and welcome to our German Word of the Day, this time with a look at the meaning of
Now, I spelled that with a capital B which means that it’s a noun. And of course that raises the question whether it is der, die or das Bescheid.
Well, technically it’s der Bescheid. But in practice we won’t need the article, because Bescheid is super chill about these things.
Like… Germans were like “Hey, Bescheid, do you want us to use an article with you like with all the other nouns?” and Bescheid was just like “Nah bros, it’s cool. Who am I to make you guys use an article. I’m just a normal word.”
“Hey Emanuel, you asked us to tell you when your intro is starting to waste our time… well, it just started.”
Oh… okay, cool. Let’s jump right in, then. Thanks for the heads-up :)
Those of you who have been learning German for a while might have an inkling that the be- in Bescheid could be the infamous be-prefix that we know from verbs like bekommen or bestellen.
Well, you’re spot on.
Bescheid is actually a member of one of the craziest word-families ever: the scheid-family. I think I’ve mentioned this in another article already but I’m just gonna say it again, because it’s just so interesting.
The scheid– family is the family of some really famous words like unterscheiden (to distinguish), entscheiden (to decide) or der Abschied (the good bye). But what makes it crazy is that it’s also the family of Scheiße, shit and science. Oh and schizophrenia.
Yup, science is akin to shit and schizophrenia. Just say that next time one of those blue pillers is using “science” to tell you the earth is “a ball”. That’ll shake ’em up from their delusion.
Seriously though, the core idea of the scheid-family is pretty much captured by another member: to shed. It’s the idea of parting, separating and a core part of science is differentiating between instances. It’s a bit of mind yoga, no doubt, but it kind of makes sense to me.
Anyway, back to Bescheid. There’s this verb scheiden in German. Nowadays, scheiden is pretty much only used in the phrasing sich scheiden lassen, which means to get divorced. But back a few centuries scheiden had a very broad sense of parting, separating. The verb bescheiden was at first just a variation of that but there was one rather specific use from old bureaucratic German that is relevant today. Bescheiden was used in a sense of making a decision about someone’s claim. So basically analogous to entscheiden (to decide) only that it was a decision for someone else.
In law speech you can actually still find this bescheiden today
- Der Antrag wurde positiv beschieden.
- The application was “passed a positive ruling”.
And this leads us to the noun der Bescheid because a Bescheid is basically the written form of such a decision. Suppose you apply for unemployment benefits. If you’re actually entitled to it, you will get a letter with a Bewilligungsbescheid (notice of granting). Or if you did commit a petty offense, you might get a Bußgeldbescheid (penalty notice). Or if you’re German and you keep flashing your long compounds in people’s faces, you might get a Screwthatimgonnalearnspanishbescheid… you get the gist.
Now, whatever the reason may be, this noun Bescheid made its way into the mainstream as part of fixed phrasings that are super super common in today’s German. The first one is Bescheid sagen (and the variation Bescheid geben) and it is basically the German counterpart of let someone know. For mundane pieces of info.
- Warum hast du mir nicht Bescheid gesagt?
- Why didn’t you tell me, that you need help?
- “Entschuldigung, bei der Damentoilette ist ein Delphin im Klobecken.”
“Ah, ich kümmer mich gleich drum. Danke für’s Bescheidsagen.”
- “Excuse me, in the ladies restroom there’s a dolphin in the toilet bowl.”
“Oh, I’ll take care of it in a second. Thanks for telling/letting us know.”
- Nächstes Mal sag mal bitte kurz Bescheid, bevor du vorbeikommst, damit ich aufräumen kann.
- Next time, please give me a little heads-up that you drop by so I can clean.
- “Wenn einer von euch noch ein Bier will, sagt Bescheid.”
- “If someone of you want another beer, lemmi know.”
“You may know!”
Meh… I tried to use a witty reply in the last one, but it probably doesn’t work. The German version is pretty common though.
Anyway, I think due to its bureaucratic origins, Bescheid sagen does feel a tiny little bit more official. So it’s not the best choice when things get emotional.
- Sag mir Bescheid, warum du traurig bist.
- Sag mir, warum du traurig bist.
- Tell me, why you’re sad.
The version with Bescheid sounds like all you want is a quick heads up, and it doesn’t sound empathetic at all.
Anyway, overall Bescheid sagen is SUPER common and you’ll definitely hear it in daily life a lot.
Now, the other common phrasing with Bescheid is Bescheid wissen. It’s not as a common as Bescheid sagen, but still good to know. The meaning is pretty self explanatory, I think. Bescheid wissen is about “being in the know” about something. Usually, it is used for single bits of info, like a date or something, but it can also be about a somewhat bigger story.
- “Beim Meeting morgen bitte auf keinen Fall die kaputte Rolltreppe ansprechen. Das eskaliert nur.”
“Okay, weiß ich Bescheid.”
- “At the meeting tomorrow, please do NOT bring up the broken escalator. That’s just gonna escalate.”
“Okay, saved/roger that/now I know.”
- Alle auf der Party wussten über Thomas und Maria Bescheid.
- Everyone at the party knew/were in the know about Thomas and Maria.
- Nur damit du Bescheid weißt… wenn du noch einmal dein dreckiges Geschirr in der Spüle stehen lässt, packe ich es in dein Bett.
- Just so you know… if you leave your dirty dishes in the sink one more time, I will put them into your bed.
So these were the two really common uses of the noun Bescheid.
But that’s not all for today. We can’t talk about Bescheid without talking about bescheiden.
Now you might be like “Wait, you told us about bescheiden already, this old verb that has fallen out of use for the most part.”
And you’re right, we mentioned that already. But bescheiden is actually also the German word for humble, modest.
- Ich bin richtig, richtig, richtig krass bescheiden. Ich bin bescheidener als du dir in deinen wildesten Träumen vorstellen kannst.
- I’m really really really freaking humble. I’m more humble than you can even imagine in your wildest dreams.
- Bescheidenheit ist eine Tugend.
- Humbleness is a virtue.
- In aller Bescheidenheit… meine Suppe ist die beste.
- In all modesty .. my soup is the best.
Does that tie in with der Bescheid? Well, not directly. But it does tie in with what we’ve learned about the family as a whole. The core of the family was the idea of separation. And when bescheiden was used with a self reference, it would carry the idea of separating, restricting yourself from something. This use is NOT around any more, but the idea of restriction is the base of the adjective bescheiden. Acually, that’s sometimes still the focus.
- Thomas ist in bescheidenen Verhältnissen aufgewachsen.
- Thomas grew up in humble circumstances.
The idea here is not that his family were super humble or something. It simply means that they didn’t have much.
- Der Service in dem Restaurant war mehr als bescheiden.
And this doesn’t mean that the service was super humble. It means that the service sucked. Because this notion of restriction, lack makes bescheiden a good family friendly stand-in for beschissen.
Which bring us full circle back to the beginning, the scheid-family and the connection between science and shit.
And that’s it for today. This was our look at Bescheid and bescheiden and in all modesty I gotta say, it was incredibly well constructed and well explained by me. Let me know in the comments if you agree. And should you really actually have a follow up question, which I don’t think anyone has, because it was so well explained, please leave me a comment as well.
If you want to check how much you remember, you can take the great great quiz I have prepared for you.
I hope you liked it and see you next time. Well, actually I know you liked it. It was really great.
The German word for to brag is angeben, by the way. If you want to find out more about that, you’ll find the link here:
Prefix Verbs Explained – “angeben”
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- Question 1 of 7
Which of the following words is Bescheid related to?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 2 of 7
What’s the gender of Bescheid?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 3 of 7
Bescheid usually combines with one of a few verbs. Which of the following often come with Bescheid? (multiple options)CorrectIncorrect
- Question 4 of 7
What’s of the following is a proper translation:
“Let me know, if you come.“CorrectIncorrect
- Question 5 of 7
Your best friend is crying, and you want to know why.
Is Bescheid a good way to do that?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 6 of 7
What does bescheiden mean?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 7 of 7
In a review you read that the service at that new restaurant you want to try was bescheiden. What does it mean?CorrectIncorrect
“Danke fürs Bescheid sagen.” why fürs what does das refer to? I find this a little confusing not sure if you had written that in the article, but I heard many times, and even had a debate before for why fürs and not für den atleast or no article.
I think I should actually spell it “Bescheidsagen”. It is an action made noun and those are always neuter.
And that’s why it’s “für das”, not “für den” as you rightly assumed based on “der Bescheid.”
Hope that helps and sorry for the confusion.
yup this clears it, but i find it a little weird why sometimes verbs can be nouns and other times they are not. May be this could be a good idea for an article in the future. I think it comes up a lot. But thank you again!
Thank you, Emanuel, for such a wonderful explanation. Now I finally understand how to use this word.
P.S. I hope to see you in more episodes of Easy German:)
Ha, me too :). I actually have a topic that I want to do but Cari and I have a hard time finding time to meet because she’s either busy or out of town. But yeah, we’ll do it eventually.
Hi, thank you for the subscription! It will be so helpful
Bescheiden ist mein einziger Fehler ;)
“Bescheidenheit” – you need the noun here ;).
you are great man , I like you , big respect
I married a Manderschied and this is true! Lol The family is shit!
Wow… Maybe I’m too tired but I can’t wrap my head around the “mehr als bescheiden” explanation. I will just bundle all them together and create many flashcards in Anki to rote memorise it as a fixed expression without trying to understand the components. Kinda like ‘nach wie vor’ for example. Thanks for the tip. I would NEVER have guessed that ‘mehr als bescheiden’ had a negative meaning. I would have just stupidly assumed the opposite. Kinda like when someone says ‘Ich mache etwas ungern…’ and I just would assume the person would do it anyway but not really enjoying it, instead of the real meaning that ‘they would rather not’…
I had a similar issue with the English “I could care less” and “anything but”. Both don’t really mean what they mean on the surface :D
I don’t know where you’re from, but at least in American English humble in the sense of not having much or not being exceptional is pretty common. Terms like a humble upbringing or service/conditions being described as ‘more than humble’ are definitely used
For this example:
“Wenn einer von euch noch ein Bier will, sagt Bescheid.”
You could translate it as:
“If you want another beer just say so”
Maybe not the best translation but it gets the feeling of the German sentence across. I’m getting some of that Sprachgefühl and this example stood out to me and made me say wow! I’m getting better at this German thing. Thanks for the articles!
Yeay, that’s a great translation :)! Thanks for this and also for the great feedback!!
Yes, I agree: “say so…SO!” is a perfect translation. Also, in the next example, it should be “That’s just gonna escalate things [not sure why, but you have to include ‘things’ to make it sound natural].” Each of these examples are funny and help get the point across.
Honestly, this blog is brilliant in that regard, and if it wasn’t for your frequent descent into vulgarity, I’d say the quality you provide for language learning should be incorporated to any quality German course. Don’t get me wrong, even when it’s vulgar, I still laugh, because I can take it. But not everyone can and in that regard you’re limiting your reach so you could say, Sie scheißen sich wirklich in den Fuß!
Is it really that bad :)? I mean, I know that I do it every now and then, but I cut out certain words completely (in the beginning, I was much more vulgar because my English vernacular is influenced heavily by Youtube before they cracked down on filthy language. And I just thought it’s not a big deal, since everyone seems to talk like that).
Anyway, thanks for the nice and helpful feedback. And good job on the pun :)!!
Your response is interesting since the whole point of your blog is language meaning. Vulgarity, of course, is part of language but there is an inherent tension between thoughtfulness and vulgarity — almost in inverse relationship. On the other hand, surprise is an important element both in humor and effective communication. My main point, however, is simply that the “academic quality” of what you provide deserves to be noticed.
By the way, I had a heck of a time finding this article again because the search feature on your website doesn’t find it even when the most sensible terms are used: bescheid, bescheid-sagen, vagina, etc…
(did it work?)
I suggest a simple index page containing all your words as one solution which might have the added advantage of improving search results.
It’s in the works, actually :)!!! I hate my search feature, but that’s the best WordPress has to offer.
Until the index is done, it’s best to use Google. Just type the word and yourdailygerman and Google should find it.
nur damit man Bescheid weiß:
jdm (über etw [akk]/von etw [dat]) Bescheid geben/sagen
(von jdm) (über etw [akk]) Bescheid bekommen/erhalten
(über jdn/etw) Bescheid wissen
(in/mit etw [dat]) Bescheid wissen
Perfekt, danke :)!!
Danke für den Artikel, ich hab’ echt Vieles gelernt. Aber ich denke, dass das Wort “Tugend” ein feminines Wort ist, wenn ich micht nicht irre.
Ja, du hast völlig recht :). Das war ein Schreibfehler von mir! Danke dir!!
This is great and funny! The noun for humble is humility I think?
Thinking about your sentence: ‘Next time, please give me a little heads-up that you drop by so I can clean.’ I think that a more colloquial sentence would be: ‘Next time, please give me a little warning that you are dropping by so that I can clean up’. But, for example ‘ Please just drop in’ means ‘ You are welcome at any time’. So I think even better ‘that you are dropping in’ because it is more casual and friendly.
‘to clean’ is the process/labour of removing mess whereas ‘to clean up’ in this context is more to make the place tidy and hence presentable and welcoming perhaps before the return of the parents after a teenage party.. But a scene of crime is ‘cleaned up’ after the forensic team have done their work. How does ‘aufräumen’ fit with these slight differences?
As well ‘To clean up’ can also mean, for example, to snaffle all the prizes in a raffle or all the money in a gambling game.
Pronomen sind ein echter Alptraum!
“aufräumen” is mainly putting things in a clean fashion where they should be. It can but doesn’t have to include wiping and swiping. For example, “aufräumen” a desk can mean just putting all the pens in the pen jar, removing coffee cups, putting the papers in order and so on.
In contexts that focus on (wet) wiping “aufräumen” isn’t the best choice.
For the bathroom for instance, people generally use “sauber machen” or “putzen”. “das Bad aufräumen” sounds like there’s lots of stuff all over the place.
Man, I’m verbose today :D
As for cleaning up at a raffle… that would be “abräumen”.
And in contexts of crime scenes… hmm… no idea actually. I haven’t watched a TV crime show in a long time :)
Oh, and as for Pronomen … that’s why they’re called Pro-nomen. If they were easy they’d be called Amateur-omen.
Silly joke… couldn’t resist :)
I’m missing two levels of connection: How is Scheid related to Scheiße? You made the claim that they’re related, but there was no follow-up. I’m not familiar with d->s or d->ß as a common phoneme morph. Second, there seems to be an implication that a plausible translation of “Scheiße” is “science”. I was not able to find that connection in any online source. Thanks in advance for any clarification.
Not sure if this is a matter of phoneme morph. The words can be traced back to the same Indo-European root but they parted ways long ago with science coming from the Latin branch. You can find more about it here:
Love your content and thank you for an opportunity of learning with your sponsorship :)
Super funny! Thank you VERY MUCH!
Gerne :) Freut mich, dass es dir gefallen hat.
Thanks to Emanuel and the donators, I have this membership to keep learning German on this Blog. You guys are really nice; I really do appreciate it (:
I left an e-mail saying how I’ve recently decided to become fluent in German, and I pointed out my issue. Thanks to all those who gave a contribution I can now work towards my goal Thank you sooo much you have no idea how thankful I am.
I love it when you get into the etymology. I think “entsheiden” and its English translation “decide” (which I think comes to English via Latin, not via German) must have the same deep root. They’re both “from/away” (ent/de) + “separate/cut” (sheid/cide).
Etymonline says “decide” indeed comes from a root that was about “cutting”. It’s not the same root though, according to them.
But yeah… there’s definitely a common theme :)
this helped alot, thank you.