6

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?

2
  • Probably not easy to understand for a non-native speaker, not meant as a close reason: dwds.de/wb/erlauben#d-1-3
    – Carsten S
    Oct 25 '21 at 16:02
  • It does seem to be a common expression, see DWDS search results. The Redensarten-Index defines it as "Ausdruck von Empörung / Entrüstung; höfliche, aber energische Reaktion auf eine anmaßende Handlung eines anderen."
    – RDBury
    Oct 25 '21 at 17:18
11

See here:

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".

7

"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.

4
  • I understand what you mean, but the actor in the film said it once arrogantly and not in an offensive way, does the meaning change here? Oct 25 '21 at 17:07
  • Nope. Still the same meaning.
    – tofro
    Oct 25 '21 at 17:43
  • 2
    @محمدالرويحي : The sentence "Was erlauben Sie sich" isn't offensive, it's offended. It's the reaction to something offending. "Herr Meier, Sie sind ein Idiot!" - "Was erlauben Sie sich, Herr Müller?"
    – HalvarF
    Oct 25 '21 at 18:23
  • thank you guys. Oct 25 '21 at 19:38

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