I cannot make head nor tail of this phrase. I want to break it down, word by word.

Könntest du aufhören, dir selber leid zu tun?

What does "selber" mean? I only know "selbst", but this is the first time I have seen "selber".

And I'm at a loss to figure out "leid tun", as well. I checked a dictionary, but I have only found the meaning of "leid" as "tired of", which does not seem to make sense in this sentence.

  • 1
    "Selber" has the same meaning as "selbst". You hear the former more in daily speaking. In formal language then the latter would be the better choice.
    – Gerry
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 21:29

4 Answers 4


[...] dir selber leid zu tun

Comes from sich selbst leid tun which is referring to Selbstmitleid (self-pity).
Your sentence means:

Could you please stop feeling sorry for yourself?

selber is rather colloquial, selbst would be more "standard"/formal. But both mean the same, in this case yourself.

Leid can have different meanings depending on the context. In your case it refers rather to pity than to harm or suffering.


Your sentence literally means:

Could you please stop pitying yourself?

The sentence uses the construct sich selbst leid tun, that means feeling sorry for yourself. It's rather similar to leidtun, that is something really common, for example:

Entschuldigung, es tut mir leid.

Selber is used in informal or colloquial terms, but it has the same meaning of selbst. Here it means yourself. For example:

Hallo! Wie geht's dir?

Mir geht's gut, und selber?

This example is rather common in English as well.

Leid can have different meanings, as @Artery says, depending on the context, like agony, harm, suffering or affliction. In your sentence is about pity.



The word »selber« is a synonym for »selbst« if the english word »self« is what you mean.

Ich kann das selbst. = Ich kann das selber.
I can do it myself.

But be careful! »Selbst« has a second meaning, that can be translated as »even« in English. There is also a German synonym for this meaning, it is »sogar«:

Das kann selbst ein kleines Kind. = Das kann sogar ein kleines Kind.
Even a little child can do it.

leid tun

This means »to feel sorry« or »to feel pity«, but its usage is different from the English usage:

Du tust mir leid.
I feel sorry/pity for you.

In English the person who feels sorry is the subject, but in German this person is the dative object. The person that you feel sorry for is an object in English, but in German it is the subject. So in German, it is the person who you feel sorry for, who is the source of the feeling, and the person that has this feeling is the person who receives this feeling. (Da-tiv = the giving- and receiving-case. The latin verb "do, das, dare" = to give.)

But you can also feel sorry about yourself:

Ich tue mir selbst/selber leid.
I feel sorry/pity about myself.

So, the translation of the complete sentence is:

Könntest du aufhören, dir selber leid zu tun?
Could you (please) stop feeling sorry/pity about yourself?


Leid = suffering / pain

A literal translation would be.

Could you stop feeling sorry for yourself.

The reasoning is that the person is trying to get attention by pointing out how hard her or his life is and how much they are suffering as a result.

Instead of just getting on with it the person instead is focussing on and unsatisfactory experiences and situations in their life. Thereby reliving the painful emotions again on purpose.

Therefore they are hurting themselves. Ergo:

Sich selbst Leid (an)(zu)tun

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