Recently in my slow-paced study of German (mostly using Anki flashcards and various other free online German language resources) I got a bit confused between two common ways of saying “to be used to” in German.
I did a bit of a deep dive into this, to really make sure I understand it, and here are all my notes as nobody seems to explain this properly online.
In essence, there are two main ways of saying you’re “used to” something in German, by which I mean saying sentences like “I’m used to the cold” or “I’m not used to waking up so early”.
These to constructions are:
- sich gewöhnen sein an (also written as angewöhnen sometimes)
- gewohnt sein
These look very similar. In conjugated use, they also look very similar. But they’re not the same, and are very different in use.
Just a note — while this is a grammar explainer, I prefer “grammar in action” rather than getting hung up on definitions. My general method is to try to use words in all the ways I could commonly use them and not learn anything redundant for my purposes.
How to say “be used to” or “get used to” in German in a nutshell
Here are the differences in a nutshell between gewohnt sein and gewähnt sein an in German.
Gewohnt is an adjective that means “used to”. It describes that you are used to something. It describes a continuous state of used to something as part of intrinsic personality or experience.
Angewöhnen is a verb that describes becoming used to something, either in the past, present, or future. You might have gotten used to something or need to get used to something — this is where you use you use gewöhnen sein an.
Another difference you might have noticed is that angewöhnen has the preposition an to include in a sentence. Sometimes this means you have to use daran to refer to “it”. When you use gewohnt, you don’t need this preposition, and can use “es” or “das” to refer to getting used to “it”.
Finally, when talking about “getting used to something” in German, Germans often use a preposition (e.g. mich or dich) along with angewöhnen.
In some situations, they’re interchangeable, e.g. you might generally be used to the cold, or you might have gotten used to the cold.
Examples sentences of being or becoming “used to” something in German
To put it into context there’s nothing better than a ton of example sentences.
I’ve pulled these from around the web and assembled them here — a ton of example sentences focusing on saying “to be used to” or “to get used to” in German.
I also wrote some of them and had them checked by on the diary page on Italki where you can get native speakers to check your grammar.
|I’m not used to staying up at night.||Ich bin es nicht gewohnt, bis spät in die Nacht aufzubleiben.|
|I’m used to waking up early.||Ich bin es gewohnt, früh aufzustehen.|
|I have become used to waking up early.||Ich habe mich daran gewöhnt, früh aufzustehen.|
|I beg your pardon, I’m not used to it.||Verzeihung, daran bin ich nicht gewöhnt.|
|I’m not used to it yet.||Ich habe mich noch nicht daran gewöhnt.|
|I’m not used to spicy food.||Ich bin an starkgewürztes Essen nicht gewöhnt.|
|You’ll have to get used to it earlier or later.||Du wirst dich letztendlich daran gewöhnen müssen.|
|You’ll have to get used to it.||Daran wirst du dich gewöhnen müssen.|
|After all these years I’m still not used to it here.||In all den Jahren hier habe ich mich nicht daran gewöhnt.|
|I’m used to the cold.||Ich bin die Kälte gewohnt.|
|I’m getting used to the cold.||Ich gewöhne mich an die Kälte.|
|We finally got used to the bad weather.||Wir haben uns schließlich an das schlechte Wetter gewöhnt.|
|I’m not used to the new environment.||Ich bin nicht an die neue Umgebung gewohnt.|
|I’m not used to the new environment yet.||Ich habe mich noch nicht an die neue Umgebung gewöhnt.|
|I’m slowly getting used to the new environment.||Ich gewöhne mich langsam an die neue Umgebung.|
Hopefully, referring to the above sentences you’ll get a sense of how to use gewohnt and gewöhnen in German.
The key is to learn how to say full sentences without pausing to think about conjugation and cases. Sometimes those can become blockers to fluency in the short term (though they always help in the long term).
These are just things that I say (roughly). You definitely have a different life, and say different things about school, work, your family, and pastimes. So write out what you want to say and practise saying them.