(scroll down for a short list of vocab from this post!)

This week, we thought we’d spend some time on common mistakes that we often hear in our classroom – don’t feel bad, you’re definitely not the only one who makes them – hence the word COMMON!

English and German are quite closely related, which is a blessing and a curse: it makes it easier to pick up new words (there is a lot of overlap in vocabulary), but it also makes it easier for little errors to sneak in as we tend to translate word for word….which doesn’t always work out!

The good news, however, is that most of these common mistakes are so easy to fix! So, do you catch yourself saying any or several of the phrases below on a regular basis? Our hope is you won’t anymore after reading this post!


1. We see us next week!

A literal translation of wir sehen uns.

In English, we simply say ‘’See you next week!’’ or ‘’We’ll see each other next week!’’.


2. You can dance, or?

Oh how wonderfully simple tag questions (yes, that’s what these are called) are in German….just put oder at the end and there you go! In English, things are a little more complicated!

You can dance, can’t you?
It’s nice weather, isn’t it?
You’re German, aren’t you?
He’s not at work today, is he?

As you can see, we repeat the verb and subject that were used in the first part of the sentence, only we make it negative/positive (if the first verb is negative then the tag question is positive and vice versa).


3. What means “ceiling” in German?

This is an error in sentence structure. In English, questions are formed with do or does. So this sentence should be:

What does ‘’ceiling’’ mean?

Actually, if you’re looking for a translation of a word, you would say:

What’s the German word for ‘ceiling’?


4. On the bottle stood, “Toxic.”

Again, a literal translation of stehen. However, in English we use say for information on signs, labels etc. So this sentence should be:

On the bottle it said: ‘’toxic’’.


5. This is a photo from my dog.

Last but not least, a preposition error. We take (or look at) photos OF someone/something, not from:

This is a photo OF my dog.


Of course, there are many more typical errors we could discuss here (we’ll do a Part II of these at some point), but if you can manage to eliminate these five from your English (if you make them at all, of course) that’s a great start!



common (adjective) – gewöhnlich

These birds are not so common nowadays.

hence (adverb) – folglich

The building is being redecorated. Hence all the mess everywhere.

blessing (noun) – die Gnade

Her son was a great blessing to her.

curse (noun) – der Fluch

Having to work is the curse of my life.

overlap (noun) – die Überlappung

an overlap of two centimetres.