If you want to know how to say “thank you” in German, look no further! Master the phrases below and you shouldn't have any problem dealing with German niceties and etiquette.
There are several different ways to say “thanks” in German and if you want to be polite, it's worth knowing them all.
I'll also cover how to respond to a “thank you”, i.e. how to say “you're welcome” in German.
German and English are fairly closely related (they're both considered to be Germanic languages), so some of the words you'll learn below look quite similar to words you already know from English. Nowhere is this more obvious than with the first word to learn:
“Thank You” in German: Danke
Danke is the most common and simple way to say “thank you” in German. It's an obvious cognate of the English word “thanks”.
You can use danke in any situation, formal or informal.
“Thank You So Much” in German – Danke Schön
Schön, alternatively written schoen, is an adjective meaning “pretty” or “beautiful”. Combine it with danke and you get danke schön, which could be translated as “thank you kindly”.
Danke schön is an extremely common saying in German; it's a slightly more formal or emphatic way of saying danke. For example, the cashier in a supermarket might say danke schön to you while handing you your change.
“Many Thanks” in German – Danke Sehr
Sehr means “very”. Danke sehr is another common way of making your danke sound a bit more formal or polite. It's more or less interchangeable with danke schön.
“Thanks a Lot” in German – Vielen Dank
What if you're very thankful, and a simple danke or danke schön isn't enough to convey your gratitude? In this case, one thing you can say is vielen Dank (“thanks a lot”).
Remember that in this case it's the masculine noun der Dank (don't forget that nouns in German are always written with a capital letter), not the interjection danke.
Viel, pronounced very similarly to the English word “feel”, means “much” or “many”. Here, we use the singular accusative form vielen.
Why vielen and not viel? It gets a bit complicated, so if you're new to German, I wouldn't worry about it for now. Just memorise vielen Dank and you'll be fine. You can skip ahead to the next way of saying “thank you” in German.
If you would like to know, it’s actually pretty interesting. First, we need to talk about the difference between countable and uncountable nouns in German. It's not hard to understand, because we have the same distinction in English: a countable noun is one that you can put an “a” or “an” in front of, and has a singular and plural form. An uncountable noun, on the other hand, is one that has no plural.
So for example “car” and “school” are countable (“a car”, “a school”) but “air” and “happiness” aren't (you can inhale “some air” but not “an air”.)
When you have a lot of something, you say “many” if it's countable and “much” if it's uncountable. So you can say “many books” but not “much books”, and “much love” but not “many love”. Unlike English, German only has one word (viel) for both of these cases.
Since Dank is uncountable, it has no plural. So a more literal translation of vielen Dank would be “much thank”, as unnatural as that would sound in English.
This explains why vielen is singular, but not why it's accusative. This point is easier to explain: when you say vielen Dank, it's really a contraction of the longer sentence ich schulde dir vielen Dank (“I owe you ‘much thank'”).
If you understand how cases work in German, it's obvious that Dank here is the object of the sentence, and thus the adjective requires an accusative ending.
Now it's time to move on to some other ways to say “thanks” in German.
“Thanks a Million” in German – Tausend Dank
In English, you might thank someone deeply by saying “thanks a million!” In German, the equivalent expression is the slightly more subdued Tausend Dank( “a thousand thanks”).
Perhaps English speakers feel 1000 times more gratitude than Germans? Or maybe Germans are just less prone to hyperbole…
“Best Thanks” in German – Besten Dank
C'mon, you can figure out what beste means, can't you? Would it help if I told you that gut means “good” and besser means “better”?
That's right, beste means “best”, and besten Dank means “best thanks!” – not really something we'd say in English, but a gut expression to know in German.
“Thank You Very Much” in German – Danke vielmals
Another good way to say “thanks a lot” in German is danke vielmals.
Another Way to Say “Thank You” in German – Ich danke dir/Ihnen/euch für…
Another relative of Dank and danke is the verb danken, which means, unsurprisingly, “to thank”.
- Ich danke dir – “I thank you (singular, informal)”
- Ich danke Ihnen – “I thank you (singular, formal)”
- Ich danke euch – “I thank you (plural)”
Note that danken requires a dative pronoun; dir, Ihnen, and euch are the dative versions of du, Sie, and ihr respectively.
Don't forget that Sie, the formal form of du, is written with a capital “S”! When you write it with a lowercase “s” (sie) it means “she” or “they”.
“Heartfelt Thanks” in German – Herzlichen Dank
We've covered a few ways of saying “many thanks” in German. Here's another one: herzlichen Dank.
Herz means heart, and the suffix -lich is roughly equivalent to the English “-ly” – see e.g. German Freund and freundlich vs. the English “friend” and “friendly”. “Heartly” isn't a word in English, but herzlich means something like “heartful” or “heartfelt”.
So herzlichen Dank – again, note that herzlichen is accusative just like in vielen Dank – means “heartfelt thanks!” It's quite a formal way to thank someone in German.
You might recognize herzlich from the common expression herzlichen glückwunsch – “congratulations!”. See also: herzlichen glückwunsch zum Geburtstag = “happy birthday!”
“Thankful” in German – Dankbar
Dankbar is an adjective meaning thankful or grateful.
For example: Wir sind sehr dankbar für deine Hilfe (“we are very thankful for your help”).
“Thank God” in German – Gott sei Dank
Gott sei Dank is a common phrase which means “thank God”, although it's often more naturally translated as “fortunately” or “thankfully”.
Wir hatten Gott sei Dank einen Ersatzreifen – “Fortunately, we had a spare tyre”
Like with “thank God” in English, you don't need to be religious to say Gott sei Dank; it's widely used by people of all persuasions. It's more common in speech than in writing.
“Thank You” in Bavaria and Austria – Vergelt’s Gott
This interesting phrase is rarely heard outside of Austria and southern Germany. Historically, Catholicism has been more dominant in these regions, and it's reflected in a few religion-tinged expressions of the local dialects.
Vergelt es Gott means “may God reward you for it”, which sounds rather dramatic, but it's really just another mainstream way of saying “thank you” in places like Bavaria or Austria.
Typically, you'd respond to Vergelt's Gott with Segne es Gott (“Bless it, God”).
“Thanks, you too!” in German – Danke, gleichfalls
Gleichfalls means “likewise” or “the same to you”. So if someone thanks you with a danke, you can respond with danke, gleichfalls as a way of acknowledging their gratitude while thanking them in return. “Thanks to you too!”
“Thank you for…” in German – Danke für
What are you so grateful about anyway? If you want to say that you're thankful for a specific thing, use für.
Remember that the noun that comes after für must always be accusative.
Combine für with any of the expressions you learned above:
- Danke für das Geschenk – “Thank you for the gift”
- Ich danke Sie für Ihre Zeit – “I thank you for your time”
- Ich bin sehr dankbar für deine Hilfe – “I'm very thankful for your help”
Okay, we've covered a lot of ways to say “thanks”. But if someone thanks you in German, how should you respond to a German “thank you”? There are several options:
“You’re Welcome” in German – Bitte
Bitte is a common and versatile word. You can use it as a response to danke. It's by far the most common way to say “you're welcome” in German.
As with danke, you can add schön or sehr on the end and say bitte schön or danke schön.
Bitte can have some other meanings. Firstly, it's how you say “please” in German. Secondly, it can mean “excuse me”. Say bitte? or wie bitte? as a polite way to ask someone to repeat themselves.
If someone offers you something, bitte is one way to say “yes”. Saying danke to an offer means “no”.
“My Pleasure” in German – Gern geschehen
Gern is a very common adverb that's often hard to translate directly. The most literal translation would be something like “gladly” or “with pleasure”. In general, you use it to express that you're willing, or even enthusiastic, to do something.
Suppose that you do someone a favour, for which they thank you. You can respond with a gern geschehen – “done gladly”. It's a friendly and polite way to accept the other person's gratitude.
You can also say gern in response to an offer; like bitte, it's a way of saying “yes, please”.
“No Problem” in German – Kein Problem / Keine Ursache
A common way to respond to a “thanks” in English is “no problem!” The same expression exists in German – Kein Problem!
An equivalent expression is keine Ursache. It literally means something like “no reason”, but it can be used interchangeably with kein Problem.
“Oh it’s Nothing!” in German – Nichts zu danken!
Finally, you have the expression nichts zu danken.
While nicht means “not”, nichts means “nothing” – and I already told you what danken means. So you can probably guess what nichts zu danken means – “nothing to thank (me for)!”
Now You Know How to Say “Thank You” in German — So Start Speaking!
Danke for reading this far. I've covered everything you need to know if you want to be polite and show gratitude when interacting with German speakers.
Is there anything I've missed – more regionalisms, perhaps? Do you have any advice, struggles, or stories regarding the topic of saying “thank you” and “please” in German? Bitte schön, let me know in the comments.
Want more? You can read here about how I learned fluent German in 3 months.