Is it the yellow of the egg?

Five idioms that show why you shouldn’t try to translate German idioms into English.

Native speakers of all languages use idioms to express their ideas. But usually an idiom that is common in one language doesn’t have an exact translation in another language.

Here are five common German idioms with no direct translations in English, followed by their English equivalents.

> Es ist (nicht) das Gelbe vom Ei. = It’s (not) the best solution.

> Er redet immer um den heißen Brei herum. = He always beats around the bush. / He never directly says what he wants.

> Wir haben den roten Faden verloren. = We’ve lost the common thread.

> Alles ist im grünen Bereich. = Everything’s okay. / Everything’s in order.

> Sie muss immer ihren Senf dazugeben. = She always has to add her two cents. / She always has to weigh in with her opinion. 

Our tip: Avoid trying to translate German idioms into English and use general terms to describe what you mean. By doing that, you can be sure your business partner will understand you. 

Would you like to know how some phrases became common English idioms? Here’s an interesting article from Reader’s Digest.

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Mindy Ehrhart Krull
About the author

Originally from the US, Mindy Ehrhart Krull holds a master's degree in journalism and has been teaching English and working as an author, editor and proofreader in Germany since 2008.

At DELS, she leads a team of several English trainers and language professionals.

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