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German Words You Don’t Want To Mix Up Posted by on Jul 11, 2018 in Language

Guten Tag! Making mistakes is a big part of language learning, and often mistakes involve muddling words up – either because they sound similar, because they are the same (but have different meanings), or because they are ‘false friends’ – words that seem like they should mean one thing, but they actually mean another. This can lead to some very funny sentences, which will definitely raise some eyebrows! In this fun post, I will take you through some German words you do not want to mix up!

Image via Pixabay.

Nacht vs. nackt

English speakers often struggle with the soft ‘ch’ sound in German, so it often comes out as a hard ‘k’ sound, instead. This can lead to pronouncing the word die Nacht (night) like the word nackt (naked)! Avoid this by practising the soft ‘ch’ sound – it sounds a bit like a cat hissing!

Mutter vs. Mutter

You most probably know the word die Mutter as meaning mother. But there is another word, which has exactly the same spelling and gender (die Mutter), which is a type of screw nut. There are lots of different types of Mutter in the technology world – Vierkantmutter, Nutmutter, Kreuzlochmutter… The way to tell these ‘Mutters’ apart is by context, which should be easy enough, because I doubt there are any situations where you would ‘go over to your nut’s house’ or ‘screw your mother onto something’ (I hope).

Die Taube vs. Der Taube

Some words in German are exactly the same, but their genders are different. In this case, die Taube (feminine) means pigeon, while der Taube (masculine) means a deaf person. This is why genders are important. Learn your genders!

Image via Pixabay.

Kurios vs. Neugierig

This is what we call a false friend. The German word kurios looks like it should mean curious, but it doesn’t. It means odd. So if you say Ich bin kurious, you are essentially declaring to the world that you are odd. The correct word you need is the German word for curious: neugierig.

Langweilig vs. gelangweilt

Langweilig is the word everyone knows to mean ‘boring’. So it only makes sense to declare ‘Ich bin langweilig’ if you’re bored. But this actually means ‘I am boring’, which you probably never want to say. The correct way to say you’re bored is either by saying Mir ist langweilig, or saying Ich bin gelangweilt. Both are acceptable!

Schwul vs. schwül

This is one of those examples that shows the importance of pronunciation, and how an Umlaut can change a word. The word schwul means gay, while the word schwül means humid. So you may receive some confused looks when you complain about how ‘gay’ the air is today. To avoid this mistake, work on perfecting your pronunciation of words with Umlauts in them. If you would be interested in a post on this with audio clips, let me know in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed this post! In part two, I will bring you some words that you definitely don’t want to mix up!

Bis bald!


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About the Author:Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze. I'm half English and half German. I write here because I'm passionate about my languages and my roots. I also work as a translator & group fitness instructor.


  1. Roger:

    It would be great to have audio clips to hear how things actually sound.


  2. Jim:

    A post with audio clips would be great, especially for the ch sound.

    • Constanze:

      @Jim Thanks Jim, noted!

  3. Joseph T. Madawela:

    definitely! I would be innterested in the proper way to pronounce the umlaut

  4. Angelika Davey:

    Great post again, as usual!
    Just a slight correction: die Taube = the pigeon and also the deaf woman. Der Taube is male, as you said.

    • Constanze:

      @Angelika Davey Thanks for the clarification, Angelika! And thanks for reading. 🙂

  5. Angelika Davey:

    Great post again as usual!
    But a slight correction: Die Taube is the pigeon AND a deaf woman, only a deaf man is der Taube.

  6. Ruth:

    I need audio to be sure I am pronouncing things correctly. Great article though.

    • Constanze:

      @Ruth I am posting it today! Look out for it! 🙂