German proverbs & sayings quiz

Proverbs and sayings play a significant role in German culture, reflecting the wisdom, humor (yes, it exists), and values of the culture. These concise and often poetic expressions provide insights into German customs, beliefs, and everyday life.

Whether you’re a language enthusiast, a traveler, or simply curious about German culture, this quiz will put your knowledge to the test.

So, if you’re ready to embark on a linguistic and cultural journey through the German-speaking world, get ready to match the proverbs with their meanings, decipher their hidden messages, and discover the fascinating cultural insights behind these age-old sayings.

Viel Erfolg! (Good luck!)

1. What is the meaning of the saying “Aller Anfang ist schwer”?

A. [question][All good things come to those who wait.]

B. [correct][Every beginning is difficult.]

C. [question][Actions speak louder than words.]

[ANSWER][This proverb emphasizes the challenges that come with starting something new.]

2. “Wer A sagt, muss auch B sagen” translates to:

A. [question][Better late than never.]

B. [question][Don’t judge a book by its cover.]

C. [correct][If you start something, you should finish it.]

[ANSWER][Literally meaning “If you say A, you also have to say B”, this saying highlights the importance of following through with commitments and responsibilities.]

3. What is the German equivalent of the English saying “The early bird catches the worm”?

A. [correct][Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm.]

B. [question][Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst.]

C. [question][Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund.]

[ANSWER][These two sayings are exactly the same in German and English.]

4. “Ein Unglück kommt selten allein” means:

A. [question][Every cloud has a silver lining.]

B. [question][Practice makes perfect.]

C. [correct][Misfortunes rarely come alone.]

[ANSWER][It suggests that when something unfortunate happens, it is often followed by more difficulties or challenges.]

5. What is the German equivalent of the proverb “Actions speak louder than words”?

A. [correct][Taten sagen mehr als Worte.]

B. [question][Lügen haben kurze Beine.]

C. [question][Aller Anfang ist schwer.]

[ANSWER][Literally translated it means: “deeds say more than words”.]

6. What’s the German saying for “adding an unsolicited comment?”

A. [question][jemandem auf den Senkel gehen]

B. [correct][seinen Senf dazugeben]

C. [question][einen Sockenschuss haben]

[ANSWER][Literally it means “adding one’s mustard”. This expression is believed to have originated in the 17th century. During that time, mustard was considered a spice that made any meal more enjoyable, even if it didn’t necessarily go with it. All the hosts of that era, whether desired or not, simply served mustard to their guests with every dish. Since this was as unpleasant as unsolicited advice, over time the proverb “to add one’s mustard” became established.]

7. What is the German equivalent of the saying “Better late than never”?

A. [correct][Besser spät als nie]

B. [question][Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm]

C. [question][Was lange währt, wird endlich gut]


8. What is the meaning of giving someone a “Wink mit dem Zaunpfahl” (wave with a fence post)?

A. [question][giving someone bad advice]

B. [question][giving someone a big compliment]

C. [correct][giving someone an obvious hint.]

[ANSWER][The underlying idea is that the fence post is so large that waving it cannot go unnoticed. So giving someone a “Wink mit dem Zaunpfahl” means giving someone an obvious hint.]

9. What is “Dicke Luft” (thick air)?

A. [question][a light and uplifting atmosphere]

B. [correct][a gloomy or oppressive atmosphere]

C. [question][an inaccurate weather report]

[ANSWER][It refers to the density of the atmosphere, as compressed air can escape explosively. For example when you enter a room while two people are arguing you may be entering an atmosphere of “dicke Luft”.]

10. When something is broken or failed, it is …

A. [correct][im Eimer]

B. [question][im Eisfach]

C. [question][im Kasten]

[ANSWER][It is broken, gone awry, a mess. It has (figuratively as well as literally) ended up in the trash bin (Mülleimer).]

11. In German we don’t have mnemonic devices, but we build …

A. [question][skewed steeples]

B. [correct][donkey bridges]

C. [question][donkey gates]

[ANSWER][“Eine Eselsbrücke bauen” literally means “building a donkey bridge” and it refers to making mnemonic devices. Why? Donkeys are generally averse to water and reluctant to cross even small streams as they can’t gauge the depth. Therefore, historically, small bridges were built for the animals, saving time and avoiding detours. Similarly, mnemonic devices can help us avoid detours of forgetfulness and memorize information faster.]

12. What’s the German equivalent of “comparing apples and oranges”?

A. [correct][Äpfel und Birnen vergleichen]

B. [question][Bananen und Birnen vergleichen]

C. [question][Äpfel und Tomaten vergleichen]

[ANSWER][When you compare “apples and pears” in German you are drawing comparisons between incomparable things.]