German Language Blog

Sayings + Expressions 1 – the Will and the Thread Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Culture, Language, Traditions

Hi there! This is the first of some posts about great sayings and expressions in German. One of each every week. Many sound very wise in German. The language just helps you convey that wise, mysterious tone you want such sayings and expressions to have sometimes. Let’s start off with the saying!

Wo ein Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg.  

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Where exactly this saying comes from is difficult to say. It is a saying, so it probably just came up through oral communication. There are plenty of citations of books where authors used this saying, and sometimes even modified it a little. For example: Wo ein Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg – fragt sich nur, wohin (where there is a will, there is a way – but the question is, where to).


The saying is used as it is used in English. If you want to do something, become the US president for example, then there is a way. So it motivates – you can do it!




Den Faden verlieren 

To lose the thread

This expression originates in the Greek saga of the Minotaur and the labyrinth on the island of Crete. Ariadne, daughter of the island’s king Minos, gave Theseus some wool, so he can use it to find his way out of the labyrinth. So he could not lose the thread, as this way he would be doomed.


Ich verliere den Faden! It is used a lot in everyday language, and also in formal settings it is used frequently. It is especially used to when you are talking, but forgot what you were talking about. In combination with this you can use Wo war ich stehen geblieben? (Where was I?), which I will discuss another time. For example:

Und dann… Tut mir Leid, ich habe den Faden verloren. Wo war ich stehen geblieben?

– Du hast vom Fußballspiel vom letzten Wochenende erzählt.

Ach richtig! Danke! …

(And then… I’m sorry, I have lost the thread. Where was I?

– You were talking about the football game of last weekend.

Ah right! Thanks! …


Like I said, it is used a lot in German. Even though the English version exists, I have not heard it that much in speech.


Do you use these two (a lot)?


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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.


  1. Tina Wolter:

    In English it is “losing your train of thought” but people will understand losing the thread.

    How about, “dreimal abgeschnitten und immernoch zu kurtz”?

    This is not an idiom but a wonderful expression. It loses in translation, “trimmed it three times and it’s still too short!”

    It may be dated. My father used it often, but he is of the generation now in their late 80’s.

  2. Cat M:

    I’m surprised you haven’t heard this much in English. I’m British and both of these phrases (or variations thereof) are quite common.
    That said, I didn’t know they were also used in German, so this is useful 🙂

  3. rui romao:

    Hallo, i think that in Portuguese is “já perdi o fio à meada”. It has the same meaning and is used quite a lot too.