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According to PONS it means "to get one's knickers in a twist (get confused)". So for a sentence like "Ich kriege mein Leben nicht auf die Reihe", how would that translate? The translation given by PONS sounds odd because nobody in the USA says "knickers", so what would be a more natural sounding translation in American-English?

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"auf die Reihe kriegen" ~~ "to get it straight" maybe? –  Ingo Jan 3 at 15:05
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I think that “to get one's knickers in a twist”, “to get confused”, and „nichts auf die Reihe bekommen“ have three very different meanings. –  Carsten Schultz Jan 3 at 15:22
    
And it seems to me that the knickers-in-a-twitch image is also used in America, albeit with different words. It seems that the most common version there is “to get one's panties in a bunch”. Also compare the text titled “Distracted”: And so now like, now it's so funny, like [...] a couple of them that, you know, they've got their little panties on a little too tight. They're like all in a twitch, um, because [...] they're like "Oh well, you know, now [...] you're just writin' about, like, love and shit, [...] What happened to your politics?[...]" –  Carsten Schultz Jan 3 at 15:43
    
Interestingly, I thought "panties in a bunch" was the translation, but PONS' translation (de.pons.eu/dict/search/results/…) is one I'd agree with. I like @Ingo's comment; it seems to fit. –  Sean Jan 3 at 16:02

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This isn't a translation service, and the adequate translation of colloquial expressions isn't always easy or even possible. But I think I can help you understand the term.

"Etwas auf die Reihe kriegen" is a colloquial way of saying "to succeed at something".

"Brauchst Du Hilfe bei den Hausaufgaben, oder kriegst Du's alleine auf die Reihe?"

"Do you need help with your homework, or can you do it alone?"

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"Ich kriege mein Leben nicht auf die Reihe"

"I can't get my act together." / "I suck at life."

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"Kriegst Du das Passwort für den Server noch auf die Reihe?"

"Can you remember the password for the server?"

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Thanks for your answer it was very helpful, and I know this isn't a translation service. I'm not a native German and I'd like to understand idiomatic German better –  Sean Jan 3 at 16:04
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Since @Sean actually did research, but felt uneasy with the results (rightfully, as it turned out), the question appears appropriate to me and is more than a simple translation request. –  Ingo Jan 3 at 16:47
    
Wow, I am really glad to see that the best answer made it this time :) –  Emanuel Jan 3 at 17:34
    
True, @Ingo. My main point was the second half of the sentence (about the translation of colloquialisms), and the question title is phrased as "How to translate" and not "What does ... mean?". :) –  elena Jan 6 at 9:18

I think the most straight forward translation would be

Can't get my life together.

(see here for example: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130614001705AAqTfUJ)

Other possibilities would be:

Can't get my life in order

or less precise

Can't get my act together

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If I could accept two answers, I'd accept this one too, thanks for your input! –  Sean Jan 3 at 16:05

„Nichts auf die Reihe kriegen“ means something like not being able to get anything done, not being able to achieve anything. To me it seems to indicate that this is more the person's fault than because of the task at hand.

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+1 Definitiv, es liegt an dem, der nichts auf die Reihe kriegt. Wenn jemand aufgrund von unglücklichen Zufällen sein Ziel nicht erreicht hat, verwendet man "nichts auf die Reihe kriegen" nicht. –  Ingo Jan 3 at 16:44

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