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German Proverbs





German proverbs provide a unique insight into the language, cultures, and societies of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. They are also rich with literary history and legend, and at times share origins with English proverbs. So browse for what you're looking for, or simply wander around to deepen your knowledge of German proverbs.

A B D E G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W Z


Was dem einen recht ist, ist dem anderen billig
what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander (lit.: what is right for one, is fair for the other)

was dem einen recht ist, ist dem anderm billig
what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander (also: what's good for the goose is good for the gander)

Was der Bauer nicht kennt, das frisst er nicht
what the farmer doesn't know, he doesn't eat (n.b.: used to criticize a person for refusing to try something new)

Was Hänschen nicht gelernt hat, lernt Hans nimmermehr
you can't teach an old dog new tricks (lit.: what little Hans never learned adult Hans will not learn ever)

Was man sich eingebrockt hat, das muss man auch auslöffeln
you made your bed, now lie in it (lit.: what one serves, one must also eat)

Was nicht ist, kann noch werden
it hasn't' doesn't mean 'it won't' (lit.: what isn't yet can still become)

Wem der Schuh passt, der zieht ihn sich an
if the shoe fits, wear it (lit.: he whom the shoe fits will wear it)

Wenn das Wörtchen wenn nicht wär, wär mein Vater Millionär
if wishes were horses… (lit.: if it were not for the little word if, my father would be a millionaire)

Wenn der Reiter nichts taugt, ist das Pferd schuld
a poor craftsman blames his tools (lit.: if the horseman is bad, it is the horse's fault)

wenn die Katze aus dem Haus ist, tanzen die Mäuse (auf dem Tisch)

when the cat's away the mice will play (lit.: whe the cat is out of the house, the mice dance (on the table)

Wenn Gauner sich streiten kommt die Wahrheit ans Licht
when scoundrels argue, the truth is revealed

wenn man vom Teufel spricht, dann ist er nicht weit
speak of the devil, and he's sure to appear (lit.: when one speaks of the devil, he is never far)

Wenn zwei sich streiten, freut sich der Dritte
when two quarrel, the third rejoices

Wer anderen eine Grube gräbt, fällt selbst hinein
harm set, harm get (lit.: he who digs a pit for others falls into it himself)

Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist des Talers nicht wert
he who does not care about cents isn't worthy to keep a dollar

Wer die Wahl hat, hat die Qual
he who has the choice, has the torment

Wer nicht hören will muss fühlen
listen and learn (lit.: he who doesn't want to listen will have to feel [the pain of not knowing])

Wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt
nothing ventured, nothing gained (lit.: he who wagers nothing, he wins nothing)

wer Wind sät, wird Sturm ernten
sow the wind and reap the whirlwind

Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst
first come, first served (lit.: he who comes first, grinds [his grain] first)

Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten
he who laughs last, laughs best

Wes' Brot ich ess, des' Lied ich sing
he who pays the piper calls the tune (lit.: whose bread I eat, that's whose song I sing)

Wie man in den Wald hineinruft, so schallt es zurück
one good turn deserves another (lit.: as one calls into the forest, so it echoes back)

Wie man sich bettet, so liegt man
you made your bed, now lie in it (lit.: as you put yourself to bed, so you will lie

Wo gehobelt wird, fallen Späne
you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs (lit.: where you plane splinters fall)


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