You may already have found out (possibly at your own expense!) that German is one word short when it comes to romance and friendship.
The words Freundin (female friend) and Freund (male friend) have to make do for all types of relationships, be they amorous or platonic. It can be tricky therefore to find out what somebody is up to without asking direct nosy questions or making your own relationship status quite clear.
Misunderstandings seem inevitable but not to worry — with a few simple tricks you can get it nearly always right. Here is how.
1. Steer Clear of Awkward Situations by Slipping In "Von Mir"
This is a fail-safe way of describing your friendship — no blunders possible.
"Das ist Paul, er ist ein Freund von mir.
“That's Paul. He is a friend of mine."
"Das ist Nadia, eine Freundin von mir. – “That's Nadia, a friend of mine."
2. Use Their First Name Strategically
Use their name in the right place to indicate you are just friends or leave it out if you are an item:
"Das ist meine Freundin Esra." – “That’s my friend Esra.”
“Das ist meine Freundin.” – “That’s my girlfriend.”
"Das ist Julio, mein Freund." – “That’s Julio, my boyfriend.”
In the last example, the comma is key. First you introduce him and then you stress what kind of relationship you have with him.
3. Play It Safe by Using the Word Kumpel
Another way out is to use the word Kumpel when referring to mates, buddies or pals. Unfortunately, it is mostly used for males, with the female Kumpelin not being very common. That might be because it actually means coal miner, to this day a heavily male-dominated industry. The plural for Kumpel is also Kumpel or, more colloquially, Kumpels.
"Das ist mein Kumpel Ender." – That's my friend Ender."