In the meaning "to fail". Are these words used to say only "sb fails" or they are used to say "sth fails" or both?

Are they used in brief or in speaking?

For example:

He failed to reach the first place.
Their marriage has failed after two months.

  • Misslingen and missglücken is something only a plan or abstract concept can do. A plan can versagen but e.g. not a marriage.
    – Janka
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 13:57
  • 3
    @Janka: would go great in an answer, wouldn't it?
    – Takkat
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 14:00
  • @Janka But what's the concept when using versagen? Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 14:08
  • It's the concept of having a plan at all which fails. Not a specific plan, these can only misslingen or missglücken.
    – Janka
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 14:16
  • in case of the marriage another word is used: scheitern
    – MA-Maddin
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 15:26

1 Answer 1


versagen is mostly used in cases where somebody failed.
scheitern in cases where something failed (plan or marriage) or in a meaning where somebody failed on something (plan, task etc). So if there couldn't achieved a result.

If somebody has done his work or plan but the result it is not working/looking as it was intended to, then the result is missglückt (literally from "kein Glück" - "bad luck") or misslungen.

Sein Kuchen ist missglückt/misslungen.


Der Kuchen ist ihm missglückt/misslungen.

If you then say:

Er hat versagt

It has a more negative meaning.
Meaning: He didn't done it as it was expected (you can't or wouldn't eat that cake. Or you are his teacher and he just didn't meet the expectations).

If he failed to reach the first place (because of his cake), he himself could also say i.e.:

Ich habe versagt, weil mir der Kuchen misslungen/missglückt ist.

  • Ich musste gleich lachen bei der Vorstellung! If someone was to say: "Der Kuchen ist ihm misslungen, er hat versagt!", I get a feeling of "wow, that escalated quickly!" and start laughing, because the two concepts do not convey the same meaning. IMHO, they are comical when combined.
    – thymaro
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 10:53
  • I think you can versagen at greater plans or at things that take more time to achieve, like learning a new skill or doing a project involving several steps. Versagen at baking a cake seems a little overkill, even though it involves finding a good recipe, buying the right ingredients, mixing them in appropriate amounts and not messing up baking time and temperature (which could be fatal for your kitchen). If a person makes a bad cake and then I tell this person "Du hast versagt!", it's either in an ironic way, or to make them feel bad, which makes me an evil person. ;)
    – thymaro
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 11:02

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