German Car-Inspired Phrases

Given that Germany is so car-crazy, it should come as no surprise that references to cars are in the language as well. Use these phrases to sprice up your German sound like a native speaker.

Wie ein Auto gucken

Wie ein Auto gucken is a very popular German idiom. Literally translated as “to peer like a car does” is the German equivalent to ‘a blank stare’ and calls to mind the image of a car’s headlights being like staring eyes.


Abschleppen literally means “to tow”, but it’s also a slang term for picking someone up in a bar. Compare it to the British English term “to pull” with the same dual meaning.

Ich bin auf 180!

Ich bin auf 180! Is not an expression you want to hear. Meaning “I’m at 180 (kmph)” it means that someone is absolutely furious.


Spätzünder means "late igniter," and is German for "late bloomer".

Gib gas!

Gib gas! is something you might say to a dawdler. Literally meaning “give it some gas!” it’s a colloquial way of telling someone to hurry up.


Do you know someone who is a Spassbremse? In German, this person is a “fun brake” but in English they’d be a “killjoy”.

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I'm the founder of Deutsch Gym. In the past I've worked in startups as a marketer and frontend developer and surfed a few waves along the way. I moved to Berlin from Ireland a few years ago and learned German - prompting the idea for Deutsch Gym.
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