I'm trying to learn German. How can I ask somebody (e.g. in a cafe) to help me with that?

I want to say something like that:

– Hi, I'm Peter. Do you have a minute for me?
-- ...
-- I'm learning German. Can I ask you a few questions?
–– (me trying to ask some questions)

I translated it into something like that:

– Hallo, ich bin Peter. Haben Sie eine minute für mich?
-- ...
-- Ich bin Deutsch lernen. Kann ich bitte Sie ein paar Fragen?

Is it a polite form? How can I ask politely? I want to annoy people as less as possible

  • 1
    Put in reopen queue because the above close reason appears not to fit. – Takkat Jan 10 '18 at 8:31
  • 1
    Small tip: In German you can use the Konjunktiv form to ask as passive as possible. But it is already advanced German. – Thomas Jan 10 '18 at 10:16

Hallo, ich bin Peter.


wrong: Haben Sie eine minute fur mich?
correct: Haben Sie eine Minute für mich?

In German all nouns need to be capitalized: wrong: minute. correct: Minute
The dots on umlauts are not optional, they are mandatory: wrong: fur. correct: für
If you can't type umlauts, type an e after the vowel (ue instead of ü) because the dots on the vowels developed over the centuries from an e after this vowels.
wrong: fur. acceptable: fuer. correct: für

wrong: Ich bin Deutsch lernen.
correct: Ich lerne Deutsch.

German has nothing like progressive form (ing-form). So something like »ich bin lernen« simply is wrong in German. Both "I learn" and "I am learning" translate to »ich lerne« in German.

wrong: Kann ich bitte Sie ein paar Fragen?
correct: Kann ich Sie bitte etwas fragen?
or: Kann ich Ihnen bitte ein paar Fragen stellen?

Both forms are good style and polite.


  • Fragen = questions (a noun in plural form)
  • fragen = to ask (a verb in its infinite form)

Remember the rule about nouns I mentioned above: Always write nouns with an uppercase first letter. This rule only applies to nouns, not to verbs! (Well, also the first word of a sentence needs to be capitalized, no matter what kind it is.)

So, the sentence you wrote contains no verb, which means: It isn't a sentence. An English equivalent might be:

Can I you some question please?

So you need a verb, and "to ask" is »fragen« in German, which gives:

Kann ich Sie bitte etwas fragen?
Please, can I ask you something?

But in German there is a very common phrase. In English, the noun question is very different from the verb to ask, while in German they are equal, except from upper/lowercase writing of the first letter. So a direct translation would be:

to ask a question
eine Frage fragen

This is grammatically correct, but very bad style. Never use the verb fragen together with the noun Fragen in the same sentence. Use this phrase instead:

to ask a question
eine Frage stellen

(verbatime translation: to put/place a question)

  • 6
    Hubert is of course right that, if you do not have ä, ö, ü available you can replace them with ae, oe, ue. However, nowadays, as you are writing on a computer, I do not see a legitimate excuse for not spelling things correctly. The ae-oe-ue-thing came up in a time when there were only mechanical typewriters, and people in other countries simply did not have the types for deutsche Umlaute in their localized machines. Today it is just a question of giving your keyboard the correct settings. – Christian Geiselmann Jan 5 '18 at 16:56
  • @ChristianGeiselmann: And still, even in 2017/18 people even here in the German spoken Austria type oe into their computers instead of ö when they write my name: Six weeks ago (End of November 2017) I broke my shoulder. In the hospital I had to show my ID card, which clearly says »Hubert Schölnast« (with ö), but the lady there typed »Hubert Schoelnast« into the computer (using a German Keyboard). The effect is: When I sit in the waiting room, and they call me for x-ray, they say: »Herr Scho-elnast, Röntgenzimmer zwei« instead of »Herr Schölnast, ...« – Hubert Schölnast Jan 5 '18 at 19:15
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    As was stated correctly, the continouus form (I am learning) has no direct counterpart in German. As an aside: learning can be one of two different grammatical forms: the gerund, which is translated as the infinitive (lernen) and the present participle, which is translated as the Partizip I (lernend, which doesn't work here because of the aforementioned lack of a continouus form in German) – RHa Jan 6 '18 at 16:57
  • Fixed an issue with an umlaut and added a German keyboard. – kharandziuk Jan 8 '18 at 16:57
  • @HubertSchölnast Na, dann hoffe ich mal, dass die Róntgenapparate besser waren als die Computer ;-) – Robert Jan 11 '18 at 5:08

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