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 GermanRanked by Frequency of Use inGerman Speaking Vocabulary
Rank Word Comment/Link
1 ich "I" - personal pronoun
2 das "the; that (one)" neuter - definite article or demonstrative pronoun)
More: Nouns and Gender
3 die "the" f. - definite article
4 ist "is" - form of "to be" ( sein)
5 nicht "not"
6 ja "yes"
7 du "you" familiar - See Sie und du
8 der "the" m. - definite article
9 und "and"
10 sie "she, they"
11 so "so, thus"
12 wir "we" - personal pronoun
13 was "what"
14 noch "still, yet"
15 da "there, here; since, because"
16 mal "times; once" - particle
17 mit "with" - See Dative Prepositions
18 auch "also, too"
19 in "in, into"
20 es "it" - personal pronoun
21 zu "to; at; too" preposition or adverb
22 aber "but" - See Coordinating/Subordinating Conjunctions
23 habe / hab' "(I) have" - verbs - forms of haben
24 den "the" - (form of der or dative plural) See Noun Cases
25 eine "a, an" fem. indefinite article
26 schon "already"
27 man "one, they"
28 doch "but, nevertheless, after all" particle
29 war "was" - past tense of "to be" (sein)
30 dann "then"
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 WordsEdited and Ranked by Frequency of Use inGerman Reading Vocabulary
Rank Word Comment/Link
1 der (den, dem, des) "the" m. - definite article
2 die (der, den) "the" f. - definite article
3 und "and" - coordinating conjunction
4 in (im) "in, into" (in the)
5 von (vom) "of, from"
6 zu (zum, zur) "to; at; too" preposition or adverb
7 das (dem, des) "the" n. - definite article
8 mit "with"
9 sich "himself, itself, yourself"
10 auf See Two-Way Prepositions
11 für See Accusative Prepositions
12 ist (sein, sind, war, sei, etc.) "is" (to be, are, was, be, etc.) - verbs
13 nicht "not"
14 ein (eine, einen, einer, einem, eines) "a, an" - indefinite article
15 als "as, than, when"
16 auch "also, too"
17 es "it"
18 an (am/ans) "to, at, by"
19 werden (wurde, wird) "become, get"
20 aus "from, out of"
21 er "he, it" - personal pronoun
22 hat (haben, hatte, habe) "to have" - verbs
23 dass / daß "that"
24 sie "she, it; they" - personal pronoun
25 nach "to, after" - dative preposition
26 bei "at, by" - dative preposition
27 um "around, at" - accusative preposition
28 noch "still, yet"
29 wie "as, how"
30 über "about, over, via" - two-way preposition
31 so "so, such, thus"
32 Sie "you" (formal)
33 nur "only"
34 oder "or" - coordinating conjunction
35 aber "but" - coordinating conjunction
36 vor (vorm, vors) "before, in front of; of" - two-way preposition
37 bis "by, until" - accusative preposition
38 mehr "more"
39 durch "by, through" - accusative preposition
40 man "one, they" - personal pronoun
41 Prozent (das) "percent"
42 kann (können, konnte, etc.) "be able, can" modal verb
43 gegen "against; around" - accusative preposition
44 schon "already"
45 wenn "if, when" - subordinating conjunctions
46 sein (seine, seinen, etc.) "his" - possessive pronoun
47 Mark (Euro) Der Euro was put into circulation in Jan. 2002, so "Mark" (Deutsche Mark, DM) is far less frequent now.
48 ihre/ihr "her, their" - possessive pronoun
49 dann "then"
50 unter "under, among" - two-way prepositions
51 wir "we" - personal pronoun
52 soll (sollen, sollte, etc.) "should, ought to" - modal verbs
53 ich Obviously "ich" (I) would rank higher for spoken German, but it also ranks high in print.
54 Jahr (das, Jahren, Jahres, etc.) "year"
55 zwei "two" - See Numbers
56 diese (dieser, dieses, etc.) "this, these" - dieser-word
57 wieder "again" (adv.)
58 Uhr Most frequently used as "o'clock" in telling time.
59 will (wollen, willst, etc.) "wants" ("to want, want," etc.) - modal verbs
60 zwischen "between" - two-way preposition
61 immer "always" (adv.)
62 Millionen (eine Million) "millions" ("a/one million") - number
63 was "what"
64 sagte (sagen, sagt) "said" (past) "say, says"
65 gibt (es gibt; geben) "gives" ("there is/are; to give")
66 alle "all, everyone"
67 seit "since" - dative preposition
68 muss (müssen) "must" ("to have to, must")
69 doch "but, nevertheless, after all" particle
70 jetzt "now" - adverb
71 drei "three" - number
72 neue (neu, neuer, neuen, etc.) "new" adjective
73 damit "with it/that; by that; because of that; so that"
da-compound (with preposition)
74 bereits "already" adverb
75 da "since, because" (prep.), "there, here" (adv.)
76 ab "off, away; exit" (theater); "from, starting at" - adv./prep.
77 ohne "without" - accusative preposition
78 sondern "but rather"
79 selbst "myself, himself," etc.; "self-; even (if)"
80 ersten (erste, erstes, etc.) first - adverb
81 nun "now; then; well?"
82 etwa "about, approximately; for instance" (adv.)
83 heute "today, nowadays" (adv.)
84 weil because - subordinating conjunction
85 ihm "to/for him" personal pronoun (dative)
86 Menschen (der Mensch) "people" ("human being")
87 Deutschland (das) "Germany"
88 anderen (andere, anderes, etc.) "other(s)"
89 rund "approximately, about" (adv.)
90 ihn "him" personal pronoun (accusative)
91 Ende (das) "end"
92 jedoch "nevertheless"
93 Zeit (die) "time"
94 uns "us, to us" personal pronoun (accusative or dative)
95 Stadt (die) "city, town"
96 geht (gehen, ging, etc.) "goes" ("to go, went," etc.)
97 sehr "very"
98 hier "here"
99 ganz "entire(ly), complete(ly), whole(ly)"
100 Berlin (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.