German Question Words

Instructor: Maria Elena Knolle Cano

Maria Elena has taught Spanish and German to learners of all levels in Europe, Asia and Australia and has a Master's degree in Cultural Studies and Communication.

In this lesson, it's all about learning how to ask questions with the appropriate question words in German. We will also get to know some useful question phrases to improve our German conversation skills.

Short and Sweet Question Words

Wie gehts Dir? ('How are you?') Hopefully, you feel motivated and ready to acquire some very useful knowledge! Don't worry, you won't be alone in this endeavor: Roberta Reporter, an aspiring journalist from Salzburg, Austria, will be your guide today! More precisely, we will join her on her exciting first day as an intern at the newspaper Österreich lebt ('Austria is alive').

Zeitungsberichte beantworten viele Fragen, newspaper reports answer many questions
variety of newspapers

Before we join her, let's first take a thorough look at any possible question words we may encounter later on:

Essential German Question Words

Vocabulary Pronunciation Translation
Was? Vahs? What?
Wie? Vee? How?
Wann? Vahn? When?
Wo? Voh? Where?
Wohin? Vo-hihn? Where to?
Warum? Vah-ROOM? Why?
Wer? Vehr? Who?
Seit wann? Ziyt vahn? Since when?
Wie lange? Vee LAHN-guh? How long?
Welche? VEHL-schuh? Which?
Worüber? Voh-RUE-behr? About which?

Obviously, the words we just learned do, more often than not, appear as a part of longer question sentences. Let's explore some useful related example sentences:

  • Wann treffen wir uns nachher? ('When do we meet up later?')
  • Wie gehts Dir? ('How are you?')
  • Wo wohnst Du? ('Where do you live?')
  • Warum willst Du nicht ins Kino? (Why don't you want to go to the cinema?')
  • Wohin geht die Reise? ('Where does the journey go to?')
  • Wer ist Dein Freund? ('Who is your friend?')
  • Seit wann wohnst Du schon hier? ('Since when have you been living here?')

How to Ask the Right Questions

Well, now that we are all prepared with our newly learned question words, it's time to join Roberta Reporter! She's very excited to start her new internship at Austria's famous newspaper. Let's see how her morning goes:

Ben Boss: Hallo und willkommen, Roberta! ('Hello and welcome, Roberta!')

Heute erkläre ich Dir erst einmal, welches die wichtigsten Fragen sind, die wir in einem Artikel beantworten müssen. ('Today I will reveal the most important questions that we need to answer within an article.') Die zentralen W-Fragen des Journalismus sind: ('The essential W-questions of journalism are:')

Was ist passiert? ('What happened?')

Wer ist am Ereignis beteiligt? ('Who is involved in the incident?')

Wo geschah das Ganze? ('Where did it all happen?')

Wann geschah das Ereignis? ('When did this incident happen?')

Wie ist es passiert? ('How did it happen?')

Warum geschah es? ('Why did it happen?')

Zusätzlich, welche Quellen gibt es? ('Additionally: Which sources are there/available?')

Eine Reporterin bei der Arbeit, a reporter at work
a reporter doing her job

Roberta Reporter: Vielen Dank für diese wichtigen Informationen! ('Thanks a lot for this important information.') Die schreibe ich mir gleich mal auf. ('I will write them down right away.') Wo haben Sie hier Papier? ('Where do you have some paper around here?')

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