Placing Telephone Calls in German - dummies

Placing Telephone Calls in German

When German speakers pick up das Telefon (dâs -le-fohn) (phone), they usually answer the call by stating their last name — particularly when they are at their office. If you call somebody at home, you sometimes might hear a simple Hallo? (hâ-loh) (Hello?).

If you want to express that you’re going to call somebody or that you want somebody to call you, you use the verb anrufen (ân-roo-fen). It is a separable verb, so the prefix an (ân) gets seperated from the stem rufen (roo-fen) (to call), when you conjugate it:



ich rufe an

îH roo-fe ân

du rufst an

doo roo-fst ân

Sie rufen an

zee roofn ân

er, sie, es ruft an

ehr, zee, ês rooft ân

wir rufen an

veer roofn ân

ihr ruft an

eer rooft ân

Sie rufen an

zee roofn ân

sie rufen an

zee roofn ân

Asking for your party

If the person you wish to speak to doesn’t pick up the phone, it’s up to you to ask for your party. As in English, you have quite a few options when it comes to expressing that you want to speak with somebody:

  • Ich möchte gern Herrn / Frau . . . sprechen. (îH muoH-te gêrn hêrn / frow . . . shprê-Hen) (I would like to talk to Mr. / Mrs. . . .)
  • Ist Herr / Frau . . . zu sprechen? (îst hêr / frow . . . tsoo shprê-Hen) (Is Mr. / Mrs. . . . available?)
  • Kann ich bitte mit Herrn / Frau . . . sprechen? (kân îH -te mît hêrn / frow . . . shprê-Hen) (Can I speak to Mr. / Mrs. . . . , please?)
  • Herrn / Frau . . . , bitte. (hêrn / frow . . . , -te) (Mr./Mrs. . . . , please.)

If you find that somebody talks too fast for you to understand, you can ask the person:

  • Können Sie bitte langsamer sprechen? (kuo-nen zee -te lâng-zah-mer sprê-Hen) (Could you please talk more slowly?)
  • Können Sie das bitte wiederholen? (kuo-nen zee dâs -te vee-der-hoh-len) (Could you repeat that, please?)

And if the person on the other end starts speaking English in response to your question, it’s not a failure on your part — it just means that the person wants to practice his or her English!

Making the connection

After you’ve asked to speak to a specific person, you could hear any number of responses depending on who you’re calling and where they are:

  • Am Apparat. (âm âpa-raht) (Speaking.)
  • Einen Moment bitte, ich verbinde. (ay-nen moh-mênt -te, îH fêr-bîn-de) (One moment please, I’ll put you through.)
  • Er / sie telefoniert gerade. (ehr / zee -le-foh-neert ge-rah-de) (He / she is on the phone right now.)
  • Die Leitung ist besetzt. (dee ly-tûng îst be-zêtst) (The line is busy.)
  • Können Sie später noch einmal anrufen? (kuo-nen zee speh-ter nôH ayn-mahl ân-roo-fen) (Could you call again later?)
  • Kann er / sie Sie zurückrufen? (kân ehr / zee zee tsoo-ruuk-roo-fen) (Can he / she call you back?)
  • Hat er / sie Ihre Telefonnummer? (hât ehr / zee eeh-re -le-fohn-nû-mer) (Does he / she have your phone number?)

Here are some expressions that might be helpful if something goes wrong with your connection:

  • Es tut mir leid. Ich habe mich verwählt. (ês toot meer lyt. îH hah-be mîH fer-vehlt) (I’m sorry. I have dialed the wrong number.)
  • Ich kann Sie schlecht verstehen. (îH kân zee shlêHt fêr-shtehn) (I can’t hear you very well.)
  • Er / sie meldet sich nicht. (ehr / zee mêl-det zîH nîHt) (He / she doesn’t answer the phone.)

Saying goodbye on the phone

Does auf Wiederhören! (owf vee-der-huo-ren!) somehow sound familiar? It is the phone equivalent to auf Wiedersehen (owf vee-der-zeh-en), the expression you use if you say good-bye to somebody you’ve just seen in person. Auf Wiedersehen combines wieder (vee-der) (again) with the verb sehen (zeh-en) (to see), and auf Wiederhören uses the verb hören (huo-ren) (to hear), so it literally means “hear you again.”

Talkin’ the Talk

The following is a conversation between Frau Bauer, the secretary of Herr Huber, and Herr Meißner, a potential client of the company.

Frau Bauer: Firma TransEuropa, Bauer. Guten Morgen! (fîr-mah trâns-oy-roh-pah, bowr. gûtn môr-gn) (TransEuropa company, Bauer speaking. Good morning!)

Herr Meißner: Guten Morgen! Herrn Huber, bitte. (gûtn môr-gn! hêrn hoo-ber, -te) (Good morning. Mr. Huber, please.)

Frau Bauer: Tut mir leid. Herr Huber ist in einer Besprechung. Kann er Sie zurückrufen? (toot meer lyt. hêr hoo-ber îst în ay-ner be-shprê-Hûng. kân ehr zee tsoo-ruuk-roo-fen) (I’m sorry. Mr. Huber is in a meeting. Can he call you back?)

Herr Meißner: Selbstverständlich. (zêlpst-fêr-shtant-lîH) (Of course.)

Frau Bauer: Wie ist noch einmal Ihr Name? (vee îst nôH ayn-mahl eer nah-me) (What is your name again?)

Herr Meißner: Meißner, mit ß. (mys-ner, mît ês-tsêt) (Meißner, with ß.)

Frau Bauer: Gut, Herr Meißner. (goot, hêr mys-ner) (Good, Mr. Meißner.)

Herr Meißner: Vielen Dank. Auf Wiederhören! (fee-len dângk. owf vee-der-huo-ren) (Thanks a lot. Good bye.)