Translating “to get” into German

The modest little verb get is often criticised by pedants. There are certainly alternatives to it, but the truth is that few English speakers could get through the day without using “to get”. My Oxford dictionary states that “get” is one of the five most common verbs in the language. This pithy, punchy little word and its related expressions are blunt, racy, direct, earthy and occasionally vulgar. As a result of its myriad meanings, get can be problematic for the English learner of German.

If you use “get” in expressions such as “get into hot water”, “get over it” or “that really gets to me”, you will naturally find  yourself propping when you try to express something similar in a German conversation. The reason is that the ideas that English speakers can convey with the single verb “get” require many different verbs in German. One of the trickiest aspects of learning German (apart from the endings, the cases and everything else) is the precision of its verbs.

• to get cold feet → kalte Füße bekommen

Below are some examples that will both illustrate how complex it is to translate “to get” and reveal many of the German verbs that are essential to this task. I’ve started  by focusing on the alternative meaning of “to get” in English and have worked from there towards an idiomatic German translation. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but there are also some quizzes and options below through which you can encounter more examples and get a feel for some of the most common verbs that you will require in German to represent this compact, multifaceted English verb.

I do hope that you get something out of this list and the activities provided. Please feel free to add your own “get” translation/s in German in a comment.

All the best from Roslyn

She always gets an A+ in Maths – Sie bekommt immer ein A+ in Mathe.

When to get means to receive

  • She always gets good grades. – Sie bekommt immer gute Noten.
  • Did she get the invitation? – Hat sie die Einladung bekommen?

When to get means to buy, to procure, to gain or to arrange something

  • I’d like to get myself a new car. – Ich möchte mir ein neues Auto kaufen.
  • I need to get an overview of the situation. – Ich muss mir einen Überblick der Situation verschaffen.
  • Can you get me a ticket? – Kannst du mir eine Karte besorgen?
  • Don’t forget to get some bread. – Vergiss  nicht, Brot zu kaufen.

When to get means to fetch or to bring back

  • Can you please get me a coffee? – Kannst du mir bitte einen Kaffee holen?
  • Can I get you anything in the city? – Kann ich dir etwas aus der Stadt mitbringen?
I don’t get it. → Ich verstehe das nicht.

When to get means to understand, to grasp or to comprehend

  • I get what you’re saying. – Ich verstehe, was du meinst.
  • I just don’t get it. – Ich verstehe das nicht OR Ich kapier[e] das nicht.
  • You just don’t get it, do you? – Du kapierst es nicht, oder? OR Du begreifst es nicht, oder?
She’s getting tired.→ Sie wird müde.

When to get means to become

• It’s getting dark. – Es wird dunkel.   

• I’m getting old. – Ich werde [langsam] alt.

• After her illness she got quite thin. – Nach ihrer Krankheit wurde sie ziemlich dünn.



When to get means to do a task or complete something

  • Can you get the phone? – Kannst du den Hörer abnehmen?
  • Can you get the door? – Kannst du die Tür aufmachen?
  • She’s getting the dinner at the moment. – Sie macht gerade das Abendessen. 
Can you get through to him?→ Kannst du ihn erreichen?

When to get means to reach someone

  • I can’t get hold of him (on the phone). – Ich kann ihn nicht erreichen.
  • You can get me at this number. – Du kannst mich unter dieser Nummer erreichen.

When to get means to begin or start something

  • We got talking one evening. – Wir haben angefangen, eines Abends zu sprechen.
  • I haven’t got very far yet. – Ich bin noch nicht sehr weit gekommen.
  • He got to his feet with difficulty. – Er ist mit Schwierigkeit aufgestanden.
That gets to me.→ Das irritiert mich OR Das geht mir auf die Nerven.

When get is used to express frustration or disappointment

  • That really gets to me. – Das ärgert mich wirklich OR Das geht mir auf die Nerven.
  • That really gets me down. – Das deprimiert mich OR Das macht mich wirklich traurig.

When get has the sense of providing an opportunity

  • I get to practise my German with Moni. – Ich kann mein Deutsch mit Moni üben.

Some Selected Expressions:

  • He’ll never get over it. – Er wird nie darüber hinwegkommen
  • My son keeps getting into trouble. – Mein Sohn bekommt ständig Ärger.
  • We get along well. – Wir verstehen uns gut OR Wir kommen gut aus.
  • Let’s get down to work. – Lasst uns an die Arbeit gehen!
  • I really got a kick out of that. – Ich hatte großen Spaß daran.
  • I’m getting cold feet. – Ich bekomme kalte Füße.
  • You always get me to laugh. – Du bringst mich immer zum Lachen.

An Activity for Beginners

A Tiny Cards set with some simple sentences for translating “to get” into German

A Resource for Intermediate Learners

How to translate “to put” – another puny but crucial English verb

A Quiz for Advanced Learners

This quiz offers many more examples of translating the verb “get” into German| Complete on the full screen

A Useful Resource

  • Linguee – This online phrase dictionary is ideal for identifying an idiomatic translation of an expression or a phrase. 
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Five Reasons to Learn German – Part 1

I could just as easily have titled this post: “Five reasons to torture yourself”, “Five reasons to put yourself through the mill” or “Five reasons to subject yourself to untold suffering”.

In reality, of course, I love the German language with a passion. All the same, I recognise that this passion involves long periods of struggle and frustration as well as brief moments of pleasure.

Here are my first five reasons for learning German. I’m saving the next five for a later post.

Ein Deutschlerner muss tapfer sein.

1 Learning German shows courage.

German is a grammatical minefield. Through learning it and refusing to give up, you prove your courage, your stamina and, above all, your readiness to make a fool of yourself. You really have to be tough to see it through.

Deutsch macht dich bescheiden.  


German makes you modest.

Anyone who tends to be conceited or over-confident will become more modest through learning German.


Deutsch kann dich glücklich machen. Gelegentlich.

Every correct sentence brings unexpected pleasure.

The grammatical rules of German are so complex that every error-free sentence you produce is a genuine achievement. Your self-esteem grows every time you say something without making a mistake. This will occur so rarely, however, that your modesty will remain intact.

Das Wort “Fingerhut”, zum Beispiel, bedeutet “thimble” auf Englisch.  Das heißt, “finger hat”. Schön, oder?

4 The words are guessable.

Once you have learned your first thousand words of German, you’ll be able to guess many of the others. The reason is that the German way of putting words together allows you to deconstruct new words with relative ease.



Deutsche Muttersprachler sind wirklich kreativ.


5 The compound words of German are unforgettable.

The many-barrelled words of the German language show how inventive and imaginative its speakers are. These words make for creativity and fantasy.


Question: And what about you? Can you give at least one reason for learning German? What do you like about the German language? Please write a comment to express your personal opinion or to explain your love for German.

Frage: Und du? Kannst du mindestens einen Grund nennen, Deutsch zu lernen? Was gefällt dir an der deutschen Sprache? Schreib bitte einen Kommentar, um deine persönliche Meinung zu äußern und deine Liebe für Deutsch zu erklären.

Extra Links for Learners:

An activity for beginners:

An activity for intermediate learners:

An activity for advanced learners:

  • The da-compounds
  • They are punchy, concise and expressive. Discover them in a set of Tiny Cards.
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About German Island

October 2012

Message from Roslyn Green

The name of this blog is based on  one of those imaginative and colourful word combinations that Germans excel in creating: Sprachinsel, or language island. The word refers to an area where a different language is spoken from the one that dominates the surrounding region. When I began to learn German, my study gradually became a kind of language island, with German books and dictionaries scattered everywhere and German voices on my iPod.

That’s why after a few years of frenetic study I decided to create this little blog for German learners. I’ve enjoyed my island refuge very much and I hope that anyone who uses this blog and the resources collected here experiences the kind of joy that I have found in learning the language.

If you would like to use or comment on any task or resource, feel free to do so. Comments would be received with gratitude.

I am a teacher of English, German, History and Psychology at Box Hill High School in Melbourne, Victoria. I can be contacted at the school.

Kind regards,

Roslyn Green

Der Name dieses Blogs stammt aus einem bildhaften deutschen Wort: Sprachinsel. Das bedeutet ein kleines Gebiet, in dem eine andere Sprache gesprochen wird als in dem umliegenden Bereich (Duden). Am Anfang meines Deutschlernens ist mein eigenes Arbeitszimmer nach und nach eine Art Sprachinsel geworden, mit vielen Büchern und Wörterbüchern und deutschen Stimmen auf meinem iPod. So eine Sprachinsel kann eine Art Zuflucht werden. 

Dieser Blog ist auch eine kleine deutsche Sprachinsel, auf die man kommen kann, um mehr zu lernen und um Links zu Lernmaterialien und Lernstoff zu finden. 

Liebe Grüße,

Roslyn Green

Message from Nathaniel Smith

My name is Nathaniel Smith, and I am a German and History teacher at Box Hill High School. I am very pleased that Roslyn Green has included me in German Island, and hope that my contributions benefit students and teachers alike. I am passionate about language learning and linguistics, technology, games, and coffee!  You can find me on twitter as @Herr_Smith.

Hallo, ich heiße Nathaniel Smith. Ich bin Lehrer an der Box Hill High School. Vielen Dank an Roslyn Green für die Einladung. Ich freue mich auf die Möglichkeit Blogmitarbeiter zu sein! Ich interessiere mich für Sprachen, Sprachwissenschaft, Technologie, Videospiele und Kaffee! Twitter: @Herr_Smith

July, 2015

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