12 German Question Words to Know and Master


“Entschuldigung Sie bitte, wie komme ich am besten zum Busbahnhof?”
Excuse me, please. How do I get to the bus station?

I remember asking this question five times on my first school exchange to Germany. Why five times? Well, I’d mastered the question well enough, but the reply was so long, I just followed the first instruction, “Go down the road to the bank, take the next street on the right…” Then I asked the next person, “Entschuldigung Sie bitte, wie komme ich am besten zum Busbahnhof?”

Finally, my friends and I got to the station and met our German partners to travel home with. I was so proud of my language skills. It gives you such a sense of achievement when you successfully ask for and understand directions and navigate yourself in a foreign city.

Asking questions is an essential part of communication. How else can you get to know someone? 

So here I am today to help you along the way. 

12 Most Common Question Words in German:

  • 🇩🇪 Was – 🇺🇸 what?
  • 🇩🇪 Wann – 🇺🇸 when?
  • 🇩🇪 Wo – 🇺🇸 where?
  • 🇩🇪 Warum – 🇺🇸 why?
  • 🇩🇪 Wie – 🇺🇸 how?
  • 🇩🇪 Welche(r) – 🇺🇸 which?
  • 🇩🇪 Wer – 🇺🇸 who?
  • 🇩🇪 Wem – 🇺🇸 whom?
  • 🇩🇪 Wie viel(e) – 🇺🇸 how much/many?
  • 🇩🇪 Wofür – 🇺🇸 for what?
  • 🇩🇪 Woher – 🇺🇸 from where?
  • 🇩🇪 Wohin – 🇺🇸 to where?

I’ll take you through some realistic situations where you typically need to ask questions.

  • Getting to know someone
  • Asking for directions
  • Asking for information in a restaurant or shop
  • General knowledge – Test yourself with a trivia quiz.

Getting to Know Someone in German

Wie heisst Du? What’s your name? Literally, “how are you called?” must be the number one question to ask someone you meet the first time. Look at this short introductory dialogue:

A: Hallo! Mein Name ist Sarah. Wie heisst Du? 
B: Hallo, Sarah. Ich heisse Silvia. Und woher kommst Du?  
A: Ich komme aus England. Wo wohnst du? 
B: Ich wohne hier in Köln. Und, was machst du beruflich?
A: Ich bin Sekretärin. Und Du? 
B: Ich arbeite bei einer Bank.
A: Welcher Bank? 
B: Bei der Deutschen Bank 
A: Interessant! 

A: “Hi! My name is Sarah. What are you called? “
B: “Hi Sarah. I’m called Silvia. And where do you come from?”
A: “I come from England. Where do you live?” 
B:“ I live here in Cologne. And what do you do for a living?”
A: “I’m a secretary. And you?”
B: “I work for a bank.”
A: “Which bank?”
B: “Deutsche Bank.”
A: “Interesting!

Other questions to get to know someone might include:

  • 🇩🇪 Wie alt bist du? 🇺🇸 How old are you?
  • 🇩🇪 Wann hast du Geburtstag?🇺🇸 When is your birthday?
  • 🇩🇪 Wie viele Geschwister hast du? 🇺🇸 How many brothers and sisters do you have?
  • 🇩🇪 Was studierst du?🇺🇸 What do you study?
  • 🇩🇪 Welche Serien schaust du gerne?🇺🇸 Which series do you like to watch?

Word order:

You will see that most questions begin with the “Question word,” followed by the verb and subject. There are no auxiliary verbs in German to form questions or negations. We simply use the verb in the correct form after the question word.

Asking for Directions in German

As I told you in my introduction, my first major accomplishment in German was getting my friends and me from A to B in an unknown city. Let’s repeat that phrase once again:

🇩🇪 Entschuldigung Sie, bitte. Wie komme ich am besten zum ….?
🇺🇸 Excuse me, please. How do I best get to…?

Alternatively, you can simply ask,

“Wissen Sie woor “Können Sie mir sagen wo (Do you know where/ Could you tell me where…?)

However, here you need to note that the verb goes to the end of the sentence. Just like in English, in fact. 

🇩🇪 Wissen Sie wo das Rathaus ist? 
🇺🇸 Do you know where the town hall is?

🇩🇪 Können Sie mir sagen wo die Post ist?
🇺🇸 Could you tell me where the Post Office is?

For further information, you might want to know:

  • 🇩🇪 Wie weit weg ist es? 🇺🇸 How far away is it?
  • 🇩🇪 Wie lange dauert es zu Fuß? – 🇺🇸 How long will it take on foot?       
  • 🇩🇪 Wo ist die nächste Bushaltestelle? – 🇺🇸 Where is the next bus stop?
  • 🇩🇪 Woher fährt der Bus ab? – 🇺🇸 Where does the bus go from?
  • 🇩🇪 Von welchem Gleis fährt der Zug ab? – 🇺🇸 From which platform does the train leave?

Helpful German Questions when You Are Out

Another typical situation in which asking questions is necessary is when you are out and about shopping or eating out in a restaurant or cafe

Asking about Food in German

You might be uncertain about a food type and require further information. Here you could simply ask:

🇩🇪 Entschuldigung Sie bitte, was ist ein Halver Hahn? 
🇺🇸 Excuse me, what is a “Halver Hahn?”

Side Note: The answer to this is, it’s a local specialty in the area of Cologne. You might think it means a half chicken, but it usually costs less than 4€, so a good deal, right? 

Not really. You will be served a slab of bread and a chunky piece of Gouda cheese.

🇩🇪 Was kostet hier ein Glas Rotwein? 
🇺🇸 How much is a glass of red wine?

🇩🇪 Wie viel kostet eine Flasche Weisswein?
🇺🇸 How much is a bottle of white wine?

Before you ask, take a look at numbers in German to avoid any misunderstanding.

You’ve drunk too much of that wine and need to use the restroom?

🇩🇪 Entschuldigung, wo ist die Toilette?
🇺🇸 Excuse me, where is the restroom?

Questions Used while Shopping

While traveling to a city in one of the German-speaking countries you probably would like to buy some souvenirs. You only want the best, so ask some further questions.

  • 🇩🇪 Aus welchem Metall bestehen diese Ohrringe? – 🇺🇸 Which metal are these earrings made of? (Note the preposition aus comes before the question word)
  • 🇩🇪 Wo wurden sie hergestellt? – 🇺🇸 Where were they made?
  • 🇩🇪 Warum sind sie so günstig? – 🇺🇸 Why are they so cheap?
  • 🇩🇪 Wann schließen Sie heute? – 🇺🇸 When do you close today?

Quiz Time

Ok, you think you’ve mastered asking questions in German? Then try out this trivia quiz about Germany. You can find the answers at the bottom of the page. Maybe cover them up and check afterward. 

  1. Was sind die drei Farben der deutschen Flagge?
  2. Wann ist der “Tag der deutschen Einheit?”
  3. Wie viele Bundesländer gibt es? 
  4. Wer ist der Präsident von Deutschland?
  5. Wo findet das Oktoberfest jährlich statt?
  6. Welche Währung(currency) gibt es in Deutschland?
  7. Wie hieß die ehemalige Währung? (the former currency) 
  8. Welche Stadt war früher die Hauptstadt Deutschlands?
  9. Wann war die Mauerfall?
  10.  Was bekommst du, wenn du einen “Halven Hahn” in Köln bestellst? (Just checking here you read my text carefully!)    
  1. Schwarz, rot und gelb
  2. Am 3. Oktober
  3. Sechzehn
  4. Frank-Walter Steinmeier
  5. In München
  6. Euro
  7. Deutsche Mark
  8. Bonn
  9. (9. November) 1989
  10. Brot und Käse

I hope you had fun with my short quiz.

Now you can practice question words in German in our Quiz-App and impress your German-speaking friend with your knowledge. 

Viel Erfolg!” (Good luck and success!

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Sarah Chadwick

Sarah Chadwick

I'm predominantly a teacher of English as a foreign language, with over 15 years of experience in this field. I've lived as much of that time in Cologne, Germany. I speak fluent German, which I am also qualified to teach.

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