11 phrases in German that’ll make you fall in love with the language

by Adriana Stein
February 3, 2021

German often has a stereotype as a harsh-sounding and ugly language. And thanks to the confusing noun cases, verb conjugations, and grammar rules that have too many exceptions to be even called a “rule,” some people say that it’s simply not worth learning. 

But I’m here to tell you that German is not as complicated to learn as most people think. By immersing yourself in the language, finding ways to learn it beyond your textbook and outside the classroom, and using it to describe your everyday experiences, you’ll quickly discover that German is a truly beautiful language and is absolutely worth learning!

11 beautiful phrases in German to fall in love with

Learning words and phrases in another language enriches your experience of the world – it allows you to describe experiences and feelings your native language may not have a word for. 

Even if you’re not planning to study German extensively just yet, these beautiful German words and phrases will enrich your curiosity and motivate you to fall in love with German.

Uniquely beautiful German words

1. Weltschmerz

Weltschmerz combines the German words for “world” and “pain” and perfectly describes what we feel when we see suffering and misery in the world. We’ve all had a heaping dose of weltschmerz in 2020, so I suggest you take a break from reading the news and watch puppy videos instead.

2. Fernweh

Fernweh is another German word that we’re all too familiar with after 2020. It translates to “distance pain” and describes the feeling of wanting to be somewhere else and travel. It’s the opposite of “homesickness” and is somewhat similar to “wanderlust” in English, but in German can be used in a negative sense.

3. Zeitgeist

You’re probably familiar with this one already as it’s a German word that has entered the English, Spanish, Dutch, and Japanese languages, because there simply is no better word for it. Zeitgeist combines the German words for “time” and “spirit” and describes the ethos or defining mood of a generation. 

4. bitte

If you’re planning to travel or live in a German-speaking country, “bitte” is one of the most important words you can learn. In general, it shows respect and politeness, which are important traits every foreigner should exhibit if you want to navigate a new place comfortably.

But “bitte” is particularly useful because there are many ways you can use it. It means “please”, “you’re welcome”, and “pardon”. You can also use it to say “go ahead”, “here you go”, or “may I help you?”. So from checking in to a hotel, to ordering at a restaurant, or holding the door open for someone, you can’t go wrong with saying “bitte”.

different examples of bitte meaning in English

5. Torschlusspanik

You know that panic you feel when it’s Sunday evening and you haven’t completed your weekend to-do list? That’s like “Torschlusspanik” – but at a much grander scale.

Combining the German words for “gate”, “shut”, and “panic”, Torschlusspanik is the perfect word to describe that feeling of dread when you realise how quickly time flies and how there’s still so much you need to do with your life. It’s similar to the English term “mid-life crisis,” but it can happen at any time of your life (yikes).

6. Schadenfreude

Do you remember that time a driver recklessly cut in front of you, and then a few kilometers later, you spotted them on the side of the road dealing with a car problem?

That joy you felt at the driver’s misfortune – that’s schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude combines the German words for “damage” and “joy” and describes the satisfaction you feel at someone else’s misfortune. While you may commonly feel it for someone who does something terrible to you, you may also experience it when watching sports and the rival team loses, or when reading the news and finding out that a criminal or corrupt official got what they deserve. Admit it, we’ve all done it at least once in our lives.

German phrases about love

How do you say “I love you” in German? Aside from the direct translation of “Ich liebe dich,” these two German phrases give your declarations of love an interesting nuance.

7. Ich bin bis über beide Ohren verliebt

This phrase translates to “I’m over both ears in love” and is equivalent to the English idiom “head over heels in love”. If you’re totally smitten with something or someone, this is a wonderful way to express your feelings.

Once your overflowing love has settled down a bit, you can repurpose “Ohren”, the German word for “ears”, to funnily insult your beloved in German.

8. Ich habe dich lieb

If you’re not quite ready to profess such strong feelings of love, you can start instead with the more noncommittal “Ich habe dich lieb.”

This phrase literally translates to “I have love for you”, and like its grammatical composition, it’s a shyer, more roundabout way of telling someone that you love them. You can also use it to express a more childlike, friendly, or innocent love (such as for friends), as opposed to the more passionate “ich liebe dich” (“I love you”) that couples say to each other.

Beautiful German quotes

Another reason to learn German? It’s the language of so many iconic historical figures. Here are two quotes that highlight how incredibly beautiful the German language can be.

9. Man reist nicht, um anzukommen, sondern um zu reisen

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and statesman

As a prolific writer, Goethe is known worldwide for his works. Here’s an inspirational quote you can remember next time you get frustrated with your language learning. It literally translates to “You do not travel to arrive, but to travel.” 

Don’t be in such a rush to reach your goals that you fail to enjoy the process. Every step of your language learning journey is an adventure in itself.

10. ”Nicht alles, was zählt, ist zählbar, und nicht alles, was zählbar ist, zählt.” 

– Albert Einstein, German scientist

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this feel-good quote from the genius Albert Einstein, one of the most famous German-speaking intellectual figures. The quote translates to:

“Not everything that counts is countable, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

If you ever find yourself equating your self-worth to your language capabilities in comparison to others who are more fluent, pause and take a moment to take stock and appreciate how much you have learned. Are you working on improving and enjoying your time in the process? Then you’ve come much further than you might realise.