German word of the day: Per du

No, this is not the German version of the French word “perdu” (“lost”).It means something entirely different.

German word of the day: Per du
Photo: depositphotos

If you are learning German, chances are very high that you struggled with the way of addressing people in German. 

To be more precise – when to address people with “Sie” or “du.” Don’t worry, you’re not the only one struggling with that; there are actually many people with German as their mother tongue who don’t really know what to do.

SEE ALSO: To du or not to du: How to crack one of Germany's trickiest etiquette dilemmas 

So if you meet someone new – let’s say it’s a woman and her name is Anna Blume – then you start of with calling her “Frau Blume.”

You might ask her “Möchten Sie einen Tee, Frau Blume?” (“Would you like some tea, Ms. Blume?”)

If everything goes well and you get along, at some point she might say “Darf ich Ihnen das Du anbieten?” (literally: “May I offer you “The You”?” – “May I offer you to address me informally?”)

With offering you “The You,” she is asking you if you want to move on from normal acquaintances to good acquaintances. If you say yes, you and Anna are per du.

You are now allowed to call her Anna and change your former question to “Anna, möchtest du einen Tee?” (“Anna, would you like some tea?”)

The verb for being per du is duzen, which doesn’t have a literal translation, but basically means “to address someone informally.”

Be careful with the du, though. Even though it starts getting more and more popular to address everyone informally (especially in big cities like Berlin and Hamburg), many people (especially elderly folk) consider it to be rude if you just walk up to them and call them “du.”

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? – The polite way to say: Do you speak German? Photo: Deposit Photos/nito103


Mein Arzt und ich sind per du.

My doctor and I are addressing each other informally.

Dann hat sie mir das Du angeboten.

She offered me to address her informally.

Wir? Ja, wir duzen uns.

Us? Yeah, we address each other informally.

Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.


Member comments

  1. I’ve normally found the best way to break the ice is to use Du in a casual situation when you know someone really well. Then apologise and see how the other side reacts. Normally It’s offered back to you.

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For members


German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.