German Language Stack Exchange is a bilingual question and answer site for speakers of all levels who want to share and increase their knowledge of the German language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The words "durchfallen" ("to fail") and "der Durchfall" ("diarrhea") seem to have completely different meanings. Is it possible to use the former to mean "to have diarrhea" and the latter to mean "failure"? Do listeners associate between the words, e.g. giggle when you say "Ich bin durchgefallen."?

share|improve this question
Ich habe durchgefallen is not a correct sentence. You have to use sein with durchfallen: Ich bin durchgefallen (always means failing a class at school or "bei einer Prüfung durchfallen") – splattne Jun 15 '11 at 10:51
@splattne: Thanks. I didn't think of "durchfallen" as a movement verb. – Tim Jun 15 '11 at 10:57
for me it's helpful to think that durchfallen inherits the auxiliary verb from the verb fallen. That way we can keep the rule that zu sein as an auxiliary verb only occurs with movement verbs and those verbs which expresses a Zustandsänderung. – Stovner Jun 15 '11 at 14:35
what about the "durchfallquote"? - dependend on marks in a contest or on bacterias in different vegetables? – Gottfried Helms Oct 2 '12 at 23:24
Of course "durchfallen" can also take a literal meaning: "Die großen Steine bleiben im Sieb hängen, während die kleineren durchfallen." – celtschk Oct 4 '12 at 14:32
up vote 15 down vote accepted

Failure at school is "das Durchfallen". (e.g: Die Regierung will das Durchfallen in der ersten Klasse abschaffen.)

The phrase "Ich bin durchgefallen." does not connotate diarrhea.

There are many informal words for diarrhea anyway.

share|improve this answer
+1 for "There are many informal words for diarrhea anyway." ha! – splattne Jun 15 '11 at 10:25
Yeah, there is not the slightest connotation, actually. Pretty interesting, as especially kids tend to find any possible connection between embarrassing words. – ladybug Jun 16 '11 at 9:08

I support thei's answer that "durchfallen" has no connotation with diarrhea and vice-versa. At the risk of sounding a bit disgusting here, the similarities are still there though.

With "durchfallen", you cannot keep up and fall through the cracks.

With "Durchfall", you're unable to control your feces, they just fall through.

So in my opinion, the description of falling through something is what actually links failing and diarrhea - they're using the same metaphor, stretching it a bit in different directions.

share|improve this answer

I would say that "Durchfall" is a "durchfallen" (failure) of a particular sort. That is, failure to hold your -----. At least that's how I remember them.

So they're really not separate. One is a special case of the other, more general term.

share|improve this answer
I think this should be a comment to the question - I fail to see that it answers the question. – Hendrik Vogt Jun 15 '11 at 17:17
@hendrik vogt: It does address the issue of "are they completely different?" My answer, "not entirely." But I take your point for next time. – Tom Au Jun 15 '11 at 17:24
I noticed that it addresses this point, but in my opinion, the point you're making is only tangential to the question. Of course this is just my opinion! – Hendrik Vogt Jun 15 '11 at 17:28
@hendrik vogt: Fair enough. – Tom Au Jun 15 '11 at 17:43

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.