requests for getting help and asking someone to repeat himself or to speak more slowly:

  • Könnten Sie mir bitte helfen? (Could you help me, please?)

  • Könnten Sie das bitte wiederholen? (Could you repeat that, please?)

  • Könnten Sie bitte langsamer sprechen? (Could you please speak more slowly?)

In a restaurant, you can get service with the following expressions. Just remember to start with Entschuldigen Sie, bitte! (Excuse me, please!)

  • Was würden Sie zum Essen empfehlen? (What would you recommend to eat?)

  • Bringen Sie mir/uns bitte die Speisekarte/die Rechnung. (Please bring me/us the menu/check.)

  • Könnten Sie bitte einen Löffel/eine Serviette bringen? (Could you bring a spoon/a napkin, please?)

  • Ich hätte gern . . . (I’d like . . .) When ordering food or drink, add the item from the menu to the end of this phrase.

When you’re shopping in a department store or other large store, the following may help you navigate it more easily:

  • Wo ist die Schmuckabteilung/Schuhabteilung? (Where is the jewelry/shoe department?)

  • Wo finde ich die Rolltreppe/die Toiletten? (Where do I find the escalator/restrooms?)

  • Haben Sie Lederwaren/Regenschirme? (Do you carry leather goods/umbrellas?)

  • Wie viel kostet das Hemd/die Tasche? (How much does the shirt/bag cost?)

  • Könnten Sie das bitte als Geschenk einpacken? (Could you wrap that as a present, please?)

When you’re walking around town and need directions on the street, the following questions can help you find your way:

  • Wo ist das Hotel Vierjahreszeiten/Hotel Continental? (Where is the Hotel Vierjahreszeiten/Hotel Continental?)

  • Gibt es eine Bank/eine Bushhaltestelle in der Nähe? (Is there a bank/bus stop near here?)

  • Könnten Sie mir bitte sagen, wo die Post/der Park ist? (Could you tell me where the post office/park is, please?)

These questions come in handy when you’re taking public transportation:

  • Wo kann ich eine Fahrkarte kaufen? (Where can I buy a ticket?)

  • Wie viele Haltestellen sind es zum Bahnhof/Kunstmuseum? (How many stops is it to the train station/art museum?)

  • Ist das der Bus/die U-Bahn zum Haydnplatz/Steyerwald? (Is this the bus/subway to Haydnplatz/Steyerwald?)

  • Wie oft fährt die Straßenbahn nach Charlottenburg/Obermenzing? (How often does the streetcar go to Charlottenburg/Obermenzing?)

  • Ich möchte zum Hauptbahnhof. In welche Richtung muss ich fahren? (I’d like to go to the main train station. In which direction do I need to go?)

  • Von welchem Gleis fährt der Zug nach Köln/Paris ab? (Which track does the train to Cologne/Paris leave from?)

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