Basic Questions & Answers

Hallo, Deutschlerner. Today I am going to show you a few basic German questions and some sample answers to those questions. When you are done with this lesson, you should be able to answer each of these questions and substitute your own personalized responses. If you want to try it out, I encourage you to answer these basic questions in complete German sentences in the comments. I look forward to learning more about you from your answers.

This lesson is a part of Herr Antrim’s new e-book “Beginner German with Herr Antrim“. Within the e-book, this lesson includes a worksheet and answer key to practice the skills you are about to learn. You will also get access to online flashcards and a whole lot more. Find out more about the e-book here.

Wie heißen Sie? – What is your name?

Let’s start with the most basic of basic German questions. “Wie heißen Sie?” (“What is your name?” or more literally “How are you called?”) This is obviously the formal version of this question. You could also ask “Wie heißt du?” if the person you are addressing is a young person or the conversation is taking place online, where most people correspond using the “du” version of “you”. You can also say “Wie heißt ihr?” if you are addressing more than one person.

In order to answer this question, you would say “Ich heiße” and then your name. If you are answering for yourself and another person, you could say “Wir heißen” and then both of your names, but it is more common to introduce yourself with “Ich heiße” and then your name followed by “Das ist” (This is) and the other person’s name. For example:

Wie heißt du?
What is your name? (How are you called?)

Ich heiße Levi.
My name is Levi (I am called Levi.)

Wie heißt ihr?
What is your name? (How are you called?)

Ich heiße Levi und das ist Sophia.
My name is Levi and this is Sophia. (I am called Levi and this is Sophia.)

Answering “Wie heißen Sie?” with “sein”

You can also answer this question using a form of the verb “sein”, which I will talk about in more detail in a few weeks. The form you need with “ich” is “bin”. So your answer would be “Ich bin” and then your name. If you are answering for more than one person, you could say “Wir sind” and your names, but again, it is more common to split the answer into “Ich bin” and your own name followed by “Das ist” and the other person’s name.

Wie heißt du?
What is your name? (How are you called?)

Ich bin Levi.
I am Levi.

Wie heißt ihr?
What is your name? (How are you called?)

Ich bin Levi und das ist Sophia.
I am Levi and this is Sophia.

Alternatives to “Wie heißen Sie?”

While most people will use one of the versions of the question “Wie heißt du?” that I have already shown you, it is grammatically correct to say “Wie ist dein Name?”, which is a more literal translation of “What is your name?” This uses the verb “sein”, too, but this time, it is the third person singular (er, sie, es) form of the verb, which is “ist”, because “Mein Name” is the subject of the sentence and not “ich”. Technically speaking, “wie” also acts as the subject of the question, because of the special nature of “sein”, which I’ll talk about in more depth in a few weeks.

Introduction to German Possessive Articles

Since this version includes a possessive article, you need to be able to change the sentence again based on your audience. “Wie ist dein Name?” is the “du” version. “Wie ist Ihr Name?” is the “Sie” version and “Wie sind eure Namen?” is the “ihr” version. Keep in mind that the last one is in the plural form, because it addresses “ihr”. This is why the verb changes to “sind”, the possessive adds an “E” (eure), and the word “Name” becomes “Namen”. The two options for answering this question are “Mein Name ist” followed by your name and “Mein Name ist… Ihr/Sein Name ist” followed by each of your respective names. For example:

Wie ist dein Name?
What is your name?

Mein Name ist Levi.
My name is Levi.

Wie sind eure Namen?
What are your names?

Mein Name ist Levi und ihr Name ist Sophia.
My name is Levi and her name is Sophia.

Sein Name ist Fred.
His name is Fred.

“Wer sind Sie?” is not “Wie heißen Sie?”

While it is possible to ask the question “Wer bist du?”, “Wer seid ihr?” or “Wer sind Sie?” (literally “Who are you?”), I don’t recommend this option, as it is very rude. Also, you might not get the answer you desired. It comes off as if you were saying “Who do you think you are?” or “What are you doing here?” So in short, stick to “Wie heißen Sie?” or “Wie ist Ihr Name?” Don’t forget, until you get to know some people, you should be using the “Sie” form with most people. If you are using the “du” form with someone, you probably don’t need to ask for their name.

Wie geht es Ihnen? – How are you?

The second basic German question you need to be able to answer is “Wie geht es Ihnen?” (How are you?) This is the formal version. For the “du” version you would say “Wie geht es dir?” (often shortened to “Wie geht’s?” in conversational German) and the “ihr” version would be “Wie geht es euch?”

You could simply answer with “gut” (good) or you can follow it up with “danke”, to make it more polite. “Gut, danke.” (Good, thank you.) You can answer this question with one or two word answers like “gut” (good), “schlecht” (bad) or “nicht schlecht” (not bad).

You can also quantify how well you are doing by adding an adverb in front of “gut”. For example: “ganz gut” (quite well), “sehr gut” (very well), or even “nicht gut” (not good). Obviously you can also substitute “schlecht” in any of the examples where I used “gut”.

Answering “Wie geht es Ihnen?” with a full sentence

If you are going to answer with a full sentence, you need to start your answer with “Mir geht es”. For example: Mir geht es gut. (I’m doing well.) Mir geht es schlecht. (I’m doing poorly.) Mir geht es nicht schlecht. (I’m not doing bad.) Mir geht es prima. (I’m doing great.) Mir geht es super. (I’m doing super.) If you want a version of these sentences that tell how more than one person is doing, you would replace “mir” with “uns”. For example: Uns geht es gut.

As I mentioned before, the question “Wie geht es dir?” is often shortened to “Wie geht’s?” When answering, you can also shorten it to “Mir geht’s…” and your response. This shortening of the sentences should not be done when using the “Sie” version and you should be cautious using them in any form, as they may give the impression that you are more fluent than you really are.

“Ich bin gut/schlecht.” is not a good answer to “Wie geht es Ihnen?”

You might have noticed that none of the questions used “du”, “ihr” or “Sie” and none of the answers used “ich”. That’s because, technically speaking, the question is “how’s it going?” and each of the answers translate to “It’s going well, poorly, or great.” You wouldn’t answer “Ich bin” for this question most of the time, as “ich bin gut” and “ich bin schlecht” mean “I am good, as in not evil” and “I am bad, as in not good”. Most people will understand what you meant to say, but it isn’t technically correct.

Answering “Wie geht es Ihnen?” with “Ich bin…”

You can answer “Wie geht es dir/Ihnen?” (How are you?) with “Ich bin” (I am) if you use a different adjective instead of “gut” (good) or “schlecht” (bad). For example:

Ich bin müde.
I am tired.

Ich bin krank.
I am sick.

If want to answer in the “wir” (we) form, you would say “Wir sind” (we are) instead of “Ich bin” (I am). You can also make a play on words and say “Es geht”, which is literally “it goes”, but is more like the English expression “so so” or “alright”.

Reciprocating “Wie geht es Ihnen?”

In order to ask the other person how they are, you would simply say “Und Ihnen?” (And you?) for the “Sie” version or “Und dir?” (And you?) for the “du” version after your response. For example:

Guten Tag. Wie geht es Ihnen?
Good day. How are you?

Mir geht es gut. Und Ihnen?
I’m doing well. And you?

Mir geht es auch gut.
I’m doing well, too.

Hallo. Wie geht’s?
Hello. How are you?

Gut, danke. Und dir?
Good, thanks. And you?

Nicht schlecht.
Not bad.

Woher kommen Sie? – Where are you from?

As a visitor in Germany, you might get the basic German question “Woher kommen Sie?” (Where are you from?). The “du” version is “Woher kommst du?” (Where are you from?) and the “ihr” version would be “Woher kommt ihr?” (Where are you from?). The answer is “Ich komme aus…” (I come from…) or “Wir kommen aus…” (We come from…) followed by your place of origin. For example:

Woher kommst du?
Where do you come from?

Ich komme aus Amerika.
I come from America.

Woher kommen Sie?
Where do you come from?

Ich komme aus Illinois.
I come from Illinois.

Woher kommt ihr?
Where do you come from?

Wir kommen aus Edwardsville.
We come from Edwardsville.

Follow-up Questions to “Woher kommen Sie?”

Now you just have to find the German translation of your country’s name. You could also just use the name of the city, but be prepared for the follow up question “Wo ist das?” (Where is that?) if it isn’t famous enough (like New York). The answer could be as simple as “In Amerika” (In America) or “In Illinois” (same). You could also say “in der Nähe von” (near…) and a nearby place that might be well known enough to give them an idea of where you are. For example:

Woher kommst du?
Where do you come from?

Ich komme aus Edwardsville.
I come from Edwardsville.

Und wo ist das?
And where is that?

Edwardsville ist in der Nähe von St. Louis.
Edwardsville is near St. Louis.

Und wo liegt das?
And where is that located?

St. Louis ist in der Mitte der USA.
St. Louis is in the middle of the USA.

Wie lange bleiben Sie in Deutschland? – How long are you staying in German?

The next basic German question they might ask you is “Wie lange bleiben Sie in Deutschland?” (How long are you staying in German?) The other options would be “Wie lange bleibst du in Deutschland?” (How long are you staying in German?) or “Wie lange bleibt ihr in Deutschland?” (How long are you staying in German?) The answer doesn’t have to be overly specific. You could say “ein paar” (a few) and the appropriate amount of time. For example:

ein paar Tage
a few days

ein paar Wochen
a few weeks

ein paar Monate
a few months

Answering “Wie lange bleiben Sie in Deutschland?” with Numbers

If you know your numbers in German, you could say the actual number of days or weeks you are staying.

drei Tage
three days

zwei Wochen
two weeks

einen Monat
one month

Answering “Wie lange bleiben Sie in Deutschland?” with a Full Sentence

If you want to answer this question with a full sentence, say “Ich bleibe…” (I am staying…) or “Wir bleiben…” (We are staying…) followed by the amount of time you are staying.

Ich bleibe sechs Tage.
I am staying six days.

Wir bleiben vier Wochen.
We are staying four weeks.

Ich bleibe fünf Monate.
I am staying five months.

Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen? – How can I help you?

The last basic German question or series of questions on my list for today isn’t really a continuation of the conversation example I have shown you so far, but it is an important enough question that I think you need to be able to answer it as one of your first questions you learn. There are a few variations of this question as well, but you will almost exclusively hear them in the “Sie” form, so I will only show you those options.

The question is “Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?” (How can I help you?) This is the question you will be asked when you go into a German store and you are looking around. You can answer with a ton of different options, but the simple ones are the following.

Ich schaue mich nur um.
I’m just looking around.

Ich möchte mich nur umschauen.
I would like to just look around.

Ich brauche Schuhe.
I need shoes.

Ich möchte einen Döner.
I would like a döner kebab.

Alternative #1: Was suchen Sie? – What are you looking for?

If you look like you are looking for something, but can’t find it, they might ask you “Was suchen Sie?” (What are you looking for?)

Ich suche
I’m looking for…

Ich suche ein Buch.
I’m looking for a book.

Ich suche DVDs.
I’m looking for DVDs.

Alternative #2: Was möchten Sie? – What would you like?

A more general question you might here is “Was möchten Sie?” (What would you like?) It might be ended with another verb like “bestellen” (to order), “kaufen” (to buy), or “haben” (to have), but the general question is the same and the answer is the same no matter what.

Ich möchte den Rinderbraten.
I would like the roast beef.

Ich möchte das.
I would like that. (point to what you want)

Ich möchte diese.
I would like these. (again with the pointing)

Review of Basic German Questions

Now you have the basis for your first German conversation. As I mentioned before, you should try to answer these basic German questions in the comments. In case you didn’t take notes, the questions were:

Wie heißt du?
What is your name?

Wie geht es dir?
How are you?

Woher kommst du?
Where are you from?

Wie lange bleibst du in Deutschland?
How long are you staying in Germany?

Wie kann ich dir helfen?
How can I help you?

Was suchst du?
What are you looking for?

Was möchtest du?
What would you like?

I look forward to reading your answers and learning more about you.

Beginner German with Herr Antrim

Herr Antrim’s new e-book “Beginner German with Herr Antrim“ is your guide to having your first conversation in German. Within the e-book, each lesson includes a worksheet and answer key to practice the skills in that lesson. You will also get access to online flashcards and a whole lot more. Find out more about the e-book here.

Lessons within “Beginner German with Herr Antrim”

Herr Antrim
Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites. *This site uses a variety of affiliate links. If there is a link that leads to an outside site from which you could potentially make a purchase, it is very likely an affiliate link for which Herr Antrim will receive a small portion of your purchase. This does not cost you any extra, but it does help keep this website going. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you would like more information about the affiliate programs this site uses, click here.
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