German phrase of the day: Auf dem Schlauch stehen

Tom Ashton-Davies
Tom Ashton-Davies - [email protected]
German phrase of the day: Auf dem Schlauch stehen
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Mastering this German idiom could give you clarity amidst confusion.


Why do I need to know it?

This idiom is the ideal expression to use when you find yourself entangled in confusion.

Mastering idioms such as this one not only showcases your language proficiency, but also gives your speech a touch of sophistication and charm to native speakers. 

READ ALSO: 12 colourful German expressions that'll add swagger to your language skills

What does it mean?

Auf dem Schlauch stehen literally means ‘to stand on the hose’, and unlike many idioms, it retains a clear connection to its literal meaning. Just as standing on a hose blocks the flow of water, this phrase serves as a metaphor for those moments when your mental processes stall, leaving you momentarily unable to think clearly.

In English, a comparable expression might be ‘to be at a loss’.

There are no exact origins to this expression, but idioms often develop over time as part of a language’s natural evolution - regardless, this is still a commonly used expression that you should strive to use.

If looking for another German phrase that means something similar, you may hear ‘ein Brett vor dem Kopf haben’ - to have a plank/board in front of your head. 



Der Professor hat so kompliziert erklärt, dass die meisten Studenten auf dem Schlauch standen. 

The professor explained things so intricately that most of the students were at a loss.

Als der Chef mir die Aufgabe erklärte, stand ich auf dem Schlauch und musste ihn um weitere Anweisungen bitten. 

When the boss explained the task to me, I was confused and had to ask for further instructions.

Du siehst aus, als ob du auf dem Schlauch stehst. Kann ich dir helfen?

You look like you’re at a loss. Can I help you? 

Nach dem langen Flug und der Zeitumstellung, stand ich auf dem Schlauch und wusste nicht einmal, welcher Tag es war. 

After the long flight and jet lag, I was feeling so disoriented that I didn’t even know what day it was. 

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