German word of the day: Zutrauen

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected] • 8 Feb, 2023 Updated Wed 8 Feb 2023 16:38 CEST
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Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Whether you're building up your confidence in a new skill or relying on a good friend, this German word is a great way to describe an important feeling.


Why do I need to know zutrauen

Because this is one of the verbs you'll often hear - and that's very useful to have in your repertoire - when chatting about other people and their personality traits or abilities. You can also use it to talk about things you might be gaining confidence in, like your German conversational skills. 

What does it mean?

As a phrase, "jemandem etwas zutrauen" means to have confidence or a belief in someone's ability to do something. You might notice the word "trauen" in there, meaning trust, combined with "zu", which means "to" - so in literal English it means "to trust to". 

Generally, this term comes in handy when you're talking about whether someone has the ability to carry something off. You could ask, "Traust du dir diese Aufgabe zu?" to check whether an intern at work feels confidence to handle a new to of task, or say, "Ich traue es mir zu, das selbst zu reparieren" if you want to communicate that your DIY skills are up to the task of repairing something yourself. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Klartext


In other situations, you might fall back on zutrauen to talk about a friend who is reliable and who you trust to not let you down. 

Like many verbs, zutrauen can also be used as an abstract noun. Das Zutrauen is best translated as confidence, or a firm belief in your (or others') abilities.

You can also use zutrauen in a slightly more ironic sense to talk about your low expectations of someone. Perhaps a politician you don't like is embroiled in a corruption scandal and you think there might be some truth in it. You could say, "Es wäre ihr zuzutrauen!", which means something along the lines of: I wouldn't put it past her!

What do I need to know about the grammar?

The main thing to remember about using "zutrauen" as a verb is that you'll need to use the dative form when you talk about the object of the sentence (i.e. who you have confidence / faith in). 

That means you'll have "mir" instead of "mich", "dir" instead of "dich", "ihr" instead of "sie" and so on.

Use it like this: 

So viel Rücksicht traut man ihm gar nicht zu.

One doesn't expect him to have that much consideration.

Man muss Kindern etwas zutrauen.

You have to believe that children have it in them.




Imogen Goodman 2023/02/08 16:38

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