Common German Idiomatic Expressions

The German expression for being lucky is Schwein haben shvayn hah-buhn ) which, literally translated, means "to have pig." Don't be too quick to take offense at something that sounds like an insult; it may be an idiomatic expression!

What are Idiomatic Expressions?

Idiomatic expressions are speech forms or expressions that cannot be understood by literal translation - they must be learned and memorized along with their meanings.

Idiomatic Expressions in German

The following table lists a few of the most commonly used German idiomatic expressions (along with their corresponding English meanings).

Er tickt nicht richtig
eR tikt niHt RiH-tiH
He's not all there (Literally, he isn't ticking.)
Ich habe die Nase vol
iH hah-buh dee nah-zuh fol
I've had enough (Literally, my nose is full.)
Jetzt geht es um die Wurst
yetst geyt es oom dee vooRst
Now or never (Literally, now it gets about the sausage.)
Nimm mich nicht auf den Arm
nim miH niHt ouf deyn ARm
Don't pull my leg (Literally, don't take me in your arms.)
Sie hat nicht alle Tassen im Schrank
zee hAt niHt A-luh tA-suhn im shRank
She's missing a few marbles (Literally, all her cups aren't in the cupboard.)
Ich bin verrückt nach Dir
iH bin fe-R ü kt nACH deeR
I'm crazy about you
Aus tiefstem Herzen
ous teef-stuhm heR-tsuhn
From the bottom of my heart (Literally, out of the deepest heart.)
Ich drücke Dir die Daumen
iH dR ü-kuh deer dee dou-muhn
I cross my fingers for you (Literally, I press my thumbs for you.)

Saying the Right Thing

You know the saying, "the early bird gets the worm." Do you know what it means? Neither do we. Still, sayings are everywhere in language, embodying familiar truths and generally accepted beliefs in colorful, expressive language. Here are a few German sayings and the English counterparts.
German Saying
English Equivalent
Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst
veyR tsew-eRst komt, mahlt tsew-eRst
The early bird gets the worm
Was ich nicht weis, macht mich nicht heiß
vas iH niHt ways, mAHt miH niHt hays
What I don't know can't hurt me
Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am Besten
veyR tsew-letst lAHt, lAHt Am bes-tuhn
He who laughs last, laughs best
Wer lügt, der stiehlt
veyR l ü hkt, deyR shteelt
He who lies, steals
Iß, was gar ist, trink, was klar ist, sprich was wahr ist
is, vAs gahR ist, tRink, vAs klahR ist, shpriH vAs vahR ist
Eat what is cooked, drink what is clear, speak what is true

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