In conversation, I just said:

Die reinste Folter. Da wähnt man sich als glorreicher Sieger und erliegt dann einer unerwarteten Verletzung...

We were talking about how arduous it must be for top athletes to survive in the competitive world. Essentially, I wanted to express the idea of:

  • One moment you're X, and the next Y.

... referring to a drastic shift from X to Y.

I'm wondering if my phrasing starting with "da", though not a literal rendering, gets across the meaning well enough? How is this idea commonly/idiomatically expressed colloquially in German?

  • Incidentally, does "sich wähnen" sound a bit too formal to be used in casual conversation? Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 12:22
  • 1
    It's more a problem of sociolect than casual vs. formal.
    – Janka
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 12:48
  • There are plenty different ways to express that idea. Your sentence gets the meaning accross quite well thought I would use a stronger contrast in the 2nd half like ... und (dann) plötzlich ... but that's just my way of speaking.
    – hajef
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 12:51
  • "mal biste der Hund, mal biste der Schwanz" is a phrase for me to express sudden changes of "i rule" to "i got ruled". I just don't find a homepage referring it, too. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 13:53
  • Also on an unrelated note, I can only guess what you intend to say, but just to be clear, einer Verletzung erliegen means to die as a result of an injury (succumb to an injury). Based on the context, I personally would have expected something like ... und erleidet dann eine unerwartete Verletzung/... und zieht sich dann eine unerwartete Verletzung zu.
    – johnl
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 3:10

1 Answer 1


If it is a turn from a positive to a negative (or less positive) state, the most common way would be

Gerade noch wähnt man sich als Sieger, und dann passiert...

Instead of gerade noch you could say eben noch, it wouldn't make any difference.
However, your version starting with da would be understood.

I would not consider "sich wähnen" as too formal for a casual conversation.

In some contexts you can even leave out the verbs and use incomplete sentences:

Gestern noch der strahlende Held, heute der Buhmann der Nation

Yesterday the shining hero, today the scapegoat of the nation

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