Today in my German class, I subconsciously said "I mean" and when I apologized for changing to English, my teacher said "Almost, you also say 'ich meine'" in German.

Is this expression used so common and with the same way as in English or is there any difference?

Would I mean that... be translated as Ich meine dass... ?

3 Answers 3


NO. It is not the same. While there is an overlap I think the differences are more numerous.

Ich meine, dass das nicht funktiniert.

Here, meine doesn't mean mean but rather suspect, guess or be of the opinion. In German, meinen is way more in the corner of opinion while the English to mean stretches toward information or content. You can also see that when you look at the corresponding nouns.

meaning - die Bedeutung Meinung - opinion

Those 2 are never a translation for each other. The word meinen is used in the same way as the English to mean, too but people would tend to use a different phrasing so as to avoid confusion with the above presented connotation.

Was ich meine, ist...

Also, all phrasing like

That means, what does that mean, I meant to say, what I mean with that, etc....

are rarely translated using meinen.

Das heißt, was heißt das, Ich wollte sagen, was ich damit sagen will/meine...

Finally, the English filler I mean is only sometimes translated with meinen.

  • thanks for the further details. I agree that to say "It's the same" is too much. But I understood the question that way, whether those phrases in general refer to the same meaning - and both do. So yes there are a lot of ways where you wouldn't translate them by replacing mean with meinen and the other way round. But it in most cases it is no mistake to do it. Right? Aug 10, 2013 at 11:41
  • @Bertram Nudelbach... that's my point. I think in most cases it actually would be a mistake to do so.
    – Emanuel
    Aug 10, 2013 at 20:50
  • however, I edited my answer with regard to the filler "I mean" ... sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't
    – Emanuel
    Aug 10, 2013 at 20:53

Yes. It's the same. Even more weird is that to be mean is equal to gemein sein.


Note that if you would say The title means that.. you normally would translate it to Der Titel bedeutet .... This is because only persons can meinen and things bedeuten etwas - the things mean something.

  • 4
    Bertram + @Luis Sep: I wish I could give +10 for the edit - this is such a common mistake these days. German "meinen" can only ever be used in connection with people, unless it's used indirectly: "The comment was meant as a compliment." = "Der Kommentar war als Kompliment gemeint." But I think you see the "human" aspect even here: that the intention of the speaker is in the focus here.
    – Mac
    Aug 9, 2013 at 9:40
  • @Mac yes true, thanks ;) Your sentence can be extended with "The commentator meant the comment as a compliment." So it's not so easy but I think it's important to decide "who means?" So if a human means, it's "meinen" - if a thing means it's "bedeuten". So in your example "The comment means agreement." would be "Der Kommentar bedeutet Zustimmung". Aug 9, 2013 at 9:48
  • 3
    Maybe a hint could be, if you can use "think" then "mean" means "meinen". If you can't, it means "bedeuten". Aug 9, 2013 at 10:00
  • And would you say that "mean" means "bedeuten" when you can substitute for "translate"/"übersezten"?
    – Luis Sep
    Aug 9, 2013 at 18:47
  • Yes. Even if you normally can't just substitute means by translate .. but I would translate "to mean" in terms of translation always with "bedeuten". Aug 9, 2013 at 20:46

meinen has many definitions: think (denken, glauben), mean (sagen wollen), intend. Using meinen can lead to confusion sometimes. I would rather say: Was ich eigentlich sagen wollte ist, dass …

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