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German Idioms 33: Procrastination Posted by on Dec 29, 2021 in Culture, Holidays, Idioms, Language

It’s the holiday time, and we’re nearing Silvester (NYE), and a new year! And I have to say: the lazy holiday days are not the most motivating to sit down at your computer and write a post. But we tell ourselves to do the important things first, or to not procrastinate. So here we are! We have all kinds of Sprichwörter (sayings) and Redewendungen (expressions) related to procrastination, but what do they say in German? Here’s a Sprichwort and a Redewendung that are related to procrastinating in German.

For previous posts in the series on German Idioms, please follow this link.

Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.

procrastination German idioms

Sometimes pizza is just more important than the gym (Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash)

Literally: What you can deliver today, do not postpone it till tomorrow.

Procrastination is the thief of time

(Do you know another or better translation? Let me know in the comments below!)

This is a Sprichwort seemingly as old as time. While I could not find a definitive origin for the German version of this Sprichwort, it might even come from the English version. “Procrastination is the thief of time” showed up first in the 1742 long poem “Night-Thoughts” by English poet Edward Young. It was used many times after; perhaps the Germans made their own version of this.

However, there’s a good chance that the Germans came up with it all on their own. The idea of procrastinating things and saying “I’ll deal with that tomorrow” is as old as time. So it’s probably hard to find an actual origin for this Sprichwort. One thing that’s clear is that it is a common one, and you might see it all over the place. Mostly a parent telling their child that they really should do their homework today, not tomorrow.

I remember my history teacher in high school telling us this for our homework. Don’t wait till the last day, but do the homework on the same day it was assigned. What he didn’t know is that hanging out with friends might matter more to a 15-year old than the exact circumstances of the Berliner Mauerbau (building of the Berlin wall).

Anyway! Without further ado, here’s an example of use. Expect to use this Sprichwort in the exact same way as you would in English.

Warum machst du die Hausarbeit erst jetzt? Du musst schon am Montag abgeben!

– Dann arbeite ich halt das ganze Wochenende.

Mensch, du weißt doch: Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.

(Why do you only do the term paper today? You have to already hand it in on Monday!

– Well, then I’ll work all weekend.

Goodness, but you know: Procrastination is the thief of time.)

On the other hand, if you feel pressure to do everything at once, without planning, you might get burned out. Good planning is therefore also important. So it is also good to know and say to yourself sometimes:

Das geht nicht von heute auf morgen!

procrastination German Idioms

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Literally: That’s not possible from today to tomorrow!

It can’t be done overnight!

(Do you know another or better translation? Let me know in the comments below!)

Von heute auf morgen is a nice Redewendung that, again, is thin on historic origin. Regardless, von heute auf morgen is quite a flexible and useful Redewendung. In this case, I used it to say that it cannot be done overnight. But if it is? Das geht von heute auf morgen. You can say that if something can be done very quickly, which would normally take longer than a day.

So the person that didn’t do their Hausarbeit might say that. Here’s what that can look like as a continuation of the above conversation:

– Ach, das schaffe ich von heute auf morgen!

Meinst du?

– Ja ja, kein Stress.

(- Ah, I can do it overnight!

You think?

– Yes yes, no stress.)

To be fair, von heute auf morgen doesn’t mean EXACTLY overnight. It just means a lot faster for something that would normally take longer than a day. Use is both formal and informal, and it is very common!

Have you heard of these two before, and have you  used them? What are they in your language? Let me know in the comments below!

I’m going to go back to my Weihnachtsplätzchen and lazy armchair now.

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


Comments:

  1. Johan van Breda:

    Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute, sagen alle faulen Leute.
    Van uitstel kom afstel. (Afrikaans)

    • Sten:

      @Johan van Breda Oh the Afrikaans one is the same as in Dutch! 🙂

      And I love that German one haha! Poor lazy people.


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