I'm looking for the German equivalent of the expression

You're putting me on the spot.

Its meaning is something like being asked to do something, e.g. perform a song in the moment, impromptu, and/or without being given advance notice. It's usually accompanied with feelings of slight apprehension, nervousness, and perhaps embarrassment.

What is its German equivalent?

  • 6
    What did your dictionary search came up with? How do you use this expression/ what do you express when you use it? Aug 1 '19 at 15:10
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    When asking for a German equivalent of an idiom from another language, you should explain exactly what this idiom means - most users here are German natives and therefore probably not really familiar with the idiom in that other language. Aug 1 '19 at 15:44
  • It's like being asked to do something, e.g. perform a song in the moment, impromptu, and/or without being given advance notice. It's usually accompanied with feelings of slight apprehension, nervousness, and perhaps embarrassment.
    – Llama Worm
    Aug 1 '19 at 17:13
  • @LlamaWorm The most probably equivalent is "Du bringst mich auf den Punkt." Anyways your question is off-topic here as currently written. Aug 1 '19 at 18:04
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    @πάνταῥεῖ How? This isn't a request for proofreading, spell checking, or the translation of an individual text.
    – sgf
    Aug 2 '19 at 7:40

"In Verlegenheit bringen" would be good.

"In eine unangenehme Lage bringen" would be somewhat synonymous. "Blamieren" would probably work, too, but that may be too strong. If someone intentionally puts someone else on the spot in order to get revenge or with intent to cause the other great discomfort, "jem. eins auswischen" would be ok, too.

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    Meines Erachtens ist das zu allgemein. Man kann auch durch ganz andere Dinge in Verlegenheit gebracht worden sein. Aug 2 '19 at 10:38
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    Das stimmt im Allgemeinen sicher, aber in diesem Kontext würde ich sagen, dass das eine passende Übersetzung ist.
    – NXP5Z
    Aug 2 '19 at 11:41

Jemanden in Zugzwang bringen

Zugzwang means compulsion to move and is used in games like chess, when it's a player's move but every move worsens their position.

However, it's not that strict colloquially. The German wikipedia says

Umgangssprachlich bezeichnet der Ausdruck Zugzwang im Gegensatz dazu meist eine Situation, in der jemand zu einer bestimmten Handlung oder allgemein zu einer Reaktion auf eine Herausforderung gezwungen ist. Diese Handlung kann, muss aber nicht unbedingt nachteilige Folgen haben.

You "just" force someone to make a decision, it's not necessarily bad for them. This captures the meaning of "putting someone on the spot" better.

Your sentence would then translate to

Du bringst mich in Zugzwang

Also possible is jemanden unter Druck setzen (put someone under pressure).

Aus dem Cambridge Dictionary

put sb on the spot

If you put someone on the spot, you cause them embarrassment or difficulty by forcing them at that moment to answer a difficult question or make an important decision


If someone is unprepared for a given task, she or he will probably reply:

Da hast du mich auf dem falschen Fuß erwischt.

Erwischen literally means to catch someone flat-footed, and the auf dem falschen Fuß part is a reference to dancing. You flattened her or his foot.

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    jemanden auf dem falschen Fuß erwischen is not a good translation of to put someone on the spot, because the English expression is referring to the person that puts you on the spot and is regardless of the feelings of the person that has to perform. Even if you are put on the spot, you can still master this. This is not possible if you are "auf dem falschen Fuß erwischt". I give -1 here. Aug 2 '19 at 4:38
  • +1. Doesn't always fit, but there's situations where it will, and I don't think there's one translation that always fits. By the way, I'd be very surprised if auf dem falschen Fuß erwischen didn't come from fighting rather than dancing. (Where having your weight on the wrong foot will prevent you from parrying in time.) Do you have any references for the dancing context?
    – sgf
    Aug 2 '19 at 7:44
  • I was only told it was from dancing. But sword fight would be a better match, I think.
    – Janka
    Aug 2 '19 at 10:06
  • If the saying is old enough, pod, pes (see Indo European, Latin, Greek) might actually relate to potis and maybe even spot (in wordplay if norhing else*) +1
    – vectory
    Aug 4 '19 at 21:37

As far as I know, to put someone on the spot includes an element of forcing someone to make a decision (possibly causing the decider to "lose face", to choose between several undesirable options, or to spend some additional effort to decide faster than what would otherwise be the case) that could otherwise be given some more time (and be resolved more gracefully).

Idiomatically (and entirely figuratively), this is expressed in German by saying die Pistole auf die Brust setzen.

For example:

With his surprising announcement, he's putting me on the spot.


Mit seiner überraschenden Ankündigung setzt er mir die Pistole auf die Brust.

A difference between "jemanden in Zugzwang bringen", as suggested in other answers, is that "die Pistole auf die Brust setzen" happens actively and intentionally. "Jemanden in Zugzwang bringen" can also happen as an unintended side-effect, and may even go unnoticed by the one who causes the issue.

I'm not sure which one fits "to put someone on the spot" better in this respect.


"Jmd. in Zugzwang bringen" finde ich gut, wobei für den Zugzwang aber gilt, dass dieser nicht immer mit öffentlicher Aufmerksamkeit verbunden sein muss. Ähnliches gilt für die Redewendung "jmd. ins kalte Wasser werfen", was gerne benutzt wird, wenn jmd. etwas bisher nur theoretisch gelernt hat, und es jetzt in die Praxis umsetzen soll.

Die Einschränkung mit der Öffentlichkeit gilt mehr noch für das "die Pistole auf die Brust setzen", welches eine Bedrohung ausdrückt, nicht notwendig eine rechtswidrige ("Wenn Sie jetzt nicht weiterfahren lasse ich Sie abschleppen!").

Der Spot erinnert auch an die dt. Floskel "jmd./etwas ins Rampenlicht stellen"; diese wird aber anders verwendet: Die öffentliche Aufmerksamkeit wird auf etwas gelenkt, aber ohne den Aspekt des Lampenfiebers mitschwingen zu lassen.

"Du packst mich hier auf den Seziertisch" wäre auch möglich, betont aber stark, dass das Publikum sehr kritisch hinschauen wird. Lampenfieber kann man aber auch bei einem wohlwollenden, wenig kritischen Publikum verspüren.

  • Woher stammt denn die Anforderung mit der öffentlichen Aufmerksamkeit? Aug 3 '19 at 16:16
  • Das Beispiel i.d. Frage habe ich so verstanden und ich dachte, der Spot käme vom Spotlight im Theater - liege ich da falsch? Aug 3 '19 at 23:24
  • Ins Kale Wasser werfen erfolgt in erster Linie ohne Aufforderung oder Ankündigung
    – vectory
    Aug 4 '19 at 21:40

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