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I'm looking for the best way to express "to mess something up" in German. I get the feeling that in English, it is used more widely in German, and hence I have tended to make some mistakes while speaking. However, as usual, dictionaries are of little use. Let me give 3 sentences:

  1. You have a great opportunity, but are about to mess it up for yourself.
  2. He got in a car accident, and this really messed up his nose. (broken, bloody, etc.)
  3. I spilled juice all over the place, which messed up (stained) my shirt.

Now, I THINK the first is the easiest, because this is where the overlap between German and English lies: To mess up/screw up a situation. Thus, I will attempt a translation:

  1. Du hast eine tolle Chance, aber bist gerade dabei, es dir selbst zu vermasseln/versauen.

The other two are what confuse me the most. It seems that vermasseln is synonymous with verbocken, to screw up/botch a situation, but I am unsure if versauen still works? Or if there is a general word that works? I will attempt translations:

  1. Er hatte einen Autounfall, und das hat seine Nase wirklich versaut.

  2. Ich habe den Saft überall verschüttet. Das hat mein Hemd versaut.

Do sentences 2 and 3 work?

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The problem is, that mess up seems to be quite universally applicable. While in German versauen is a good match, it is on the colloquial level. Other alternatives exist, but are more targeted.

  • verderben, the most universal, would work for all of your examples but the nose. Here ...
  • verunstalten would be my choice.
  • verhunzen is also quite generic.
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    verunstalten doesn't fit the first example, verderben sounds very weird with the second. – tofro Jun 10 '18 at 10:54
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Versauen is a verb. Versauen is colloquial. If you speak / write colloquial you should skip words you do not need to transport the information.

  1. Du hast eine tolle Chance, (du) 'bist aber gerade dabei, es dir selbst zu vermasseln/versauen.

  2. Er hatte einen Autounfall, und das hat seine Nase wirklich versaut.

  3. Ich habe den Saft überall verschüttet. Das hat mein Hemd versaut.

All sentences will work.

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    Ich würd ja sagen, du hast's verkackt - Aber nee, haste nich. – tofro Jun 9 '18 at 23:47
  • @tofro du hast's verkackt ist vergangenheitsform, richtig wäre präsenz. aber du verkackst (sie)., Aber nee, habsch nich. – Peter Rader Jun 10 '18 at 6:37
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Ich stimme guidot zu, dass die Sätze, bis auf den mit der Nase, in Ordnung sind.

Man könnte in allen Fallen auch "ruinieren" benutzen:

  • You have a great opportunity, but are about to mess it up for yourself.

    • Du hattest eine große Chance, bist aber dabei sie Dir zu ruinieren.
  • He got in a car accident, and this really messed up his nose. (broken, bloody, etc.)

    • Er hatte einen Autounfall und das hat seine Nase richtig ruiniert.
  • I spilled juice all over the place, which messed up (stained) my shirt.

    • Ich habe überall Saft verschüttet, womit ich mein Hemd ruiniert habe.
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The second sentence is not so good. It is better to be more specific, for instance:

Dabei hat er sich die Nase gebrochen.

Otherwise, the sentence can be misunderstood.

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