Das Volk des Machens und Fahrens — The things Germans make and drive

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Das Volk des Machens und Fahrens — The things Germans make and drive

German’s call Germany “Das Land der Dichter und Denker” (The country of poets and philosophers). Germans speakers should be called “Das Volk des Machens und Fahrens” (the people of making and driving).

Machen and fahren are two of the most important verbs in German and are used in place of the English verbs “to do” and “to go”. One of the best ways to learn these verbs are in collocations — that is words they fit together with. So what is it exactly that Germans make and drive?


1. In general ist also means “to do”

  • Was machst du?
    • What are you doing?
  • Ich mache meine Hausaufgaben.
    • I’m doing my homework.

2. To put you into a certain state

  • Das macht mich wütend.
    • That makes me angry.

3. Colloquial term for production

  • Wo wurde der Käse gemacht?
    • Where was the cheese made?

4. Euphemistic for to go to the toilet

  • der Hund hat auf den Teppich gemacht.
    • The dog pooped/peed on the carpet.

5. Colloquial for to have sex.

  • Sie haben es letzte Nacht gemacht.
    • They did it last night.

6. To cause something

  • Du machst mir nur Arbeit.
    • You only make work for me.

7. To earn money

  • Mit seiner riskanten Spekulationen an der Börse hat mein Schwager ein Vermögen gemacht.
    • My brother-in-law made a fortune with his risky speculations on the stock market.

8. To develop in a positive way – to make something of oneself

  • Dein Sohn hat sich echt gemacht.
    • Your son has really made something of himself.

9. To play a role in theater

  • Jedes Jahr macht der Nachbar den Orpheus bei der Dorfbühne.
    • The neighbour plays Orpheus every year in the town theater.

10. To equal / amount to something

  • Das macht 1050 Franken.
    • That’ll be 1050 francs.

11. Colloquial for to call out or make a sound

  • „Wuff“, machte der Hund.
    • The dog goes “woof”.


1. To drive a vehicle

  • Ich fahre einen Mercedes.
    • I drive a Mercedes.

** Note this includes: cars, boats, motorcycles, bicycles, gliding aircraft, trains, buses, trams, gondolas and even skis.

  • Ich fahre gern Ski.
    • I like to ski.

2. To go from one point to another using a vehicle

  • Morgen fahre ich nach Luzern.
    • I’m going to Lucerne tomorrow.

3. To brush one’s hand or an object over a surface or through something

  • Sie fuhr sich mit der Hand durchs Haar.
    • She brushed her hand through her hair.

There you have it. So next time you want to literally translate “to do”, “to go”, “to ride” or simply “to ski” think about if it might not be “to make” (machen) or “to drive” (fahren) in German.

  1. toasty redheadtoasty redhead05-14-2011

    I didn’t know that.

  2. Samansiri NanayakkaraSamansiri Nanayakkara06-09-2013

    Now, this is all very well to know the “bare” usage of machen and fahren. The real trouble is (at least, for me) when the numerous prefixes are added to these verbs, creating innumerable derivatives. Any easy (or, relatively easy, perhaps) way out of the morass?

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