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GERMAN LANGUAGE

10 words and phrases that will make you sound like a true German

As a non-native speaker, it can sometimes be tricky to blend in with the locals. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 10 words and phrases that will help you sound like a proper German.

Oktoberfest celebrations in 2017.
Oktoberfest celebrations in 2017. Photo: picture alliance / Felix Hörhager/dpa | Felix Hörhager

1. Na?

This little word is extremely common in spoken German and is most often used as a greeting, meaning “hello“ and, if elongated, (“naaa?”) as an implied “how are you doing?“ as well. 

“Na” is also often used in combination with other short words, to make some of the most frequently used German phrases, such as:

Na dann – Well then

Na ja – oh well

Na, toll – oh, great (sarcastic)

Na, und? – and so what?

Na klar! – but of course! 

Na, los! – go on then!

READ ALSO: German phrase of the day: Na klar

2. Doch

Using this multi-versatile four letter word will not only make you sound like a real German, but will also help you express yourself in a way that no English equivalent can!

The word has several meanings, but perhaps the most unique is its function as a negation of a negative statement, for example:

Hast du die Liste nicht mitgebracht? – Didn’t you bring the list? 

Doch! – Yes I did!

or 

Sie ist mir hoffentlich nicht mehr böse? – I hope she isn’t angry with me any more?

Doch! – Yes she is!

3. Hu hu

This is a typically German, informal greeting which you can use to get someone’s attention and is roughly equivalent to “hey!”

If you have German friends or colleagues in your phone book, at some stage you’re bound to receive a text message starting with this greeting. Or you could do it first!

4. arschkalt

Pit the Panda enjoying the snow in the Berlin Zoo.
Pit the Panda enjoying the snow in the Berlin Zoo. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Kira Hofmann

This rather rude expression will come in handy when you want to make your feelings known about the weather this winter.  Literally meaning “arse cold“, the word describes that sensation we all know well – when it’s so bitterly cold outside that your backside freezes.

The word is so widely used in Germany, that there was even a romantic comedy called “Arschkalt” released in 2011. It’s about an emotionally cold frozen food supplier.

5. Ach so

If you find yourself taken by surprise, or suddenly reminded of something, then use this phrase to convince everyone of your true Germanness. 

For example, if, while shopping, you’re reminded by the cashier to enter your pin, you can loudly and proudly declare: 

Ach soooo! – Ah, now I see!

6. Feierabend

When you’re about to leave work this evening, and your colleagues ask “gehst du schon?“ (are you going already?) tell them “ja – ich habe schon Feierabend“ (“Yes, it’s the end of work for me already”).

This cheerful sounding compound noun literally means “celebration evening“ and is used to mean “the end of work”. The “Feier” (celebration) part, reflects the meaning of leisure, free or rest time.

READ ALSO: How to overcome five of the biggest stumbling blocks when learning German

Examples:

um 17 Uhr ist bei uns Feierabend – We stop working here at 5pm

Wir machen jetzt FeierabendWe’re calling it a day now

Two workers celebrate their Feierabend in Frankfurt am Main.
Two workers celebrate their Feierabend in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

7. Egal

Don’t care? Then tell someone: “es ist mir egal!“ 

This word is used surprisingly often to express indifference or to describe something of little consequence, and has the same linguistic roots as the English word “equal”.

Examples:

es ist mir egal was du sagst  – I don’t care what you say

es ist egal wo du herkommst – It doesn’t matter where you come from

8. Das ist mir Wurst

If you want to go one step further than “egal“, you can declare: “das ist mir Wurst!“ – literally meaning “that is sausage to me!“ – to show that you really couldn’t care less. 

Want to sound even more authentic? Just make the word “Wurst” into “Wurscht” – because that’s how they pronounce sausage in southern Germany.

Olaf Scholz enjoying a Sausage after his second TV debate in September.
Olaf Scholz enjoying Currywurst after his second TV debate in September. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

9. Es geht

Literally meaning “it goes”, this phrase is a very German way of saying that things are not great, but they’re ok. 

Examples:

Es wird eine Stunde dauern, geht das? – It will take an hour, is that ok?

Es geht – It’s alright

10. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

Finally, if you haven’t got a clue what someone is saying (or want to fit in), tell them: “Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof” – literally “I only understand train station” – a way of saying: “I’m confused.”

This idiom is similar in meaning to the English “it’s all Greek to me”, and shows that you don’t understand something, or don’t want to understand something.

Despite the actual meaning of the phrase, Germans will be immediately convinced that you are a true German yourself, and probably continue chatting.

READ ALSO: German phrase of the day – Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

10 ways to talk about being drunk in German

Germany is famous for its love of beer and, with Oktoberfest now in full swing, here are some phrases to help you express various levels of inebriation in the German language.

10 ways to talk about being drunk in German

1. Betrunken sein

The most straightforward way to express alcohol-induced intoxication in German, which will leave no one in any doubt as to your state, is to use the word betrunken meaning “drunk”.

Example:

Es ist ihm egal – er ist betrunken!

He doesn’t care – he’s drunk!

2. Saufen

Next up is the most common word for “boozing” in German. Saufen can be used both as a verb and a noun to mean “to get drunk” or “drinking”.

Examples:

Lass uns einfach weiter saufen!

Let’s just keep drinking!

Ich habe kein Problem mit dem Saufen

I don’t have a drinking problem. 

3. Alkoholisiert sein

This is more of a formal way to talk about being drunk, and is equivalent to the English “to be under the influence of alcohol”. You’ll usually hear authorities and newspaper reports using this phrase to talk about alcohol-related incidents.

Examples:

Der Fahrer war alkoholisiert

The driver was under the influence of alcohol

Es ist aus Sicherheitsgründen untersagt, vor Spielbeginn alkoholisiert anzukommen.

For safety reasons, it is prohibited to arrive intoxicated before the start of the game.

4. Blau sein

This expression, meaning literally “to be blue” has a pretty disgusting origin story.

In the middle ages, the plant woad was used to create a blue colour for dyes.

Three young men run at the Bierathlon in Hannover in 2013. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

As only a small amount of alcohol was needed to speed up the dyeing process, using human urine containing alcohol was supposedly the cheapest way to ferment the dye.

READ ALSO: ‘6 German words I now use in English’

So the dyers drank beer all day and urinated into the vat where the plant was fermenting. Remember that next time you wear your favourite blue t-shirt. 

Example:

Er war so blau, dass er seinen Schlüssel nicht in die Tür bekam

He was so drunk that he couldn’t get his key in the door

5. Beschwipst sein

The phrase beschwipst sein is equivalent to the English “to be tipsy” and not yet in the full throws of drunkenness.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Kneipe

The word was first used in Austria in the 19th century and can be traced back to the verb schwippen, meaning to sway, as it describes a drunk person who finds it increasingly difficult to walk in a straight line.

Example:

Ich bin nicht betrunken, nur ein bisschen beschwipst

I’m not drunk – just a little tipsy

6. Zu tief ins Glas schauen

This idiom is most likely a jokey rethink of the idiom tief ins Augen schauen meaning “to look someone too deeply in the eyes” as a way of saying “to fall in love with someone”.

This phrase for drunkenness has been in use in the German language since around 1700 and has even made appearances in many literary works, including those of Goethe.  

Examples:

Du solltest nicht zu tief ins Glas schauen, sonst musst du dir ein Taxi nehmen

You’d better not get too drunk, or you’ll have to take a taxi

Immer mehr Rentner schauen oft zu tief ins Glas

More and more pensioners get drunk often

 7. voll wie ein Eimer sein

This expression, meaning “to be as full as a bucket” is just one of a multitude of German expressions that include the word voll (“full”) to express drunkenness.

Grapes being carried in buckets to the transport vehicle on a vineyard in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Heiko Becker

There are numerous phrases that start with voll wie (“as drunk as”) and end in something heavy, such as Granate (grenade), Schwein (pig), Kanone (canon), and even voll wie ein tausend Russen (“full as a thousand Russians”). Why not try making up your own variation?

8. Einen im Tee haben

This idiom is believed to have originated in northern Germany, where a drop of rum was often added to tea on cold winter days for a warm comforting feeling and to protect against the cold – especially by sailors. After one or two, of course, you would be drunk, or at least a little tipsy.

Black tea is poured during a tea ceremony at the Bünting Tea Museum. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

Example:

Er hatte ganz schön einen im Tee

He’s pretty wasted

9. einen sitzen haben

This phrase is a shortened version of the older einen Affen sitzen haben meaning “to have a monkey sitting” which was used to express a heightened state of inebriation. 

READ ALSO: 7 ways to talk about money like a German

The origin of the phrase is disputed, but most believe it is to do with the fact that fools and jesters would often carry a monkey on their shoulder.

Example:

Ich hatte gestern so richtig einen sitzen

I was so drunk yesterday

10. Kater

Although Kater is also the name for a male cat, this is the German term for “hangover” that you will inevitably need to use after consuming too much alcohol.

It’s widely believed that the origin of this word comes from the medical term “Katarrh”, an inflammation of the mucous membrane, which leads to symptoms such as cough, cold, malaise and headache – similar to those of a hangover.

A visitor to Oktoberfest lies heavily drunk on a meadow in 2017. Photo: picture alliance / Tobias Hase/dpa | Tobias Hase

Example:

Ich hatte am Sonntag einen schrecklichen Kater

I had such a terrible hangover on Sunday

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