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The Many Meanings of Bitte

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Bitte is used a lot in German. The many meanings of Bitte are the following:

  • Please
  • You're welcome
  • Here you go (when handing something over)
  • May I help you?
  • Pardon?

How do you know which meaning is meant?

It all depends on the context, tone and the other words espressed alongside with Bitte. For example:

Expressing 'Pardon'.

- Ich bin heute einkaufen gegangen. (I went shopping today.)
- Wie bitte? (Pardon me?)
- Ich habe gesagt, dass ich heute einkaufen gegangen bin.

Expressing 'Here you go' when handing something over to someone.

- Ein Stück Apfelkuchen bitte. (A piece of apple cake please.)
- (Waiter serves the cake ) Bitte sehr.
- Danke.

Expressing 'May I help you?'

You will often hear simply Bitte/Bitte sehr/Bitte schön? in public places where service is provided. For instance waiters will often say this when they approach your table.

Expressing 'You're welcome'

- Vielen Dank für Ihren Geschenk! (Thank you very much for your present)
- Bitte sehr!

Expressing 'Please'.

- Kannst du mir bitte helfen? (Can you help me please?)

Expressing 'Yes, Please!'

- Darf ich Ihnen den Mantel abnehmen? (May I take your coat?)
- Bitte!
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