Despite the fact that so many people have smartphones and only ask Google for directions, I think it’s still nice to talk to real people (and not everybody has got a smartphone), so lets look at how to ask for places.
This is a sample lesson from my Udemy course “German for beginners – for business or holidays – and more!” a 30+ day challenge for learning basic German in time for your awesome holiday or successful business trip to Germany. For more information click this link.
As in English, there are several ways of asking how to get somewhere, some easier than others. Some make a lot of sense but involve quite a bit of grammar. Grammar sounds scary to beginners, so we will just learn a very basic sentence by asking ‘ Where is the … ?’
‘Where is’ in German is ‘Wo ist’, then you just add the place you need. Ah, no, stop, not QUITE so easy! You may already know that German nouns can be masculine, feminine or neuter, so instead of ‘the’ you’ll need ‘der’ for masculine nouns, ‘die’ for feminine nouns and ‘das’ for neuter nouns.
So, if you ask where the station is, you’ll say ‘Wo ist der Bahnhof?’
If you need to know where the chemist is, you’ll say ‘Wo ist die Apotheke?’
And if you need the hotel whatever the name is, it’s ‘Wo ist das Hotel …?’
If, however, you just want to know whether there is a supermarket in the area, you could ask ‘Wo ist ein Supermarkt?’
Or, ‘Wo ist eine Kneipe?’ (where is there a pub?) or ‘Wo ist ein Kino?’ (where is a cinema)
On the video I’ve given you some sample ideas but as I don’t know what you might need to ask for, if I haven’t mentioned it, you can make your own sentences, by checking google translate for the German word (don’t forget to type on the English side ‘the’ & the word to get the correct gender). You can click on the listening button to hear how to pronounce it.
Of course, dictionaries will also tell you the gender of nouns, some will say der, die, das, other will say masculine or just an ‘m’, feminine or ‘f’, neuter or ‘n’. Whatever means you use, try it out before you go on holidays as there is nothing worse than trying to find your way around a dictionary when you need it urgently.
So, to recap:
If you are looking for a specific building (the … ) you ask:
‘Wo ist der …? / Wo ist die … ? / Wo ist das …?
If you are generally looking for a place (a…) you ask:
‘Wo ist ein … (for masculine nouns)?’
‘Wo ist eine … (for feminine nouns)?’
‘Wo ist ein … (for neuter nouns)?’
Oh, I nearly forgot: what about plurals?
For plurals you ask: ‘Wo sind die … ?’ if you’re asking for something specific or just ‘Wo sind …?’ if it’s general.
Wo sind die Toiletten? – Where are the toilets?
Wo sind Toiletten? Where are some toilets?
One last thing – all these different genders seem quite daunting for beginners, so here is one tip:
When you’re on your fist holiday in Germany and are about to say something but can’t remember whether to say der, die or das, use any of them or even mumble it. Most of the time the Germans only listen out for the important word and don’t even notice if you’ve got it wrong!
So, just go ahead and ask!