German is a language with a long history of great writing. It’s no wonder that there are a lot of excellent quotes that have been passed down through the centuries!
In order to help you become a more eloquent German speaker, GermanPod101 has compiled a list of the best German quotes in several different categories.
As you study these quotes, you’ll also start to make important connections concerning the grammatical structures being used. The end result? You’ll pick up German grammar without even realizing it!
Table of Contents
He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.
Whether you have big plans for the future or a few concerns about an upcoming project, you’ll find motivation and inspiration in these German quotes about success!
Erst denken, dann handeln. / “First think, then act.”
This first quote needs little explanation—it fits perfectly into the English sentence’s framework.
Taten sagen mehr als Worte. / “Deeds say more than words.”
In English, actions “speak louder than” words; in German, they simply talk more. Remember the comparative structure mehr als (“more than”), as you’ll definitely need it in the future!
Wer zwei Hasen auf einmal jagt, bekommt keinen. / “He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.”
This is a particularly evocative quote if you imagine the wide-open fields of Austria or Switzerland, with rabbits hopping about every which way. If you spend your time switching between your goals, you’ll never catch up to any of them. Could this have something to do with language learning, too?
→ See our list of the Top 11 Quotes About Success in German for more words of wisdom!
What does ‘life’ mean to you? Broaden your horizons with these German quotes about life, and gain some cultural insight.
Wenn die Menschen nur über das sprächen, was sie begreifen, dann würde es sehr still auf der Welt sein. / “If people only talked about things they understand, then it would be very quiet in the world.”
Now that you’re learning German, you can finally start quoting Einstein in the original! Yes, this quote is attributed to German-Swiss patent clerk Albert Einstein, and it reflects his well-known traits of curiosity and valuing all people equally.
Man reist nicht, um anzukommen, sondern um zu reisen. / “One does not travel to arrive, but to travel.”
Perhaps even more so than quoting Einstein, quoting Goethe is bound to win you points among Germans who know their literature. This quote holds up well, even after several hundred years!
Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer man tut es. / “There is nothing good, if you don’t do it.”
This quote comes from Erich Kästner, one of the most talented German children’s book authors. It might sound very pessimistic at the beginning, but Kästner is saying that you should spread the good things in the world—no one will do it for you.
Don’t worry about eggs that haven’t been laid yet.
Time is what binds us to our own mortality, and it’s the topic of many German language quotes. Read through the sayings below and get a better idea of how time is perceived in Germany.
Kümmere Dich nicht um ungelegte Eier. / “Don’t worry about eggs that haven’t been laid yet.”
On the surface, this quote might sound similar to “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” But sich kümmern um is a verb construction meaning “worry about” or “be concerned with.” So what this quote really means is that you shouldn’t spend your time thinking about things that are outside of your control.
Ehre die Alten, verspotte sie nie. Sie waren wie du und du wirst wie sie. / “Honor your elders, never make fun. They were like you and you’ll be like them.”
It doesn’t quite rhyme in English, but in German, it’s an excellent little couplet that you could imagine being said by a kindly old grandmother. Verspotten is a rather rare word, meaning “to mock” or “to jeer at someone.”
Are you madly in love with someone? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think you’ll enjoy these German quotes on love!
Wenn ein Mann sofort macht, was eine Frau will, bekommt er nicht mehr Liebe, sondern mehr Aufträge. / “When a man immediately does what a woman wants, he doesn’t receive love, but more orders.”
This pithy quote is attributed to the actor Stefan Schwartz, a well-known recurring actor in the famous crime drama Tatort. The word Auftrag (“order”) here denotes the sense of assignments or military orders, which is exactly the sentiment we think Stefan was going for!
Liebe ist, wenn aus dem ich und du ein wir entsteht. / “Love is when you and I form a ‘we’.”
The essence of this German quote is preserved in the translation, though this cannot be said of the structure. Aus… entstehen means that out of something else, a second thing arises or forms. In the English translation, it’s an active verb (“we form”), but in German, it happens spontaneously. Also note that in German, the articles are used: out of the “you and I,” a “we” comes to be.
Liebe ist der Wunsch etwas zu geben, nicht etwas zu erhalten. / “Love is the wish to give, not to receive.”
Bertolt Brecht, one of the most influential German authors, is mainly known for his political works, which were directed against fascist ideas. But as this quote shows, he also had his soft spot.
It’s called friendship because with friends, one can accomplish anything.
Friends are one of life’s greatest joys and necessities. Here are a couple of German quotes about friendship that we think you’ll relate to!
Menschen, mit denen man lachen, weinen und tanzen kann, sind die Menschen, die das Leben ausmachen. / “People you can laugh, cry, and dance with are the people who make up life.”
This quote is not only heartwarming, but it’s also a great illustration of German grammar. Mit denen could translate to “with whom” in English, but you lose the fact that it’s specifically plural. A more word-for-word rendering might be: “People with whom one can laugh, cry, and dance are the people that make up life.” Also note that German makes great use of commas here, where only two are fully necessary in English. You can usually identify a German writing comments online by their heavy comma usage!
Es heißt Freundschaft, weil man mit Freunden alles schafft. / “It’s called friendship because with friends one can accomplish anything.”
A swing and a miss with this translation—it’s built on a pun in German that doesn’t work in English. The German word Freundschaft (“friendship”) ends in -schaft, which is pronounced almost exactly the same way as the verb schafft (“accomplishes” / “creates”).
→ Do you want even more German Quotes About Friendship? We have you covered!
Who doesn’t enjoy savoring some good food now and then? The following German quotes reflect the country’s passion for hearty dishes and good times.
Essen ist ein Bedürfnis, Genießen ist eine Kunst. / “Eating is a need, enjoying is an art.”
Here we can see how the gerund works in German. In English, the concept “eating” takes an -ing ending; in German, we just use the infinitive -en ending to make a noun out of a verb. All nouns formed in this way are neuter (though you wouldn’t know it from this quote).
Eine gute Küche ist das Fundament allen Glücks. / “A good kitchen is the foundation of all happiness.”
Many Germans with good English assume that they can simply use Fundament in English the same way, but we almost never use it as a noun in English.
He who rests grows rusty.
Maintaining a healthy body and mind should be everyone’s top priority, because only in good health can we accomplish other important things. The following German quotes about health offer advice and wisdom on the topic!
Wer rastet, der rostet. / “He who rests grows rusty.”
The wordplay in this quote actually carries over into English! This is the kind of thing that would appear on a motivational poster in a German office. It reminds you to never stop striving mentally and to always keep active physically to avoid bad health later on.
Mit der Gesundheit ist es wie mit dem Salz: Man bemerkt nur, wenn es fehlt. / “Health is like salt: you only notice it when it’s missing.”
A perfectly seasoned dish tastes, well, perfectly seasoned. But if salt is missing, it tastes bland. This carries over nicely into the topic of health, as things seem normal until you feel sick.
You may notice that, in German, there are many more words before the colon than in English. This is because when we make two comparisons like this in German, we literally say: “With the health it is like with the salt.” The English style would be correct too, but getting to a high level in German means understanding when to correctly use each style for the best effect.
Nobody that ever did their best regretted it later.
We know that studying can be difficult, especially when other things are vying for your attention. We hope that these German quotes about knowledge and hard work will empower you to continue your studies and advance your language skills.
Dumme Gedanken hat jeder, aber der Weise verschweigt sie. / “Everyone has stupid thoughts, but the sage keeps quiet about them.”
This quote by Wilhelm Busch, a German humorist, provides a great example of a verb in German that simply doesn’t exist in English: schweigen. It means “to keep silent,” and when we add the prefix ver– to it, it becomes “to silence.”
When it comes to language learning, you’re probably going to make lots of mistakes. By staying silent and listening or reading more, you’ll pick up the natural patterns of the language and end up speaking more correctly!
Aller Anfang ist schwer. / “All beginnings are hard.”
Just from looking at the words, you might be confused about why the German verb is singular but the English is plural. The secret lies in the word aller (“all”). Because it’s in the genitive case, what’s going on here grammatically is: “Every single beginning is hard.”
Niemand, der jemals sein Bestes gegeben hat, hat es später bereut. / “Nobody that ever did their best regretted it later. “
Although this is a quote from George Halas, an American football coach, it’s still well-known in German. It’s completely true, too—it’s impossible to regret trying your hardest at something.
→ Of course, GermanPod101 also has a list of the Top 10 Quotes About Language Learning if you need more inspiration.
Der Ball ist rund. Das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten. / “The ball is round. The game lasts 90 minutes.”
This somewhat odd quote from Sepp Herberger is extremely famous in Germany; it was even used at the beginning of the film Lola Rennt (“Run Lola Run”). It symbolizes the most basic of theories behind football, and kind of helps to keep people grounded if they get crazy about the sport.
Wenn ich merke, dass ich Spiele nicht mehr beeinflusse, keine Tore vorbereite und keine Tore schieße, ist es Zeit einzupacken. / “When I notice that I’m no longer influencing the game, setting up any goals, or taking any shots, it’s time to pack it up.”
It turns out that football quotes can double as life quotes a lot of the time! When you find yourself in a situation where you’re just a passive observer, it might be time to rethink where you ought to be.
As you can see, Germans have an excellent variety of quotable quotes to learn. It’s amazing how much vocabulary and grammar you can see illustrated in just a handful of interesting quotations!
GermanPod101.com has several more great pages on quotes, ready-made into lessons for you—and that’s not to mention the videos, written guides, and podcast. The better you know German, the better you’ll be able to recognize and interpret German quotes whenever you see them. Maybe you’ll even end up coining your own!
Which of these German quotes is your favorite, and why? Let us (and your fellow German learners) know in the comments!
The post The Best German Quotes To Spice Up Your Conversations appeared first on GermanPod101.com Blog.
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