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The 30 common mistakes Germans make in English [+ Denglisch quiz]

If you think that you can use a handy to make phone calls or a beamer to project slides during a presentation, you might be speaking Denglisch.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, Denglisch refers to the influence of German when you speak English (it can also refer to the influence of English when speaking German). Sometimes this can lead to funny situations and expressions, but in general they are not correct and should be avoided. Below the quiz you'll find a list with the most common mistakes Germans tend to do when they speak English, which includes a summary table, explanations, and lots of examples.

Not sure if you are speaking Denglisch? Take the quiz:



Find below the 30 most common mistakes that Germans tend to make when speaking English. Can you relate?

The 30 most common mistakes Germans make in English

-Summary Table-

What (some) Germans say...

What native-English speakers say...

1. In the near from Berlin.

Near Berlin.

2. I work by Talaera.

I work at Talaera. (also for Talaera)

3. We discussed about this topic.

We discussed this topic.

4. I am born in Dresden.

I was born in Dresden.

5. She is on a meeting.

She is in a meeting. (also at a meeting)

6. He said, that he would come.

He said that he would come.

7. If he didn’t reply, it’s because he overheard you.

If he didn’t reply, it’s because he didn’t hear you.

8. The meeting is in room Nr. 2

The meeting is in room No. 2

9. It depends on

It depends.

10. I did the project by my own.

I did the project on my own. (also by myself)

11. We see us next week.

See you next week.

12. We moved here before 5 years.

We moved here 5 years ago.

13. I live in London. I moved here for 3 years.

I live in London. I moved here 3 years ago.

14. My woman is the CEO.

My wife is the CEO.

15. I always make that task alone.

I always do that task alone.

16. I am engineer.

I am an engineer.

17. Let’s make a pause. (at a meeting)

Let’s take a break.

18. How many persons came?

How many people came?

19. My chef comes from Denmark. 

My boss comes from Denmark. 

20. Is this the actual version or the old one?

Is this the current version or the old one?

21. I work since 2 years for this company.

I’ve been working for this company for 2 years.

22. I have finished the project last week.

I finished the project last week.

23. I call you tomorrow at 2 pm.

I will call you tomorrow at 2 pm.

24. I send you the informations you need.

I will send you the information you need.

25. Please send it to me until Friday.

Please send it to me by Friday.

26. I forgot my handy at home.

I forgot my phone at home. (also cell phone and mobile phone)

27. We’ll need a beamer for the meeting.

We’ll need a projector for the meeting.

28. This remembers me of my previous job.

This reminds me of my previous job.

29. Our fabric is located outside of the city.

Our factory is located outside of the city.

30. Did you become the money?

Did you receive the money?

 

-Explanations-

1. In the near from Berlin

Direct translation of in der Nähe von. To indicate proximity, you can either use "near + place" or "close to + place".

  • Our office is near the main square. / I live close to Berlin.

2. I work by Talaera

Direct translation of bei Talaera. When you want to say who your employer is, the correct prepositions are at and for.

  • Daniel works at TalentCo. / Eva worked for Google.

3. We discussed about this topic

Direct translation of sprechen über. This verb does not need a preposition

  • We need to discuss the implementation of the new software. / They were discussing where to open the new office.

4. I am born in Dresden.

Direct translation of Ich bin in ... geboren. To express the place or the year where you were born, you need the verb in the past.

  • The founders were born in Japan. / Anna was born in 1983.

5. She is on a meeting.

Prepositions can get a bit tricky. For meetings, the most common one is in, although at can also be used.

  • The CEO is in a meeting right now, she’ll call you back later.

6. He said, that he would come.

Direct translation of Er sagte, dass er kommen würde. While in German the comma between the verb and the conjunction is necessary, in English it is not. With the structure “verb + that”, leave out the comma!

  • He said that he preferred the second option. / We hope that the project works out.

7. If he didn’t reply, it’s because he overheard you.

Direct translation of überhören. False friend alert! The verb überhören in German means “not hear”, but to overhear in English means the complete opposite! To overhear is to hear something without the speaker knowing it.

  • If he didn’t reply, it’s because he didn’t hear you. / I was at the cafeteria and I overheard a conversation about the takeover.

8. The meeting is in room Nr. 2

The abbreviation of “number” in English is No.

9. It depends on! 

Direct translation of Das kommt darauf an. When you want to continue the sentence, then you need the preposition “on”, but if you just want to say that it depends, and finish the sentence there, you need to drop the preposition.

  • It depends! / It depends on the budget.

10. I did the project by my own.

To say that you did something alone, there are two options: on my own and by myself. Careful not to mix them up!

  • I did the project on my own. / I went to the convention by myself.

11. We see us next week.

Direct translation of Wir sehen uns nächste Woche. What native-English speakers say is:

  • See you next week! / I’ll see you on Monday.

12. We moved here before 5 years.

Direct translation of vor 5 Jahren. This construction in English is as follows: [number] + years ago

  • We moved here 5 years ago. / I started working at Talaera 2 years ago.

13. I live in London. I moved here for 3 years.

Again, direct translation of vor 3 Jahren. Just like the previous example, the correct version would be I moved here 3 years ago.

14. My woman is the CEO.

Direct translation of meine Frau. If you ever want to talk about your family, you should use the terms “wife” (for female spouse), “husband” (for male spouse), or “partner” (if you prefer to not specify the gender).

  • My wife is the CEO. / My husband takes care of the paperwork. 

*Note: “partner” can refer both to a romantic and a business relationship.

15. I always make that task alone.

The difference between make and do can be confusing for English learners, and the thing is, there’s no reliable rule. You’ll have to learn them!

  • I always do that task alone.

Some common business expressions:

  • Collocations with do: do a task, do work, do business, do a great job, do a course, do well, do the right thing, do your best, do damage, do a favor, do paperwork.
  • Collocations with make: make a decision, make money, make a profit, make a fortune, make a phone call, make a complaint, make a suggestion, make a prediction, make an excuse, make an observation, make a comment, make plans, make sure, make an exception.

If you'd like to know how to learn vocabulary in English and remember new words, click here.

16. I am engineer.

Direct translation of Ich bin Ingenieur. Remember to add “a” or “an” before the job.

  • I am an engineer. / I am a data scientist.

17. Let’s make a pause. (at a meeting)

Direct translation of eine Pause machen. In a meeting or a workshop, the word we usually use in English is not ‘pause’ but ‘break’. A pause is a break in a conversation, where you stop for a while and then continue speaking.

  • Let’s take a break.

18. How many persons came?

The plural of “person” is “people”.

  • How many people came? / There are 20 people working here.

*Note: “persons” is sometimes used in legal contexts, not in regular situations.

19. My chef comes from Denmark. 

Direct translation of Chef. A “chef” in English is a cook. If you want to talk about your superior at work, the word you’re looking for is “boss”.

  • My boss comes from Denmark.

20. Is this the actual version or the old one?

Direct translation of aktuell. In English, “actual” means real. To say that something is happening now and is up-to-date, we use “current”.

  • Is this the current version or the old one?

21. I work since 2 years for this company.

Direct translation of Ich arbeite seit 2 Jahren bei dieser Firma. This sentence has two mistakes: the verb and the time.

The verb: to express that something started in the past and it continues until now, we use the Present Perfect Continuous (I have been working, she has been studying, we have been operating).

The time: with this tense, we need the structure “for + [time]” (for 5 years, for 3 months).

  • I’ve been working for this company for 2 years. / She has been studying English for 5 years.

22. I have finished the project last week.

Direct translation of Ich habe abgeschlossen. For actions that are finished in the past, we use Past Simple (without “have” or “has”).

  • I finished the project last week. / I went to Prague last month.

23. I call you tomorrow at 2 pm.

Direct translation of Ich rufe Sie morgen um 14 Uhr an. For actions that will happen in the future, but that you decided spontaneously, we use Future Simple (“will” + verb).

  • I will call you tomorrow at 2 pm. / I will pick you up from the airport.

24. I send you the informations you need.

Direct translation of Informationen. This word only works in singular in English, just like the word advice

  • I will send you the information you need. / He gave me great advice.

25. Please send it to me until Friday. 

Direct translation of bis Freitag. Even though the German word “bis” is often translated as “until”, when we want to indicate a deadline, we use “by”.

  • Please send it to me by Friday. / I will give you an answer by the end of next week.

26. I forgot my handy at home.

What Germans mean by handy is “mobile phone”, “cell phone” (in the USA) or simply “phone”. 

  • I forgot my phone.

*Note: “handy” is an adjective in English that means convenient. For example, this guide to write professional emails in English come in handy!

27. We’ll need a beamer for the meeting.

What we use to project slides during meetings and presentations is a “projector”.

  • We’ll need a projector for the meeting.

28. This remembers me of my previous job.

The verbs remember and remind tend to cause confusion among English learners. Here’s the difference: to remember is to bring something to your mind again, while to remind is to cause (someone) to remember.

  • This reminds me of my previous job.

29. Our fabric is located outside of the city.

Direct translation of Fabrik. New false friend alert! The place where you manufacture goods is called a “factory”.

  • Our factory is located outside of the city.

*Note: fabric is the cloth or material used to make clothes and bags, among others.

30. Did you become the money?

Direct translation of bekommen. Careful! To become in English means to develop into something else. If you say that you “became the money” it means that you are not a person anymore, and you are money instead. The verb you are looking for is “receive” or “get”.

  • Did you receive the money? / Sorry, I didn’t get your email.

Now that you know how it works, go back and retake the quiz. Let us know how it goes!

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