Don't fall for these common mistakes in German

7 common mistakes in German that English speakers make

WORTLAND Sprachtraining

It is quite reasonable for English speakers to miss a few words while they are trying to speak German. They use some words innocently not knowing that they have a whole different meaning. Don’t worry about it though, making such mistakes only makes you understand the German language better. The pronunciation and grammar might be tricky, but after a few practice sessions, you’ll get it right. Here are seven common mistakes in German that English speakers make unknowingly.

1. Ich bin langweilig.

This is one of the most common mistakes in German that English speakers make when they want to say that they are bored. What they don’t know however is that they are instead saying that it is them who are boring and not the situation. Next time kindly say „Ich langweile mich“, „Ich bin gelangweilt“, „Mir ist langweilig“ to imply „I am bored.“ It will save you the embarrassment.

2. Gute Nackt

Sometimes you want to wish your German friends a good night. Yet you might be surprised when they laugh at your statement. If you say “Gute Nackt” next time, know that it means “Good naked”. The correct word is “Gute Nacht.” Don’t replace the German’s –ch with a –k sound because it will give a different impression.

3. Es ist halb nach drei.

When telling time in German you might be confused about whether to say „half“ or „quarter“ to or past a particular time. Unlike in English whereby the interval always comes after the central time, in German, the interval comes before the said time. “Es ist halb vier” meaning “It is half past three”.

4. Meine Freundin / Mein Freund.

Saying “meine Freundin”/“mein Freund” to mean “my friend” can lead to misunderstandings. What English speakers might not know is that these words not only mean “my friend” but also “my girlfriend”/”my boyfriend”. If you want to avoid misunderstandings, you can introduce your friend with “eine Freundin von mir”/“ein Freund von mir” which stands for “a friend of mine”. On the other hand, if you are romantically involved with them, you can say “meine Partnerin”/“mein Partner”.

5. Heute, ich habe Glück 

Putting grammatically correct German sentences together can be a bit tricky for native English speakers. While in both languages, simple sentences are structured in the order of subject, verb, object (“Ich habe Spaß” = “I am having fun”), the structure differs for more complex sentences. For example, when starting a sentence with an adverb like “today”, the German sentence structure changes. The correct sentence would be “Heute habe ich Glück” (Adverb, verb, subject, object). This might be a bit tricky at the beginning, as in English the sentence structure doesn’t change: “Today, I am lucky.”

6. Elf Meter scheißen

Changing -ie to -ei can change the meaning of the word completely. You might think that you are referring to a penalty kick, but in the real sense, you’re talking about poop. The correct phrase is “elf Meter schießen”. To get the pronunciation right, keep in mind that in German i is pronounced like the English e, the German e is pronounced quite differently.

7. Ich will Deutsch lernen

Many common mistakes beginners make in German are related to false friends. One example for this is the German verb “Ich will” which looks exactly like the English “I will”. However, while “I will study German” is the correct English phrase to describe that you are going to study German in the future, in German it means that you want to study German. “Ich will” is the first-person singular of the verb “wollen” which means “to want”. If you not only want to study German but you will actually do it you have to say: “Ich werde Deutsch lernen”.

We hope you want to put these words into action and will study German. At WORTLAND, we help you avoid the common mistakes shown above and help you communicate in German confidently.