I know festhängen has a literal, physical meaning, and I am not concerned with that. It seems that festhängen can also mean to be stuck in a figurative sense, and that is what I am interested in.

Let me offer some example sentences:

  1. Wir sind mitten im Nirgendwo, ich will nur einfach nicht hier draußen festhängen.

  2. Wir hingen im Regen fest.

  3. Ich will nicht den ganzen Tag drinnen festhängen.

Sentence 1 was obtained from the internet, and my translation would be

  1. … I don't want to be stuck here outside.

From this, I attempted sentences 2 and 3 on my own, to see if this was the proper way of expressing these ideas. My desired translations were:

  1. We got stuck in the rain.

  2. I don't want to be stuck inside all day.

    (Context: It's a beautiful day outside, I don't want to have to work in my office all day.)

Can anybody tell me if "festhängen" is used properly in these sentences in accordance with the desired translations, or why not, and what your suggestion would be?

  • 1
    all translations are ok.
    – Tode
    Jul 9, 2018 at 11:19
  • 1
    Sentence 2 should be Wir hingen [...] fest. (Präteritum) or Wir hängen [...] fest. (Präsens)
    – Arsak
    Jul 9, 2018 at 11:23
  • 1
    "drinnen" instead of "innen"
    – äüö
    Jul 9, 2018 at 11:53
  • @Marzipanherz Thank you. If I may ask one last question: Is there a difference between festhängen and feststecken in this context? For example Can "I am stuck in my office all day (I have a lot of work) " be translated as "Ich hänge in meinem Büro fest(zu viele Arbeit)", and "Ich stecke in meinem Büro fest (zu viele Arbeit)"?
    – Mark
    Jul 9, 2018 at 13:24
  • I would understand the meaning of the three translations, but they all sound slightly off track for me. "Feststecken" or "stecken bleiben" sounds more natural for me for translation 1. and 2. For the 3rd I would choosen "hängen bleiben" or "versumpfen". My problem is, I can't argue at the moment why I feel this way.
    – Iris
    Jul 9, 2018 at 14:21

1 Answer 1


The native speaker inside myself feels that festhängen and festsitzen generally can be used without difference. Festhängen would - as far as I have been observing - however be the more common, more frequent choice.

Sorry, ich komme heute später nachhause. Ich hänge hier noch im Büro fest.

Sorry, ich komme heute später nachhause. Ich sitze hier noch im Büro fest.

Wir waren im Urlaub in den Alpen. Wir konnten aber kaum was machen; wir hingen da im Dorf fest wegen all dem Regen.

Wir waren im Urlaub in den Alpen. Wir konnten aber kaum was machen; wir saßen da im Dorf fest wegen all dem Regen.

Die Briten kriegen's nicht gebacken. Ihre Brexit-Bemühungen hängen fest.

Die Briten kriegen's nicht gebacken. Ihre Brexit-Bemühungen sitzen fest.

As for your attempts to translate your sample sentences into English: the German sentences are okay. What I cannot assess (but probably you can) is whether the English sentences are good and appropriate for the situation they describe.

Note perhaps that with festhängen and festsitzen it is not possible to clearly separate "literal" and "figurative" meaning. The verbs describe in all cases a situation where something or somebody cannot move or move away. If it is a key of a mechanical typewriter or a tourist in a Piedmont village - it is both quite "literal" lack of ability to move.

If ever, a difference can be seen between physically having gotten stuck at a place and having gotten stuck in a sense of not making progress, i.e. not physically, as in the Brexit example.

Sorry for "die Briten kriegen's nicht gebacken". This is not to refer to all the lovely individuals in Great Britain, many of whom being valuable friends. The term is used here figuratively for a British government attempting to implement a silly (and probably incited not least by Russia) referendum outcome.

  • This is a fantastic answer, as usual. Thank you very much. And yes, the English sentences are 100% natural. Getting stuck in the rain/in the office because of work/etc. is very natural. I feel like "getting stuck" in the figurative sense is maybe even overused in American English, that is how common it is. In any case, I had to laugh at your British/Russian comment :)
    – Mark
    Jul 10, 2018 at 20:34

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