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How should I politely ask for someone's time to interrupt them, like in English:

Do you have a minute?

May I bother you for a moment even though you're quite busy?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

When I want to interrupt someone in front of me I would say:

Verzeihung, Haben Sie bitte mal einen Moment Zeit?

or

Entschuldigung, darf ich Sie mal stören?

The leading word (not important which one you choose) gets attention to the question itself. To make the question polite, it's important to give it a polite pronounciation. I would not tell the guy that he's busy, he knows it himself.

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From my own experience as a busy person I do not recommend lengthy apologies as these even if they may be polite tend to raise my pulse by at least 10 beats.

Depending on how busy the person is you are interrupting you should keep the interruption as short as possible. Therefore it is perfectly alright and accepted as polite enough if you just say:

"[Entschuldigung,] haben Sie kurz Zeit [für mich]?" *
"Darf ich?"
*words in brackets add politeness only if really needed

In a less formal setting (usually when you address people with "Du" but also possible with people you don't know) you may just ask

"Störe ich?"

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"Störe ich?" is a funny way. Don't wonder, if you get some ironical answers :D –  Em1 Jan 27 '12 at 8:18
    
Are you saying one can ask Darf ich? as equivalent to Do you have a minute? –  embert Feb 25 at 22:13
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Unabhängig, wie du jemanden unterbrichst, bedenke, dass du es schon in dem Moment getan hast, wenn du sowas wie Do you have a minute? sagst/fragst. Nicht selten bekommst du eine Antwort in der Form: "Eigentlich nicht, aber jetzt hast du mich ja schon unterbrochen."
(Independent of the way you interrupt someone, pay attention on the fact that you already did, even just asking Do you have a minute?. It's not infrequently to get an answer alike: "No I didn't but you already bother me.")

In Ergänzung zu den bereits erwähnten Möglichkeiten (In addition to the mentioned possibilities):

vorangehende Frage / precedent question:

  • "Hast du/Haben Sie einen Moment (für mich)?"
  • "Hast du/Haben Sie eben eine Minute für mich?"
  • "Darf ich (Dich/Sie) kurz unterbrechen?"

ohne vorangehende Frage / without precedent question:

  • "Nur ganz kurz: ..."
  • "Ich wollte dir/ihnen nur schnell mitteilen, dass ..."
  • "Hör mal bitte (kurz) zu." (sounds a little bit impolite. If you really can say that, depends on the relationship to the person you bother)
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You're fine with simply saying

Entschuldigung?

or

Tschuldigung?

(The latter is formed by simply omitting the first syllable and is slightly colloquial.)

This would not be considered rude (by anybody I know). Although you could certainly manage to intonate it such that it sounds a bit demanding, but you can do this with basically everything. As long as you put it clearly as a question it should be okay.

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Hätten Sie einen Momemt Zeit für mich? Darf ich Sie kurz stören?

PS Übertriebene Höflichkeitsformeln werden im Ďeutschen eher als unnötige Floskeln betrachtet.

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Use these Phrases - I am Sampath - English Teacher May I speak with you for a moment? Can I have a word with you? Can I talk to you for a minute? Can I talk to you? May I have a moment with you? Do you have a minute?

May I have a moment? Can I have a minute? May I be excused? Excuse me for a moment.

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OP is asking for a German translation, not alternatives to his English sentence. –  Baz Feb 25 at 12:10
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On sales calls, I use in English, "May I stop you from working for two minutes?", which I will translate quite badly into German as "Mög ich Ihnen abstellen vun arbeiten auf zwei minuten?" There are the occasional jackasses who will answer rudely, but it shouldn't bother you. I just turn and walk away.

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