A podcast: Beth and Greta discuss 10 favourite "Fehler"

Greta: Welcome back y’all to another eepod! Today we are going to be discussing 10 of the most common German mistakes made in English. At least by our observation.


Beth: Absolutely. And this time, maybe we should discuss our own mistakes we make in German. When I first came here, I know that I made a lot. But of course, this is a bit of  a departure of what we have done before, because normally we look at the points straight away. Let’s just start and warm up.


Greta: Let’s do it.


Beth: What types of mistakes do you make at the moment?


Greta: In regards to German, my sentence structure is still completely off. Like the verbs coming at the end in different order is still hard for me.


I have noticed though, even as an English teacher, I have incorporated some German into my English. So I tend to say, “Super!” Much, more often then I used to. 


Beth: It’s funny that you say that because I’ve been here for 12 years, and I have noticed that the German influences my English now. And I make mistakes when I speak German, because the English influences my German. On the English side, my most favorite mistake is to say “or?” Like: “You went out last night, or?” In English we would say, didn’t you. As a question tag. But that “oder” is just so simple. All of my native speaking peers also say that.


What I miss the most is the word “doch!”. It is just a great way of contradicting somebody.


Greta: It’s such a great word. I have to say I use that all the time, at least when I am around my German friends. It just has such


Beth: One I heard you say yesterday, was “moment!”


Greta: Oh right! Where we would really actually say “just a second”. 


Beth: That’s right.


Greta: We could say just a moment, but I’ve added a bit of a German twang into it.


Beth: I do that too!


Greta: Now there are some words that I use more since I came to Germany. Now in the US I never ate raspberries at all. And now I love them, and they are everywhere. So in German they are called “Himbeere,” and I will say that mid-English sentence. 


Beth: So that is a word that you have associated with Germany, and you use it English vocabulary. I am surprised you didn’t say your first word was “Steuerberater”. That’s one of the first words I learnt when I got here. Or one of the first words I learnt was “Ich brauche einen Stempel.” Because the bureaucracy here is very different from the UK.


But when you talk about your “Himbeere” story, it makes me think of mine, which would be: Sockelleiste. When I renovated my apartment, I needed one of these. It is called a “skirting board”. And another that relates to the renovation would be a “Wasserdurchhitzer,” which translates to a “flow type heater,” in English. It’s the vocabulary that you associate with something in another language, it makes it more difficult to actually add that vocabulary word into your native language, funnily enough.

This is why we use specialists at executive english. So that we can pull out that specific language that you are lacking in English in your very specific industry.


So Greta back to the point. What was one of the first sentences you learnt when you came to Germany?

Greta: The very first sentence I learned actually was “Lass uns Energie sparren.” I had a German boyfriend back when I lived in the US, and we never really spoke German together. But he knew that I wanted to really badly. So I had this habit of not turning off the light, and his way of having me remember it was by putting it in German. So yeah, “Lass uns Energie sparren.”


Beth: I’ll say that to you next time you leave the windows open and turn the radiators up in the office.


Greta: That’s fair! 


Beth: On a professional level, I can think of a mistake I used to make when I started this business. Over 90 percent of the correspondence I had to do was in German. I would call the clients after their first class to check in with them and see how it was. Well after a little small talk exchange, I would say to them “Ich habe mich bewundert, wie der Unterricht war..”, because in English of course we would say “I was wondering…” Unfortunately it means “I was admiring you…”


And on the personal level, when I was moving out of Schwabing, I was putting the boxes in order and waiting for the movers. And I rang the doorbell and this really nice old man answers the door and I had this big smile on and said, “Ich ziehe mich gleich aus.” And he looked at me, and let me know that I should have used the “um” instead of the “aus.” There are just those small little errors that unfortunately can cause a big miscommunication. Greta do you have any others?


Greta: That reminds me of one last one. I don’t know if any one remembers the Munich summer of 2015, but it was quite hot.  I can’t tell you how many times in the summer I began to sweat, because there is not really air conditioning here, and I would exclaim to the students “Ich bin so heiß!” They would proceed to giggle and kept this joke to themselves. I didn’t realize what I was saying until about a year later.


Beth: Oh that reminds me of when I was sitting in my WG and I said, “ich bin so aufgeregt.” 


Greta: Wait can you explain that one to me?


Beth: Well in English you see, we would say “I am really excited.” And that is fine, but the way you would say it how I meant would be “gespannt”. Unfortunately I was actually communicating a more sexual tone unintentionally. 


I think it is nice exposing your own errors that you make in your non-native tongue. Especially to show that we all make these mistakes. Let’s turn to the mistakes our clients often make in English.  Because I think there are those tiny mistakes that all levels make, again and again. Just the small ones, but they are easily fixable!


Greta: So let’s have a look at them.


This first point we have is when you meet someone. When we have met someone for the first time, we often say: It is nice to meet you. But if you have met them a few times before, and you are happy to see them: it is incorrect to say: It is nice to meet you. To meet, would only refer to the first time we have introduced ourselves to each other. 




  • 1. Meeting someone:

When we have met someone for the first time, we often say: It is nice to meet you. But if you have met them a few times before, and you are happy to see them: it is incorrect to say It is nice to meet you.


Beth: yeah that’s right. For the second time or the third time, and so on, we would say: It is nice to see you again!


Greta: right. the verb to meet here speaks about just the first time.


Beth: And you know what else?


Greta: What?


Beth: Whenever the two of you part, we wouldn’t say: “We see us tomorrow”. This common phrase has two mistakes. One being that it is in the simple present. We see us tomorrow. This phrase is used to speak about the future, and normally in a spontaneous moment. Which would mean that we would use the WILL future: We’ll see each other tomorrow.


Greta: Right! And that is a perfectly phrased sentence. However. do you want to go one step further towards speaking like a native speaker?


Beth: I’m sure they do..!


Greta: We normally say: I will see you tomorrow. Rather than using the “we.”


  • 2. Pluralizing already pluralized nouns: Informations. 

Beth: So I am sure you guys have all heard of this one: The trouble with Information.  Information is an uncountable noun. An uncountable noun is literally defined as a noun that are for things that we cannot count with numbers. Often that means liquids like milk or water, or objects too small to count like sand or rice. But there is one other possibility, and that would be the abstract. Information is more of an abstract topic. MEHL FLOUR 


Greta: So we wouldn’t ask for all the informations. We would ask for a piece of information.


Beth: Right! This also goes for things like knowledge, or research, also evidence. Now, one other one that is difficult, is the concept counting of money. Is money countable or uncountable?


Greta: Tricky Beth. We would say 5 million Euros. No S required on the end of the million because we refer to the plurality of the money on the currency end. 


Beth:  So that would be euroS. However! Greta, one thing to point out is that if we don’t speficically give an amount of Euros millions does have an S at the end.


Greta: How do you mean exactly?


Beth: Well we would say. TENS of MILLIONS of EUROS. All with an S!


Greta: That’s so true! Language is a funny, fickle thing. And you know what I think of when it comes to funny, fickle things when it comes to grammar?


The data is the data are 


Beth: Oh I bet I know.

Greta: Okay on three then. 1.2.3..


Beth and Greta: Prepositions!


  • 3. Prepositions

Beth: Prepositions ARE an unruly part of speech. They have barely any rhyme or rhythm to them. Prepositions just have to be learned like vocabulary. Memorizing the verb plus the preposition as much as possible.  One common mistake that springs to mind is “I live in the near of Garmisch-Patenkirchen



And be it known, that Garmisch-Patenkirchen doesn’t have its own English equivenlent as München has.


Beth: Right. It’s actually, the in the near of part. I get it, it sounds so correct, because near and nähe sound so alike and have relatively the same meaning. We would rather choose to say “I live near Garmisch.” Or I live close to Garmisch. There are however, a few very consistent mistakes that you could correct now! 

The correct prepositions are: 

I was ON the bus. We were AT a party. I was on the toilet.  Prep place time easy to learn but adjectives and verb s+ prep harder proud of, interest in look at. The office is near the canal. But in the near of is just not correct. The toilet is at the end of the corridor 


Greta: Oh I can’t hear that one. As we discussed in our first podcast: 10 differences between British and American english. We Americans have quite the aversion to calling the bathroom a toilet. Bathroom could even be considered a bit too forward, with others opting to use the word restroom.


Beth: yeah but don’t forget, just cause you don’t like it, doesn’t mean that it is wrong. Dear listeners: the phrase: the toilet is to your left is a completely correct and common phrase for the Brits! Okay, common maybe not. We aren’t always describing where the water closet is, but it I would definitely say that in the given situation. 


So what is next for us, Greta?



  • 4. Brief vs briefing:

Greta: What sticks out in my mind, is that most of my students are working in an agency. And agencies have to pitch a lot to clients. And before you even begin to pitch you have to go to a…


Beth: Briefing..


Greta: right! Briefing. The meeting where you go to is a briefing.


Beth: Right, so what’s wrong there?


Greta: Nothing yet. It’s when we are talking about the actual content of that meeting.


Beth: Ah, the BRIEF!


Greta: That’s right..


Beth: The brief is usually the written explanation what needs to be done on a project, often detailing the background, competition, goals, items required, timeline, etc. 

  • 5. Make or do 


Right this actually brings me to a seriously confusing one. Make vs Do. It can be hard to spot the difference here, as both can be translated into the german word machen. 

Our listeners need to know the difference between make or do. For example we:


Make a cake

Make a card

Do a task or job

I did a good job make do.



Greta: Yeah and a lot of time I hear nouns being put together with "made" instead of just being used as simple verbs. Eg. We made a party instead of I PARTIED last night.

Or we made a exhibion instead of WE EXHIBITED .



Also there are verbs that different than German and don't use make or do at all. 

Die Erfahrung machen – to have an experience

Sich offen machen – to be open to 




  • 6. False friends 

Beth: The German “vor” v.o.r. sounds quite similar to our “for”. For three years.


 In our English class we were five 

“When I was five = als ich fünf war but this isn’t what we are talking about here.

There were five people in our English class.

We won’t all fit around that small table. There are five of us.

But avoid “we were/are + a number”.

Irritated – confuse


Motto – theme 

Claim – slogan

Motif – Motiv


Recipie receipt prescription 



  • 7. How does it look like?

Beth: So there is a very mistake that I think is completely understandable to make. And this one is just


It is either how does it look. or what does it look like. However, there is a slight difference in the answer that you are requesting with this question.


Of course, the thing you are asking about doesn’t have to be “it”, for example:

Q: You’ve got a new boyfriend? How does he look?A: I think he’s cute.

On the other hand, if you ask “What does he/she/it look like?”, you are inviting the other person to give you a more precise description (often using the word “like” and a noun, but not necessarily):

Q: You’ve got a new boyfriend? What does he look like?A: He looks a little bit like Johnny Depp and has beautiful blue eyes.



  • 8. Correspondence:

Written form can be even trickier, because we have to rely really on what we have learned in school, and the grammar mistakes become much more apparent.


In English you begin the body of an email with a capital letter even though you have followed your salutation (e.g., Dear Mrs Paxton) with a comma. This is WRONG: ‘Dear Mrs Paxton, thank you for your letter dated…. etc.’ The word ‘Thank’ should be capitalised.


Did you know that, unlike in some other languages, it is NEVER possible to write a country-related word with a small letter in English? Thus, whether you mean the language, the people or the adjective you always have to write English, German, French etc.



  • 9. Adverbs of time: that are false friends 

Be careful when using the word ‘eventually’. If you say something will ‘eventually happen’ you mean that it is certain to happen but that it will happen sometime a long way off in the future. It does not express possibility or uncertainty about an event happening!


aktuelle means currently. Whereas actually would ACTUALLY mean tätsächlich.

At the moment in the moment 



  • 10. Having a baby.

While it is really nice that you now have grown your family, and there is now a baby. It makes us chuckle when we hear this common mistake


Beth: oh right. I know exactly where you are going here.


Greta: great take it away!


Beth: everyone does understand you when you say, she got a baby last spring. But if we are really to break that one down, that means that you picked one up at the shop, or worse: that you stole it. haha


Greta: hah I’m sorry I don’t mean to laugh but it is always a funny little tidbit. and all of my clients just skip over it like its nothing. this one is pretty hard to program into their minds.


Beth: its so funny! I honestly can get someone learning how to describe communication theory flawlessly, but as soon as a pregnancy comes up, it seems that they have forgotten this little tidbit!