21 German proverbs that will make you smarter - Learn the language at home (2023)

German is full of funny sayings that contain valuable life advice.

German learners, memorize some or all of this if you want to increase your vocabulary...or just to impress your German friends.

Similar proverbs in English and German

1. You can't see the forest

Literally:Can't see the forest for the trees

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Since this proverb is so similar to its English counterpart, its literal and figurative translations are the same! This saying is a good reminder to look beyond the details, like specific failures or successes, and look at the big picture.

2. Think twice before you act

Literally:think before you act

Although this can be directly translated, the more common English equivalents are "think before you speak" or "think before you leap". Essentially, this proverb instructs you to take a moment to consider the possible consequences and consequences before doing anything.

3. Don't worry about not laying eggs

Literally:Don't care/worry about not laying eggs

This saying is very similar to the English "don't count your chickens before they hatch". However, this version does not say that we should not trust in means we do not have, but rather do not worry about what we do not have and may never happen.

4. To reap, sow

Literally:Who will reap, who will sow

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Although the literal translation of this proverb does not seem to be related to any English proverb, its everyday meaning is "If you sow melons, you will reap melons, and if you sow beans, you will reap beans." It's one of many ways to say "around the clock", for better or for worse. E.g:

I passed the exam!(I didn't pass the test!)

If you want to reap, you must sow. you should have learned(You reap what you sow. You should learn)

5. The eyes eat with you

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Literally:eyes eat


In English, this saying has become "eat with your eyes", and is probably more popular with chefs/chefs. It emphasizes that our eyes see before we eat and can change our perception of food.

Similar sayings that can be applied more generally are "don't judge a book by its cover" or "always judge a book by its cover".

German proverbs about learning

6. Getting started is easy, persistence is an art

Literally:Getting started is easy, persistence is art

Anyone who has tried to form new habits, learn new skills, or even try to get their children to clean up after themselves has probably felt this German proverb. In essence, this means that it is much easier to start doing something than to watch it all the time.

7. Learn from injuries

Literally:In case of damage/disadvantage, you become wise

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A more metaphorical translation of this saying is "mistakes make one wise." This can be a particularly helpful reminder for perfectionists. We don't have to be perfect in everything we do, in fact failure helps us learn!

8. Practice makes perfect

Literally:practice makes perfect

This German saying is very similar to the English "practice makes perfect", but it emphasizes mastery rather than perfection. Even if you're naturally good at something, you won't become a master at it without practice. Here is an example:

Hurry up. You always play the violin and go to the beach(Come on. You always play the violin, come to the beach)

Maybe later. practice makes perfect(Maybe later. Practice makes perfect)

9. What Hans did not learn, Hans never learns again

literal meaning:What Hansy/little Hans doesn't learn, Hans never learns

This proverb can be interpreted colloquially as "an old dog never learns new tricks". Often this saying is taken to mean that if you didn't learn something when you were young, you didn't learn it at all.

However, it can also be understood that if you don't teach your children the basics (ie manners, patience, resilience) when they are young, then they will grow up without these things and will struggle to acquire them later in life.

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German proverbs about relationships

10. Everyone should keep their house in order

Literally:Everyone should sweep their own door

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More metaphorically, the phrase translates to "clean your own doorstep", equivalent to "clean your own house first" in English. This means that you take care of your own mess or problems before you judge and criticize others.

11. Whoever says A must also say B

Literally:Whoever (ever) said A must also say B

This German proverb suggests that if you are committed to something, you must be committed to it all the time, not just the part you want to do. This is a good saying when dealing with someone you love because it serves as a good reminder to keep your promises.

12. Sound makes music

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Literally:pitch makes music

Everyone has definitely had instances where they said something, or someone said something to them, that was fine on the surface, but the tone of it said it wasn't.

This German proverb applies to those very moments and suggeststhe roadWhat is said is as important as what is said. E.g:

tidy up your room please. (Please redo the room)

IbeMor(I will, mother)

No attitude!(Don't have an opinion!)

I dont do that(I dont do that)

Sound creates music.(Tone makes music)

13. He has hair on his teeth

Literally:there is hair on the teeth

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This is another tone-related word, although its meaning is less clear at first. English speakers may be more familiar with the term "sharp tongue" than "hairy teeth," but the everyday meaning of the two words is relatively the same.

14. Jealousy is a passion that sincerely seeks the cause of suffering

Literally:Jealousy is a passion that seeks out what causes pain

This German proverb not only offers wisdom about jealousy, but it also serves as a fun play on words. Its proverbial meaning is pretty much the same as its literal meaning, and it's a good reminder of the pain that can come from giving in to jealousy.

German Proverbs about Life

15. Small livestock make manure

Literally:Small livestock/domestic animals also make manure

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This German proverb is a good reminder that even small things are connected, good or bad. On the one hand, you might think that it's fine not to recycle because everyone else is doing it, but if a group of people think like that, then those "individuals" can make a big difference.

On the other hand, if you save just 2% of your paycheck each month, you'll have more money over time. However, this alternative is somewhat optimistic, and often this saying is used for negative behavior.

16. Two people quarrel, three people rejoice

Literally:Two are fighting, the third is happy

Basically, this German proverb says that when two people fight, there may be a third who benefits from the conflict. It's a good reminder to be informed and understand why you're even fighting someone in the first place and if it's really worth it.

17, straight wood stove

Literally:The bent wood can also be burned directly

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Here's another great saying for the perfectionist or someone who is waiting for the "perfect" opportunity. This suggests that you don't have to, and maybe you shouldn'tshould not, wait for the perfect moment and use what you have instead.

I think it's a particularly good reminder that sometimes we have to create our "perfect" opportunities; they don't come by themselves.

18. Life Ain't A Pony Farm / Request A Concert / Get Your Wish

Literally:Life Is Not a Pony Farm / Music on Demand / Candy Licks / A Bed of Roses

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Just like in English, German has a saying that life is less pleasant than X. There are a few different ways to express this feeling in German, so I've included them all here. You can choose based on what you least want in your current life.

19. Punctuality is the gift of kings

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Literally:Punctuality is the gift of kings

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Germany has a saying about punctuality. It actually originated as a French saying, but was eventually adapted in Germany. This proverb clearly suggests that punctuality is an important quality. Here is an example:

Sorry, I know I'm late!(Sorry, I know I'm late!)

Punctuality is the gift of kings(Printability is the gift of kings)

20. In times of trouble the devil eats flies

Literally:In an emergency, the devil eats the fly

Although this German proverb conjures up some amusing images, it suggests that we can't always be picky. So if there is an emergency, the devil will turn to flies for sustenance due to scarcity.

English speakers may be more familiar with the saying "a beggar can't be choosy" and that is what this saying conveys.

21. Blind enthusiasm can only bring harm!

Literally:Blind enthusiasm only kills

Finally, this German proverb is a good reminder that although we can sometimes be passionate about something, passion without knowledge is a good way to hurt yourself or others.

It could be something as small as starting to run, but not knowing proper form and stretching, leading to cramps or a pulled muscle. It can also be about bigger things, such as the desire to help but cause or perpetuate harm.

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If you liked these German proverbs and want to add more spoken language to your vocabulary, check these outGerman idioms and sayings! You can also learn moreInteresting facts about GermanandSimilarities and differences between German and English.


What is a famous German quote? ›

Selbst ist der Mann. /Selbst ist die Frau.

The proverb says that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. While the original is the male version, Selbst ist die Frau is also widely used today.

What is the most famous German saying? ›

10 Incredible German Sayings: The Inspiring, the Funny and the Just Plain Confusing
  • “Hit two birds with one stone”
  • “Once in a blue moon”
  • “Let the cat out of the bag”
  • “Cry over spilt milk”

What is the German proverb about family? ›

Familie bedeutet, dass niemand zurückgelassen oder vergessen wird. (Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.)

What are 10 proverbs examples? ›

22 English proverb examples
  • The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. ...
  • All that glitters is not gold. ...
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. ...
  • Beggars can't be choosers. ...
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. ...
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away. ...
  • Better safe than sorry. ...
  • Blood is thicker than water.
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