Expressing your condolences is never easy, especially if you have to do it in German.
There may come a time where you want to offer your condolences to a German friend, relative, or neighbour.
As it’s a sensitive topic, it’s more important than ever to find the right words and phrases. A poorly translated sentence could end up offending somebody, rather than consoling them.
If you’re struggling with what to say in German, check out my guide below for a comprehensive list of condolence phrases.
These should help you communicate your deepest sorrows in German in an appropriate manner, whatever situation you find yourself in.
How to offer condolences in German
In German, the word for “condolences” is das Beileid.
It’s always used in its singular form, as its plural is essentially non-existent. This is an important point to remember, as a literal translation from the English plural “condolences” would see you recreate the pluralization in German.
So remember, Beileid is always singular.
To express “my condolences” in German, you can simply say Mein Beileid.
Other common phrases include adjectives to convey the likes of “my deepest condolences” (Mein tiefstes Beileid).
These are two useful ways of offering your condolences to a German speaker, both of which are exceedingly common among natives.
But if you want to be a little more personal or emotive, there are other ways of expressing your condolences in German.
Example phrases to express your condolences
There are a variety of ways to express your condolences in German.
Some are short and sweet, while others offer longer, more heartfelt messages.
Depending on your situation and who you’re interacting with, succinct condolences might be more appropriate. This is especially relevant if you’re more estranged from the one who has passed away.
But if you were close with the person or family, you might opt for a longer, more personal message of grievance.
Whatever your situation, there’s a phrase below that’s appropriate for you.
Mein herzliches Beileid.
Mein aufrichtiges Beileid.
Unser herzlichstes Beileid zum tragischen Verlust.
Es tut mir leid.
Es tut mir so leid, von deinem Verlust zu hören.
Mein tiefes Mitgefühl.
Unser tiefstes Beileid und Mitgefühl.
Unsere Gedanken sind bei euch.
Wir wünschen euch viel Kraft, diesen Schmerz zu überwinden.
Wir alle trauern in tiefer Anteilnahme mit dir um deinen großen Verlust.
Die Nachricht von Xs Tod hat mich sehr bewegt.
Unsere Gedanken und Gebete sind bei Ihnen.
Related sympathetic vocab in German
As well as giving your condolences, you may need to learn certain words surrounding death and loss.
This can help with further expressions of sorrow (such as in a card) or if you’re attending the funeral service.
Below is a table of vocab that might crop up in difficult situations like this. I hope you find it useful.
|der Verstorbene (male)
die Verstorbene (female)
|begraben / beerdigen
|to offer one’s condolences
|sein Beileid ausdrücken
|to pass away
|dahingehen / abberufen werden
Formal and informal expressions
As with many languages, German has both formal and informal ways of addressing people.
It’s important to note who you’re talking to when expressing your condolences, otherwise you risk offending people.
Adjust your German pronouns and conjugate the verbs accordingly to form truly sincere expressions of grievance and sorrow.
Use Sie and Ihnen when addressing people you’re not too familiar with. These are the formal pronouns and can be used at any point to express genuine condolences.
But even though funerals and condolence cards are formal, it can be appropriate to use the informal version of “you” when addressing grieving people. Using du and deine is acceptable among close family and friends.
This act of using the informal du over Sie is called duzen in German.
Using the wrong pronouns can cause offence within German-speaking culture, so it’s crucial that you use the right words for the right situations.
If in doubt, always use the formal when expressing condolences.
Being overly formal at a time like that runs practically no risk of offence, whereas being too informal can come off a little rude.
When is it appropriate to offer condolences in German?
When using these German phrases, you must try to evaluate your situation. Not every phrase is appropriate for every situation, and it will depend immensely on the people you are expressing condolences to.
You can offer your condolences whenever you feel it’s appropriate.
In most cases, people welcome condolences from anyone who knew the deceased, no matter how distant.
If you’re not invited to the funeral, sending a card is a thoughtful gesture. In this case, you can look to write a longer message than what you might say to someone at a service.
Still, try to avoid being overly kitschig (“tacky/corny”). 😊
There are a lot of quotes about death out there, many of which are cliché, which can actually convey insincerity in your message.
Instead, it’s more appropriate to write something heartfelt.
Be there for your German friends and family
I hope this guide has given you the resources you need to express your condolences in German.
With these words and phrases, you can convey your sympathies and sorrows to your German-speaking friends, relatives, neighbours, and the like without worrying about what to say.
Just remember to adjust your formality according to the situation, and avoid overly wordy, cliché messages. Besides this, a grieving person will always appreciate words of sympathy in a bleak time.
Even a simple Es tut mir leid is appropriately caring, and can convey your condolences effectively.
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