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6 Different Meanings of Bitte in German – The Complete Guide

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There aren’t many words as versatile as the German bitte. Bitte is something we like to call a “politeness word”. This “politeness word” exists in many languages, but doesn’t exist in English. Bitte can mean please, pardon, go ahead, here you go, you’re welcome and even yes, please.

With so many uses, it can get a bit confusing. Its use can be a bit nuanced so we’ll give you a comprehensive overview of the many meanings of bitte and include examples for each situation. Bitte – go right ahead and explore the options!

The Different Meanings of Bitte

Bitte in German Meaning polite offering coffee

Bitte in German can mean the following:

  1. Please
  2. Pardon
  3. Go ahead
  4. Here you go
  5. You’re welcome
  6. Yes please

Please

This one is the most clear-cut way of using bitte. When you say bitte to mean please, it is used to politely ask for something or state a request. Bitte can stand after the subject or at the very end of the sentence.

German

Ich möchte einen Kaffee bitte.

Kannst du bitte kommen?

English

I would like a coffee please.

Could you please come?

Here you go

The previous example brings us to our next use of bitte which can mean “here you go”. This might be one of the most confusing uses for bitte as you will often see bitte being used multiple times in one interaction used in different ways. Take the example below.

German

Customer: Ich möchte einen Kaffee bitte.
*Gives customer coffee*
Waiter: Bitte.

English

Customer: I would like a coffee, please.
*Gives customer coffee*
Waiter: Here you go.

When somebody states a request they will say bitte (please) to be polite, as you give them the object you will also say bitte (here you go).

You’re Welcome

Bitte is also used to say “you’re welcome” in German. This can make for funny and confusing situations where you use bitte to say “please”, “here you go” and “you’re welcome”. You will find this type of conversation in a restaurant. Let’s keep adding to the original coffee conversation. This time using bitte to mean “you’re welcome”.

German

Customer: Ich möchte einen Kaffee bitte.

*gives customer coffee*

Waiter: Bitte.
Customer: Danke
Waiter: Bitte.

English

Customer: I would like a coffee, please.

gives customer coffee

Waiter: Here you go.
Customer: Thank you
Waiter: You’re welcome.

Pardon

You can also use bitte as a question to mean “Pardon?” or “Excuse me?” in a situation where you perhaps didn’t hear or understand what someone said. It’s a request to ask someone to repeat themselves.

Wie bitte? is the phrase you would use if using bitte in this context. In the same way that saying “What?” can seem a bit brash and abrupt in English, saying Wie bitte is the most polite way of asking someone to repeat themselves.

Go ahead

If you thought we’re done with different meanings for bitte, you’d be wrong! Similar to using bitte to mean “here you go” you can also use it to mean “go ahead”. If you receive someone in your house and open the door for them you can say bitte to invite them inside.

German

Host: Hallo, schön dass Ihr gekommen seid.
Guest: Danke für die Einladung

*the host gestures for the guests to come inside.*

Host: Bitte
Guest: Danke

English

Host: Hello, thank you for coming over.
Guest: Thank you for the invite.

*the host gestures for the guests to come inside.*

Host: Go ahead.
Guest: Thank you.

This way of using bitte can also be used to mean “after you”. For example, if someone gets to a door the same time as you and you want to be polite and let them go first, you would say bitte.

Yes please

You can also use bitte or ja, bitte to express an enthusiastic “yes please”. When someone offers you something “bitte” is a polite way to agree.

German

  • Möchtest du ein Stück Käsekuchen?
  • Ja bitte!

English

  • Would you like a piece of cheesecake?
  • Yes please!

Bitte and Bitteschön

You might have heard and seen the word bitteschön and wondered how it relates to bitte. Saying bitteschön adds an additional level of politeness to the regular bitte. While you can’t use bitteschön to mean please, you can use it to mean “here you go”, “go ahead” and “you’re welcome”. Check out the following examples:

German

Ex 1:
*holds the door open for someone*
Bitteschön

Ex 2:
*the waiter gives you your plate of food*
Bitteschön

Ex 3:
*you receive a gift*
P1: Danke!
P2: Bitteschön

English

Ex: 1
*holds the door open for someone*
Go ahead

Ex 2:
*the waiter gives you your plate of food*
Here you go.

Ex 3:
*you receive a gift*
P1: Thank you!
P2: You’re (very) welcome

Conclusion

When navigating a new language, especially in the case of German you want to err on the side of politeness. The word bitte can be added to many situations and clear up confusion. Pay attention to people’s gestures and tone of voice to understand which bitte is being used and is most frequently used. 

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