Useful German Phrases To Fix And Avoid Mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable in a new language. Knowing these phrases will help it feel like less of a big deal.
two women laughing about mistakes in german in front of the brandenburg gate in berlin

Learning German for your new year’s resolution? You’re a person with taste. But are you a person who’s comfortable with the idea of making mistakes? As you probably already know, your world will be larger and brighter with knowledge of a new language to open more doors for you. The road to fluency is littered with mistakes, however, and it’ll help you immensely to embrace this as part of the process. Want to know what’ll help you do that? Preparing yourself for the inevitable by learning a few phrases to use whenever you make mistakes in German.

To help you out, we put together a quick and easy guide with some words and phrases you can use whenever you need to correct yourself, ask someone to repeat themselves, or let someone know you didn’t understand what they just said. Remember, this is a natural part of learning to become conversational. Most people won’t mind speaking a little more slowly or repeating themselves.

Ready to make mistakes in German? You can start learning today with Babbel, and you’ll be speaking confidently in no time.

How To Fix And Avoid Mistakes In German

Apologies In German

Apologies are always good to know for any and every situation, ranging from “stealing someone’s boyfriend” to “bumping into them on the metro.” In this context, you’re only apologizing for not yet being a perfect German speaker, so there’s no need for any overwrought apologies. It’s not really the German way. Rather, a simple “sorry” or “excuse me,” used sparingly, will come across as more authentic. We also have a more thorough guide to saying sorry in German if you’re in need of deeper apologies.

  • Es tut mir leid. — I apologize. (formal)
  • Tut mir leid. — Sorry. (informal)
  • Entschuldigen Sie. — Excuse me. (formal)
  • Entschuldigung! — Sorry! / Excuse me!

Interjections In German

It’s only natural to want to say “oops” when you mess up. Sometimes, saying “oops” is more natural than apologizing for something that’s not really your fault. Here are a couple interjections you might hear often in German.

  • Ups! — Oops!
  • Hoppla! — Oops!

How To Say I Don’t Know In German

You don’t always know, and you don’t always understand. That’s okay. Here’s how to communicate this.

  • Ich weiß nicht. — I don’t know.
  • Ich überlege noch. — I’m still thinking.
  • Ich verstehe nicht. — I don’t understand.
  • Entschuldigung, ich verstehe nicht. — Sorry, I don’t understand.
  • Ich habe keine Ahnung. — I have no clue.

Asking For Clarification In German

Another way to deal with making mistakes in German is to ask for clarification if you’re not sure what the other person just said. Here are a few ways to ask someone to repeat themselves.

  • Entschuldigung, was haben Sie gesagt? — Sorry, what did you say?
  • Entschuldigung? — Excuse me?
  • Wie bitte? — Pardon?
  • Könnten Sie bitte etwas langsamer sprechen? — Could you please speak slower?
  • Könnten Sie lauter sprechen? — Could you speak louder?
  • Könntest du das wiederholen? — Could you repeat that?
  • Ich kann Sie nicht verstehen, hier ist es sehr laut. — I can’t hear you, it’s very noisy here.

German Idioms For Miscommunication

If you want a more creative way to express your confusion in German, these expressions might help you mix up your repertoire.

  • Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. — I only understand train station. (Means: I do not understand anything at all.)
  • Ich glaub’, ich spinne. — I think, I spider. (Means: I think I’m going crazy.)
  • Ich glaub’ mein Schwein pfeift. — I think my pig is whistling. (Expression of disbelief.)
  • Ich habe den Faden verloren. — I lost the thread.
  • Ich habe keinen Plan. — I do not have a plan. (Means: I have no idea.)
Go ahead, start making more mistakes in German in 2023.
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