Tag Archives: Redewendungen

Most common idioms (Redewendungen)

Author: Jadranka Bokan

There are so many idioms (Redewendungen) in every language including German. How can we know where to start?  You could buy special vocabularies or even some games (like me, I bought one box full of cards with idioms in a book store in Vienna) only to realise that you will never use many of the idioms that you’ll learn that way.

Why is so difficult to create a vocabulary or a game that would contain only the most frequent / common idioms in German?

I often asked myself: why is so difficult to create a vocabulary or a game that would contain only the most frequent / common idioms in German? This post contains my list of most common German idioms that I see or hear more often than any others. It’s incomplete and I am still working on it.

This post contains a list of most common German idioms

Tomaten auf den Augen haben = not being able to see something which is in front of you.

das Rad neu erfinden = to do something useless, something which is not necessary (English equivalent is “to reinvent the wheel”):  Um zu einem paneuropaeischen Verkehrssystem zu kommen, muesse man nicht das Rad neu erfinden, sondern die bestehenden Strukturen nutzen und gegebenenfalls anpassen.

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jemanden auf dem Laufenden halten = to keep someone posted, to keep them up-to-date, to share regularly latest information with them:  Wir halten unsere Kunden über neue Produkte stets auf dem Laufenden. 

über den eigenen Schatten springen = to do something which is opposed to your beliefs, character or beyond your strength: Er hat sie betrogen. Sie ist über ihren Schatten gesprungen und hat ihm vergeben.

auf die Füße fallen = to overcome some difficult situation

Source: Pixabay

das A und O = the most important thing: Gesunde Ernährung ist das A und O.

aus dem Häuschen sein = to be very excited and happy: er hat im Lotto gewonnen. Er ist aus dem Häuschen vor Freude.

eine halbe Ewigkeit = very, very long: Wir haben dich eine halbe Ewigkeit nicht gesehen; Wir mussten eine halbe Ewigkeit warten.

alles in Butter = alles ist gut: Wie geht’s? Alles in Butter.

daran ist etwas faul = something is wrong.

Kopf hoch! = cheer up!: Kopf hoch, Montag ist auch bald vorbei.

etwas/xzy ist nach hinten losgegangen = it didn’t work as expected, it failed: Madonna hatte ein lila Kleid an und sang “Purple Rain” von Prince. Es ist aber nach hinten losgegangen. Es verursachte eine Empörungswelle im Internet.

alles im grünen Bereich = it’s acceptable: Bislang ist bei mir alles im grünen Bereich und ich bin wirklich total glücklich.

ich verstehe nur Bahnhof = I don’t understand anything.

das Leben ist kein Ponyhof = life isn’t easy.

Source: Pixabay

die Zeit vergeht wie im Flug(e) = die Zeit vergeht sehr schnell.

unter die Haube kommen = to get merried.

Der Wolf im Schafspelz = a wolf in sheep’s clothing;

Perlen vor die Säue werfen = to cast pearls before swine.

If you are looking for a good online dictionary with German idioms, try this one (it’s my favourite): Redensarten-Index

If you wish to learn idioms through play, then check out this  free app with more than 1000 idioms which you can play with a partner:  Verstehen Sie Deutsch? 

If you want to learn German idioms with pictures, then make sure to follow Claudia Peter on Facebook.



Free applications for learning German

You can learn German and any other foreign language on your phone or tablet with these applications. They are suitable for both Android and iOS. Learning this way is fun, comfortable and practical (you can start the apps while waiting in the line, in the traffic jam etc.). And what is most important it’s completely free. Of course, if you wish you may install them on your desktop. Try out each of them and see which you like most. Enjoy!

Deutschtrainer A1 (by Goethe Institut) – in 10 sections (one section for each topic) you can learn everyday German at the A1 level. The app is based on dialogues and learning words and structures. It’s inspired by text books and Goethe Institut exams at the A1 level.

DeutschAkademie – enables you to practice German according to your Level (A1, A2, B1, B2 or C1), practice some German grammar topics or just repeat some exercises from your German grammar book. This app contains 20,000 German grammar exercises. 

Busuu – offers a free and a premium version. You can choose your level. The free version includes flashcards, writing exercises and corrections from native speakers. The premium version includes an extra travel course, mobile apps with offline mode, quizzes and official certificates, grammar exercises, vocabulary trainer and full access to 12 different language courses.

 Duolingo – is also a very popular app. maybe the most popular of them all. You should try it out and decide whether you will continue using it or not.

Verstehen Sie Deutsch? – there is a version app for iPhone and Android. It’s basically a quiz. You’ll find questions on more than 1000 different German expressions and particularly beautiful or odd words in this fun quiz. Do you know the correct answer?

Free online dictionaries (with pronunciation)

Author: Jadranka Bokan

For you or a friend – everything that you’d need
for a good start!

If you are uncertain about which good online dictionary you could use for free, here are some good solutions for you:


This is a  good solution for beginners because this dictionary enables native speakers to find translations from their languages into German. Here are the combinations that are available for you:

English-German, Polish-German and Spanish-German (and vice versa)


This is a German-German solution which is great for advanced learners. A great bonus: there is a table at the bottom of every page with possible word combinations. For example, if you are searching for a verb “hinterlassen”, in that table at the bottom of the page you’ll be able to find all the combinations of the verb “hinterlassen” with most frequent adjectives or nouns. Great tool, isn’t it? 🙂  

Important note for beginners: every word in the above dictionaries has its own audio version which you can listen and hear how you should pronounce the word in question.


This online dictionary will help you to translate any word in many different languages. It also offers an online vocabulary trainer which is completely free for use and it stores all the words that you looked up in the PONS dictionary. You can play and learn in 5 phases.

4. dict.cc

This dictionary stands out with the huge number of language combinations that it offers. Among other usual combinations (like German – Englisch, German – Spanish etc.), you can find the following “exotic” combinations: German – Latin, German – Esperanto,  German – Serbian etc. That’s just great!

5. Redensarten-Index

This dictionary is intended for advanced learners. it contains only idioms with lots of examples.

6. Official word lists provided by the Goethe Institute (A1, A2, B1)

There are complete word lists for the basic levels (A1, A2. B1) provided by the Goethe Institute. These lists don’t offer the pronunciation of words, but you can use them INSTEAD of regular dictionaries. They are very useful because:

  • You can be sure that you have a list of all words at a particular level
  • You can find all the forms of the words in them (Singular/Plural forms of nouns, all basic tenses of the verbs etc.)
  • You can find example sentences.

Here they are:

Wordlist A1

Wordlist A2

Wordlist B1

And one extra tip for the usage of the word lists of the Goethe Institute: you can read them as newspapers when the time comes (before the exam or whenever you decide to repeat the vocabulary at any given level).