What is the meaning of the following sentence and in what situations it is used?

Nein, das geht wirklich nicht an.

  • Can you provide context? It is ambiguous.
    – unor
    Oct 5, 2016 at 14:44
  • I tried switching on the light, it stayed dark. Try again! switch light stays out Nein, das geht wirklich nicht an. Oct 28, 2019 at 14:26

5 Answers 5


Das geht nicht an

is colloquial German (and thus probably not to be found in a dictionary) for

That is a no-go

That doesn't work

Or maybe even

That is not acceptable

Or everything in a wider sense of "not possible", "not allowed", "not acceptable", "not respectable", with some unspoken morality of "that's bad manners"/"you just don't do that"

Some example would be

Es geht nun wirklich nicht an, dass die Bahn schon wieder die Fahrpreise erhöht

Es geht ja gar nicht an, dass in unsrer Firma Männer und Frauen dieselbe Toilette benutzen müssen

Die Tochter der Nachbarn habe ich gestern Nacht um eins noch in der Stadt gesehen - Das geht ja nun wirklich nicht an, dass junge Mädchen so spät noch alleine unterwegs sind.

The expression is specific to the northern half of Germany, nobody in the south would say it like that.

  • Is it really colloquial? We have exactly the same expression in Swedish, borrowed from lower German long a go, probably in the 16th cy ("Det går inte an"), which is here a rather elevated style, not colloquial at all.
    – Beta
    Sep 29, 2016 at 16:50
  • @Beta Duden does list it and does actually not list it as colloquial. So I probably cannot insist on it. Where I live, the expression is entirely uncommon, not even in "hochdeutsch" conversations, though, so I would tag it as colloquial, even maybe dialect (Hamburg or thereabouts, locals might know better)
    – tofro
    Sep 29, 2016 at 17:02
  • 3
    @Beta Well, if someone said to me "Das geht wirklich nicht an", I would understand that I cannot turn/switch it on. This is standard German. However, in the sense as tofro answered the question, to me it's plainly wrong. It sounds totally weird. I would probably get the meaning from context; but I can't remember having heard that before. As such, it must be colloquial and even restricted to some dialects / idolects.
    – Em1
    Sep 29, 2016 at 18:26
  • I've never heard this around Bremen
    – corvus_192
    Sep 30, 2016 at 5:54
  • Hier auch (Bedeutung 5): dwds.de/wb/angehen
    – Carsten S
    Sep 30, 2016 at 9:36

Well I actually come from northern germany and we do not use the phrase this way.

  • Das kann (ja) wirklich nicht angehen.
  • Das gibt es (ja) nicht.
  • Das kann (ja) nicht sein.

Those are some examples which actually all mean the same. Notice that you can drop ja but it is mostly used to empower to show that you are really upset. Also you will never split angehen into geht ... an.

  • or "Das kann (es) (ja(wohl)) nicht sein."
    – Tommylee2k
    Oct 2, 2018 at 11:36

No, that couldn't be done.

Well it can mean "No, you can't do that" also or "I would not do that".

  • "Es geht nicht an, dass Franz glaubt, die Tischrede halten zu dürfen! (Weil ich sie zu halten auserwählt bin)." Neither is it impossible, nor is the person spoken to neccessarily the one, which shouldn't act (while acting isn''t neccessarily involved), nor needs the same rule to apply for the speaker. "Es geht doch nicht an, dass es am Wochenende schon wieder regnet!" Natürlich kann es sein - sonst wäre kein Lamento nötig. Der Angesprochene regnet nicht. Man selbst könnte auch gar nicht regnen(, sofern es keine fiktionale, psychedelische Story von 2 sprechenden Wolken ist). Oct 1, 2016 at 1:36

The sentence expresses strong disfavor, often a violation of rules, often informal ones.

It can be used to show discomfort with peoples actions, but is used for unlucky incidents as well:

»Ich bin wieder beim Schwarzfahren erwischt worden – das dritte Mal diese Woche!«
»Nein, das geht wirklich nicht an.«

»Die Bedienung hat mir einen Kaffee gebracht, der nur noch lauwarm war!«
»Nein, das geht wirklich nicht an.«

»Gehen wir heute wieder ins Freibad?«
»Nein, das geht wirklich nicht an! Es ist doch nur noch 15 Grad draußen!«

»Es geht doch nicht an, dass schon wieder der Blitz eingeschlagen hat!«
»Nein, das geht wirklich nicht an!«

I disagree with tofro’s “That doesn't work”. It’s not about whether a situation is possible, but whether it is very unpleasant. It’s often the attempt to deny the reality.


"Das geht nicht an” perhaps translates best into British English as "That is not on."

An American might say, "That is a non-starter," or a no-go."

The "nein," and "wirklich" are there for emphasis. The context is that the idea is dead in the water, or even born dead.

  • Meine Erfahrung ist, dass die Phrase v.a. verwendet wird um zu lamentieren, nachdem die Sache, die nicht angeht, längst passiert ist, so dass non-starter (kenne ich aber wiederum nicht) nicht überzeugend klingt. Oct 1, 2016 at 1:40

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