How would you say "to make no sense" in German? I've seen uses with machen and haben:

Das macht keinen Sinn.

Es hat keinen Sinn, mit Ihnen zu streiten.

4 Answers 4


First, “Sinn haben” and “Sinn machen” (but more to the latter below) have different meanings:

Es hat keinen Sinn, dies zu versuchen.

means that something is futile, ein sinnloses Unterfangen.

When we come to the expressions which are closer to the English “to make sense” we open a can of worms. The nearest proper German expression is “Sinn ergeben”.

Dieser Text ergibt keinen Sinn.

There is also the expression “Sinn machen” with more or less the same meaning. This is probably a relatively recent (meaning I remember encountering it in the 1980s, but that might say more about my own age) anglicism, and as such is fervently hated by some. However, I think that the German „Sinn ergeben“ does not mean exactly the same as the English „make sense“ (I would need some time to collect my thoughts on this), so maybe there is a place for „Sinn machen“ in the German language. Pragmatically, it cannot be stopped anyway.

You might be interested in this discussion of the subject, in which it is argued that “Sinn machen” does not make sense in German, because the possible meanings of “Sinn” and “machen” differ from those of “sense” and “to make”.

  • But "Sinn haben" is much more common than "Sinn ergeben", right?
    – Luis Sep
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 7:28
  • @LuisSep True. And Sinn machen is most common.
    – Em1
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 7:46
  • “Sinn haben” und “Sinn ergeben” have different meanings, I'll clarify this.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 10:08
  • 4
    @Em1 While many people (sometimes including myself) say es macht keinen Sinn, the correct term is es ergibt keinen Sinn (it doesn't make sense). The other term, es hat keinen Sinn, would translate to there's no point in [...]. spiegel.de/kultur/zwiebelfisch/… Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 11:13
  • 1
    @ThorstenDittmar I wasn't responding to what is the correct term but to what is common. And Sinn machen is clearly what people say. I rarely encounter Sinn ergeben. (And actually in a couple of years machen in German will be considered as correct, too)
    – Em1
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 11:20


  • Das ist sinnvoll.
  • Das ergibt einen Sinn.
  • Das hat einen Sinn.

Rather not so common

  • Ich sehe einen Sinn darin.
  • Dahinter steckt/verbirgt sich Sinn.
  • Ich kann Sinn darin erkennen.

No sense

  • Das ist sinnlos.
  • Es hat keinen Sinn.
  • Es ergibt nicht den geringsten Sinn.
  • Darin liegt kein Sinn.
  • Das scheint/bleibt ohne Sinn.
  • Mir vermag sich der Sinn nicht zu erschließen.

Rather not so common

  • Das ist [absolut] ohne Sinn.
  • Der Sinn des Ganzen ist unergründbar.
  • Ich vermag den Sinn nicht zu ergründen/zu erhaschen/zu begreifen.

all phrases are from here as cited by em1 here


I think in Yiddish we can say "Das stimmt nischt". Does that work in German?

We also have "Das liegt sich nischt auf'n seykhel" with the Hebrew term. Literally that's probably close to "it doesn't stand to reason".

  • As always it depends on context and I think in most cases it won't work in German. At least if Yiddish "Das stimmt nischt" equals German "Das stimmt nicht".
    – Em1
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 7:48
  • I've checked some examples and it seems to be used in Yiddish very much in the sense of "it doesn't make sense"; or alternately, "that doesn't jive (with the facts)". And the German usage is different how? Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 9:36
  • As said, context is missing. The point is that "Das stimmt nicht" is rather "Das ist gelogen", "Das ist nicht wahr" but saying "That doesn't make sense" sounds more like "Das kann ich kaum/nicht glauben", "Da sind noch Widersprüche" or "Das klingt schlicht unlogisch" but is not necessarily a statement saying that something is not true. Then you would go in English with "That's not true" which is "Das stimmt nicht".
    – Em1
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 9:44
  • If we consider Yiddish as a "German language", and I very much do so, then it is interesting indeed if there are subtle differences in the meaning of "das stimmt nicht".
    – Takkat
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 10:33
  • If the German usage is close to "bullshit", it's quite different from the Yiddish. Here is an example in context from what we call "Yeshivish", the Yiddish-laced English spoken among the American ultra-orthodox: "As an aside, when I related this to the Rosh Yeshivah, he smiled. Ever the Talmudist, he replied, “Very nice, but shtimt nisht, not consistent with the the Gemara in Kiddushin [33B], which says a sefer Torah is on a higher level than a talmid chacham.” Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 13:16

"Das macht Sinn" is a sentence coming from the English language. "Das hat Sinn" is an older, but also more correct German.

Here's a german article about them: http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/zwiebelfisch/zwiebelfisch-stop-making-sense-a-261738.html

  • Hm - yes, but all that has already been said by others. Even the link was already provided, although just in a comment. -1 from me because I don't see anything new here.
    – Hulk
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 15:04
  • Oh, I didn't see that. Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 16:50

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