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Monday, March 16, 2015

Please Don't... | Mistranslation Monday

Most people reading this blog are probably familiar with the German word for "please," which is bitte. Well, this simple word actually comes from the verb bitten.

Okay. So, if bitte means "please," then the verb bitten probably means "to please," right? 


But, this is a common mistake that Germans make when writing emails and requests. So, instead of translating "Ich bitte dich..." to something like "I am asking you..." (with "ask" as the proper translation of bitten in this instance), Germans sometimes accidentally start of an email with "I please you..."

And when you are getting such an email from a coworker, all you can think is, "Please don't."

And like all mistranslations that the German boyfriend and I see quite often, this one has now become a normal part of our conversations with each other.

"Marco, I please you to help me make dinner."

"Hey Courtney, I please you to bring me the ketchup."

Hopefully we don't accidentally use this one in front of guests, because they could get the wrong idea.


  1. I am German, living in the US with my American husband... your posts are quite entertaining for us as a bi-national couple living your life "the other way around".

    However, I have never heard a German say "I please you"... that is interesting! ;)

  2. That's really funny! As an English teacher to Germans, I'm surprised that I've never heard that one before!

    Tobias and I also have a few things that we say wrong on purpose in both languages to be funny. For example..."ain't no [verb]ing". As an English teacher, I ought to be ashamed of myself.

  3. Haha I love incorporating bad translations in our every day talk between the bf and I. One of my favourites is "it's not logic!", which the Flemish people say quite often. I also like to literally translate things from Dutch to English, like the work of spatula, directly translates to "pan licker" so it's fun to call the spatular that instead now :)

  4. Hahaha. Turning it the other way around, Marco will sometimes purposely repeat my mistakes in German because he thinks they are funny, then I continue to use them. He sometimes realizes too late that that's a bad idea, because now these things are ingrained in my head as correct.

  5. Haha, I love it! I tend to use "in the near of" in English as a private joke with the hubs.


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