German word of the day: Genau

Shannon Chaffers
Shannon Chaffers • 14 Feb, 2023 Updated Tue 14 Feb 2023 12:26 CEST
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Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

It’s one of the most commonly used phrases in German conversation. But what, exactly, does it mean?


Why do I need to know genau?

If you’ve just started learning German, you will find that genau is one of the most handy words to have in your arsenal, especially in everyday conversation. But beware: once you start using it, you probably won’t be able to stop.

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What does it mean?

Of genau’s many translations, which include “precise,” “accurate,” and “detailed,” you will most often hear it utilized to indicate that something is correct, like the term “exactly” in English. In this way, it is especially useful when you want to respond affirmatively to a question. 


Genau also functions as a word that keeps the conversation going. Even if you don’t quite know what to say, you can use genau to indicate your engagement in a conversation, fulfilling a similar purpose to the words “yeah” or “uh-huh” in English. And when it is your turn to speak, you can deploy it as a filler word while you gather your thoughts.

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Given its many roles, it is easy to see why German-speakers say genau so often in conversation. Its frequent use has even become something of an inside joke among Germans and foreigners alike, as seen in the many memes about its use. And while you might be tempted to buck the trend by using phrases like “das stimmt” or “hast Recht” to indicate agreement and keep a conversation going, nothing does the job quite like genau. 

Use it like this:

Ich habe genau das gesagt.

I said exactly that.   

Das Konzert beginnt um 20 Uhr? Genau, aber du solltest fünfzehn Minuten früher da sein. 

The concert starts at 8 p.m.? Exactly, but you should come fifteen minutes early.



Shannon Chaffers 2023/02/14 12:26

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