German Language Blog

German Sayings + Expressions 23: Wishes Posted by on Aug 8, 2019 in Culture

Do you have any Wünsche (wishes) or Verlangen (desires)? Then it is helpful to have words to express this. Today in our sayings and expressions, we look at these wants and how we can accommodate them in the German language.

For older posts, please follow this link. Now, let’s start with the Sprichwort (saying)!

Der Wunsch ist der Vater des Gedankens

Image by Vil Son at

Literally: The wish is the father of the thought

The wish is father to the thought

This is not an originally German Sprichwort, but comes from Shakespeare’s Henry IV. However, even Shakespeare borrowed it from Latin! It definitely made its way into the German language.

Der Wunsch ist der Vater des Gedankens is something you say when somebody sees something the way they imagine it, not the way it actually is. So basically, your hopes led you to believe something that is not true.

For example:

Ich glaube, er findet mich toll!

– Bist du dir da sicher? Er hat dich noch nicht mal angeguckt.

Ja, klar! Ich frage ihn, ob er mit mir ausgeht.

– Der Wunsch ist der Vater des Gedankens…

(I think he likes me!

– Are you sure? He did not even look at you.

Yes, of course! I’ll ask him to go out with me.

– The wish is the father to the thought

etw. zu wünschen übrig lassen

Image by Merve Aydın on Unsplash


Literally: to leave sth. to wish for

To leave sth. to be desired

This Ausdruck simply means that something does not meet Erwartungen (expectations) (nice idiom there is nicht die Erwartungen erfüllen (to not fulfill the expectations)) or Wünsche of the Verbraucher (consumer).

It comes from the way an interaction goes when you are in a shop to buy something, and the staff “fulfills your wishes”.

Let’s say, you go to a German shop and you get some Pralinen (chocolates) at a Schokoladenladen (chocolate shop), the conversation could go something like this:

Ich hätte gern sechs Pralinen in einer Schachtel.

  • Welche Geschmacksrichtungen hätten Sie den gern?

Drei Kirschpralinen, zwei Mozartkugeln und eine gefüllte Praline mit Mousse au Chocolat.

  • Sehr gern. Hätten Sie sonst noch einen Wunsch?

Nein, danke. Das wär’s,

(I would like six chocolates in a box.

  • Which flavors would you like?

Three cherry chocolates, two Mozart balls and a filled chocolate with chocolate mousse.

  • Very well. Do you any other wish?

No, thanks. That’s all.)

So as you can see here, you are asked for your Wünsche. Usually, you say etw. zu wünschen übrig lassen regarding a service or product. Let’s look at some examples:

Der Abend war wunderbar. Das Essen hat sehr gut geschmeckt und die Bedienung ließ nichts zu wünschen übrig.

(The evening was wonderful. The food was very good and the service left nothing to be desired.)

Das neue Handy von Birne lässt wenig zu wünschen übrig.

(The new phone by Pear leaves little to be desired.)

Finally, a slightly different formulation goes by Wünsche offen lassen (“leave wishes open”). It means the same, so then the sentences above turn into:

Der Abend war wunderbar. Das Essen hat sehr gut geschmeckt und die Bedienung ließ keine Wünsche offen.

(The evening was wonderful. The food was very good and the service left no wishes open.)

Das neue Handy von Birne lässt wenige Wünsche offen.

Notice here that this second formulation uses the noun Wünsche whereas our expression above uses wünschen, the verb. This makes little difference in practice, but it is a fun distinction to note.

Do you have these in your language? How do you use Wünsche in your language? Have you used these idioms before? Let me know in the comments below!

Tags: , , , ,
Keep learning German with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

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.