• Daiane Publio Dias

5 mistakes made by German speakers that often lead to misunderstandings



1. Although it might sound English, please never – ever! – say, for example, "my handy number." The word handy means "useful" in English. (1)


2. Bekommen is not a cognate of the English verb to become. According to Cambridge Dictionary, to become means "to start to be" and could be translated into German as werden. So, the meaning is totally different! (2)


3. Don't mistake the word note for notice. A short message you write to your boss or a colleague is a note! Keep in mind: a notice is a piece of paper or a board with information, instructions or a warning. For example:


  • There was a large notice on the wall saying “No Parking.” (3)


4. Be careful with the English to irritate (verb) or irritated (adjective). In spite of the similarity, they aren't an exact translation of irritieren and irritiert sein (which mean to confuse and to be confused in German). If you say to a colleague that you are irritated, they will certainly think that you are angry or nervous.


5. Most speakers of German use the verb to lead when they mean they are in charge or responsible for something - to lead a company, for example, sounds a bit odd. You should rather say to run a company, to run a department, to run a division, etc.


Written by Daiane Publio Dias



(1) German: das Handy = English: mobile phone or cell phone.

(2) German: bekommen = English: to get, to receive, to be given, etc.

(3) https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/notice