Austrian German vs German: Are They That Different?

Austrian German is not only the main language spoken in Austria; it’s also the only variety of German recognised by the EU other than the one spoken in Germany. This shows the importance that this variety has in the European scene!

Now, the fact that Austrians speak German does not mean that you won’t have to do any learning before you can understand everything they say. In fact, even proficient German users sometimes struggle with a few aspects of Austrian German, especially when it comes to vocabulary and grammatical words such as prepositions.

Luckily for you, we have compiled a list of the main differences between Austrian German and Standard German so you can fully enjoy your experience in Vienna.


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Austrian German vs German – Round 1: Phrases & Vocabulary

The first main difference between Austrian German and Standard German might present itself to you as soon as you step into the hotel. Instead of saying Guten Tag, Austrian people are very likely to greet you with a sonorous Grüß Gott.

Even a basic German word like Hallo might appear in the form of Griaß di or Servus.

And this is just greetings we are talking about! As you can imagine, differences between these two varieties go much deeper than that, so let’s take a closer look.

Fruits, Vegetables… and Bread

Are you planning to go grocery shopping today? Then, pay attention to how Austrians name some of the most common fruits and vegetables.

English German from Germany Austrian German
Potatoes die Kartoffel der Erdäpfel (literally: the earth apples)
Carrots die Möhre die Karotten
Tomatoes die Tomaten die Paradeiser
Apricot die Aprikose die Marille

And it’s not just the names of a few vegetables that you have to learn if you’re going to the market. If you want to ask for a bag, for example, you can’t ask for a Tüte, as you would in Berlin. You would have to ask for a Sackerl.

Something you should know about Vienna is that it has really embraced the revival of artisan bread and baked goods. So, if you step into an Austrian bakery, you cannot simply ask for das Brötchen (a bread roll). A true Austrian would never use the word Brötchen. Instead, they would say Semmerl, which is the typical round, white bread roll.

Are you watching your figure? Then, you can ask for a Mehrkornweckerl (a multi-grain bread roll), or a Sonnenblumenweckrl (a sunflower seeds bread roll).

It may seem like a lot to learn but, in fact, we have covered almost every difference between Austrian German and German. Check the list below to learn the rest of the most important vocabulary differences:

English Standard German Austrian German
fireplace die Schornstein die rauchfang
February Der februar Der feber
this year Dieses Jahr heuer
January der Januar der Jänner
office das Büro die Kanzlei
wardrobe der Schrank der Kasten
high school das Abitur die Matura
stairs die Treppe die Stiege


Austrian German vs German – Round 2: Grammar

With so many differences in everyday vocabulary, you must be sweating at the very thought of having to unlearn long lists of verb declensions in order to accommodate new rules.

We are pleased to inform you it won’t be necessary.

The grammar of Austrian German is no different from that of German from southern Germany and Swiss German, in which only a few verbs change to express a state form the past perfect tense with the auxiliary verb sein.

This rule, however, doesn’t apply in the rest of the German-speaking regions. The verbs affected by this rule include:

  • sitzen – gesessen(to sit)
  • liegen – gelegen(to lie down)
  • schlafen – geschlafen(to sleep)

In addition, the past tense (past simple) is rarely used in Austrian German, especially in colloquial conversations.

Austrian German vs German – Round 3: False Friends

In linguistics, we use the term “false friends” to talk about words that seem to have a one-to-one equivalent in a different language. However, these words do not have the same meaning. In fact, sometimes not even vaguely similar!

When we wrongly assume that we know what a word means based on its familiar sound or appearance, we may end up making embarrassing mistakes!

German and Austrian German have three main false friends that every German learner should beware of:

  • Pfuschin Austrian German means ”illicit work”, while in Standard German it just means “bad work”.
  • Sessel, for a German German speaker, is always “upholstered”. For an Austrian, on the other hand, it is a frequent synonym for Stuhl,“chair”.
  • Last, Kasten means “wardrobe” in Austrian, but its German counterpart Kiste means “box” or “chest”.

Austrian German vs German – Round 4: Accent Differences

When students first start to learn German, the pronunciation of umlauts and unfamiliar consonants are usually the cause of the worst headaches.

Luckily, in terms of pronunciation Austrian German is completely intelligible with the standard variety, so you won’t have to spend valuable time and energy learning new consonants or pronunciation rules.

The main differences between Austrian German and Standard German, really, lie in the pronunciation of G, and in the quality of a few vowels.

For example, when a German speaker says König (king), the final G is pronounced softly: /könish/. However, in Austrian German, the same consonant retains its hard sound: /könig/.

Vowels, on the other hand, tend to have a more nasal quality in Austrian German, which sometimes makes words sound more French than German. In addition, Austrians have a tendency for dropping unaccented vowels. As a result, a phrase such as Schönes Wetter haben wir heute oder? (The weather is nice today, isn’t it?), might sound like “Schön(e)s wett(e)r hab(e)n w(i)r heut(e) oder?

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If you’re planning a business trip to Austria, are going to meet with your Austrian family, or just would like to get to know this beautiful country, we can help! Our native German tutors can prepare a tailor-made syllabus based on your needs and interests to help you achieve your goals in Austria or any other German-speaking country. Contact us now and we’ll pair you up with a qualified Austrian teacher so you can learn German the Austrian way! Try a free lesson, no strings attached. We’re sure you’ll want to come back for more!