Talking on the phone in German

Feeling at ease when talking on the phone is an important part of speaking German. Whether you are learning German for business purposes or with the goal of traveling to German-speaking countries, you may find it to be a necessary skill. Let’s look at a group of phrases that is used particularly for telephone conversation.

Businessman standing at the window and talking on the phone
It’s important to feel confident when talking on the phone in a foreign language.

Basic actions of talking on the phone

While anrufen means “to call,” the verb telefonieren means “to speak on the phone.” Have you ever been in the situation in which someone calls for you or tries to start a conversation with you and doesn’t realize that you are on the phone? In German, you would tell that person Ich telefoniere gerade!

Kannst du bitte aufhören zu telefonieren?
Can you please stop talking on the phone?

“To pick up the phone” is literally den Hörer abnehmen, but for “to answer the phone” you are more likely to hear ans Telefon gehen, or simply rangehen.

Ich gehe nicht ran, ich bin nicht da.
I’m not answering it, I’m not here.

“To hang up” is auflegen:

Er hat auch erst gesagt: „Leg auf!    
First, he said, “Hang up!

Answering the phone in German and introducing yourself

Most people in Germany answer the phone by saying their last name, or the last name of their family if receiving a call on their home landline. 

Ja, Paschke. -Ich bin’s.
Yes, Paschke residence. -It’s me.

To state who is calling, use hier ist or hier spricht.

Hallo, Frau Meier. Hier ist Melanie Schmidt.    
Hello, Ms. Meier. This is Melanie Schmidt.

Wer spricht denn dort? –Hier spricht der Herr Hofer.
Who’s speaking there then? –This is Mr. Hofer.

Talking on the phone
Most Germans answer the phone by stating their last name.

Asking for your party and leaving a message

If you are talking on the phone in German and need to ask to speak to a particular person, you will use the verb dürfen. Don’t forget that mit is a dative preposition! 

Darf ich mit dir sprechen? -Ja, klar.
May I speak with you? -Yes, of course.

Generally, the verb erreichen (“to reach”) plays a large role in talking on the phone. 

Ich erreiche sie nicht, weder über Funk noch auf Handy.
I can’t reach her, neither on the radio nor on her cell phone.

If the person you wish to speak to is nicht erreichbar, you will have the choice of calling back (zurückrufen) or leaving a message (eine Nachricht hinterlassen). If you need to write them an email instead, take a look at the handy tips in our post on the subject!

Ey, ruf doch mal zurück!   
Hey, call back sometime!

Now that you have the right phrases, you will also need sharp listening and comprehension skills for talking on the phone in German. One way to jump-start your immersion is with the Yabla language learning platform. With Yabla, you can discover a new world through videos currently circulating in German-speaking countries. Our range of videos, all featuring native speakers, includes news reports, music videos, movies, documentaries, interviews, TV shows, lessons, and much more.

Learn German with the help of interactive subtitles, vocabulary reviews, comprehension questions, and dictation exercises — and go on your own language-learning journey with Yabla.

Yabla offers you the possibility of learning at your own pace and through videos pertaining to your interests. Expand your horizons by learning the most spoken language in the European Union.

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