Es handelt sich nicht mehr um Diebstahl. Sondern um Mord.

I think the literal translation is

It itself behaves (acts) not like a theft anymore

The correct translation would be "It is not a theft anymore".

Why didn't he just say "Es ist nicht mehr einen Diebstahl"?

  • 2
    Short answer: Because style.
    – Jan
    Apr 9, 2015 at 22:33
  • 3
    ...and "einen Diebstahl" would be wrong. You could say "Es ist nicht mehr ein Diebstahl." (but that would sound like "It is not one theft any more" but multiple?). "Es ist nicht mehr Diebstahl." or "Das ist nicht mehr Diebstahl." or "Das ist kein Diebstahl mehr." (~That is no theft anymore) would be alternatives.
    – Hulk
    Apr 10, 2015 at 4:31
  • 1
    The base form is "sich um etwas handeln", see the different uses on this page in the verbs section to get a better feeling for the word. Contrary to what others have said, it is not simply a "fixed expression", it's a regular verb with a different meaning when used in a context with "something". So the literal translation is more along the lines of "to be about sth" or "to concern sth" or "to be a matter of sth".
    – jmiserez
    Apr 10, 2015 at 7:12

2 Answers 2


Handeln does not only mean to behave or act. In fact, "es handelt sich um" is a fixed expression which means "it is", or, to stay close to the original "we're dealing with".

  • If I may ask... how would you say in German "We're not dealing with a theft anymore"?
    – user15362
    Apr 9, 2015 at 22:36
  • 2
    @Gledi "Wir haben es nicht mehr mit Diebstahl zu tun."
    – Uwe
    Apr 9, 2015 at 22:43
  • 2
    Entwerder wie @Uwe schon sagt, oder "es handelt sich nicht mehr (nur) um Diebstahl".
    – Robert
    Apr 9, 2015 at 22:44

Sich (bei etwas) um etwas handeln is a German idiom corresponding to be a matter of. The grammatical structure is slightly different, but these examples should help:

  • Es handelt sich um Mord. It is a matter of murder.
  • Bei diesem Fall handelt es sich um Mord. This case is a matter of murder.

The German idiom is clearly related to one found in Romance languages that is used in much the same way, but with the bei … part optionally added when more information should be provided. (I am not sure, but the optional part may only exist in German. I think in French one would have to resort to “En ce qui concerne ce cas …” or “Quant à ce cas …”)

  • Il s’agit de meurtre.
  • Se trata de un omicidio.
  • Se trata de un asesinato.

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