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How to Ask Questions in German

6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of German Words and Phrases for Traveling

How do you ask basic questions in German? Well, German interrogative words mean the same as they do for English: who, what, when, where, why, and how. By knowing basic German interrogatives, you'll be able to express your questions, even without an extensive vocabulary.

By learning the basic question words to ask questions, you'll be able to express your questions, even without an extensive vocabulary. For example, say you're at a street market and you find a beautiful antique clock. You could ask the vendor “Wieviel ist diese antike Uhr?" ("How much is this antique clock?"). But if you don't know enough vocabulary, you can simply point to the clock and say "Wie viel?" and the seller will understand that you want to know the price.

Wer? (Who?)
Was? (What?)
Wann? (When?)
Wo? (Where?)

Ask wo to learn something’s location. Ask wohin to learn where someone is going. For example, you say Wo ist das Restaurant? (Where is the restaurant?) and Wohin geht Herr Benz? (Where is Mr. Benz going?).

Warum? (Why?)
Wie? (How?)
Wie viel? (How much?)
Wie viele? (How many?)
Welcher? (Which?)
Gibt es . . .? (Is/Are there . . .?)

In German, you can form questions by reversing the subject noun/pronoun and conjugated verb. See how these question words work in a few useful phrases:

  • Hast du Geld? [S/Informal] (Do you have money?)

  • Sprechen Sie gut Deutsch? [S/P/Formal] (Do you speak German well?)

  • Wo wohnt Herr Keller? (Where does Mr. Keller live?)

  • Wohin gehen Sie? [Formal] (Where are you going?)

  • Wann kommt der nächste Zug? (When does the next train arrive?)

  • Warum muss ich warten? (Why must I wait?)

  • Wann essen wir? (When do we eat?)

  • Wann ist das Treffen? (When is the meeting?)

  • Wie kommt man nach Amsterdam? (How do I get to Amsterdam?)

In German, you never begin a question with tun (do/does/did) as you might do in English.

You can also form a question just by changing the tone of your voice to give a regular sentence the sound of question.

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