I heard the question
Was erlauben Sie sich?
in a German film three times in two minutes. I don't think the literal meaning was intended: "What do you allow yourself?" Is this an expression? What does it mean?
German Language Stack Exchange is a bilingual question and answer site for speakers of all levels who want to share and increase their knowledge of the German language. It's 100% free, no registration required.Sign up to join this community
umgangssprachlich; Ausdruck von Empörung / Entrüstung; höfliche, aber energische Reaktion auf eine anmaßende Handlung eines anderen
If somebody uses the phrase, he is usually indignant about another person's action which is perceived as rude or impolite. In other words, it serves as a protest against an impudence. An English analogue is "how dare you".
"Was erlauben Sie sich" is used more in the sense of "what do you think you're doing?" than anything connected to permission. You might get it as a reaction to offensive actions or rudeness.
It literally translates to "what do you allow yourself to do?" as in "taking the liberty to do sth.", just with way more (too much) liberty taken.