January 10, 2015

Learn Basic German: Alphabet, Numbers 1-1000, Greetings

In this article provided by you will learn the basics of the German language by studying the alphabet, the numbers 1-1000 and some common greetings. The examples and tips we provide in this German lesson will make the learning process fast and easy.

The German Alphabet

The German language has an alphabet composed of 30 letters, the same letters found in the English alphabet plus four extra letters: 3 umlauts (Ä ä, Ö ö, Ü ü) and one ligature (ß) called eszett or scharfes S. In the table below you will find the German alphabet and how to pronounce individual German letters.

Letter Pronunciation Letter Pronunciation
A ah Ä ae
B bay C tsay
D day E eh
F ef G geh
H ha I ee
J yot K kah
L ell M em
N en O oh
Ö oe P pay
Q koo R er
S es ß eszett
T tay U oo
Ü ue V fow
W vay X ix
Y eep-see-lon Z tset

German umlaut and eszett (scharfes S)

Umlaut is a diacritic consisting of two dots placed over a letter, the letter is often a vowel. In German we will find only three letters with umlauts (Ä ä, Ö ö, Ü ü) these letters are pronounced different from their non-umlaut form (A a, O o, U u).

ß is exclusively an lower-case letter and there are no words in modern German that start with this letter. ß is found in some common German words, such as: groß (big), weiß (white), die Straße (the street), der Fuß (the foot)… ß sounds exactly like ss. In Switzerland and Liechtenstein eszett (ß) is no longer used because it was replaced permanently by ss.

German Phonetic Alphabet

In the table below you will find the NATO Phonetic Alphabet and the German Phonetic Alphabet, plus pronunciation tips.

NATO Germany Pronunciation
Alfa/Alpha Anton an-ton
Ärger erger
Bravo Berta berta
Charlie Cäsar say-zar
Delta Dora dorah
Echo Emil ee-meel
Foxtrot Friedrich freed-reekh
Golf Gustav goos-taf
Hotel Heinrich heyen-reekh
India Ida ee-dah
Juliet Julius yooliews
Kilo Kaufmann kowf-mann
Lima Ludwig lood-veek
Mike Martha mar-tah
November Nordpol nort-pole
Oscar Otto oh-toh
Ökonom urko-nom
Papa Paula powla
Quebec Quelle qoo-ehleh
Romeo Richard ree-ard
Sierra Siegfried zeek-freed
Eszett estset
Tango Theodor tee-oh-dor
Uniform Ulrich ool-reekh
Übermut iewber-moot
Victor Viktor vik-tor
Whiskey Wilhelm vil-helm
X-Ray Xanthippe ksan-teep-pay
Yankee Ypsilon iewp-see-lohn
Zulu Zeppelin tsep-pay-leen

Some German speaking countries have made slight modifications to the German phonetic alphabet, for instance, Austria and Switzerland have replaced some of the names with more suitable names for their countries and traditions, this changes are made visible by the following table:

Germany Austria Switzerland
Dora Dora Daniel
Kaufmann Konrad Kaiser
Ökonom Österreich Örlikon
Paula Paula Peter
Übermut Übel Übermut
Xanthippe Xaver Xaver
Zeppelin Zürich Zürich

German Pronunciation Guide

Start learning how to pronounce German words and avoid mistakes made by beginners with our basic pronunciation guide. In the table below you will be able to study and learn how to pronounce the individual letters in German words.

Letter Pronunciation
A like the sound ah or like a in art
Ä like the sound eh or like ay in say
B like b in best
C - before i or e, like ts in bits
- otherwise like k in king
D like d in dog
E - like e in bed
- like the sound eh or ay in say
- at the end of a word, like er in master
F the same as in English
G - like g in gold
- at the end of a word, like k in king
H like h in horse
I - like i in fill, never like i in idea
- like ee in see
J like y in yes
K the same as in English
L like l in live
M the same as in English
N the same as in English
O like the sound oh or like o in top
Ö like ur in turn
P like p in pick
Q the same as in English
R the same as in English
S - at the beginning of a word, like z in zoo
- otherwise like s in smile
ß like s in smile
T the same as in English
U like oo in moon
Ü like iew in view
V like f in food
W like v in voice
X like the sound ks
Y the same as ü
Z like ts in bits

Now that you know how to pronounce each German letter, you need to learn when they should be pronounced differently, this is why the following table will be very helpful for you and every person who wants to avoid some pronunciation mistakes made usually by beginners. Some letters in particular combinations change the way the words are pronounced, below you will be able to study how to pronounce letter combinations that do not follow the same patterns learned in the above table.

Letter Pronunciation
AU like ow in how
ÄU like oy in toy
EI like igh in right or like the word eye
EU like oy in toy
IE like ee in see
CH like k in king
SP at the beginning of a word, like shp
ST at the beginning of a word, like sht
SCH like sh in sheep

Important! Because some German sounds are not found in English we have tried to come up with something that sounds similar, for this reason the pronunciation guide from above is simply informational and does not offer any guarantee.

German Alphabet and Pronunciation Facts

A list with some of the most interesting and important facts about the German alphabet & pronunciation:

- there are more than 26 letters in the German alphabet
- the German alphabet has 30 letters
- the four extra letters are 3 umlauts (Ä ä, Ö ö, Ü ü) and one ligature (ß)
- the most commonly used letters in German are e and n
- individual letters have neuter gender: das A, das B, das C...
- there is no English equivalent for the sound ü.

German Alphabet & Pronunciation Q & A

How to spell my name in German? In English to spell Adams you would say A for Alpha, D for Delta, A for Alpha, M for Mike, S for Sierra, the same formula may also work in German if we use wie instead of for and instead of the NATO phonetic alphabet we will use the German phonetic alphabet, e.g: A wie Anton, D wie Dora, A wie Anton, M wie Martha, S wie Siegfried.

How do I type umlauts on an English-language keyboard? In the following table you will find the proper transcription of the German umlauts, if your operating system is Microsoft Windows then you can used the Alt codes found in the third column.

Letter Transcription Alt Code
Ä Ae Alt + 142
ä ae Alt + 132
Ö Oe Alt + 153
ö oe Alt + 148
Ü Ue Alt + 154
ü ue Alt + 129
ß ss Alt + 225

To produce one of the German umlauts from above, in Microsoft Windows, simply hold down Alt and type the appropriate number using the numeric keypad.

German Numbers 1-1000

Now, you will learn the numbers and how to count in German with pronunciation tips. In order to properly sustain simple conversations in German, about: time, age, prices, money, etc. you have to know the numbers and how to count. The table below will start with the number 1, and among our readers may be some people wondering How do you say zero in German? Zero in German is null and the pronunciation nool.

Counting in German - German Numbers 1-20

First step is to learn the numbers from 1 to 20 in German. The numbers from 1 to 12 should be memorized exactly as they are. The numbers from 13 to 19 end in -zehn. Attention when you write sechzehn (sixteen) and siebzehn (seventeen).

English German Pronunciation
one eins eyenz
two zwei tsveye
three drei drigh
four vier feer
five fünf fiewnf
six sechs zeks
seven sieben zee-ben
eight acht akt
nine neun noyn
ten zehn tsen
eleven elf elf
twelve zwölf tsvurlf
thirteen dreizehn drigh-tsen
fourteen vierzehn feer-tsen
fifteen fünfzehn fiewnf-tsen
sixteen sechzehn zek-tsen
seventeen siebzehn zeeb-tsen
eighteen achtzehn akt-tsen
nineteen neunzehn noyn-tsen
twenty zwanzig tsvan-tsik

Counting in German - German Numbers 21 to 99

Numbers in German from 21 to 99, may seem totally reverse, if they are literally translated into English, because in German, units are used instead of tens and tens are used instead of units, e.g: vierundsiebzig (seventy-four) literally translated in English would mean - four and seventy. The numbers from 21 to 99 in German, are formed according to the following pattern: units + und + tens. e.g: zweiundzwanzig (twenty-two), vierundsiebzig (seventy-four), zweiundachtzig (eighty-two). und is used to separate units from tens only for numbers between 21 to 99 (121 to 199, 221 to 299, 321 to 399...), it is not used to separate tens from hundreds or hundreds from thousands. All the exact tens from 20 to 90 end in '-zig'. (except for dreißig (thirty) that ends in ßig) The most important thing to remember from this second table are the names of the tens. Since you already know the numbers from 1 to 20, this second table will start from 21.

English German Pronunciation
twenty-one einundzwanzig eyen-oond-tsvan-tsik
twenty-two zweiundzwanzig tsveye-oond-tsvan-tsik
twenty-three dreiundzwanzig dreye-oond-tsvan-tsik
thirty dreißig drigh-seek
forty vierzig feer-tsik
fifty fünfzig fiewnf-tsik
sixty sechzig zek-tsik
seventy siebzig zeeb-tsik
eighty achtzig akt-tsik
ninety neunzig noyn-tsik

Counting in German - German Numbers 100 to 1000+

Forming hundreds and thousands in German is easy and almost the same as in English. All the exact hundreds from 100 to 900 end in '-hundert'. Suppose you want to form the number five hundred in German: in English you take the number five and next to him you put the word hundred to obtain the number five hundred but in German you take the number five (fünf) and you glue him to the word hundert, the result will be fünfhundert (five hundred), the same rule is applied, to all the exact hundreds in German. All the exact thousands from 1000 to 9000 end in '-tausend'. Earlier you learned how to form hundreds in German, the same rules applies here, but instead of the word '-hundert' you have to use '-tausend'.

English German Pronunciation
one hundred (ein) hundert (eyen) hoondert
two hundred zweihundert tsveye-hoondert
three hundred dreihundert drigh-hoondert
one thousand (ein) tausend (eyen) taoo-zent
two thousand zweitausend tsveye-taoo-zent

Counting in German - Complex numbers in German

If you want to form complex numbers in German, you need to know that a big part of the number is written together: millions, tens and units are written separate. Suppose you want to form the number: seven thousand two hundred ninety-one. You already know that hundreds and thousands are form almost the same as in English, only difference is that words are united and not separated, so all you have to do now is to replace them with the German version. After you do that your word will look like this: siebentausendzweihundert. Now, according to our pattern, you need to unite, the number of units with und, and only after, you can unite the resulted word, with the number of the tens: one in German is ein, ninety in German is neunzig, now let's join them with the word und > einundneunzig. seven thousand two hundred ninety-one = siebentausendzweihundert einundneunzig

Mathematics in German

Here, you will find some of the most used words in mathematics translated in German:

English German Pronunciation
divide dividieren dee-vi-dee-ren
divided by durch doork
equals ist ist
minus minus mee-noos
multiply multiplizieren mool-tee-plee-tsee-ren
plus plus ploos

German Greetings and Introductions

Below you will learn basic greetings, introductions and common expressions useful when you want to greet or to start a conversation in German. In almost all the lessons provided by you will find pronunciation tips and examples. Only this way we think the learning process is faster and easier for all the learners. What do you think about our lessons? Leave us a message through our contact page.

German Greetings

Now, let's learn how to say Hello, Goodbye, Thank you and You’re welcome in German. The greetings and goodbyes found below are used formal and / or informal, if a greeting is used mostly formal you will see the word formal in brackets.

How to say Hello in German?

If you want to say Hello in the formal way, try to use the German equivalent of Good morning, Good evening or Good day, depending on the time of the day. Note! If you want to be formal in a conversation with a German speaker use the word Sie (the equivalent of you) instead of du (the more casual way to say you). The formal way of greeting someone in German can be used also casual, depending on your preferences, but be careful because the other way around doesn't work (the word Hallo nowadays is an exception, tends to be semi-formal). Below you will find a table with common German greetings, in the third column are the pronunciation tips.

English German Pronunciation
Hello / Hi Hallo hah-lo
Hello / Hi Hi hi
Hello / Hi Grüß dich! * grews deek
Hello / Hi Grüß Gott! * grews got
Hello / Hi / Bye Servus * servoos
Hello / Hi Moin! ** moin
Hello! / Hello, everyone Mahlzeit mahl-tsaheet
Good morning Guten Morgen (formal) gooten morgen
Good day Guten Tag (formal) gooten tak
Good evening Guten Abend (formal) gooten ah-bend
Good night Gute Nacht goote nakt
Welcome! Willkommen! vill-kommen
A warm welcome Ein herzliches Willkommen ighn herts-lihes vilkoh-men

* – The greeting it’s used mostly in Southern Germany and Austria
** – The greeting it’s used mostly in Northern Germany.

How to say Goodbye in German?

If you want to say Goodbye in the formal way use Auf Wiedersehen! (Goodbye / Bye), if you are on the telephone use Auf Wiederhören! (Goodbye / Bye). Note! Servus is the casual way of saying Hello / Hi, but also Bye. The formal way of saying Goodbye in German can be used also casual, depending on your preferences, but be careful because the other way around doesn't work. Below you will find a table with common German goodbyes, in the third column are the pronunciation tips.

English German Pronunciation
Goodbye / Bye Auf Wiedersehen! (formal) owf veeder-zen
Goodbye / Bye Auf Wiederhören! (formal) owf veeder-hur-ren
Bye Tschüss! tshiews
Have a good day Schönen Tag shurnayn tak
Have a good weekend Schönes Wochenende shurnays vokhayn-aynday
See you later! Bis später! bis shpay-ter
See you soon! Bis bald! bis bahld
See you tomorrow! Bis morgen! bis morgen
Have fun! Viel Spaß! feel shpass
Farewell! / All the best! Alles Gute! alles goote
Take care! Mach’s gut! maks goot
Good Luck! Viel Glück! feel gliewk
Let’s go! Gehen wir! gheken veer

How to say Thank you and You’re welcome in German?

In the table below you will find how to say Thank you and You’re welcome in the German language, in the third column are the pronunciation tips.

English German Pronunciation
Thanks! Danke! danke
Thank you! Danke! danke
I thank you Ich danke Ihnen (formal) eek danke eenen
I’m very grateful Ich bin Ihnen sehr dankbar (formal) eek bin eenen zehr dankbar
Many thanks! Vielen Dank! feelen dank
Thanks a lot! Besten Dank! besten dank
Thank you very much! Danke sehr! danke zehr
Thank you very much! Danke schön! danke shurn
You’re welcome! Bitte schön! bih-tay shurn
Please! / You’re welcome! Bitte! bih-tay
You’re welcome! Gern gescheh'n! gern geshayn
You’re welcome! Keine Ursache! keye-nay oorsahay
You’re welcome! Kein Problem! keyen problaym

How are you? in German - Ask & respond

Sometimes asking a question like How are you? is a way of saying Hello!, the same pleasantries are found between German speakers.

English German Pronunciation
How's it going? Wie geht's? vee gates
How's it going? / What’s up? Alles klar? alles klar
How are you? Wie geht es dir? vee gate es deer
How are you? Wie geht es Ihnen? (formal) vee gate es eenen

There are many possible responses to give when someone asks you How are you?, below we have listed some of the most popular answers translated in German.

English German Pronunciation
I'm fine, thank you. Gut, danke. goot danke
I'm fine Es geht mir gut es gate meer goot
I'm very well Es geht mir sehr gut es gate meer zehr goot
I'm so-so Es geht es gate
I'm rather well Ziemlich gut tsim-leek goot
Much better Viel besser feel besser
Not well Nicht gut neekt goot

After you answer, it is customary to ask how the other person is doing. You can do this easily by saying Und dir? (And you?) if is a casual meeting or Und Ihnen? (And you?) if you want to be formal.

How to make introductions in German

Meeting and greeting often requires introductions and knowing the proper way to make introductions in a particular language can help you make a good first impression. Note! In this type of situations the German language tends to be a bit more formal than American English.

English German Pronunciation
What is your name? Wie heißt du? vee highsst doo
What is your name? Wie heißen Sie? (formal) vee highssan zie
What is your last name? Was ist Ihren Nachname? (formal) vahs ist eeren nakh-namay
My name is... Ich heiße... eek highssay
Glad to meet you Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen (formal) froy mikh, zie kennen-tsoolernen
Glad to meet you Schön, dich kennenzulernen shurn, deekh kennen-tsoolernen
Can you spell the name, please? Können Sie den Namen bitte buchstabieren? kurnen zee den namay bee-tay book-shta-bee-ren
Can you spell your name, please? Können Sie bitte Ihren Namen buchstabieren? kurnen zee bee-tay eeren namay book-shta-bee-rane
Yes, I can Ja, Ich kann ya, eek kann
yes ; no ja ; nein ya ; nine
Where are you from? Woher kommen Sie? vo-hair koh-men zee
Where do you live? Wo wohnen Sie? vo voh-nen zee
How old are you? Wie alt sind Sie? vee alt zint zee
I do not understand Ich verstehe nicht eek fershtea neekt
I do not speak German Ich kann nicht Deutsch zu reden eek kahn neekt doytche tsoo reden
I do not speak well German Ich kann nicht so gut Deutsch zu reden eek kahn neekt soh goot doytche tsoo reden

How to apologize in German

Below you will study some common German expressions of forgiveness useful for situations like squeezing through crowds, to more serious situations where a personal apology is necessary.

English German Pronunciation
Excuse me Entschuldigung ent-shool-dee-goon
I apologize Es Tut mir Leid ehs toot meer laeet
Sorry for forgetting Entschuldige bitte, dass ich es vergessen habe ent-shool-deege bee-tay, dass eek es fergessen habay
Excuse my mistakes Entschuldigen Sie bitte meine Fehler ent-shool-deegen zie, bee-tay meye-nay fayler
I didn't mean to do that Ich habe das nicht gewollt eek habay das neekt gevolt
I didn’t mean it that way Das habe ich nicht so gemeint das habay eek neekt zo gemeyent
It wasn’t meant in that way Das war doch nicht so gemein das var dok neekt zo gemeyen
Forgiveness! Verzeihung! fer-tseye-oong

Common German Expressions

Now, let's study some common German expressions used by German speakers in everyday life. Some popular idioms of a language may sound obscure or meaningless, but if you know what they really mean you will also know how to use them appropriately.

English German Pronunciation
Great! Prima! pree-mah
Great! Klasse! klahsay
Great! Toll! toll
Really! Wirklich?! veerk-leek
Really! Echt?! aykt
What nonsense! Was für ein Quatsch! vahs fur eyen kooahch
What nonsense! Was für ein Unsinn! vahs fur eyen oonzeen
Nonsense! Quatsch! kooahch
Exactly. Genau. genahoo
I beg your pardon? / What did you say? Wie, bitte? vee, bee-tay
Never mind. / That’s okay. Das macht nichts. das maht neekts
Friend Kumpel koompel
What's new? Was gibt's Neues? vahs geebts noyees
One moment please! Einen Augenblick, bitte! eyenen owgen-bleek, bee-tay
Hold on please! (phone) Bleiben Sie dran, bitte! bleyeben zee drahn, bee-tay
I couldn't care less. Das ist mir wurscht. das ist meer voorsht
I don't care. Es ist mir egal. es ist meer aygahl
That is not of my concern. Das ist nicht meine Sorge. das ist neekt meyenay zorge
I'm exhausted. Ich bin kaputt. eek been kahpoot
I'm in a bad mood. Ich bin in schlechter Laune. eek bin in shlaykter lone
The nerve! Was für eine Frechheit! vahs fur eyenay frayk-keyet
It’s a stone’s throw away. Das ist ein Katzensprung. das eest ayn kahts-ayn-shproong

Important! Because some German sounds are not found in English we have tried to come up with something that sounds similar, for this reason the pronunciation tips from above are simply informational and does not offer any guarantee.

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