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I said to one of my German friends who was being pessimistic:

Sei nicht so es!

He answered that I could not use es but that I could add an adjective to it like

Sei doch nicht so pessimistisch, zum Beispiel.

He could not find a way to just say “don’t be like that” or “ne sois pas comme ça” in German. Any idea?

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    "Sei nicht so" could work, depending on circumstances. – Ingmar Jan 9 '17 at 21:31
  • That's the first thing that I thought, after seeing the title, but before visting this page (+1). – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 10 '17 at 8:40
  • render -> translate – cat Jan 10 '17 at 13:01
  • Your "es" would mean "das" here. But "Sei nicht wie das" is not good German, and "wie das" is replaced with "so" (="that way"). – äüö Jan 11 '17 at 7:10
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I do wonder why your friend couldn’t tell you that you already had the perfect translation for ‘Don’t be like that’ — it is:

Sei nicht so.

So is the perfect, idiomatic and complete translation of like that. Yes, it may seem weird that two words are translated by one word, but some things just are like that — ‘Manche Dinge sind so.’ For completeness, here are a few more examples:

If he carries on like that, he’ll never learn.
S’il continue comme ça, il n’apprendra jamais.
Wenn er so weitermacht, lernt er es nie.

Take a look, I’ll show you again. You do it like that.
Voyez, je vous le montre encore une fois. Vous le faites comme ça.
Schauen Sie her, ich zeige es Ihnen nochmal. So machen Sie es.

He who drives like that must have a guardian angel.
Celui qui conduit comme ça doit avoir un ange gardien.
Wer so fährt, muss einen Schutzengel haben.

I’ve seen Hubert write this phrase in different variants a few times in recent answers and it fits here well: Remember that you never translate words but always meanings.

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  • Suggestions to improve my French are always welcome! – Jan Jan 10 '17 at 1:58
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    I suggest that you improve your French :-) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 10 '17 at 8:41
  • The same happens on Portuguese with "assim", that directly translates "like that" or "in this specific way". "Don't be like that" -> "Não seja assim". – T. Sar Jan 10 '17 at 16:25
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    The German phrase Jetzt sei doch nicht so feels more natural. – simbabque Jan 10 '17 at 16:39
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"Sei nicht so" means "don't be like that". You can say this in situation where it is clear which behavior you mean with "that". "So" refers to a specific kind of behavior which you can see just in the moment when you say that.

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  • Welcome to German Language Stack Exchange. Feel free to take a tour of the site. The help center will answer any remaining questions on how it works. – Jan Jan 10 '17 at 3:14
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You are looking for

Sei doch nicht so! (informal)

Seien Sie doch nicht so! (formal)

Both valid, however the problem these expressions have is every German speaker expects an adverb describing the behaviour frowned upon. It's a bit too uncertain what is meant to German ears.

The other problem is Sei doch nicht so is an old-fashioned chat-up phrase.

Willste nicht tanzen? – Nö. – Komm, sei doch nicht so.

Don't wanna dance? – Nah. – Come on, "don't be like that".

Used in many German (and German translations of) teenie films of the 1960ies through 1980ies. Call it conditioning but everytime I hear sei doch nicht so I immediately think someone is trying to hit on me.

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  • ‘Every German speaker expects an adverb describing the behaviour frowned upon’ — really? number 1 for adverb; I think you wanted to say (predicative) adjective. Really? number 2 for the expectation: I do not. ‘Nun sei doch nicht so!’, is an entirely complete sentence with nothing missing. And it may be because I’m male or young or both, both I wouldn’t be hearing a chat-up phrase in it either. – Jan Jan 10 '17 at 1:57
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    I am male, but can certainly see the persuasion in it, in both languages. Maybe if you try to think of your parents or boss saying it to you? :-) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 10 '17 at 8:44

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