German words expats should know: Ach so

German words expats should know: Ach so

The key to sounding like a native German speaker, we present to you: Ach so! Ach so, sometimes alternatively written as achso or even aso, can help you seem like you’ve got a good grip, even in those times when you’re a little unsure of what’s going on!

Ach so meaning in German

Put simply, ach so is used to indicate that you understand or agree with something that someone has just said - as you might use “right” or “I see” in English. The phrase is super useful as it can help you to avoid the rather long-winded and somewhat formal “Ich verstehe”, especially in more colloquial conversations. But it can also be used in tandem with it, as in, "Ach so, verstehe" or "Right, I get it". 

Adding an exclamation mark to the phrase, or giving it a more animated tone, can also indicate a eureka or lightbulb moment. Often when this is the case, people will elongate the phrase for even more emphasis, as in "Acchh sooo" as in "Aaah, I seeeee". 

Ach so German to English

Directly translated from German to English, Ach so simply means something like “aha” or “I see”. Since it is such a flexible and versatile phrase, it can be quite difficult to pinpoint a direct German-to-English translation of the word, but reducing it down to “Aah, I see” is pretty close.

Aso, ach so or achso?

Achso, achso and aso are all correct variations of the same phrase, simply written differently. In informal settings such as in text messages, you’ll often see the shortened versions of this phrase  - achso and aso.

Alas in German

Aside from these meanings, ach can also denote several other things in German. Generally, the word indicates something like “oh right, okay” when you’re nodding along in a conversation, but the phrase also means “alas”, too. 

Often, people won’t use the full phrase ach so when they want to say "alas" in German, rather just using the word ach instead. You can also use the word “leider” - literally “unfortunately”, to mean alas.

Used in combination with "du", "ach" can also often precede an expression of shock or surprise such as "Ach du meine Güte" ("goodness gracious!") or "Ach du Scheiße!", also known in English as OMFG! 

So so in German

Similar to ach so, Germans also use so so, or soso. Soso essentially means “Well, well”. Be careful not to confuse this with the English so-so - a response to “how are you?” or "how's it going?" indicating that things are going neither good nor bad. Instead, in that case, it’s better to use “Es geht”, "Ja, läuft" (it's going) or “Solala” (it's going so-so). 

German word for understand

Achso is a great way to express understanding in an informal conversation, but what are the best ways to say “I understand” in a more formal setting? Thankfully, the German language has many words for many different situations - namely verstehen and greifen.

When you don't feel like achso will do the job, verstehen can be used to indicate a general understanding of situations or conversations, while greifen is the German equivalent of "grasp", which refers more to having an understanding of a theoretical idea.

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Emily Proctor

Former Editor at IamExpat Media.

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