When it comes to saying ‘really’ in German, there are actually 3 words which are commonly used. Which word you use depends on the situation and context, but it’s really not too difficult to tell the difference.
After reading this post you will know:
- 3 ways to say ‘really’ in German with example sentences
- How to express surprise, disbelief & to emphasise something
- How & when these words are interchangeable
The Many Ways to Say ‘Really’ in German
There are 3 simple words used to say ‘really’ in German: wirklich, echt and sehr. While they’re used in a similar way to each other, and can be swapped around quite a lot, it’s important to know the subtle differences between the three.
Let’s take a look at each of these words in turn and understand how to use them with some example sentences:
To Emphasise Something: Wirklich
Uses: To emphasise something or express disbelief
Wirklich is a very German sounding word and is literally translated as ‘really’. It’s mostly used to create emphasis, to make something ‘more’ than normal. So if you want to say you really want to do something, for example, use wirklich.
Karl liebt dich wirklich.
|Karl really loves you.
Du musst wirklich darüber nachdenken.
|You really need to think about it.
Wir lösen das zusammen, wirklich!
|We’ll solve this together, really!
It can be also to negate a sentence when paired with kein or nicht:
Es ist wirklich keine gute Geschichte.
|It really isn’t a good story.
Ich kann es nicht wirklich beschreiben.
|I can’t really describe it.
Im Sommer braucht man wirklich keine Jacke.
|In the summer you don’t really need a jacket.
Wirklich can also be used as a stand alone work to express disbelief:
|Ich habe gerade meine Fahrprüfung bestanden!
|I just passed my driving test!
However there’s also a more colloquial phrase which can be used instead of wirklich…
To Express Surprise or Disbelief: Echt
Uses: To emphasise something or express disbelief or surprise
Echt is used in a similar way to wirklich, but is more colloquial. In fact, you can swap wirklich out for echt and immediately sound like a more experienced German speaker. That being said, there are a few phrases like those given in the previous section, that sound better with wirklich:
- Karl liebt dicht wirklich.
- Du musst wirklich darüber nachdenken.
Replacing wirklich with echt doesn’t really sound great in these longer sentences. However echt does sound good when used as an emphasiser in shorter phrases:
Dieser Pulli ist echt dicker als ich dachte.
|This sweater is much thicker than I thought.
Ich fand die Band echt cool.
|I found the band really cool.
Ich hatte einen echt nervigen Tag.
|I had a really annoying day.
It’s used even more often to express surprise or disbelief, commonly being used instead of wirklich as a stand alone phrase.
|Ich habe meinen Job gekündigt.
|I quit my job.
To Emphasise Something (Basic): Sehr
Uses: To emphasise something
Our final word for ‘really’ in German is sehr. A very common word, it can help to think of it as meaning ‘very’ as well as ‘really’. You can use sehr in German whenever you would use ‘very’ in English.
Deutschland ist sehr weit von den USA entfernt.
|Germany is really / very far away from the USA.
Dein Deutsch ist sehr gut.
|Your German is really / very good.
Julia ist eine sehr nette Frau.
|Julia is a really / very nice woman.
In these three examples, sehr can be swapped for wirklich or echt. Personally I feel that sehr is a very basic sounding word, so if you want to make your German sound a bit more interesting and advanced, swap out sehr for echt or wirklich from time to time.