English-German Idioms

English is ram-packed full of idiomatic phrases, and although you can on occasion translate them directly into another language, most of the time the translation will be complete nonsense! So here’s a list of 10 commonly used English idioms with their equally idiomatic German equivalents 🙂

Idiom: to be on cloud nine

Transaltion: auf Wolke sieben schweben/sich im siebenten Himmel befinden

This literally translates as to hover over cloud seven or to find oneself in the seventh sky/heaven

 

Idiom: to give someone a taste of their own medicine

Translation: es jdm. mit gleicher Münze heimzahlen

Literally this means to pay someone back with the same coin.

 

Idiom: That’ll be the day

Translation: das möchte ich einmal erleben

Possibly not as good for sarcasm as the English version, it translates as ‘I’d like to experience that one day’

Idiom: Get lost! Beat it!

Translation: Mach ‘ne Fliege!

Although there is a wide range of ways to translate this phrase, this has to be my favourite because of how absurd the direct translation sounds; ‘Do a fly!’

 

Idiom: Beggars can’t be choosers

Translation: In der Not schmeckt jedes Brot.

In my opinion the German version is much more polite, and it means ‘In adversity all bread tastes good’

Idiom: Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched

Translation: Man soll das Fell des Bären nicht verteilen, bevor man ihn erlegt hat.

Hunting is referenced in this saying, with the meaning being; ‘Don’t divide the bear skin before you’ve killed the bear’

Idiom: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Translation: Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr/Alte Bäume soll man nicht verpflanzen/ Der Mensch ist ein Gewohnheitstier.

These three phrases literally mean ‘What little Hans doesn’t learn, will old Hans never learn’, ‘Old trees shouldn’t be replanted’ and ‘Man is a creature of habit’.

 

Idiom: To be in the doghouse

Translation: der Haussegen hängt schief

This translates as ‘Domestic bliss is hanging askew’. Be careful when you use it though, as it takes bei plus the dative personal pronoun e.g. to say ‘I’m in the doghouse’ is the translation ‘Bei mir hängt der Haussegen schief’

 

Idiom: Good things come to those who wait

Translation: Geduld bringt Rosen

A sweet saying meaning ‘patience brings roses’

Idiom: the middle of nowhere

Translation: wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen

Literally it means ‘where the fox and hare say good night’

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