Common German Idioms and Their Grammar: An Overview

German, like any language, is rich with idiomatic expressions that add depth and color to communication. Understanding these idioms not only enhances language proficiency but also provides insights into the cultural nuances of German-speaking regions. In this article, we’ll look into some common German idioms and explore their grammar with examples.

 

Idioms and Their Meanings

  1. “Da liegt der Hund begraben”
    Literal translation: “That’s where the dog is buried.”
    Meaning: That’s the crux of the matter.

  2. “Tomaten auf den Augen haben”
    Literal translation: “To have tomatoes on one’s eyes.”
    Meaning: To be oblivious or blind to something obvious.

  3. “Schwein haben”
    Literal translation: “To have pig.”
    Meaning: To be lucky.

 

Grammar Insights

Word Order Variations

In German idiomatic expressions, the word order might deviate from standard sentence structure. For example:

  • Normal Word Order: Subject-Verb-Object
    “Er hat ein Schwein” (He has a pig)
  • Idiomatic Expression: Verb-Subject
    “Ein Schwein haben” (To have a pig)

Modal Verbs and Infinitives

Many idiomatic expressions in German involve modal verbs followed by infinitives:

  • “Es zieht wie Hechtsuppe.”
    Literal translation: “It’s pulling like pike soup.”
    Meaning: It’s very drafty.

In this example, “zieht” (pulling) is a form of the modal verb “ziehen” (to pull), followed by the infinitive “sein” (to be).

Case Usage

German idioms often require specific cases, which may differ from standard usage:

  • “Das ist mir Wurst.”
    Literal translation: “That’s sausage to me.”
    Meaning: I don’t care.

Here, “mir” (to me) is in the dative case, indicating the indirect object.