Top German Words in Spoken and Written Vocabulary

German Word Frequency for Spoken Words and in Print

male friends at a German cafe
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What German words will you encounter most frequently? The answer depends on whether they are in conversation or in reading material.

It's valuable to note what words are the most common, although they may not help you as much as you might think. They include many pronouns, articles, prepositions and common verbs. Those are probably not enough to understand what someone is trying to tell you.

Top 30 Most Frequent Words in Spoken German

The 30 words ranked here for spoken German are excerpted from the Rangwörterbuch hochdeutscher Umgangssprache by Hans-Heinrich Wängler (N.G.

Elwert, Marburg, 1963). The words are ranked by frequency of use in everyday, spoken German.

Top 30 Words - Spoken German
Ranked by Frequency of Use in
German Speaking Vocabulary

1ich"I" - personal pronoun
2das"the; that (one)" neuter - definite article or demonstrative pronoun)
More: Nouns and Gender
3die"the" f. - definite article
4ist"is" - form of "to be" ( sein)
7du"you" familiar - See Sie und du
8der"the" m. - definite article
10sie"she, they"
11so"so, thus"
12wir"we" - personal pronoun
14noch"still, yet"
15da"there, here; since, because"
16mal"times; once" - particle
17mit"with" - See Dative Prepositions
18auch"also, too"
19in"in, into" 
20es"it" - personal pronoun
21zu"to; at; too" preposition or adverb
22aber"but" - See Coordinating/Subordinating Conjunctions
23habe / hab'"(I) have" - verbs - forms of haben
24den"the" - (form of der or dative plural) See Noun Cases
25eine"a, an" fem. indefinite article
27man"one, they"
28doch"but, nevertheless, after all" particle
29war"was" - past tense of "to be" (sein)
Source: Word Frequencies (TU Wien)

A few observations about the Top 30 Spoken German Words:

  • In this list of the top 30 spoken German words, there are no nouns, but lots of pronouns and articles.
  • Prepositions are important in spoken (and reading) German. In the top 30 spoken words, there are three prepositions (all dative or dual): mit, in, and zu.
  • The rank for spoken words can vary greatly from that for reading vocabulary. Examples: ich (spoken 1 / reading 51), ist (4/12), da (15/75), doch (28/69).
  • All the top 30 words are "small words." None has more than five letters; most have only two or three! Zipf's Law seems to hold true: There is an inverse relationship between the length of a word and its frequency.

The Top 100 German Words Ranked by Frequency in Reading Material

The words ranked here are taken from German newspapers, magazines and other online publications in German. A similar ranking for spoken German would be quite different. Although it is based on it, unlike the word frequency compilation from the Universität Leipzig, this edited top 100 list of the most common German words in print eliminates duplicates (dass/daß, der/Der) and considers conjugated verb forms as a single verb (i.e., ist represents all forms of sein, "to be") to arrive at the 100 most common German words you should know (for reading).

However, most personal pronouns have their various forms listed separately. For example, the first-person singular forms ich, mich, mir are listed as separate words, each with its own rank. Alternative forms of other words (in parentheses) are listed in order of occurrence.

The ranking below is based on the University of Leipzig compilation as of 8 Jan. 2001.

Top 100 German Words
Edited and Ranked by Frequency of Use in
German Reading Vocabulary

1der (den, dem, des)"the" m. - definite article
2die (der, den)"the" f. - definite article
3und"and" - coordinating conjunction
4in (im)"in, into" (in the)
5von (vom)"of, from"
6zu (zum, zur)"to; at; too" preposition or adverb
7das (dem, des)"the" n. - definite article
9sich"himself, itself, yourself"
10aufSee Two-Way Prepositions
11fürSee Accusative Prepositions
12ist (sein, sind, war, sei, etc.)"is" (to be, are, was, be, etc.) - verbs
14ein (eine, einen, einer, einem, eines)"a, an" - indefinite article
15als"as, than, when"
16auch"also, too"
18an (am/ans)"to, at, by"
19werden (wurde, wird)"become, get"
20aus"from, out of"
21er"he, it" - personal pronoun
22hat (haben, hatte, habe)"to have" - verbs
23dass / daß"that"
24sie"she, it; they" - personal pronoun
25nach"to, after" - dative preposition
26bei"at, by" - dative preposition
27um"around, at" - accusative preposition
28noch"still, yet"
29wie"as, how"
30über"about, over, via" - two-way preposition
31so"so, such, thus"
32Sie"you" (formal)
34oder"or" - coordinating conjunction
35aber"but" - coordinating conjunction
36vor (vorm, vors)"before, in front of; of"  - two-way preposition
37bis"by, until" - accusative preposition
39durch"by, through" - accusative preposition
40man"one, they" - personal pronoun
41Prozent (das)"percent"
42kann (können, konnte, etc.)"be able, can" modal verb
43gegen"against; around" - accusative preposition
45wenn"if, when" - subordinating conjunctions
46sein (seine, seinen, etc.)"his" - possessive pronoun
47Mark (Euro)Der Euro was put into circulation in Jan. 2002, so "Mark" (Deutsche Mark, DM) is far less frequent now.
48ihre/ihr"her, their" - possessive pronoun
50unter"under, among" - two-way prepositions
51wir"we" - personal pronoun
52soll (sollen, sollte, etc.)"should, ought to" - modal verbs
53ichObviously "ich" (I) would rank higher for spoken German, but it also ranks high in print.
54Jahr (das, Jahren, Jahres, etc.)"year"
55zwei"two" - See Numbers
56diese (dieser, dieses, etc.)"this, these" - dieser-word
57wieder"again" (adv.)
58UhrMost frequently used as "o'clock" in telling time.
59will (wollen, willst, etc.)"wants" ("to want, want," etc.) - modal verbs
60zwischen"between" - two-way preposition
61immer"always" (adv.)
62Millionen (eine Million)"millions" ("a/one million") - number
64sagte (sagen, sagt)"said" (past) "say, says"
65gibt (es gibt; geben)"gives" ("there is/are; to give")
66alle"all, everyone"
67seit"since" - dative preposition
68muss (müssen)"must" ("to have to, must")
69doch"but, nevertheless, after all" particle
70jetzt"now" - adverb
71drei"three" - number
72neue (neu, neuer, neuen, etc.)"new" adjective
73damit"with it/that; by that; because of that; so that"
da-compound (with preposition)
74bereits"already" adverb
75da"since, because" (prep.), "there, here" (adv.)
76ab"off, away; exit" (theater); "from, starting at" - adv./prep.
77ohne"without" - accusative preposition
78sondern"but rather"
79selbst"myself, himself," etc.; "self-; even (if)"
80ersten (erste, erstes, etc.)first - adverb
81nun"now; then; well?"
82etwa"about, approximately; for instance" (adv.)
83heute"today, nowadays" (adv.)
84weilbecause - subordinating conjunction
85ihm"to/for him" personal pronoun (dative)
86Menschen (der Mensch)"people" ("human being")
87Deutschland (das)"Germany"
88anderen (andere, anderes, etc.)"other(s)"
89rund"approximately, about" (adv.)
90ihn"him" personal pronoun (accusative)
91Ende (das)"end"
93Zeit (die)"time"
94uns"us, to us" personal pronoun (accusative or dative)
95Stadt (die)"city, town"
96geht (gehen, ging, etc.)"goes" ("to go, went," etc.)
99ganz"entire(ly), complete(ly), whole(ly)"
100Berlin (das)"Berlin"

Source: Projekt Wortschatz - Universität Leipzig
Stand vom 8. Jan. 2001

A few observations about the Top 100 German Words:

  • In this edited list of the Top 100 German Words, there are only 11 nouns (in ranked order): Prozent, Mark (Euro), Jahr/Jahren, Uhr, Millionen, Mensch/Menschen, Deutschland, Ende, Zeit, Stadt, Berlin. These nouns reflect common news and business content in German-language periodicals.
  • Since several simple past tense forms (Imperfekt, war, wurde, sagte) appear in the top 100, it might be better to introduce the past tense earlier in German instruction/learning. In German reading material, the simple past is used more than in conversation.
  • Zipf's Law seems to hold true: There is an inverse relationship between the length of a word and its frequency. The most frequent words are monosyllabic. The longer the word, the less it's used, and vice versa.