Meinen in English is mean, right? Well, not exactly.

It’s important to understand that the German verb meinen has three main uses:

1. Mean
Meinen can be translated as mean if we talk about what someone wants to say:

German English
Das habe ich nicht gemeint.

(=Das wollte ich nicht sagen.)

I didn’t mean that.

(=I didn’t want to say that.)

2. Think
Meinen can also be used to talk about what someone thinks, so mean would be the wrong translation here:

German English
Ich will gehen, aber Thomas meint, wir sollen bleiben.

(=Ich will gehen, aber Thomas denkt, wir sollen bleiben.)

I want to go, but Thomas thinks we should stay.

(…Thomas means we should stay…)

3. Say
Another typical use of meinen is to talk about what someone said. Again, mean would be the wrong translation here too:

German English
Die Ärztin meinte, ich soll mehr Wasser trinken.

(=Die Ärztin sagte, ich soll mehr Wasser trinken.)

The doctor said I should drink more water.

(…-the doctor meant I should drink more water-…)

“Meinst du, dass du nicht wirklich meinst, was du gemeint hast?”

Maybe it’s even possible to combine all of these ideas into one sentence:

German English
Du hast mich falsch verstanden! Ich wollte nur sagen, dass ich denke, was die Ärztin gesagt hat, ist falsch.

(=Du hast mich falsch verstanden! Ich meinte nur, dass ich meine, was die Ärztin gemeint hat, ist falsch.)

You misunderstood me! I just meant that I think what the doctor said is wrong.

Remember: Don’t look for simple one-to-one translations when learning a language. It’s possible that a word has multiple meanings in one language and therefore different words for each meaning in another language.

Meinung ≠ meaning

It’s also important to remember that Meinung and meaning don’t mean the same thing. Meaning means Bedeutung, and Meinung means opinion:

German English
Dieses Wort hat eine andere Bedeutung. This word has a different meaning.
Was ist deine Meinung? What is your opinion?


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