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German phrase of the day: Unter vier Augen

If you've got something important to get off your chest in confidence, this German phrase could be exactly what you need.

German phrase of the day: Unter vier Augen

Why do I need to know Unter vier Augen?

Because when it comes to speaking your mind, it’s often best to do so in the right setting.

What’s more, you’re likely to hear this phrase anywhere from the office to reality TV shows, so it’s useful to know what it means.

What does it mean?

Literally translated, Unter vier Augen means “under four eyes”. No, this isn’t a childish slur against people who wear glasses, but rather a way to describe a conversation where only two people are present – in other words, in private. 

READ ALSO: How to remember the gender of German words

As you might imagine, the four eyes refers to the fact that what goes on will only be observed by two people (i.e. two sets of eyes) and nobody else. Think of the English phrase, “for your eyes only” or the French tête à tête‎. 

It’s best used when you want to tell someone something in confidence, without anyone else present.

For example, you might want to have a one-to-one chat with a romantic interest to clarify your feelings, or your boss may want to have a private chat with you to talk about your performance at work. In this kind of situation, requesting a conversation unter vier Augen can signal your intention to have an open and honest chat. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get free vouchers to learn German in Vienna

Of course, this being German, you can also turn this entire concept into a compound noun: das Vieraugengespräch, or private conversation.

Use it like this:

Er sagte es mir unter vier Augen.

He told me it in confidence.

Darf ich mit Ihnen unter vier Augen sprechen? (formal)

May I speak with you in private? 

READ ALSO: German phrase of the day: Jetzt haben wir den Salat

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For members


Austrian word of the day: Beisl

This is a spot you might visit at the end of the working day - or Feierabend - particularly in Austria, as Germany has a different word for these establishments. Here's what this Austrian-German word means and how to use it.

Austrian word of the day: Beisl

Why do I need to know Beisl?

Because you may be invited to one or need to find one on the map.

What does it mean?

Das Beisl, which sounds like this, is the name for a pub or inn in Austrian German where people gather to drink beverages. In Germany, it is usually called a Kneipe.

This isn’t a fancy cocktail bar – it’s a neighbourhood watering hole and forms part of the make-up of towns and cities across Austria. It’s usually unpretentious, often small and used to be very smoky before Austria banned smoking indoors.

The term comes from the Czech “pajzl”, which means pub or dive. It’s a diminutive short form of the noun “hampejz” – with meaning such as “dog house” and even “brothel”.

Other possibilities for its origins include the Yiddish bajiss (house) , and the Austrian dialectal diminutive of the word Beiz – which was a low-class pub until the word got a better reputation.

Nowadays, the Beisl are usually friendly and charming and give an insight into life in Austria. So perhaps ask your Austria friends for a tip on a cool Beisl to visit. Just don’t expect the staff to speak English at all – or take credit cards.

If you’re hungry, keep in mind that Beisl usually doesn’t serve food or at least no hot dishes.

How to use it:
Treffen wir uns am Freitag nach Feierabend im Beisl.
Let’s meet in the pub on Friday after work finishes.
Ich gehe mit den Jungs ins Beisl.
I’m going to the pub with the lads.