Better German Podcast with Susi

Susanne Schilk-Blümel

Episode 33 - Introduction to Informal and Formal Communication in German

2024-04-25 9 min

Description & Show Notes

In this episode of Better German, Susie Blumel goes into the topic of formal and informal communication in the German language. She explains how the usage of different forms depends on the level of familiarity with the person you are addressing, and how this can vary in social or professional settings, providing practical examples for better comprehension. 

This episode of the Better German Podcast introduces the topic of formal and informal communication in German, explaining the differences in usage when addressing different individuals. It provides examples of how the forms change based on the level of formality and emphasizes the importance of understanding these variations in communication. The episode also offers translations and comparisons between informal and formal phrases in German.

Topics and Bullet Points
Primary Topic: Introduction to formal and informal communication in German
- Different forms of communication in German
- Informal communication with friends, family, and like-minded individuals in casual settings
- Formal communication in business or professional settings
- Usage of formal and informal forms becoming normal in various contexts
Primary Topic: Forms of communication in German
- Comparison to the forms for "to be" in English
- Discussion of different forms of addressing "you" in German
- Implications for native English speakers learning German
Primary Topic: Usage of informal and formal forms
- Informal form usage with friends, peers, and family members
- Personal preference for informal forms in communication
- Philosophy and considerations around choosing informal forms
- Similarity of formal "you" to the plural form in German
Primary Topic: Examples of informal and formal communication in German
- Examples of informal and formal phrases and questions
- Translation and usage of informal and formal language in various contexts
Primary Topic: Understanding formal communication in German
- Discussion and examples of formal communication using "Sie" for "you"
- Translation of sentences from informal to formal communication
- Usage of formal forms with singular and plural persons
- Contextual understanding and implications of formal communication
Primary Topic: Summary and conclusion
- Recap of formal and informal forms of communication in German
- Encouragement to share the episode with others
- Invitation to join an online German course
Primary Topic: Podcast outro
- Thanking the listeners for their time
- Encouragement to share the podcast
- Invitation to join the online German course
- Farewell to the listeners


Here you can get early access to the upcoming A1.1 (total beginner) German course.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please subscribe and share the podcast.
I would love to stay in touch, so for news, new courses and books, subscribe to my newsletter.
Do let me know, which subjects you would like covered!
And watch out for the next episode - I publish a new one every Thursday.


Welcome to the Better German podcast. My name is Susi Blümel, and I will teach you German and everything around the language , the countries and the culture. This episode is going to be a short introduction into the subject of formal and informal communication in German. When you talk to a person, directly to a person, there are different forms used, when you talk to a friend or your family versus somebody that is a stranger or that you meet in a professional level. So before I go into the details, I want to say that when you meet other like minded people in a pub or as a tourist somewhere in Austria or even at work and they're on the same level or it's not as super formal company, then we will use the informal forms and more and more these informal forms become normal. However, if you are within a business setting, if you meet someone for the first time in a business setting or you go to a hotel and the personal addresses you, it is very likely that they will use the formal forms. Overall, you will probably not err. when you use the formal forms. I personally, that's my personal choice, like to use the informal ones better. For example, with all my students, I'm generally communicating in an informal way. and also the, the kid, the students that are kids. but there is a whole philosophy around that. maybe I'm going to talk a little bit about that later, but let's talk about the forms themselves. So if your native language is English, then, this could be new. There are similar things, for example, in French. So, basically, I have already And you probably have already heard, hopefully, the forms for to be. So, Ich bin, du bist, I am, Ich bin, you are, du bist, and so on. So actually, if you haven't, that was episode 30. So that could be a good start if you haven't heard that. What we're talking about is the form or the variations of the form of you are. you are would be du bist. When I talk to a friend or to someone of my age, or to my mom, I will say, du bist schön. You are beautiful. Or maybe you could ask a question and you could say: Bist du fertig? Are you ready? Now, when we are having a formal communication, this whole thing changes, and we say, Sie sind. So, instead of, Du bist schön, I would say, Sie sind schön. And instead of the question, Bist du fertig? Are you ready? I would say: Sind sie fertig? And now, if you have learned a little bit of German already, maybe you notice that these are the exact same forms as when I talk about other people in the plural. So, if I talk about several other people, like in English that would be they are, and that would be sie sind. And we use these exact forms we say when we talk about several other, or more than one, person or thing. So, In German, we use these exact forms for this formal communication. And, it's actually not a very hard form. Let's make another example. So you could say to a friend, Gehst du morgen schwimmen? Do you go to swim tomorrow? And that would be the du form. Gehst du morgen schwimmen? But then in the formal communication, we do not use du. We use basically they. So we say, Gehen Sie morgen schwimmen? So you don't actually have to learn any new forms, They is what you use for the formal communication. You just have to get used to it. And that's pretty much the most important thing. This form for they is also used in formal communication when you address a person or several persons. There is no difference in this formal communication form if you address one person or several persons. So let's make a few more examples with translations. I'm gonna give you, a non formal, an informal version, and then the formal version. So, an informal version. Du spielst sehr gut Klavier. Is you play the piano very well. You play the piano very well. Du spielst sehr gut Klavier. You play the piano very well. And now, if you're talking formally, that would be, Sie spielen sehr gut Klavier. Same translation. You're playing the piano very well. Or, Fliegst du morgen nach Paris? Do you fly to Paris tomorrow? You could say. And in the formal version, that would be, Fliegen Sie morgen nach Paris? Okay, so now, let's do it the other way around. I'm gonna give you a formal one, and I'm gonna give you the possible translations. So, if you have a sentence of, like, Sie liegen in der Sonne. Then that could be, they are lying in the sun, or that would be the most literal translation. And then, as this could be also a formal, communication, it could mean, you are lying in the sun. Sie haben 200 Euro bezahlt. That means, literally, you paid 200 euros. you ask at the reception how much did I pay, and they tell you, Sie haben 200 Euro bezahlt. You paid 200 Euros. Or It says that on an invoice. Sie haben 200 Euro bezahlt. You paid 200 Euros. But that's a formal communication. So, informal, that would be, Du hast 200 EUR bezahlt. And now, as we said, we are using the forms for when we talk about other people. That means that this formal communication, Sie haben 200 Euro bezahlt, could mean, they have paid 200 Euros. That's the same thing. So, that depends on the context. Okay, so to sum it up, one more time. We have a formal communication form in German. That means when we address a person directly, there is two ways of speaking to them. We have this formal communication when the "du" thing is the informal one, and for the formal one, we use the "they" which is "sie". and it's "sie" with plural, I hope this is understandable in any way for you. Thank you for listening to this episode. If you liked it and, it was helpful for you, please share it with other people and let them know that this exists. And if you are looking for a course and you want to learn German online, then you can, of course, find all the infos as well on www. bettergerman. info. So, see you there and see you in the next episode. Bye bye!


Do you like the podcast and would like to say something? Do you have questions or tipps about the subject? We are happy to hear from you.

By clicking on "Send message", you agree that we are allowed to process your contact information for the sole purpose of responding to your inquiry. The form processing is handled by our Podcast Hoster You can find more information on their Privacy page.


Do you like this Show?
Give us five stars on Apple Podcasts