How to say that something works in German

How to say that something works in German

It is a common mistake to use “arbeiten” in German to express that something works out. After reading this article you will know when to use which verb instead.


In German, there are many verbs to express that something is working and we will discover them in more depth inside this article.



In German, the verb “arbeiten” is used if you want to express that you work at a job, on a project or at home or if a machine is turned on and actually performing work like “Der Drucker arbeitet die ganze Nacht.” BUT it is never used to express that something is working out and therefore you should erase sentences like “Der Plan arbeitet” from your brain and use the following verbs instead.



“Funktionieren” (to function) can be used for almost everything. It basically means that something works out or is not broken. For instance: “Der Fernseher funktioniert.” “Der Plan der Kinder funktioniert.” “Mein Gehirn funktioniert nur mit genug Schlaf.”



The verb “gehen” actually means to go but is widely used to also express that something works and it is also the reason why Germans come out as Germans speaking English as they love to say “it goes” instead of it works. Now, gehen means that something works or is not broken or that it is turned on (mostly this is used in everyday language and the proper way to express that something is turned on is to say “an sein”).

Therefore the sentence “Der Fernseher geht.” could mean that the TV is not broken or that it is turned on.



“Laufen” is very similar to “gehen”. For my taste, “laufen” is a very funny verb as it means “to run”, “to walk” and “to go” in only one verb! In the case of expressing that something is working it means that it is turned on like “Der Fernseher läuft.” or that something works out as in the slang expression “Es läuft!” which means that everything works out great.



“Klappen” has two meanings. The first one is to fold and the second meaning is “to work / to work out / to go smoothly”. You can use this verb for plans, meetings or a deal like “Das Meeting klappt”, “Die Überweisung klappt” but it does not work for anything that is machine-like as for instance “das Auto” or “der Computer”.


Intakt sein

If you decide to use “intakt sein”, you will express yourself in a very sophisticated way and therefore you should choose wisely when and in which surrounding to use it. Basically, this verb means that something is not broken and can be used as it is supposed to be. This is why it refers to machines “Das Auto ist intakt” but also to human connections like “Die Beziehung ist intakt”. Anyhow a meeting can never be “intakt” in the sense of working out.



“Funzen” has its roots in the technical world and so it might not be surprising that it is mostly used to describe that a technical device is working like “der Computer funzt” or “das Kabel funzt” but you can also use it in order to describe that a plan or a transfer is working like “das Treffen funzt” or “die Überweisung funzt”. However, you should be aware that this verb is a slang word and therefore you should be aware of when to use it in which environment.


Now, after you got to know so many possibilities of how to say that something works in German, you will avoid the common mistakes and know how to express yourself in each situation.


Bis bald!



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: