10 German Exclamations When You’re Startled (with Example Sentences)

In every language, there are certain exclamations that native speakers use all the time. Whenever you’re startled or just frustrated with a situation, you can choose two ways: German swear words or these German exclamations.

Easy German made a short but funny video on these expressions:

In this blog post, we listed 10 of the most common German exclamations – click on any of them to learn more about them!

GermanEnglish
Oh! / Ach!Oh!
Was?!What?!
Um Himmels willen!For heaven’s sake!
Mein Gott!My God!
Oh nein!Oh no!
Huch!Oops!
Donnerwetter!Good heavens! / Wow!
Ach du meine Güte!Oh my goodness!
Zum Teufel!What the heck!
Himmel!Heavens!

What are German exclamations?

But first, we have to answer the question itself: what are German exclamations?!

Effortless Answers

German exclamations (Ausrufe) are words and phrases used to express strong emotions and/or reactions.

These exclamations in German are used in everyday conversations and can add a lot to your German sentences. If you already understand them, that’s the first step; if you want to use them, that’s the next one!

In no time, you’ll use these German chunks like a native speaker.

1. Oh! / Ach! (Oh!)

These are exclamations often used when someone is surprised or startled by something unexpected.

Oh!” and “Ach!” can express mild surprise, realization, or even a sudden understanding of something.

They can be used in different contexts ranging from noticing a friend in an unexpected place to realizing you forgot something important.

In a real-life situation, it could sound like this:

  • Anna: Oh! Das habe ich nicht erwartet. (Oh! I didn’t expect that.)
  • Ben: Ja, das war wirklich überraschend. (Yes, that was really surprising.)

2. Was?! (What?!)

Was?!” translates to “What?!” and is used when someone hears or sees something shocking or surprising.

It’s a strong expression of disbelief or shock.

For example, if someone tells you an unbelievable piece of news, you might respond with “Was?!” to express your astonishment.

In German dialogues:

  • Markus: Ich habe im Lotto gewonnen! (I won the lottery!)
  • Lena: Was?! Das ist unglaublich! (What?! That’s unbelievable!)

3. Um Himmels willen! (For heaven’s sake!)

This phrase, meaning “For heaven’s sake!” is used when something alarming or concerning happens.

It expresses a mix of surprise and concern in response to bad or startling news. It’s a way of saying the seriousness or unexpected nature of a situation.

A real situation could be:

  • Julia: Der Hund ist ausgebüxt! (The dog has escaped!)
  • Tom: Um Himmels willen, wir müssen ihn suchen! (For heaven’s sake, we have to find him!)

4. Mein Gott! (My God!)

Mein Gott!” translates to “My God!” and is used when someone is very startled or shocked. This exclamation conveys a deep sense of surprise, disbelief, or amazement. It’s often used in dramatic or intense situations.

When you’re totally shocked:

  • Karin: Das Auto ist völlig kaputt. (The car is completely wrecked.)
  • Erik: Mein Gott, was ist passiert?! (My God, what happened?!)

5. Oh nein! (Oh no!)

Oh nein!” means “Oh no!” and is usually used when something goes wrong or when faced with an unexpected and often unfortunate situation.

It’s an expression of disappointment or concern.

When something goes wrong, you could say:

  • Claudia: Wir haben den Flug verpasst. (We missed the flight.)
  • Peter: Oh nein, was machen wir jetzt? (Oh no, what do we do now?)
A wide notebook page featuring a bold, dynamic exclamation mark in comic book style, illustrating German exclamations. The background has faint lines and a worn look, adding a sense of motion and energy typical of comic book art

6. Huch! (Oops!)

Huch!” is a mild exclamation of surprise, similar to “Oops!” in English.

It’s used when someone is taken by surprise, usually in a harmless or slightly amusing situation. If you bump into someone unexpectedly, you might say “Huch!

Let’s imagine this situation:

  • Felix: Huch, wo kommst du denn her? (Oops, where did you come from?)
  • Sabine: Ich war die ganze Zeit hinter dir. (I was behind you the whole time.)

7. Donnerwetter! (Good heavens!)

Donnerwetter!” can be translated to “Good heavens!” or “Wow!”

It is used to express strong surprise, amazement, or in some cases even admiration.

This German exclamation can be used in both positive and negative contexts to emphasize the intensity of what is being described.

An exchange with this German exclamation could look like this:

  • Lara: Ich habe den Marathon gewonnen! (I won the marathon!)
  • Jonas: Donnerwetter, das ist fantastisch! (Good heavens, that’s fantastic!)

8. Ach du meine Güte! (Oh my goodness!)

This phrase means “Oh my goodness!” and is used when someone is alarmed or strongly surprised.

It is all about a mix of shock and concern. It’s often used in response to startling or troubling news.

You can use this common German phrase like this:

  • Nina: Das Haus nebenan brennt. (The house next door is on fire.)
  • Michael: Ach du meine Güte, ruf die Feuerwehr! (Oh my goodness, call the fire department!)

9. Zum Teufel! (What the heck!)

Zum Teufel!” translates to “What the heck!” and is used when something unexpected or frustrating happens.

It’s a way of expressing anger, frustration, or disbelief in situations that are annoying or problematic.

When you’re frustrated:

  • Tanja: Mein Handy ist weg! (My phone is gone!)
  • Oliver: Zum Teufel, wo hast du es zuletzt gesehen? (What the heck, where did you see it last?)

10. Himmel! (Heavens!)

Himmel!” means “Heavens!” and is used when someone is startled or shocked.

It states a sense of surprise or alarm and is often used in dramatic situations.

For example, if you narrowly avoid an accident, you might exclaim “Himmel!

Imagine a dramatic situation:

  • Alex: Wir haben fast einen Unfall gehabt! (We almost had an accident!)
  • Petra: Himmel, das war knapp! (Heavens, that was close!)

Practice German exclamations with our Full Practice Worksheet Library

Fill in the blanks with the correct exclamations in German!

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Learn German language phrases with Conversation Based Chunking

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By doing so, you’ll automatically strengthen the chunks used in their natural habitat.

If you sign up now, you’ll get your first German Conversation Based Chunking Guide with an essential chunking list, my favourite resources to learn German and access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library!

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