German Compliments: The full guide

Giving compliments and praise is usually not part of German culture as much as it is for e.g. in American society. Germans, by nature and by reputation, are more reserved and closed-off at first. But there are many social situations in which a well-placed flattery can be useful and break the ice. After all, who doesn’t like to receive compliments?

Here is a guide on how to give compliments in German in various situations and how to adequately respond to them as well.

German compliments for a girl / woman

How to compliment woman’s beauty in German

Compliments pertaining to the physical attributes of a woman are among the most common compliments especially in romantic situations.

Here are some ways to compliment a woman’s beauty in German:

Du bist / Du siehst (…) aus / Ich finde dich
You are / You look / I find you (…)

For example: «Ich finde dich atemberaubend» – I find you breathtaking

Using an adverb to add emphasis to a compliment

You may also want to add more emphasis to a compliment, in which case you can use following adverbs ahead of the adjective:

echtreal For example:
«Ich finde dich echt umwerfend»
I find you real staggering
wirklichreally For example:
«Du siehst heute wirklich hübsch aus»
- You look really pretty today
sehrvery For example:
«Du bist sehr süss»
You are very sweet

A more in depth discussion of adverbs is provided in this guide to German adverbs.

How to compliment a woman’s personality in German

Of course, in all serious romantic courtship, you should not solely rely on complimenting physical attributes.

Below are some adjectives to help you flatter a woman’s personality:

For example: «Du bist einzigartig» – You are one-of-a-kind

More German compliments for a woman

Here are a few more handy German compliments, that will surely make her blush:

German compliments for a guy / man

While “sweet nothings” are usually associated with complimenting women, compliments are a two-way street and it turns out, men appreciate pleasantries too.

Compliments pertaining to the physique of men often refer to their strength and fitness.

In such cases, you could use following phrases:

Du bist / Ich finde dich (…)
You are / I find you (…)

Of course, your recognition beyond superficial attributes will stroke any man’s ego. You could compliment him on some of his personality traits by using following German adjectives:

Note that most adjectives pertaining to someone’s character or personality are actually gender-neutral and could be used for a woman as well.

Here are more easy-to-use German compliments that would boost anyone’s confidence:

Unusual German compliments

There are certain idioms used as compliments that simply do not have an equivalent in other languages.

Here are a few examples of such unusual compliments in German:

How to compliment a friend in German

It feels wonderful to receive a compliment. It is one of the easiest ways to spread happiness around you. A romantic intention is not required to give out compliments. Just be sure you are sincere or you might come off as trying too hard.

Here are a few examples you could use to show your appreciation for a friend:

The use of the formulation «du bist» (“you are”) rather than «Ich finde dich» (“I find you”), gives the compliment a more neutral and appropriate tone for a compliment without underlying romantic intentions. The result is a compliment that is less flattery and more of a factual statement.

Some examples of descriptive adjectives to use in a German compliment for a friend are:

Du bist (…)You are (…)

Another way of complimenting a friend would be in the description of either his or her fashion.

Ich mag I like…

Complimenting someone doesn’t always have to pertain to their appearance or character. For instance, should you ever get invited into a friend’s home, you could praise them using following compliments:

How to compliment a couple in German

Are your friends a couple? Here are a few examples of phrases which can be used to compliment a couple in German:

German compliments at work

While performance in the workplace is generally given in the form of written evaluation, the occasional spoken words of encouragement and praise can help maintain a high level of motivation in the team.

Remark: The German language has both an informal “you” pronoun which is “du”, as well as a formal “you” pronoun which is “Sie” (it is capitalized). German verbs are conjugated differently depending on the pronoun which is used.

The examples below make use of the informal pronoun, but in a more formal setting, particularly with people we don’t know well, it would be appropriate to use the formal pronoun.

If you are working in Germany or with a German client, you might hear following compliments:

Du bist sehr – you are very…

Germans can be somewhat parsimonious giving out acknowledgement for a job well-done – after all it is understood that a task should be completed according to the assignment.

Culturally, Germans are known to be straightforward and words are weighed accordingly. Constructive criticism is meant to be honest and truthful feedback.

As such, silence can sometimes mean the biggest praise.

How to respond to a compliment in German

Aside from being able to compliment someone in various situations, it is also very important to be able to receive compliments too.

The most common and gracious way to accept a compliment is simply to thank the person in front of you.

But what if you are not quite sure if the person means it? Here are ways to respond quite casually:

You may find yourself in a more formal situation and in such, here are multiple ways to respond to a compliment in German:

Conclusion

Complimenting someone in a new language isn’t always easy, as many phrases are deeply rooted in culture. Conveying genuine emotions as a non-native speaker can be daunting. But don’t let it discourage you. Everyone appreciates a friendly, intentional and well-meaning compliment.

In addition to compliments, there are also terms of endearment which can be used among people who are close. The following guide covers German terms of endearment and affection.

Now that you have learned the basics of German compliments and how to receive them graciously, why not include one the next time you write an email in German.