12 German Question Words to Ask the Right Questions in German: A Comprehensive Guide

Asking the right questions in German can make the big difference between doing and telling something right or something inappropriate. You most definitely want to avoid those embarrassing situations.

That’s why you have to learn the most important German question words. Spring German (that’s a project I co-founded) made a lesson on how to ask questions like a native – pretty useful!

In this article, we’ll list what we think are the 12 most important German question words and also, how to use them correctly.

1. Wer (who)

Wer” is used to ask about a person or people who are the subject (the doer) of a sentence. You can use this question word when you want to know the identity of someone.

Like this:

  • “Wer hat das Fenster geöffnet?” [Who opened the window?]

In this German sentence, “wer” is asking about the person who performed the action of opening the window.

2. Was (what)

Was” is used to ask about things that are the direct object (the receiver of the action) in a sentence. You can use this question word when you want to know about an object or activity.

For example:

  • Was machst du heute Nachmittag?” [What are you doing this afternoon?]

Here, “was” is asking about the activity that the person will be doing in the afternoon.

3. Wo (where)

Wo” is used to ask about a place or location, which is an adverbial phrase (describing the verb) in a sentence. You can use this question word when you want to know about a specific place or position.

Let’s say like this:

  • Wo ist deine Schule?” [Where is your school?]

In this sentence, “wo” is asking about the location of the school.

4. Wann (when)

Wann” is used to ask about a time or occasion, which is also an adverbial phrase in a sentence. You can use this question word when you want to know about a specific time.

german question words with a train clock illustrating time

Asking about a German class maybe? 🙂

  • Wann beginnt der Unterricht?” [When does the class start?]

Here, “wann” is asking about the time when the class begins.

5. Warum (why)

Warum” is used to ask about a reason or cause, which is again, another adverbial phrase in a sentence. You can use this question word when you want to know the purpose or motivation behind something:

  • Warum lernst du Deutsch?” [Why are you learning German?]

In this sentence, “warum” is asking about the reason for learning the German language.

6. Wie (how)

Wie” is used to ask about a manner or way of doing something, which is another adverbial phrase in a sentence. You can use this German question word when you want to know the method or process of an action.

In a real-life example, this would look like this:

  • Wie gehst du zur Schule?” [How do you go to school?]

Here, “wie” is asking about the way or method the person uses to go to school.

7. Welch- (which)

Welch-” is used to ask about a specific item from a group. You can use this question word when you want to identify or choose a particular thing or person from a set of options.

For example:

  • Welches Buch möchtest du lesen?” [Which book would you like to read?]

In this sentence, “welches” is asking about a specific book from a group of books.

8. Wieviel- (how many)

Wieviel-” is used to ask about quantities, such as numbers, amounts, or measurements. You can use this question word when you want to know the exact or approximate quantity of something.

If you’re talking about German food:

  • Wie viele Äpfel hast du gegessen?” [How many apples did you eat?]

Here, “wie viele” is asking about the number of apples that were eaten.

9. Wess- (whose)

Wess-” is used to ask about possession or ownership. You can use this question word when you want to know who something belongs to or who is responsible for something.

When you just found something:

  • Wessen Rucksack ist das?” [Whose backpack is that?]

In this sentence, “wessen” is asking about the owner or possessor of the backpack.

german question words with a big question mark on paper notebook

10. Wohin (where to)

Wohin” is used to ask about a direction or destination, which is an adverbial phrase in a sentence. You can use this question word when you want to know where someone or something is going or heading towards.

Planning a holiday in a German-speaking country?

  • Wohin fährst du in den Ferien?” [Where are you going on vacation?]

Here, “wohin” is asking about the destination or place where the person is going for their vacation.

11. Woher (where from)

Woher” is used to ask about an origin or source, which is an adverbial phrase in a sentence. You can use this question word when you want to know where someone or something comes from or originates.

A question you might frequently run into:

  • Woher kommst du?” [Where are you from?]

In this sentence, “woher” is asking about the person’s place of origin or the place they are from.

12. Seit wann (since when)

Seit wann” is used to ask about a starting point in time, which is an adverbial phrase in a sentence. You can use this question word when you want to know how long something has been happening or when something started.

By the time you reach this point in the article, you can answer this question:

  • Seit wann lernst du Deutsch?” [Since when have you been learning German?]

Here, “seit wann” is asking about the starting point or the period of time since the person began learning German.

How to use German question words and how to form questions in German

In German, the basic structure of a question sentence is the following:

Verb + Subject + Object(s) + Other Sentence Elements

This is known as the “verb-first” or “verb-initial” word order. Here are some examples:

  • Gehst du heute in die Stadt?” [Are you going to the city today?]
  • Hast du deine Hausaufgaben gemacht?” [Have you done your homework?]

If the sentence has a direct object (the receiver of the action) or an indirect object (the recipient of the action), they come after the subject.

Forming a question with w-questions

But everything changes when you start to use the w-questions: the ones we shared in this blog post. The structure changes slightly from the standard verb-first order, and instead of starting with the verb, these question words are placed at the beginning of the sentence.

The equation for this structure is:

Question Word + Subject + Verb + Object(s) + Other Sentence Elements.

Some of these examples could be:

  • Wer hat das Fenster geöffnet?” [Who opened the window?]
  • Wo wohnt deine Tante?” [Where does your aunt live?]
  • Wohin gehst du in den Ferien?” [Where are you going on vacation?]
  • Woher kommst du?” [Where are you from?]
  • Wann beginnt der Unterricht?” [When does the class start?]

Practice forming the right questions with our Practice Worksheet

Let’s take a look at these flashcards and solve the exercises!

Didn’t get enough? Sign up now and practice as much as you want!

Learn German question words with Conversation Based Chunking

One great way to learn how to naturally form these German question sentences is to use the Conversation Based Chunking method.

This method is all about focusing on natural chunks in the language. So, instead of memorizing boring grammar rules, you immerse yourself in the language and absorb everything like a child would when they learn their native language.

Sign up now and get the essential German chunking list, along with my favorite resources to learn German + practice worksheets at your fingertips any time!

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