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Bitte & danke!

How to sound more polite when speaking German!

The first thing you need to be aware of when trying to speak politely to German speakers is that there may be a few cultural differences between your own culture and German culture.

Therefore the definition of being polite can vary between different places. Saying this, German’s customs and culture should be a vital part of your language learning.

It is important to try to address people correctly, especially in formal situations. Of course the first thing you should be aware of is the formal version of “du” which is “Sie”. “Du” is used to address friends, family and younger people. “Sie” is used in more formal situations and when addressing people you don’t know or generally for your elders. If you’re not sure, call a person by their name or use the “Sie” form until offered “du”. You can also address people formally by using Herr or Frau.

The subjunctive II mode is very useful for speaking in a more polite way. It can be used to express wishes and form polite requests. It is the difference between “I want” and “I would like”. You could make it even more polite by adding words such as “bitte”. Here are some examples showing the difference it makes to your manners:

As you can see, small words such as “bitte” make a big difference. “Bitte” can mean “please” but may also mean “you’re welcome”. Other words that can make you sound more polite include “danke” which means thank you and “gern” or “gerne” which translates to gladly or with pleasure. “Entschuldigung” is also a very useful word which means excuse me or I’m sorry. “Es tut mir leid” is another phrase that means I’m sorry and can be very useful.

It’s vital to be polite if you are getting clarification on something. Here are some useful phrases that you can use:

You may be wondering how you can sound more polite on the phone? If you don’t recognise the phone number that is calling then it is quite common to just state your own last name. Remember the tips given above! When saying goodbye on the phone, use “Auf Wiederhören”.

Try to use them as much as you possibly can so that they become second nature to you.


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