The Many Meanings of Bitte

Mom giving family cake
"Ein Stück Apfelkuchen bitte." (A piece of apple cake please.). Mint Images / Getty Images

Bitte is used a lot in German. The many meanings of Bitte are the following:

  • Please
  • You're welcome
  • Here you go (when handing something over)
  • May I help you?
  • Pardon?

How do you know which meaning is meant?

It all depends on the context, tone and the other words espressed alongside with Bitte. For example:

Expressing 'Pardon'

  • Ich bin heute einkaufen gegangen. (I went shopping today.)
  • Wie bitte? (Pardon me?)
  • Ich habe gesagt, dass ich heute einkaufen gegangen bin.

Expressing 'Here you go' when handing something over to someone.

  • - Ein Stück Apfelkuchen bitte. (A piece of apple cake please.)
  • - (Waiter serves the cake ) Bitte sehr.
  • - Danke.

Expressing 'May I help you?'

You will often hear simply Bitte/Bitte sehr/Bitte schön? in public places where service is provided. For instance waiters will often say this when they approach your table.
Expressing 'You're welcome'

  • Vielen Dank für Ihren Geschenk! (Thank you very much for your present)

  • Bitte sehr!

Expressing 'Please'

  • Kannst du mir bitte helfen? (Can you help me please?)

Expressing 'Yes, Please!'

 

  • Darf ich Ihnen den Mantel abnehmen? (May I take your coat?)
  • Bitte!