Last updated on September 15th, 2020
If you are learning German you have probably realized that the written language differs quite a bit from the spoken language Germans use during their every-day conversations.
Germans love to use their idioms or so called ‘Redewendungen’ and you often hear additional filler words such as “na”, “halt”, “so”, “doch”, “ja”, short versions of words or cutting the last vocals (“ich geh rüber”, “mach’ mal”, “Wie geht’s?”) and simply words you will not find in a German language book.
This article is work in progress and if you come across additional idioms or German expressions you have heard from native Germans, please write it in the comment section below.
If you come across a German movie, tv series which uses any of those, please share it and I will add it to the articles as voice samples.
Ready? Los geht’s!
What are common German expressions native Germans use?
Germans use ‘Mensch’ to express surprise either in a positive or negative way.
At a party:
Mensch, Katrina! You are here as well? What a coincidence!
It is also used to express shock or anger if another person has done something wrong or clumsy.
Michael’s mother says: Mensch, Michael! How often have I told you not to play with the food, you dropped your spoon again.
This expression is used like the English ‘So what?’ and you hear this from someone who does not care about a certain incident, situation, or behavior.
She: Look what he is wearing, this looks terrible. I cannot believe he is wearing that.
He: “Na und?” Let him be.
Germans use macht nichts, sometimes also pronounced as macht nix to tell you that what you have done is not a big deal. It is like saying “it is alright” in English.
Michael: Oh my god, sorry I pushed you.
Tom: Macht nix.
Mal schauen / mal sehen
You often hear this expression when Germans talk about plans in the near future.
If they are not sure if they can make it or will have time, they say “mal sehen”, which probably translates best to: let’s see.
(Please mind you cannot translate let’s see into “Lass uns sehen”, it not only sounds weird in German, Germans will most likely understand it as a confirmation to meet.
Chris: What about next weekend, do we meet up?
Karl: Mal sehen. I still have something to do on that day. I text you to confirm later, ok?
When you hear ‘von wegen’, it tells you that a German native speaker does not believe what you are saying.
It also often comes with the common hand gesture of waving at you while looking in another direction.
Michael: I can run 100 meters in less than 10 seconds!
Mark: Von wegen!
This expression is used in various situations, either as an encouragement to do something, a way to express that you do not care if a person is doing what they say or when referring to yourself or others, defending that you are doing or will do something.
Let’s have a look at 3 examples.
In the kindergarten.
Tom: If you do not give me my toy back, I will tell the teacher that you hit my brother.
Stefan: Mach doch! I don’t care, let’s see if you really do it.
At the office.
Catherine: I don’t know what to do. Shall I ask for an additional day of annual leave?
Christine: Ja, mach (das) doch. You deserve it, you worked a lot lately
At the dining table.
Mother: Chris, please do eat more of the veggies, not only french fries.
Chris: Mach ich doch! Didn’t you see? I have already eaten one spoon full of veggies and just taken another one.
More to come soon
- Schon gut
- Mach’s gut
- Passt schon
- Stress haben (ich hab voll viel Stress)
- (Na) komm’ schon
- Scheiße, Scheiß- Scheißwetter, Schweißarbeit,
- Abhauen (Ich hau ab, lass uns abhauen)
- Einpennen (sorry, bin eingepennt, oder hab 2 Stunden gepennt)
- Bescheuert (das ist so bescheuert)
- Gut/schlecht drauf sein
- Das ist mir Latte
- Das ist mir Wurscht
- Das ist mir zu blöd
- K.O sein
- Los geht’s
- Das ist nicht mein Bier
- Ohne Scheiß
- Ich krieg’ die Krise
- Bock haben
- Einen Kater haben
- dicht sein