How Do You Say Please in German; Good Manners Will Never Become Old-fashioned
“Please” ranks among the most important words in any language. You usually learn it during the very first lesson you take when deciding to take up a new language. Its translation into German is actually quite simple and straightforward.
In English, you use it in various situations, and its translation into German usually corresponds to the English convention. We will look into all the possible uses of please in German and vice versa, we will explain the possible translations of the German bitte into English.
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How Do You Say Please in German?
The most common translation is bitte. It is pronounced [ˈbɪtə] (IPA). Let’s take a look at various situations you would use it in.
- When you ask for something – Die Rechnung, bitte means “Check, please.” It comes in handy especially when eating out. No matter if you want another beer (das Bier) or a grilled sausage (die Bratwurst), don’t forget to add this little word!
- When you encourage someone to do something – for example, Herein bitte translates as “Please come in.” You can say Bitte, setzen Sie sich doch. – Please, sit down.
- When you agree to something – “Darf ich das Fenster aufmachen?” “Bitte.” – “May I open the window?” “Please, do.”
- If you don’t understand what the other person has said, you can say (Wie) bitte? – Pardon me?
For emphasis, you can add schön (pretty). Sometimes, you can see it written as one word – bitteschön. However, the Duden dictionary, which is the leading authority for spelling matters in Germany, prefers to write both words separately unless it is a noun (das Bitteschön)
Let’s see an example with bitteschön: Wenn du darauf bestehst, bitteschön; dann tu es! – If you insist, then please do so!
You can also add sehr (very much). Wenn ihr mehr Freiheit wollt, bitte sehr. – If you want more freedom, it’s yours.
Examples of Other Possible Translations into English
You could see in the example above, that there is not only one translation of this word. Let’s sum up other possible translations of bitte.
- "You’re welcome." You can say it when someone says danke (thank you) to you. Other possible answers would be gern geschehen (pronounced [ɡɛrn ɡəˈʃeːən] in the IPA transcription) or mit vergnügen (pronounced [mit fɛɐ̯ˈɡnyːɡn̩] in IPA).
- "Here you are." Someone says it to you when they hand something over to you. It can be whatever you want to buy at a shop or just salt and pepper while dining together with your family.
- With the right intonation, it can even convey sarcasm in the meaning “all right.”
Other Words to Say Please in German
We have mentioned that the translation of please into German is actually quite simple, and all you need to remember is the simple and short bitte. However, if you want to show some enthusiasm, you can say ja, gerne when someone offers you something:
Ja gerne, mit drei Stück Zucker. – Yes, please, three sugars.
Bitten as a Verb
Bitten means “to ask for” or “to request something” It is pronounced [bɪtən]. It is irregular, so you need to remember both past forms bat – (h) gebeten. (h) means that you need to use the auxiliary verb haben instead of sein.
Its forms in the present tense are
- Ich bitte – I ask
- Du bittest – you ask
- Er/sie/es bittet – he/she it asks
- Wir bitten – we ask
- Ihr bittet – you ask (informal)
- Sie/sie bitten – you ask (capitalized, formal), they ask
The simple past (Präteritum)
- Ich bat – I asked
- Du batst – you asked
- Er/sie/es bat – he/she/it asked
- Wir baten – we asked
- Ihr batet – you asked
- Sie/sie baten – they asked
The present perfect (Perfektum)
The translation is the same as in the simple past tense (asked).
- Ich habe gebeten
- Du hast gebeten
- Er/sie/es hat gebeten
- Wir haben gebeten
- Ihr habt gebeten
- Sie/sie haben gebeten
Let’s take a look at some example sentences to practice more advanced structures.
- Deswegen bat ich dich heute hierher. – This is why I asked you to come here today. (Don’t forget to change the word order after deswegen.)
- Du solltest nie um Geld bitten. – You should never ask for money. The verb is followed by um, which is the equivalent of the English “for” in “to ask for.”
- Sie bittet um Hilfe, ohne mir etwas anzubieten. – She is asking for help but offering nothing in return.
- Ich habe nicht darum gebeten. – I didn’t ask for it. (Darum is a compound of um and das.)
- Darf ich bitten? – May I have this dance?
Bitte as a Noun
(Die) Bitte means a request or a plea. You can use it in the following situations.
- Es ist mehr eine Bitte oder ein Gefallen. – It’s more of a request or a favor.
- Das könnte doch bedeuten, dass seine Bitten erhört wurden. – But it could have meant that his pleas had been answered.
How to Translate the Verb “to Please”
We have already established what the verb bitten means in English. And vice versa, there are several possible translations of the verb “to please.” One of them is erfreuen.
- Es ist mein Ziel, meine Gäste zu erfreuen. – My aim is to please my guests.
- Es erfreut die Augen mit leuchtenden Farben. – It pleases the eyes with bright colors. Please remember that it is followed by the preposition mit.
You can also translate this verb as gefallen. It forms different structures in German than its equivalent in English. It can also mean “to appeal to someone” or “to like something.” Let’s take a look at some examples with gefallen.
- Ich wusste, dass es dir gefallen würde. – I knew it would please you.
- Es gefällt Hans nicht, in der Bank zu arbeiten. – John doesn’t like working at the bank.
In this case, you can see that the English “someone likes something” becomes “something gefällt someone.” Similarly, you would say, for example, Hat der Film euch gefallen? – "Did you like the movie?" The movie (der Film) is the subject of the German sentence in this case.
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As you can see, learning how to say please in German basically requires memorizing one simple word, which is bitte. You can add sehr or schön for emphasis. It’s used in similar situations like its English counterpart.
Don’t forget that it can also be a verb or a noun. On the other hand, the English verb “to please” requires different translations based on the context. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below. We are more than happy to answer!