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German Phone Call Vocabulary Posted by on Apr 25, 2015 in Language

In German, speaking on the phone is called telefonieren.

Some people (like me) find telephone calls a bit scary and intimidating. They’re even moreso if you’re making a phone call in a different language! So I’ve compiled this list of useful phrases and vocabulary to help make German phone calls less scary.

Etiquette

  • When answering the phone in Germany, state your name (or just your surname) followed by a greeting of Guten Tag. Example: ‘Josef Neumaier, Guten Tag’. Some people say something more casual, like ‘Hallo, Neumaier’, and others just state their surname: ‘Neumaier’.
  • Even though you’re answering someone who’s called you, say who you are when you pick up the phone – and be sure to expect the same sort of answer when you call someone!
  • If it’s a company you’re calling, they’ll state their company name before their own name when they answer. Example: ‘Deutsche Bahn, Neumaier, Guten Tag.’
  • If it’s a friend you’re calling, you can be more informal by simply saying ‘Hallo, Birgit!’, like you would in English. This post will help you with more formal phone calls.

Now, what do you say when you’ve got them on the line? Here are a few useful phrases for making phone calls with in Germany:

Calling and asking for someone

Bell Telephone Systems 50s

Photo by blakta2 on flickr.com

 

Guten Tag, kann ich bitte mit Herrn/Frau___ sprechen? Hello, could I please speak to Mr./Mrs.___?

Guten Tag, spreche ich mit Herrn/Frau ___? Hello, am I speaking to Mr./Mrs.___?

Am Apparat. – Speaking.

 

When the person you need is unavailable

Are You There?

Sind Sie da? Are you there? Photo by renneville on flickr.com

 

Wissen Sie, wann Herr/Frau ___ wieder erreichbar ist? – Do you know when Mr./Mrs.___ will be available?

Könnten Sie ihm/ihr bitte sagen, dass ich angerufen habe? – Could you please let him/her know that I called?

Die Leitung ist besetzt – The line is busy.

 

Ringing back later

This is a telefon

Photo by splitbrain on flickr.com

 

Können Sie mich bitte später zurückrufen? Ich bin momentan beschäftigt. – Could you please call me back later? I’m busy at the moment.

Kann ich Sie zurückrufen? – Can I call you back?

Wann ist die beste Zeit, um Sie zurückzurufen? – When is the best time to call you back?

Unter welcher Nummer sind Sie gut erreichbar? – Which number is best for me to get hold of you on?

 

What to say when you don’t understand

Life in the Past

Photo by 27888428@N00 on flickr.com

 

Können Sie bitte etwas langsamer sprechen? – Could you please speak a little slower?

Können Sie das bitte wiederholen? – Could you repeat that, please?

Können Sie das bitte buchstabieren? – Could you spell that, please?

Verzeihung. Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch. – I’m sorry. I only speak a little German.

 

Saying thank you and ending the call

Waiting a call

Photo by ravh on flickr.com

 

Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe – Thank you very much for your help.

Auf wiederhören – Until next time
Note: Auf wiederhören is different to Auf wiedersehen because it is specifically designed for telephone use. The hören in wiederhören is the verb ‘to hear’. The phrase literally means, ‘on hearing again’!

 

On phone numbers:

One very important thing to remember is that Germans give their telephone numbers in double digits. For example, the following telephone number:

678652

would be said like this in German:

siebenundsechzig, sechsundachtzig, zweiundfünfzig (67, 86, 52)

This might be confusing! If you get a phone number recited to you this way and you think you’ve written it down correctly (or if you have no idea!), repeat it back to the person on the phone like this:

678652: Also, das war sechs, sieben, acht, sechs, fünf, zwei. Stimmt das? – So, that was six, seven, eight, six, five, two. Is that correct?

If what you’ve said is wrong, it’s likely that you’ll be corrected in the same, easier number format. Remember, you can always use the phrases in What to say when you don’t understand (above) if you are struggling.

Related vocabulary

Das Telefon – telephone
Das Handy – mobile phone
Die (Telefon)Nummer – (telephone) number
Die Telefonkarte – phone card
Der Hörer – receiver
Die Zentrale – switchboard
Der Wählton – dialling tone
Die Taste – phone button
Die Sprachmeldung – voicemail

anrufen – to call
telefonieren – to speak on the phone
(Den Hörer) auflegen – to hang up (the phone)
(Einen Anruf) beenden – to end (a call)
warten – to wait
klingeln – to ring (the noise)
verstehen – to understand

If there are any other phone phrases you need help with, let me know in the comments!

Frohes telefonieren! x

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About the Author:Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze. I'm half English and half German. My native language is English and I live in the UK, but my first language was (Bavarian) German. I write here because I'm passionate about my languages and my roots. I also work as a translator & group fitness instructor. Twitter: @constanzearnold


Comments:

  1. Michael:

    Could you also use “duerfen” in some of these? Such as ,,Darf ich mit ihm sprechen?” Oder ,,Darf ich Ihnen zurueckrufen?”

    • Constanze:

      @Michael Hi Michael, you certainly could use the verb duerfen! But be careful about how much you use it. Saying ‘Darf ich mit ___ sprechen?’, for instance, is perfectly fine. However, in some cases using duerfen makes it sound like you’re asking for permission to do something. After all, we only really say ‘Can I…’ to be polite, not to genuinely ask if it’s something we’re allowed to do. Example: ‘Darf ich zurueckrufen?’ sounds as if you’re saying ‘Am I allowed to call back?’ which makes you sound … well, a bit like a wet cloth 😉 Stick to koennen (‘Kann ich’, ‘Koennten Sie’, etc.) to be on the safe side! Hope that helps!

  2. Sienna:

    Would love some tips and examples on how to make an appointment va phone. thanks.

  3. marcia bernhard:

    Thanks for great info on making/receiving phone calls in German. I have a question: why do you say: Kann ich IHNEN zurückrufen? rather than Kann ich SIE zurückrufen? Thanks for your reply.

    • Constanze:

      @marcia bernhard Ahh! Thank you, Marcia, that was a mistake! It should be Sie! I’ve corrected it.

  4. Grazia:

    Kann ich Sie zurückrufen ist doch korrekt, oder? Man sagt auch “ich rude dich an”..

  5. Edie Jones:

    Wonderful info. I don’t think I saw the answer to this question. How do I let the person I am calling know who I am? What do I say when they answer the phone? Thanks!

    • Constanze:

      @Edie Jones Thanks, Edie! You can simply say, “Guten Tag. Hier ist ” or “Guten Tag. Mein Name ist ___” before you ask whatever question it is you’re about to ask. Hope that helps. 🙂

  6. anna:

    how about when transferring a call? statements like:

    1. Please hold for my caller
    2. let me put you through to Mr….
    3. No response from his/her desk
    4. Mr/Ms … is on another call (or is this die Leitung is besetzt?)
    5. One moment please

    And thank you for this article, very very hilfreich!

    • Constanze:

      @anna 1. Bitte bleiben Sie dran (‘please stay on the line’)
      2. Ich verbinde Sie mit … (‘I’ll put you through to…’)
      3. ___ ist momentan leider nicht erreichbar (‘unfortunately I cannot get through to ___ at the moment’) or, Es nimmt niemand ab (‘no one is picking up’)
      4. ___ hat gerade ein Gespräch auf einer anderen Leitung. (‘___ is currently taking another call’)
      5. (Ein) Moment, bitte (‘One moment, please’ – they don’t always say the ‘Ein’, hence the brackets)

      Hope that helps, Anna! 🙂

  7. Kati:

    Hi Constanze,

    thank you for that really nice list!
    I found some minor mistakes in the German sentences:

    Wissen Sie, wann Herrn/Frau ___ wieder erreichbar IST?

    Könnten Sie _(no /es/) ihm/ihr bitte sagen, dass ich angerufen habe?

    Unter welcheR Nummer sind Sie gut erreichbar?

  8. John:

    Hi could you help me with lessons on the genative dativ und akkusativ forms

  9. Alex:

    How do you say things related to answer phone messages? For example,

    I left a message on her answer phone.
    Please leave a message after the beep.

    Thanks!

    • Constanze:

      @Alex Ich habe eine Nachricht hinterlassen – I left a message
      Bitte hinterlassen Sie eine Nachricht nach dem Signalton – Please leave a message after the tone

      Hope that helps 🙂

  10. Ro:

    Thank you for this great list,Constance.
    Very helpful information indeed.

    Just a minor correction, if I may…

    “Wissen Sie, wann HeRR/Frau ___ wieder erreichbar ist?
    (Herr instead of Herrn, Nominativ singular)

    Also in most requests I find it more suitable to use “könnten” instead of “können”:
    “could you please call me back?” (könnten)
    vs
    “can you please call me back?” (können)

    Once again thank you for this excellent post.

    Cheers,
    Roman

    • Constanze:

      @Ro Thanks, Roman! Oh, that ‘Herr’ error is one I was supposed to correct but completely forgot about! Thank you for reminding me as I’ll do that now. I also see what you mean regarding könnten and können. Both are acceptable, but you’re right, ‘könnten’ has more of a polite ring to it. I guess which one you use depends what mood you are in when you make the phone call. 😉 Glad you found it helpful!

  11. veena:

    Wow!

    Das is super toll! Am so happy to come across this blog! Wonderful work! Thanks a ton!

  12. Tom:

    Very helpful. I can ask if the speaker speaks English, but in case the person doesn’t, it would be helpful to know how to ask for someone who/if anyone there does.

  13. Rupa:

    Hi! I find this website helpful as I am gonna handle calls in German language. I am from India and My accent is neutral so Do Germans understand neutral accent or are there any tips to understand their accent as well?

    I see that you have given script for outbound calls.
    Could you please provide me with some helpful links or books or script?
    Please check these sentences below if they are correct grammatically and understandable?
    1. Guten tag Airtel, Frau Rupa ist am Apparat. Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?

    2. Wir entschuldigen uns fur die unannamlichkeit. Ich kann damit helfen.
    3. Konnten Sie bitte am apparat fur 2 biss 3 minuten bleiben
    4. Ich habe ein Ticket erstellt I have raised a ticket
    5. Wenn ich etwa information von unserem betreefende Team bekomme gebe ich bescheid… If I get any information from our concerned team I will inform you
    6. Kann ich sonnst noch weiter helfen …Is there anything else that I can help you with?
    7. Schonnen Tag…Aufwiederhoren….Have a great day. hear you again.

  14. Lars:

    Hi! Any advice on what to say once you realize that you’ve dialed the wrong number?

    • Constanze:

      @Lars “Verzeihung, ich habe die falsche Nummer gewählt” – “Sorry, I’ve dialled the wrong number”

  15. Mahmoud Khalifa:

    Wunderbar


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