As this metaphor caused some meta-discussion, I would like to know what it exactly means to the majority and what the german counterpart is:

My understanding of this metaphor:

It's basically murphy's law expressed as a idiom. If something can happen, it will happen... it's just natural. That's why I used it for describing why someone might pull the plug on a project. Because of constructional flaws, planning errors, mis-communication, mixing up something, no projects goes a perfect planned way, it's a open process ....... you know, nobody is perfect and sh.. just happens. Remember the famous Forrest Gump scene, he is not really swearing loudly.

I don't know a good german version of this idiom (maybe "menschliches Versagen") so I'm excited to see some suggestions. Oh, and as a hint, the possible german version cannot contain Scheiße, otherwise I already would know this idiom :) So think about other ones. Common ones, no artificial creations, I doubt there are many good ones...

  • 1
    "Sh.. happens" is not a metaphor its just a slang phrase. When asking for a German slang phrase with a comparable degree of vulgarity it does not help much to exclude "Scheiße" from possible answers. That word exactly is what any similar German phrase would use too. One difference worth mentioning may be that in Germany you won't get charged for having a bumper sticker that says "Schöne Scheiße hier!".
    – Takkat
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 20:21
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    In a youtube video of a German TV broadcast I heard a German say "shit happens" (in English). If there are rules against vulgar language on TV in Germany, apparently either they don't cover this or there was a violation. Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 4:32
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    No, there aren't any silly rules like the seven dirty words in German TV. Nudity is also not much of an issue.
    – starblue
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 12:40
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    There are no forbidden words, so there is no need to replace words by abbreviations! If you mean »shit« or »Scheiße« then please write »shit« or »Scheiße«. »Sh..« and »Sch...« or no words! So if you want to talk about a word, then say/write it! Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 17:28
  • "Es ist halt so", or "so ist es halt" for "that's just how it is".
    – Mawg
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 6:43

5 Answers 5


Two suggestions from an online dictionary:

Dumm gelaufen!


So ist das Leben!

  • 2
    +1 for "Dumm gelaufen", but I often use the french "Se la vi", not sure it really matches "Sh.. happens" but better the second Forrest Gump phrase "Life is like a box of chocolates" :) I wouldnt use it only in negative context...
    – Hauser
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 17:41
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    @Hauser „C'est la vie“ is a good alternative; I often hear it in German.
    – splattne
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 17:44
  • I'm used to say Kommt vor. in this short form and also heard it from others, but still wouldn't tend to say it's common.
    – AmigoJack
    Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 8:01

Not to be taken too seriously and possibly not precisely to the point, but close:

  • Das Leben ist 'ne Hühnerleiter, man kommt vor lauter Dreck nicht weiter!

This is what my Grandma used to say, which means it's probably slightly outdated, too :-)

Actually I often do hear 'Sh.. happens'.

  • For the records, it continues like that: "Und wenn man einmal oben ist, dann fällt man wieder in den Mist!" Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 11:45

"Manchmal geht's halt schief". "Pech gehabt".

"Shit happens" heisst nicht nur dass etwas schlechtes passiert ist, es heisst auch dass manchmal etwas schlechtes passiert ohne dass irgendeiner Schuld hat, und dann soll man sich daraus nichts machen, sondern einfach weitermachen.

Kommt aber auch auf die Situation an. Die zwei Sätze gehen nur wenn die Situation ziemlich harmlos ist. "shit happens" kann auch in wirklich schlimmen Situationen gebraucht werden, wo "Pech gehabt" völlig daneben liegen würde.


You could also say:

Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof.

The saying points to Murphy's law and the fact that life doesn’t always play out the way we would like, because indeed “sh## happens”. Whenever something turns out more negative than expected, the above saying can be used.

To give you a feel for it, in English the saying boils down to: “life ain’t a joyride”, “life wasn't meant to be easy”, “life's not a bed of roses”, “life's no walk in the park”, “life's no bowl of cherries”, … or simply “sh## happens” – which was what you asked for.

  • Downvoter – care to explain?
    – e-sushi
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 21:44
  • 2
    I didn't downvote, but your translation seems a bit off. I'd use "Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof" to tell soemeone to stop bitching about things along the lines of "you can't always have it your way". "Shit happens" is more emphatic and chalking things off to bad karma.
    – Robert
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 22:19

I have heard people just translating this expression wordly into German:

Sch** passiert!

It is also possible to use das passiert or das kann jedem passieren in similar meaning, that something negative is used to happen to everybody from time to time.

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    This is an anglicism and should be avoided.
    – Residuum
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 11:08
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    "Es passiert Scheiße" was used before the American usage of "sh.. happens" became popular in Germany (see Spiegel 42/1972). But I agree that there may be other variants that sound more "German" (e.g. "Scheiße bauen").
    – Takkat
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 11:29
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    By the way, I don't think this self-censorship is appropriate, helpful, or needed here. It also makes it impossible to know whether you mean "Scheiße passiert" oder "Scheiß passiert".
    – fzwo
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 14:32
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    I don't think i have ever heard anyone saying "scheiße passiert". We just use the English "shit happens".
    – gilligan
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 10:18
  • 5
    It is not »Sch**« but »Scheiße«. We are no preschoolers. We are allowed to use ALL words we know. Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 17:31

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