German word of the day: Sich ausgehen

Tom Ashton-Davies
Tom Ashton-Davies - [email protected]
German word of the day: Sich ausgehen
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This small phrase - commonly used in Austria but primarily used only in southern regions of Germany - could change your plans for the day.


Why do I need to know 'sich ausgehen'

If you use this phrase with some Germans, you may get funny looks. However, it is heard throughout Austria and in Bavaria - particularly along the Austrian border - and its several different meanings can have different effects that you should be aware of.

What does it mean? 

In most parts of Germany, sich ausgehen would literally translate as ‘to come/go out of itself’, which naturally is rather confusing. In Austria however, you will often hear ‘das geht sich aus’ which means that works or that fits. 

For example, when calling a doctor’s office for an appointment, the receptionist may reply with ‘das geht sich nicht aus’ (that doesn’t work), indicating that the doctor doesn’t have time for you. 

Alternatively, imagine you have just finished assembling a new IKEA bookcase. As you and a friend position it wherever you wish, your friend could turn to you and say ‘das geht sich gut aus!’ - that fits well! 

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In parts of German that don't use 'sich ausgehen', you may want to reach for phrases such as 'das klappt' (that works) or 'das passt' (that fits) in situations like these instead. Alternatively, 'das geht' or 'das geht nicht' will inform people if something is doable or not. 

It's also worth knowing that ‘sich ausgehen’ can also be used in business contexts in Austria and Bavaria. During negotiations with a salesperson, a potential buyer may say ‘das geht sich leider nicht aus’, suggesting that something is unfortunately out of their budget.


How did this phrase emerge?

Experts claim that the phrase originated in the 19th century as a result of migration.

As you can see, the phrase is rather colloquial; therefore, this date represents the earliest recorded instance of the phrase in its spoken form.

Migration is also cited as the reason for the phrase spreading to Germany, where it is occasionally heard in the southern regions, such as Munich.  

Use it like this: 

Wir haben nur drei Minuten. Denkst du, dass wir rechtzeitig zum Zug kommen werden?

We only have three minutes. Do you think that we will arrive in time for the train?

Das geht sich nie und nimmer aus. 

That’s never going to happen.


Hast du genug Geld für das Geschenk?

Do you have enough money to buy the present?

Ja, es sollte sich ausgehen 

Yes, I should have enough. / Yes, it should be OK.


Ist im Koffer noch Platz für meine Schuhe?

Ja, das geht sich schon noch aus. 

Is there still room in the suitcase for my shoes?

Yes, they will fit/ yes, that will be fine. 


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