Look at this conversation:

Gehen wir Samstag aus?
Am Samstag geht es nicht.

I do not know what the meaning of geht es nicht is here.

However, I know the statement means It is not possible, there is a problem in meaning for me. Geht comes from the verb gehen which means to go, but here it does not make sense?

3 Answers 3


The Phrase

es/etwas geht (nicht)

has the same meaning as

es/etwas funktioniert (nicht)

So, »es/etwas geht <-> es/etwas geht nicht« just means

It/something works <-> it/something doesn't work

It's just a phrase. There are lots of phrases in English Language that also doesn't make much sense when you try to translate them into other languages (think of »it's raining cats and dogs«)


Literally "geht es nicht" in English would be "goes is not". Idiomatically in English the German expression would be "is a no go" (or just "is no-go"). The sense in either language is rejection made more active by phrasing it in terms of going.

  • No. A no-go is not something das nicht geht. A no-go is something you can do, but really really truely shouldn’t. Geht nicht actually means that it won’t work, i.e. you could do a handstand and twist your legs and back but you still can’t get it to work.
    – Jan
    May 14, 2015 at 9:35
  • While since 1971 "no-go" has had the sense of "a place where it is forbidden to go", since at least 1870 it meant simply "an impracticable situation", ie. impossible, absolutely prevented. Or "Not in a suitable condition for proceeding or functioning properly". Since "go/no-go" in the US space program (and so in engineering) as an aborting test point, the sense of "prohibited" has been conflated with "impossible". The NASA Germans surely meant it the same way.
    – Matthew
    May 15, 2015 at 12:36
  • If the meaning has shifted towards what I said since 1971, my point still remains valid.
    – Jan
    May 15, 2015 at 12:41
  • No, I did not say the sense has shifted, merely that the sense has extended to "forbidden"; it still retains the original sense. And the "forbidden" sense merely means that the impossibility is because it's forbidden; the military forbidding it was strictly enforced by lethal force, making it impossible to go there.
    – Matthew
    May 16, 2015 at 14:09

In that conversation, I think there is a more detailed meaning than it does not work:

Gehen wir Samstag aus?
Am Samstag geht es nicht.

It could mean Going out at Saturday is not possible;
but likely it can also mean I would prefer not to go out at Saturday, maybe involving intonation inviting to negotiate.

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