German Idioms for Beginners

The best way to learn new things is by doing it in a fun way. German idioms can be quite funny if taken literally. Thus, using them to pick up some new words, you can have a great laugh and in the process also learn how to sound more like a native.

In my opinion, it is the fact that the idioms of another language (German in this case) seems irrational to us, that makes it funny. That is merely because idioms are something of a secret to the people of that language.

20 German Idioms

1 eine Extrawurst verlangen

Literal Meaning: to ask for an extra sausage
English Equivalent: to ask for special treatment

2 ein Fisch auf dem Trockenen

Literal Meaning: a fish on the dry
English Equivalent: a fish out of water

3 das ist mir Wurst

Literal Meaning: it is about the sausage
English Equivalent: it’s all the same to me

4 dir haben sie wohl etwas in den Kaffee getan

Literal Meaning: you’ve probably done something to the coffee
English Equivalent: you’ve got to be kidding

5 die Katze im Sack kaufen

Literal Meaning: to buy a cat in a sack
English Equivalent: to buy something without inspecting it first

6 da steppt der Bar

Literal Meaning: the bear dances there
English Equivalent: it will be a good party

7 Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Literal Meaning: to have tomatoes in your eyes
English Equivalent: he has his head in the sand

8 was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr

Literal Meaning: what little Hans did not learn. adult Hans never will
English Equivalent: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks

9 da liegt der Hund begraben

Literal Meaning: that’s where the dog is buried
English Equivalent: that’s the heart of the matter

10 da kannst du Gift drauf nehmen

Literal Meaning: to take poison on something
English equivalent: you can bet your life on that

11 zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen

Literal Meaning: to kill two flies with one swat
English Equivalent: to kill two birds with one stone

12 Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung setzen

Literal Meaning: to put heaven and hell in motion
English Equivalent: to move heaven and earth

13 ich drucke dir die Daumen

Literal Meaning: to press your thumbs for someone
English Equivalent: I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you

14 nicht alle seine Tassen sind im Schrank

Literal Meaning: he does not have all of his cups in the cupboard
English Equivalent: he has lost his marbles

15 ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

Literal Meaning: to only understand train station
English Equivalent: something is all Greek to you.

16 hier spielt die Musik

Literal Meaning: this is where the music is playing
English Equivalent: this is where the action is

17 die Kirche im Dorf lassen

Literal Meaning: to leave the church in the village
English Equivalent: to not get carried away

18 Schwein haben

Literal Meaning: to have a pig
English Equivalent: to have a stroke of luck

19 ins Gras beißen

Literal Meaning: to bite into the grass
English Equivalent: to kick the bucket

20 den Hut nehmen müssen

Literal Meaning: you must take the hat
English Equivalent: to have to pack one’s bags

Go have some fun with these random sentences, which turns out not to be random at all. Let me know of other German idioms that you deem worthy of this list.


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