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Natural German Conversation Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Language

Every conversation has natural interjections, reactions and filler words. This is what makes language feel natural. Here is a list of German words and phrases that you can slot into conversations to make your German flow more naturally. Please note that some of these aren’t meant to be full, grammatically correct sentences, but fragments. Just like we might say “Doesn’t matter” in response to something in English, in German we’d say “Macht nichts” without the “Es” at the beginning that makes it into a complete sentence (“Es macht nichts” – It doesn’t matter).

12102008944 bitte waren, bitte sprechen

Please Wait – – Please Speak. Photo by denicide on flickr.com under CC BY 2.0

 

Also – So
“Also, über was haben wir geredet?” So, what were we talking about?
“Also, gehen wir?” So, shall we go?
“Also, was willst du trinken?” So, what do you want to drink?

***
Ist schon gut – It’s alright/Don’t worry/Forget it
“Ich habe dein Buch nicht mitgebracht!” I didn’t bring your book with me!
„Ist schon gut! Du kannst es nächstes mal mitbringen!“ It’s alright! You can bring it next time!

Geht schon – It’s OK / It’s fine

Wird schon – It will be OK / It will be fine / You will get there.

Macht nichts – Doesn’t matter

Egal – Either way is fine / I’m not bothered
“Magst du Marmorkuchen oder Pflaumenkuchen?” Do you want marble cake or plum cake?
“Egal” I don’t mind.
Longer version: “Das ist mir egal.”
Also used in anger to tell someone you don’t care: “Es ist mir egal, was du willst!” I don’t care what you want!

***

Was ist denn mit dir los? – What’s up with you, exactly? (If someone seems a little ‘off’).

Was denn? – What is it? / What do you want? (If someone calls your name, for instance: “Ludwig!” – “Was denn?”)

(Und) Was noch? – (And) What else?

(Und) Was jetzt? – (And) What now?

Genau! – Exactly!

Echt?! – Really?!

Im Ernst? – Honestly?

Ja, wirklich! – Yes, really!

Das ist ja schlimm. – That’s bad.

So ist es. – That’s the way it is.

Ja, und? – Yes, and?

Na? – This little word means hello, hey, well?, and how are you? all in one. It’s a sound of acknowledgement more than anything. It’s best explained when used in a sentence:
“Na, alles klar?” Everything alright?
“Na, was machst du?” What are you doing?

Ähm… – Umm…/Er…

***

Naja – An interjection with no real translation, signifying agreement or disagreement, usually pronounced with an extended second ‘a’: “Najaaa…”
“Erich ist blöd.” (Eric is stupid)
“Naja, so blöd ist er nicht!” (Come on, he‘s not that stupid!)

“Ich habe keine Lust, heute tanzen zu gehen.” (I don’t want to go dancing today)
“Naja, du brauchst nicht jede Woche gehen.” (Well, you don’t need to go every week)

***

Nein! Hör zu..No! Listen..
Used if someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, and you’re slightly irritated at having to repeat yourself again.

Stört das? – Is that bothering you?

Das macht mir nichts aus – I don’t mind that / That doesn’t bother me

Warte malHang on / Wait a minute

Machen wir’s so: – Let’s do it like this:

Das ist zum Verzweifeln! That makes you despair!
(This one sounds more natural in German than it does in English…)

Das hat keinen Sinn! – That doesn’t make sense! / That’s pointless!

Ja so was (von)! – What a cheek!
This little phrase is used to express outrage. It can be said with or without the ‘von’.
“Martin hat gesagt, ich bin faul“ Martin said I was lazy
„Ja so was! Du bist überhaupt nicht faul!” What a cheek! You’re not lazy at all!

Über was haben wir geredet? – What were we talking about?

Das sag ich dir später. – I’ll tell you that later.

Weißt du, … – You know, …
“Weißt du, ich mag ihn eigentlich nicht” You know, I don’t actually like him

Das kann ich glauben! – I can believe that!

Das kann ich nicht glauben! – I can’t believe that!

Wahnsinn! – Crazy! (In the sense of amazing, astonishing, etc.)
“Hast du gesehen, wie schlank Hannah jetzt ist?“ Have you seen how slim Hannah is now?
„Ja! Wahnsinn!” Yes! Crazy!

Ich muss jetzt abhauen – I’m off now/I need to get off now.
This is a cruder way of saying “Ich muss jetzt gehen” (I need to go now). It’s the German equivalent of “I need to bugger off now”.

Mach’s gut! – Bye! Take care!
An alternative to the simple Tschüß. Literally, ‘Make/do it good!’

 

Mach’s gut!
Constanze x

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About the Author:Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze. I'm half English and half German. I write here because I'm passionate about my languages and my roots. I also work as a translator & group fitness instructor.


Comments:

  1. Joseph T. Madawela:

    Danke

  2. Jenna:

    This is so helpful! I have been told in the past that I speak “Buchdeutsch” and these types of words and phrases are just what I need to be using. A couple of questions:
    1) Is “Ja so was (von)” part of a longer phrase? If so, what is the whole sentence in German?
    2) What is a good equivalent in American English for “What a cheek”? I get the jist, but am trying to understand how strong an expression it is.
    3) What’s an American equivalent for “bugger off”?
    Vielen Dank for all the hard work you put into these posts!

    • Constanze:

      @Jenna Hey Jenna!

      In answer to your questions,
      1) “Ja so was (von)” can be followed by whatever word you like. eg. “Ja so was von gemein!” (“How mean!”) But often we just say “Ja so was von!” or “Ja so was!” as an expression of outrage, whereby the last word is implied but not spoken. I guess it’s similar to saying “What the-!” in English, if you ever say that.
      2) and 3) I have noooo idea about either of these, as I am not American. Maybe someone else who is reading this can help…?!

      Hope I’ve at least helped with the German side of things!
      Constanze x

  3. Susan:

    Hi Jenna:
    I would translate in response to your questions about:
    2. What a cheek- Of all the nerve
    3. I need to bugger off now-I need to buzz off now

    • Constanze:

      @Susan Thanks for chipping in, Susan! I hope Jenna gets to read this. 🙂

  4. E. P. Burke:

    I guess I’m able to do the “triangle translation” among German – American English and “English-English”

    1. “Ja so was von (gemein) is part of a longer phrase, but it’s an example of using “ja” as a flavoring particle or emphasis strengthener. The full phrase would be something like:

    English – “Yeah, that is really horrible that she said that”
    Deutsch – “Ja, das ist ja so was von gemein, dass sie das(or ‘so etwas’) gesagt hat.”

    2. What a cheek – “what nerve!” or “you have some nerve…(buddy)!” Urban Dictionary has more slang: http://www.urbandictionary.com

    3. “Bugger Off” is a classic Britishism. It depends on how it’s being intended and whether you’re on familiar terms with your conversation partners.
    Literally, it’s “F*** Off!” BUT in American English you would NEVER say that in polite company. “Buzz Off” is akin to “Get Out of Here / I don’t believe you / You don’t say” but it’s a bit antiquated. If you’re expressing mild disbelief, a good choice is a simple “No way!” said with a disbelieving tone to the voice.
    The other meaning is simply: “Go away!” such as an older sibling might say to a younger (irritating) sibling.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Will:

    Excuse me, I found that the word to express “what about” here is “über was”. It’s incorrect. The correct way to say it is by saying “worüber”. We’ve known that the six question word (what, who, where, when, why, and how) have their own meaning in German, but in German, there are some particular question words whose meaning literally have no synonym in English, such as: worauf, woran, worüber, wovon, wozu, etc. Those words have their own use. German is interesting, everobody! 🙂

  6. Elena:

    I found this really helpful! I am currently learning Deutsch, and I find the main problem is making the conversation flow and not sound so theoretical. In Language workbooks we learn, the usual, Wie geht es dir? and the answer we learn, is.. Mir geht es gut. But after having a few conversations with Germans, I realized there are many other ways of expressing that. I really appreciate blogs like this! Thanks alot!

    • Constanze:

      @Elena Glad you find it helpful, Elena! Your comment means a lot as it lets me know I am writing about the right things on here! It’s always been my aim to get away from ‘textbook German’ and write about language the way it is in the *real world*. I also like to write about the unusual things – the ones that will stick in your mind. 🙂 Any other suggestions for things you’d like to learn? x