According to Duden here

jemandem auf die Nerven gehen/fallen (umgangssprachlich: jemandem äußerst lästig werden)

and here:

der Lärm zerrt an meinen Nerven (ist eine große Belastung für meine Nerven)

So, my question is, can they be considered synonyms? Would it matter which one I use in the following example:

  • YouTube-Werbungen gehen mir echt auf die Nerven.
  • YouTube-Werbungen zerren echt an meinen Nerven.

Also a side question about "jemandem an die Nerven gehen", it says here:

Im Gegensatz zur ähnlichen Redewendung "auf die Nerven gehen" beschreibt diese eher einen Prozess, der über einen längeren Zeitraum stattfindet und keinen kurzfristigen Gemütszustand.

Duden mentions the following example:

dieser Film geht an die Nerven

But a film doesn't seem to me like something that "über einen längeren Zeitraum stattfindet" but rather something "kurzfrist", so can I say "dieser Film geht auf die Nerven" or is there something I'm not understanding here?

  • 1. Etymologically, Nerv seems to be from confluence of two different stems, see Dutch and Old French nerf, but the information there is inconsistent. 2. zerren stands probably for zehren "to consume", Das zehrt an meinen Kräften, with which it might be cognate. 3. angehen rather means "to concern", as a suspenseful movie might do. "etwas geht mir an die Nieren" is historically more common, refering to emotions (cf. Greek nephre, En. spleen, etc.). I feel like you need a better dictionary :)
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 18:01
  • 1
    @vectory "Zerren" is a quite common verb meaning "to pull forcefully", "to tug", "to drag sth.". There's more of a relation to "ziehen" than to "zehren". Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 18:12
  • I took that from en.wiktionary though I harbor doubts. The synonymy with nephre (kidney) is a lot more interesting (the homophony modulo sound change in the bell end not to mention; I'm missing polytonic accents I know), since both the kidneys and the diaphragm are indicated as seats of Ka, and Clotho spins it (ie. fate) on a string. Further more, the root of Lat. nervus with s-prefix indicates Hutschnur, da platzt mir gelinde gesagt die Hutschnur
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 21:39

2 Answers 2


No, the phrases you mentioned are similar, but not synomyms.

Die Werbung auf YouTube geht mir echt auf die Nerven.

means that you're really annoyed by advertisement on YouTube. But when the ads are gone, the jangling of your nerves will evaporate quickly, as well. That's probably what your source meant with the long time / short time distinction.

Die Werbung auf YouTube zerrt echt an meinen Nerven.

implies that the ads are straining your nerves. This adds to the strain that you already may have accumulated from earlier time or other sources. If this keeps on too long, your nerves may snap, you may snap. Maybe you lose your nerves, your patience, your composure.

This is more severe than "etwas geht mir auf die Nerven", the straining of your nerves tends to last longer, accumulate over time, and the effects may be more severe. Think "clicking the ads away as fast your can with an exasperated sigh" vs. "throwing the computer against the wall full force because you just can't take it anymore".

Der Film geht an die Nerven.

is a phrase I don't remember hearing before. I'm familiar with the similar phrase

Der Film geht mir an die Nieren.

This refers to more of an emotional strain, like for example

Das Schicksal der obdachlosen Kinder geht mir an die Nieren.

As a side note, "Werbung" is typically used as an uncountable singular. I remember hearing "Werbungen" in ad industry jargon, but in everday speech "Werbung" would mean "advertisement" as a more abstract general term. Individual pieces would be called "Werbeanzeige" or "Anzeige" in print, "Werbespot" in audio / video form (TV, radio, web, ..) and so forth.


I'll just give some more detailed examples:

  1. Die dauernden und noch dazu ständig wiederholten Werbeeinblendungen in kurzen Abständen bei YouTube gehen mir ganz schön auf die Nerven (older: auf den Wecker / auf den Keks; also: rauben mir den letzten Nerv / coll. nerven total).
  2. Mit der fünfköpfigen Familie 14 Tage wegen Corona zu Hause eingesperrt zu sein, da glaubst du gar nicht, wie einem das an den Nerven zerren kann (or: wie einen das stressen / unter Stress setzen kann).
  3. Der Film schlägt einem aufs Gemüt / geht einem unter die Haut / der Film erzählt eine überaus bewegende Geschichte.

Like Henning Kotterbeck I don't know the expression jemandem an die Nerven gehen. The phrase may have been influenced by the quite common 'jemandem an die Nieren gehen' as a sort of "contamination" [just like Schulden aufnehmen, which is a contamination of einen Kredit aufnehmen and Schulden machen.]

The Duden examples are usually as short as possible and so they could be less comprehensible.

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