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Learning the German language starts with the basics

All new language learning usually starts by learning the basics, like how to say “Thank You” in German. You might think a single translated phrase would do, but hold on, how many ways can you express thanks or be grateful in your own language? In English, for example, there are many ways to say thanks. It all depends on your relationship with the person you are speaking to, how grateful you are, how polite you need to be, and what you are thanking that person for. 

You can bet your bottom dollar that your “thank you” would be much more effusive if you had just been rescued from drowning in a river than if you had been served with something to eat in a fast-food restaurant! So, just like in your own language, giving thanks is quite nuanced. If you want to say the right thing, you have to learn the different choices you have when being grateful. Try these out when you next speak to a German speaker. If you get a frown or a quizzical look, you may need to revise your thank you list. If you get a smile and a friendly response, you have hit the right note!

The many and varied ways to thank someone in German

The main thing to remember when speaking German, especially if you are not fluent in the language and are rehearsing what to say if you are in a situation in which you need to thank someone is that German has two ways of referring to someone depending on whether they are well known to you (the informal way) or if you don’t have a relationship with that person (the formal way). If you are not sure, then opt for the more formal way of using “You”. 

Because German is actually quite similar to English in many ways, many of the phrases you could use in English could almost literally be translated into German, except for the exception noted above. There is also an interesting, particularly German way of responding to a thankyou (Danke) and that is using the German word for “please” (Bitte). This may sound rather odd, but in fact, is like saying “You’re welcome” – which is much more common in North America than it is in Britain or Australasia.

O.K., so how to thank someone in German.

  • Thanks or thankyou – Danke
  • Thankyou very much – Dankeschön
  • Thanks a lot! – Vielen Dank
  • Thanks to you, too (to someone who has thanked you first) – Danke, gleichfalls!
  • I would like to thank you – Ich möchte mich bei Dir bedanken (in an informal setting)
  • or Ich möchte mich bei Ihnen bedanken (the more formal way of saying this)
  • I am so grateful to you – Ich bin Dir sehr dankbar! (in an informal setting)
  • Ich bin Ihnen sehr dankbar! (in a more formal setting).


There are lots of ways of expressing your gratitude for something. When saying thank you in German the golden rules are to use formal pronouns (for ‘you’) when unsure about saying something to an adult and to smile when saying Thanks!