In the USA we have a few common idioms for indicating to someone they are being hypocritical, with the sub-context being that they are contradicting their own teachings or personal code for living.

For example: An author of self-help book on using logic instead of emotion is getting very angry over a trivial matter. Someone might reply to them:

"You should read your own book"

Note: The specific verb "read" and the specific verb "book" is not important here. It's the phrase "You should [verb] your own [noun]" that is the overall or meta-pattern for the sentiment. ("Eat your own dog food", etc.)

It's a way of expressing the English idiom "practice what you preach" but with the very clear intent of throwing someone's own dogma in their face to indicate their extreme hypocrisy. Is there a German equivalent?

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    'and the specific verb "book"' - "verb" should be "noun" here, right? Aug 6, 2019 at 4:27
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    There's a famous saying by Konrad Adenauer, who simply stated: "Was geht mich mein Geschwätz von gestern an?"
    – tofro
    Aug 6, 2019 at 6:33
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    If you try the online dictionary leo.org it will suggest "heuchlerisch" and "scheinheilig". I suggest all OPs with dictionary questions should try this first.
    – RedSonja
    Aug 6, 2019 at 13:40
  • sich an die eigene Nase fassen works, but only if the propositions are not humble and in effect insulting. The origin of the phrase is not clear to me. Fassung means composure.
    – vectory
    Aug 6, 2019 at 23:09
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    "contradicting their own teachings or personal code for living" is not a sub-context, that's literally the definition of hypocritical.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 7, 2019 at 11:22

10 Answers 10


Practice what you preach is expressed as a deadpan statement in German:

(Jaja,) Wasser predigen, aber Wein trinken.

You should read your own book could be translated as

Halt dich doch (selbst mal) an deine Weisheiten!

but such direct commands are really pushy in German. Even if they are softened with particles as doch and mal. Most people would again just state the obvious in a deadpan style:

(Jaja,) Papier ist halt geduldig.

That means someone has written down something, and it does not apply to reality well. This is commonly used with elaborate plans that fail in the field, and with red tape.

If the paper was about having Geduld with things as in your example, it's even word play on that.

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    "This is commonly used" not in 22 years I have heard that phrase ones. Where in Germany is it used? Aug 6, 2019 at 13:55
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    @XtremeBaumer everywhere, but rarely. I believe this last suggestion is not appropriate here because it means something different Aug 6, 2019 at 15:14
  • Gute Idee der erste, aber der Spruch könnte auch anders verwendet werden, nämlich das passende Getränk zum passenden Anlass, nüchtern in der Predigt aber trinkfest beim Trinkfest. So wird der Spruch nicht verwendet (dem Kommentar nach überhaupt recht wenig? Ich kenne den Spruch, Protestantischer Raum), charakterisiert einige Würdenträger recht gut, die nicht all zu bieder sein möchten. "Hol mir mal ne Flasche Bier, sonst streik ich hier" (Gerhard S.)
    – vectory
    Aug 6, 2019 at 23:15
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    The first 2 are good suggestions, but the last is unrelated indeed.
    – Mast
    Aug 7, 2019 at 6:57

There's a related touch-your-own-nose idiom

sich an die eigene Nase fassen

saying that someone should first clean up their own behavior before criticizing others.

Fass dir mal an die eigene Nase!
(Touch your own nose!)

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    "vor der eigenen Haustür kehren" can be used synonymously Aug 6, 2019 at 7:15
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    @MichaelA.Schaffrath: Stimmt, das wäre eine eigene Antwort.
    – Pollitzer
    Aug 6, 2019 at 7:50
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    Das passt m.E. in sofern nicht, als die zeitliche Reihenfolge, bzw. der Anlass verkehrt ist. Man sagt, jmd. solle sich an die eigene Nase fassen, in dem Moment, in dem er predigt. Hier geht es aber um eine Äußerung, die länger zurückliegt. Man will das aktuelle Verhalten mit historischer Rede kontrastieren, nicht aktuelle Rede mit historischem Verhalten. Aug 6, 2019 at 16:34
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    @userunknown: Ich rede von einem »related idiom«.
    – Pollitzer
    Aug 6, 2019 at 19:35

I also suggest the word Doppelmoral. You have two different sets of morals, one for yourself and one for everyone else. If one tells others to always lay out clear rationals in arguments and to stay calm but screams ad hominem attacks herself, then this person has a Doppelmoral.

Or telling other people to be sensitive about the environment and then getting a plastic bag every time she shops.

Edit: I just realised there is another idiom:

Mit zweierlei Maß messen.

It literally means to measure with two different measurements or scales.

  • Also, "moralisch flexibel", maybe? Aug 6, 2019 at 20:55
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    Double standard?
    – Mou某
    Aug 9, 2019 at 6:54
  • Yeah, that would be a fitting translation Aug 9, 2019 at 8:37

Here is one more German proverb:

Wer im Glashaus sitzt, soll nicht mit Steinen werfen.

Who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw stones.

It means that nobody should criticise shortcomings or conduct of of other people if he has done the same.

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    This is wrong. This saying means one should be careful with doing or saying things in delicate situations. While related, it is by far not restricted to hypocrisy, and is usually used in a different context than any of the OP's examples. Aug 6, 2019 at 15:20
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    Ok, I see I was wrong. +1 Aug 6, 2019 at 15:45
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    Mein Kommentar zu Pollitzer passt auch hier: Das Sprichwort passt m.E. in sofern nicht, als die zeitliche Reihenfolge, bzw. der Anlass verkehrt ist. Man sagt, jmd. solle im Glashaus sitzend nicht mit Steinen werfen, in dem Moment, in dem er wirft, nicht in dem er im Glashaus sitzt. Hier geht es aber um eine Äußerung, die länger zurückliegt. Man will das aktuelle Verhalten mit historischer Rede kontrastieren, nicht aktuelle Rede mit historischem Verhalten. Aug 6, 2019 at 16:38
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    @userunknown Wer mit Steinen schmeißt, sollte sich nicht ins Glashaus setzen! ;-) Aug 8, 2019 at 10:02

Out of all the answers so far, „wer im Glashaus sitzt, sollte nicht mit Steinen schmeißen“ is the most common, I‘ve practically never heard any of the other phrases.

If you want something more colloquial, you could say „Das sagt der/die richtige!“ which translates to „He/She is the right person to say that!“ and ironically accuses the other person of being hypocritical.

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    "Das sagt [grad] der Richtige!" ist definitely the most used, most colloquial saying. Aug 6, 2019 at 13:36
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    Auch hier wieder die Frage nicht getroffen. Es geht nicht um den Moment, in dem derjenige seine Weisheit ins Volk schüttet - da sagt man in der Tat "das sagt der Richtige!" oder "wer selbst im Glashaus sitzt ..." - es geht aber um den Moment, in dem der Prediger der Enthaltsamkeit selbst Wein trinkt und mit seinen Äußerungen konfrontiert werden soll. Sagt man dann "Wer selbst im Glashaus sitzt soll nicht mit Steinen werfen" wird der Angessprochene sich vielleicht fragen, welche Steine er gerade wirft. "Das sagt der Richtige" setzt sogar voraus, dass derjenige etwas sagt. Aug 6, 2019 at 16:44
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    Auch hier wieder die Frage nicht getroffen. Es geht nicht um den Moment Und das ist deine Meinung aber nicht der Fragetext, im Gegenteil.
    – TaW
    Aug 7, 2019 at 14:05
  • In Hannover around 1970 we children said "Musst Du gerade sagen!" when there was a perceived dissonance between saying and doing. (But, as @userunknown correctly remarked, at the moment of saying, not doing.) Aug 8, 2019 at 9:59

Just a few associations that came into my mind:

An ihren Taten sollt ihr sie erkennen.

is a sort of proverb derived from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7, 15-20), meaning that a person's actions are more important and more revealing than his words. This part of the sermon is a warning of not recognizing a

false prophet.


Du solltest dir mal selber zuhören!

is a general advice to realize all the consequences of one's own words.

Heute hü, morgen hott. / Heute so, morgen so.

is a comment on someone who changes his mind quite often, giving contradictory instructions in a general meaning, not necessarily referring to a maxim or rule of life taught by the person.

In a similar way you might address the 'false prophet' as

Du weißt auch nicht, was du willst!

A sentence that many people know from their readings of Karl May adventure novels is

Das Bleichgesicht redet mit gespaltener Zunge.

So one might say, humorously:

Du falscher Prophet redest mit gespaltener Zunge!

One problem in finding a good idiom corresponding to the idea of the English saying is the cultural fragmentation of modern societies (and the smartphonisation of young people): Nowadays, you cannot presume that your dialogue partner will understand allusions referring either to the Bible or to Karl May - or to any kind of 'should have read'.

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    So much good stuff in this answer. I love "mit gespaltener Zunge sprechen" (perfect answer) and "smartphonisation" :-) Coming to think about the former, "Du falsche Schlange!" would be a rather aggressive alternative, but nonetheless appropriate. Aug 6, 2019 at 15:25
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    Both sound really uncommon though. More like something you would find in an old... well .. novel Aug 6, 2019 at 18:33
  • Das geht aber alles an der Frage vorbei.
    – TaW
    Aug 7, 2019 at 14:06

Since we are talking about someone who has previously written a book and is now breaking his own rules, some of the answers are not quite fitting. "Wer im Glashaus sitzt sollte nicht mit Steinen werfen" or "Fass dir lieber mal an die eigene Nase" is for the opposite situation - someone is now preaching, while he is known for breaking these rules in the past.

I think the most common expression would be a direct translation:

Der sollte mal sein eigenes Buch lesen!


Hat der sein eigenes Buch eigentlich gelesen?

Which sounds the most natural to me - most other expressions seem too poetic or artificial for everyday speech today.

I also know a lot of Germans who prefer irony or sarcastic remarks in such situations:

Der Logikprofessor lebt seine Regeln ja bestens vor. (with sarcastic tone)


A typical German reaction would be "Ausgerechnet Sie!", an elliptical exclamation roughly corresponding to "of all people you".


It is a bit hard to know what you are looking for if you don’t give a specific English phrase. But in regards to your example „Du solltest dein eigenes Buch lesen“ is a perfectly fine translation. or „Du solltest dich selbst dran halten.“ If you refer to their recommendations or rules.


Did someone here already mention the term "Pharisaer?"


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