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German Expressions of Disbelief and Frustration

This week, let's look at ways that disbelief and frustration are expressed in German. Some of the expressions below are similar to English expressions, while others have a much harsher meaning than their literal translations. Take a look!

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Das kann nicht sein (literally "that cannot be") can be used to express disbelief. More accurate translations in this case would be "No way!" or "That's not possible." 

 

Aber das kann nicht sein. Wo ist Yara?

But that's not possible. Where is Yara?

Caption 14, Nicos Weg - Folge 44: Vorm Fahrradladen

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In English, we also express disbelief with "You can't be serious." This has a few different translations in German that we have covered in a previous newsletter.  

 

Das meinst du nicht im Ernst.

You can't be serious.

Caption 17, Mama arbeitet wieder - Kapitel 2: Kompromisse zu finden ist nicht einfach

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The phrase Das gibt's doch gar nicht may literally translate as "that doesn't exist," but it has a similar meaning to Das kann nicht sein. Germans may use this and the expressions above when something both surprises and upsets them.

 

Was ist das denn? Das gibt's doch gar nicht.

What is that then? That just can't be.

Caption 27, Fußball - Prominente beim Benefizspiel

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The phrase Was soll das? is an expression that has a meaning similar to "What's the meaning of this?" 

 

Was soll das? Du störst uns, Pettersson.

What's the meaning of this? You are bothering us, Pettersson.

Caption 15, Pettersson und Findus - Eine Geburtstagstorte für die Katze - Part 1

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Now on to expressions of annoyance. Jemanden ärgern can be translated as "to annoy someone," as can jemanden nerven. In the sentence below with the adjectives ärgerlich and bescheuert, the words ja and doch are used for emphasis. 

 

Allerdings nervt es mich auch, dass ich die Einzige bin, die für das Essen bezahlt.

However, it also annoys me that I'm the only one who pays for the food.

Caption 34, Die Wohngemeinschaft - Probleme

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Das ist ja wirklich ärgerlich!

This is really aggravating!

Caption 6, Pettersson und Findus - Eine Geburtstagstorte für die Katze - Part 3

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Ach, ist doch bescheuert.

Oh, that's stupid.

Caption 63, Die Pfefferkörner - Eigentor

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Further Learning
Search for more examples of these phrases on Yabla German so that you can hear the right intonation.

The Importance of Being Ernst

While the appreciative audience for bad puns on Oscar Wilde play titles may be limited, it is important to know if somebody is being serious or not in German, especially when your goal is to achieve a proficient level of communication in that language.

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If Johanna and Julia both have husbands named Ernst, and somebody announces to them that a man named Ernst is on the telephone, Johanna might ask Julia Das ist nicht dein Ernst, oder? to see if Julia's husband is calling or if it's her own husband on the telephone. In all other cases, however, a reference to the noun der Ernst ("seriousness") preceded by a possessive pronoun (mein, dein, Ihr, euer, unser) means something else altogether: 

 

Das is'... das ist nicht dein Ernst, oder?

That is... you're not serious, right?

Caption 24, 12 heißt: Ich liebe dich - Kapitel 4: Liebe auf den ersten Blick

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The phrase would translate literally (and rather clumsily) as "Is that not your seriousness?," but what is meant is "You're not serious?"

 

Here's another example of the phrase, this time with the second person plural possessive pronoun: 

 

Des isch net euern Ernscht [Dialekt, das ist nicht euer Ernst].

You can't be serious.

Caption 71, Die Pierre-M.-Krause-Show - Classics - Part 3

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Another way of stating whether somebody is being serious or not is to use the noun der Ernst preceded by the dative preposition in

 

Das meinst du nicht im Ernst.

You can't be serious.

Caption 17, Mama arbeitet wieder - Kapitel 2: Kompromisse zu finden ist nicht einfach

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Im Ernst is in fact the most common way to say "seriously": 

 

Nein! -Ja, ganz im Ernst.

No! -Yes, seriously.

Caption 11, Barbara Schöneberger - Bambi-Verleihung backstage

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Further Learning
If you are taking your German lessons seriously, you can go to Yabla German and find other uses of der Ernst in a real-world context — excepting, of course, the rare occasion when Johanna or Julia's husband Ernst shows up!

Bring the Noise!

In this week's new video Mama arbeitet wieder, a construction company boss tells his foreman:

 

Aber bevor wir hier abziehen, lassen wir's noch mal richtig krachen [umgangssprachlich], was?

But before we pull out here, we'll make a really big noise [slang, celebrate], right?

Caption 4, Mama arbeitet wieder - Kapitel 2: Kompromisse zu finden ist nicht einfach

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The verb krachen is defined by the Duden dictionary as primarily "einen Krach verursachen, auslösen" or "causing a loud noise." Its slang meanings are "to have a fight with somebody" (Krach haben) or "to suffer a bankruptcy" (Krach erleiden), the latter similar to the "crash" of the stock market in English. The verb combination krachen lassen, however, usually means "to celebrate."
 

Da wünsch ich euch viel Spaß! Lasst es krachen [Umgangssprache]!

Then I hope you have a lot of fun! Make some noise [celebrate]!

Caption 70, Silvester - Vorsätze für das neue Jahr - Linkenheim

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A variation to the translation "to celebrate" is made in the case where a car really "makes some noise":
 

Und die lassen es in der brandneuen, über zweihundert PS starken A-Klasse so richtig krachen.

And they'll really, in the brand new over two hundred horsepower strong A-Class, make some noise [idiom: "cut loose"].

Captions 16-17, Mercedes Benz - Michael Schumacher und Nico Rosberg bei der Nationalmannschaft

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So the slang term "krachen lassen" is usually used in connection with some kind of celebration, such as a birthday party or New Year's celebration. 2016 is still some months away, but that gives you a chance to get some practice celebrations going in the meantime. Lass es krachen! 

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Further Learning
Search for more videos on German Yabla that use the verb krachen and watch the entire video to improve your party vocabulary!

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