German Word of the Day – “freuen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. It is the 25th of December and I am really glad… not because it is Christmas but because I finally for the first time since the fall of the Berlin wall I haven’t heard THE song… “Last Christmas” by Wham and this song just haunts you… once it is in your head, it just won’t leave. Composed in 1984, this song still pops up regularly on many many play-lists of radio stations in December and even though I do not listen to music radio that much I have gotten my fair “last Christmas” share every year, be it in the supermarket, at a friends place or in a car  … but not this year. I realized that yesterday in my way home from the supermarket and I was amazed.
Has humanity finally evolved beyond that song? That would be awesome. My first Christmas without that song in my ears… and Christmas is over now. They will stop playing it so I am in no danger anymore to acciden… hey wait, what that blue thing right there in the next line…. looks like a link… well now that’s odd… I wonder where it takes me…. hold on real quick while I follow that weird intriguing LINK…. … …
Alright, I’m back. That was random.
Anyway… no Wham for me this year and for that I am really happy.  And I hope a lot of you guys out there are happy too and today we’ll learn how to say that in German. Ladys and Gentlemen, today we’ll look at the meaning of:



Freuen comes from the core adjective froh which means merry or glad. Froh actually has a brother in English, frolic and both those words can be traced back to the Indo-European root  *preu which meant something like to jump or to skip. Now, guess where the word frog, Frosch in German, comes fr… exactly… from the very same root. So… the original meaning to jump up was the starting point for several meanings like  swift, agile, animated, lively and from there it is not that hard to draw the connection to happy and merry… just think of a dog when you pick up a stick.

Freuen which is a tricky word to translate because it really doesn’t exist as a single verb in English… not even close. If I had to chose one single translation that you should remember for it then this would be this:

The meaning is about the same BUT the grammatical structures are TOTALLY different. Why? Well, first of, you cannot just freuen around.

  • Ich freue.    … is wrong and means nothing

Freuen absolutely needs a target, it needs to be done to someone… in the example it is done to myself so in jargon we could say it is reflexive.

  • Ich freue mich…. is correct

Now you might think… ok, so freuen is more like to make happy. 
Well, that is not totally wrong…


Freuen can mean to make happy, but only in a situation where a thing or fact makes a person happy.

Phrasings like these are fairly common in German, but even more important are theones with the unspecified das/es.

As you can see in the examples, in those phrasings the actual meaning is more a to be great than to make happy… so the freuen-versions sound less deep than the make-happy version would sound. And there is another difference between this freuen and to make happyfreuen does not work with 2 persons.

  • You make me very happy.
  • Du freust mich sehr…. sounds very wrong

In those cases people would rather use the more literal translation

Alright… now, let’s get back to the self-referential freuen.

sich freuen (über)

In the beginning, we had the sentence

  • Ich freue mich.

The  mich as a self-reference (myself) and different to the freuen we just discussed this one, the self-inflicted one has absolutely NO notion of making anything. Sich freuen does not increase your happiness-level… the level is already high.  So the verb is just describing your feelings…. kind of like the opposite of to mourn with a self-reference.

As you see it really means to be glad/ happy . There is a small difference however in that freuen is more of a situational and short verb… it is something you actively do after all. So it is not used in sense of a general being happy or content.

  • I am very happy at the moment…. does NOT translate to
  • Ich freue mich zur Zeit sehr.

The German freuen-version is implies that there is a particular reason for your being happy. People will expect a sentence with because. The correct German phrasing would be

So sich freuen is the way to go whenever are happy because… or happy that…. or happy about something.
And since über is a preposition it is normal that there are formulations like these too.

If you are like…. what does darüber mean? Well, in a nutshell it means about that or thereabout and if this is not enough then you should read this article to get the full low down on da-words.
Now, can’t we just say

This would work as well and the meaning is pretty similar but the tone is a little different… I don’t want to get into too much detail here anyway. IN many phrasings like this you may or may not add darüber without much of a difference. Only sentences with when and if are exceptions and you mustn’t add it there.

Adding a darüber will imply that you are happy about something else and other part of the sentence is only an indication about when exactly I am happy about this mysterious it… here is how it sounds.

  • I was happy about that when you called.

Alright… so sich freuen, (dass, weil, über, …) is a every day situation-specific being happy… sometimes it is even more a being excited.

Now… this is already a pretty useful verb but there is more…. a minor change in preposition can make a huge difference in translation.

The meaning of “sich freuen auf”

Just what is the difference between sich freuen auf and sich freuen über? Auf as a preposition of location means on top of and über means above… that seems awfully similar. But when used in abstract sense, über is kind of stationary… at least way more than auf. Auf in combination with the 4th case (the n-one, or in jargon accusative) has a strong notion of direction, while über has not.

So… sich freuen über is to be happy about something that is present or reality. Sich freuen auf is being happy about something that isn’t there yet. It is being happy in anticipation of something or… in real English.. looking forward to something.

With sich freuen auf there are only those 2 structures possible…

  • Ich freue mich auf [insert thing here]…
  • Ich freue mich darauf, …. zu [insert verb].

and there is no way that you can leave out the darauf. If you did that it would automatically become the other freuen, the being happy one.

  • I am looking forward to seeing you.
  • I am happy to see you.

The German sentences are really similar and that is actually why German do the following mistake a lot :).

  • I am looking forward to see you.

So… freuen auf is to look forward to and that is the pretty much the only way to say that so … LEARN IT. In spoken the darauf often gets shortened to drauf.

And no… there is no such thing as

  • Ich freue mich auf das/es…. is wrong and sounds really bad.

Can’t do without the d(a)rauf here.

Now, where almost done for today but as usual I want to mention a few words with freuen in them. First of there is die Freude which is the happiness or the delight. And there is the nice word die Vorfreude which is happiness in anticipation… like the joy and delight kids feel the day before Christmas. And there is a nice idiom using both those words.

I am not going to translate that because it would sound just too clunky. When you have a surprise for someone but you don’t want to give it away just yet despite the other person being really curious and nagging… then just say it and smile mysteriously.
Another nice or at least useful word is Schadenfreude. Schaden is damage or harm and Schadenfreude is the delight you feel when someone you don’t like slips on a banana peel or gets bitched at by your boss. It is not really appropriate for really serious thing… like someones house burned down. You shouldn’t feel Schadenfreude then, and if you do you had better not admit it.
And lastly I would like to mention that Freund and related words do NOT have the same origin as freuen… but it is an awfully nice learning hint :).

So.. this was our German word of the Day freuen. The main meaning is to be happy and with auf it becomes being happy in anticipation. And don’t forget the self reference… like mich, dich sich … because freuen is always done by something/someone to someone.
If you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment. Ich freu mich drauf :)… hope you liked it and see you next time… with a box.

for members :)

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another nice post!
but what’s in the box?
and don’t reply with that Vorfreude idiom!



Long and elaborated posts are great, but this short and to the point WOTD was great as well. I was able to read it entirely in one shot :)

Ich habe eine Frage an dich:

1. Ich freue mich darüber, dass heute die Sonne scheint.
2. Es freut mich sehr, dass du zu meiner Party kommst.

Why isn’t there a “darüber” in sentence 2?
I think “darüber” doesn’t work with the “makes me happy” version, but I’m not sure if that’s the reason.

Ich freue mich auf den nächsten Artikel ;)

Viele Grüße


Just wanted to say, I love your blog! Keep blogging!


Hello it’s really good written. But only one correction. You wrote “Ich habe mich sehr über dein Mail gefreut.” In this case, it”s better to say/write ” … über deine mail” in german means mail 1.der Brief (mask. -> dein ) 2. die Post (fem. -> deine.)
Germans uses to say: Ich habe mich über deine Mail/Post gefreut.
or: Ich habe mich über deinen Brief gefreut.

Sorry for my worse english. But I hope it’s usefull for you.
best wishes, a german reader :-)


I think this blog is amazing!!!


I think your blog is amazing. Keep it up!!


Ich möchte das Sprichwort! Ich werde das nutzen, wann der Geburtstag von meiner Freundin kommt. :D Sowieso kann ich eine Frage stellen, oder? Gibt es ein besseres Wort für jemand statt des Wortes ‘Freund’, wenn die einzige Beziehung zwischen uns Freundschaft ist?


Konnen wir sa gen “Du freust den Hund sehr”? Weil du sagtest, dass “freuen” nicht mit 2 Personen benuzt werden kann.


Hallo Emmanuel,
Hier ist eine Frage in Facebook, dass ich sah:
Tante Alia – ein Kilo – abnehmen – pro Monat
a. Pro Monat Tante Alia nimmt ab ein Kilo.
b. Tante Alia nimmt pro Monat ein Kilo ab.
c. Ein Kilo abnimmt Tante Alia pro Monat.
d. Tante Alia abnimmt pro Monat ein Kilo.
Wieso benutzen wir nicht “c”, sondern “b” nur? (Das heißt, wieso ein Kilo nicht auf der Vorderseite des Satzes stehen kann.)( Ich bin nicht sehr gut in der Grammatik)
Erklären Sie, bitte!


Kannst du mal den Unterschied zwischen den Satzversionen mit bzw. ohne “darüber” erklären, worin es ums Wetter ging? (Nämlich “Ich freue mich [darüber], dass die Sonne scheint.”) Wie klingt es eigentlich ohne “darüber”?

Übrigens ist “be glad” auch eine gute Übersetzung für “sich freuen (über).”


Im Gegensatz zu einem Brief oder eine Email auf Deutsch, beginnt man einen Brief oder eine Email auf Englisch mit einem großen Buchstabe, egal ob man ein Komma verwendet oder nicht. Auf Englisch wird man schreiben/typen: Hello everyone, Welcome to our German Word of the Day! Einige Sätze in den Brief (oder in der Email) auf Englisch sind auch nicht richtig geschrieben. (Wenn man schon lange nicht mehr Englisch regelmäßig verwendet, verlernt man seine eigene Sprache :-) Es passiert mir auch :-) Es ist an der Zeit, dass ich nach Hause gehe!

Love God
Love God

Ich persönlich würde einen Brief nicht mit “and” auf Englisch beginnen! Höchstens kann man schreiben: Hello everyone and welcome to our German Word of the Day, It is the 25th of December….. Ich habe schon oft gesehen: “Hello everyone and welcome to my website,” I hope you enjoy……..

Love God
Love God

Ja, man kann auch schreiben: “Hello everyone and welcome to my website! I hope you enjoy……..” Wenn man einen Brief oder eine Email auf Englisch schreibt, beginnt man das erste Wort des Satzes immer mit einem großen Buchstaben, egal ob man beim Gruß ein Komma verwendet oder nicht! Sie schreiben einen Brief nach dem typischen Deutschen Format. Sie haben alle Ihre Briefe nach diesem Format geschrieben. Als Amerikanerin kommt mir das Format fremd vor! Aber ich habe mich schlau gemacht. Englisch ist nicht Ihre Muttersprache :-) Das erklärt es! Sie geben sich aber viel Mühe! Weiter so :-)


When you want to say “Pleased to meet you” , is it more natural to say :

1/ Ich freue mich, dich kennenzulernen
2/ Es freut mich, dich kennenzulernen ?

I think i’ve heard it shortened to just “freu (e/t) mich ” … but wasn’t sure which I was hearing.


Thanks, I like your writing style… informative but entertaining. :) I think the closest you could come to “Es freut mich” would be “It gladdens me.” Not commonly said here in Canada, but same sentence structure and we all know what it means!


* first of (nope)
* first off (yep!) :)