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9 German exclamations that will make you sound like a local

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
9 German exclamations that will make you sound like a local
A woman shouts down the phone in an office. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

Whether you're cursing your rotten luck or expressing your surprise, knowing these German interjections is a sure-fire way to showcase your personality while speaking a foreign language.


With its brain-aching grammar and endless regional dialects, German is a language that's famous for its complexity. But, just like other languages, it also has a simple and spontaneous side: its colourful range of exclamations.

These punchy German phrases are perfect for when you just need to vent your feelings, whether you're frustrated, impressed or a little bit taken aback.

And though you don't often find them in beginners' German books, they do have a major upside for language learners: a well-placed interjection or exclamation can help you express yourself to whoever's around, and can easily cut through any language barriers that may exist.

Get to grips with these expressions, and you'll never need to reach for "genau" (exactly) again.

Ach so

Sometimes it takes a little while for the penny to drop, especially if someone's explaining something to you in German, and these two little words are absolutely perfect for those times. Said either with a thoughtful or vaguely surprised inflection, this helpful little phrase is used to convey understanding.


In English, you might translate "ach so" as "oh, right" or, "oh... I see!", or even, "aha!" if you're having a lightbulb moment. For example, if someone informs you that you're standing in the wrong queue at the cinema, a simple: "Ach so... danke" will suffice to let them know you've understood. Or if you're wondering why your friend hasn't turned up yet and you realise it's the wrong day, you could say to no-one in particular: "Ach so, Marina wollte morgen vorbeikommen!" ("Aha! Marina wanted to come tomorrow"!)

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Ach so


You're with friends at the Kneipe and you offer to get the drinks, but as you're walking back with a tray full of beers you lose your footing a little and watch as the glasses wobble and clink together ominously. Hoppla! That was close.

For those clumsy "whoops" moments, this fun word can come in very handy, or its equally silly alternative, "Uppsala", which is both the name of a town in Sweden and another way of saying "oops!".


Bernd das Brot

A woman photographs a statue of the popular TV character Bernd das Brot in Erfurt. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Martin Schutt

A favourite slogan of the depressive TV character Bernd das Brot, "Mist!" is a simple way to curse your rotten luck. Literally meaning "dung", it can be used for those everyday misfortunes that just make your day that little bit harder. Turned up at the S-Bahn station just as the train pulls away? Mist! Step out of the hairdressers as it starts to pour with rain? Mist! Arriving home and the key breaks off in the lock? Mist!

Of course, for those really bad days you can use the more forceful alternative, "Scheiße!" (sh*t), but "Mist" is definitely a more family-friendly alternative.


Literally meaning "really?" or "for real?" "echt" is a great word to have up your sleeve for a range of conversational situations. Primarily, you'll use it to express surprise or disbelief - it's a great interjection to use when your friend is telling you a shocking or unbelievable story, for example, or if someone surprises you by making a thoughtful gesture.


Alternatively, you can use it in a sarcastic tone to make it clear you disapprove of someone's behaviour. If the driver ahead cuts you off, for instance, you could mutter an irritated "ugh, echt?" (for real?) to show just how annoyed you are.

READ ALSO: 10 ways to express surprise in German

Ach, nee

Another super versatile expression, "ach, nee" can either be used to express minor disappointment, dismay or resignation as a sarcastic response to someone stating the obvious.

In English, it literally translates as "oh no", and is often used in similar situations. For example, if your friend tells you there's a rail strike on the day you plan to travel on holiday, an "ach, nee" can show your disappointment at the news. That said, if your bike gets stolen and someone points out you'll have to walk home instead, a cutting, "ach, nee!" can also express something along the lines of: "well, duh!" or "no sh*t, Sherlock!".

Annoyed woman on phone

A woman expresses annoyance while talking on the phone. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Tobias Hase


It's good to vent your frustration sometimes, and what better way than with a loud exclamation of "verdammt!", which is the German equivalent of "dammit!".

For example, if you're trying to fix something fiddly and end up making it worse instead, throwing down your spanner with an emphatic "verdammt!" will let everyone know that you're at the end of your tether and shouldn't be bothered right now.



Woah, did you see that crazy trick that guy just did on the skateboard? Geil! Or that insanely luxurious holiday apartment your friend has booked for your summer getaway? Noch geiler! 

If you want to show how impressed you are by something, or how cool you find it "geil!" - meaning awesome - is the perfect way to do it. This punchy little statement is very colloquial, so you probably wouldn't use it in a business meeting, but among friends it's a simple yet effective way to show that you're bowled over by what they're saying, along with words like "klasse", "toll", and "krass".

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Geil

Meine Güte!

If you're slightly taken aback or surprised by something, "meine Güte" is a great expression to have up your sleeve. It can be used much like the English "my goodness" as a politer (and less blasphemic) version of "my god". For example if you've noticed it's later than you thought you could say: "Meine Güte, es ist schon 12!" (My goodness, it's twelve already!).

You can also use it a little like the English "for goodness' sake" if you're feeling a little frustrated by something. For example, if a friend is beating around the bush, you could implore them, "meine Güte, sag's mir einfach!" (for goodness' sake, just tell me) to show your mild impatience.



After a week away on holiday, you're relieved to get back home, but as you open the door to your apartment a putrid odour hits you in the face. Igitt! How disgusting! It seems like you forgot to take out your Biomüll (organic waste) before going away again - and in the height of summer as well.

Pronounced like this, you can use "igitt!" in place of "ew" or "yuck" whenever you encounter something that turns your stomach.


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