A pair of graves in a local cemetery. He is a World War II Navy veteran who died in 1996. His wife died in 2006. I don’t think the surname is German (Mack), and neither is her given name. I wouldn’t expect a Navy sailor to have a war bride. There is no obvious German connection, yet she has the following on her grave marker:

Das leben ist schön wenn du es nicht zu leben hast

Google translates this as

Life is beautiful when you do not have to live.

and gives a possible alternate translation of

That’s nice life if you did not live.

I was wondering if this is a German idiom with a meaning beyond the literal words.

1/19/2016 Thank you all for your help. I think that "Life is beautiful if you don’t have to live it." is a good answer, and agree with the general thought that she must have had a hard life, particularly the 10 years between his passing and hers. When I see a wide gap like that, I think how terrible the loneliness and the longing must have been. Thank you again.

  • 4
    "Mack" could be a German name, or indicate a German heritage - at least I wouldn't consider it as an unusual name in Germany. The first translation seems more fitting, although I'd rather translate it as "Life is beautiful when you do not have to live it" - ("life" being used here an object, as in "to live your life"). I haven't heard this before, even less as a ("common") idiom, but maybe someone can give a real answer about that.
    – Marco13
    Dec 22, 2016 at 1:46
  • What is her given name? :) And I'm with @Marco13 on that one: I've never heard it before; I wouldn't consider it idiomatic phrase, it might be a lesser known aphorism, though.
    – tink
    Dec 22, 2016 at 6:15
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    "Mack" actually is a pretty common German name (and common in other languages as well). And there were definitely many other ways for an woman (allegededly of German background) of getting married to a US citicen than being a war bride. The inscription isn't any idiom I'd know nor a well-known aphorism in German.
    – tofro
    Dec 22, 2016 at 7:35
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    One could speculate about the deeper meaning of this statement, though. I could imagine that it suggests that the life of a person may look "nice" for others, but that there are possibly hidden burdens, troubles or challenges that make life particularly difficult for the person herself. But again, that's just a guess.
    – Marco13
    Dec 22, 2016 at 12:27
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    It's very imaginable that this person, who speaks German as her native language, came up with this phrase on her own. Mack can apparently be a German name.
    – xji
    Dec 31, 2016 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


The phrase in itself is not an idiom: there is no deeper hidden meaning besides the actual (literal?) translation of the words. I won’t say I’ve never heard it before because it’s an idiomatic sentence and entirely possible that I did read or hear it at some point, but it is not one quoted or stated heavily that any German would instantly recognise. (While I can’t speak for Switzerland and Austria, I don’t think that it would be an idiom there.)

The Google translation is a tad off. A better translation would be:

Life is beautiful if you don’t have to live it.

If I had to do some interpretation, I would assume that she had to overcome numerous hardships in life but still tried to make the most out of it. That is just a wild guess, though; I don’t know the people in question.

Finally, while I don’t know anybody having the surname Mack I wouldn’t find it unusual for a German name.

  • The Yandex translation of the phrase in question is "Life is beautiful when you don't have it to live." Repositioning the word "it" changes your phrase to a positive expression about Life. Nov 5, 2017 at 3:42
  • @К.КеллоггСмиф The thing is that the original German is not exactly positive …
    – Jan
    Nov 5, 2017 at 12:36

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