Confusing Words Language Tips

missa nett and daufa nett

The word missa means must in English. But how do you say something must not be done (as in, it’s not allowed) in Pennsylvania Dutch? Missa nett…, right?

Using missa with nett

The word missa is often mistakenly used along with nett to say “must not” — as in, it’s not allowed; it’s something we cannot do.

Let’s look at an example.

You want to say (EN)If you sayHow it sounds to a Deitsh speaker
We must not steal.Miah missa nett shtayla.It’s not required that we steal. It would probably be okay, but we don’t have to.
⛔ Wrong way
You want to say (EN)If you sayHow it sounds to a Deitsh speaker
We must not steal.Miah daufa nett shtayla.We must not steal. Stealing is not allowed.
✅ Correct way

Use daufa nett instead

To a native speaker, missa nett is like saying it probably would be ok, but we don’t have to. In other words, it’s not something that’s required.

Instead, you should use: daufa nett

👍🏻 Miah daufa nett shtayla. (PG meaning: We must not steal.)

In this case, daufa means allowed. So daufa nett means “not allowed”.

How to correctly use missa nett

There are some correct ways of using missa nett:

Miah missa nett peiyneera, avvah miah kenna vann miah vella. (We don’t have to; it’s not required.)

Miah missa nimmi unsah placements counta. (We’re no longer required.)

In the above examples, you would be saying: we’re not required to…

Using missa by itself

Good news: When used by itself, missa does mean “we must”; as in something we are required or that we have to do.


Miah missa du vass Jehova havva vill.

Miah missa ice cream havva.

Miah missa anri leit lanna veyyich Jehova.

Miah missa bayda.


  1. Must = missa (as in has to be done)
  2. Must not = daufa nett (as in not allowed)
  3. Not required = missa nett (as in doesn’t have to be done)
Confusing Words Words of the Week

patient and geduldich

Most native Pennsylvania Dutch speakers will understand both the words patient and geduldich. But when would it be best to each?

Patience noun (the quality)

  1. patience (more common)
    Du musht may patience havva.
  2. geduld (less common outside of the Bible, but understood by most. Most commonly used if at end of sentence along with mitt)
    Gott sei geduld is’n kshenk.
    Miah missa’s ohnemma mitt geduld.

Patient adj (what someone is or can become)

  1. patient
    See is immah patient mitt iahra kinnah.
    Sei patient mitt si.
  2. geduldich
    Gott is geduldich mitt uns.

Patiently adv = patiently (how someone does something)
Ich binn am patiently voahra biss ich healthy binn.

💡 Patience, patient, patiently can also give idea of endurance (continuing on with something hard to deal with).


  • When talking about about something from the Bible, or a Bible subject, geduld and geduldich are very common.
  • But if having a casual conversation, it would be more common to use patience and patient instead.
  • And if talking about someone patiently doing something or patiently waiting, then you’re safer to use the English word patiently.
Confusing Words Language Tips

Figures of Speech: Walking and Running

Many Pennyslvania Dutch figures of speech are similar to ones in English; but often slightly different. This is true when it comes to talking about things that are said to “run” in English.

In English, some things are said to run—even though they don’t have legs.

  • A river or stream runs
  • Tears can run down your face
  • Liquids can run over (as in overflow)

But in Pennsylvania Dutch, those inanimate objects (things without real legs) are usually said to ‘walk’ (lawfa).


  • A river walks
    Da revvah lawft.
    Di revvahra lawfa deich di valley.
    Da revvah is gloffa biss’s ufgedrikkeld vadda is.
  • Tears walk down someone’s face
    ’S awwa-vassah lawft ivvah iahra bakka nunnah.
  • When water or liquids overflow in Deitsh, they “walk over”
    ’S vassah is am ivvah-lawfa!
    Da revvah zayld ivvah-lawfa noch da shtoahm.


There are a couple of exceptions.

  1. Motors and equipment do “run” (shpringa) in Pennsylvania Dutch (generators, refrigerators, washing machines, motors, and cars and trucks)
  2. Of course, animals and people who can literally “run” and “walk” (they have legs) still shpringa and lawfa in Pennsylvania Dutch.

These differences in figures of speech are a reminder of the unique culture and thinking of native Pennsylvania Dutch speakers.

Confusing Words Words of the Week

shpringa and shprenga

What’s the difference between the Deitsh words shpringa and shprenga?

Both of the words shpringa and shprenga are verbs (action words) that mean to run.

Shpringa verb = to run (as in movement, or to work and function)

Shprenga verb = to run (as in to operate something else)


Jon Heder Running GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

Use shpringa when you’re talking about running (movement).

Ich shtay uf free meiyets so’s ich shpringa kann.

’S hutshli shpringd.

You can also use shpringa when you’re talking about something that is operating (working/running).

Gears GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

’Sis gans laut koss di generator am shpringa is.


Grading Blue Collar GIF by JC Property Professionals - Find & Share on GIPHY

Use shprenga when you’re talking about operating something else—usually a piece of equipment or a machine.

Da Colton is di generator am shprenga.

See shprengd’s vesha machine Moondawks.

Du bisht dei maul am shprenga!

Confusing Words Words of the Week

yau and yo

Is there more than one way to say ‘yes’ in Pennsylvania Dutch? Yes, actually.

  1. yes = yau (to agree; opposite of no)
  2. yes = yo (definitely yes or absolutely yes; for emphasis)
  3. yes = yo (actually yes)

1. yau = yes

The most common way you’ll say yes in Pennsylvania Dutch is yau.

Yau means exactly what you’d expect it to mean—yes. Use yau when answering questions. It’s uncomplicated, and the opposite of nay (no).


While yo also means yes, knowing when and how to use yo is trickier and depends on the conversation.

… knowing when and how to use yo is trickier and depends on the conversation.

Let’s look at 2 of the most common ways to use yo in a Pennsylvania Dutch conversation.

2. yo = definitely yes

In some areas, yo is used to emphasize yes—as in, definitely yes. It can be used either in response to a question, or to a statement you really agree with.

Examples of definitely yes

Vitt samm ice cream?
Yo, ich du!

Eah is reeli am vaxa.
Yo, yo, yo.

3. yo = yes (actually)

You can also use yo for yes when responding to a question or statement that the other person assumes the answer to is no. Probably the closest to English would be: actually yes.


Person 1: ’Sis am shnaya grawt nau. Du bisht nett am do hivva kumma, gell?
Person 2: Yo. Ich zayl glei datt sei.

In the example, person 1 doesn’t expect person 2 to be coming over since it’s snowing. However, person 2 says the equivalent of, “Actually, yes. I will be there soon.”

Another example:

Person 1: Da Henry shaft nett heit, gell?
Person 2: Yo. Eah shaft biss middawk.

Again, person 1 thought Henry wasn’t working today. But person 2 says that actually (yes), he works until lunch.

As you can imagine, this use of yo is pretty limited and you probably won’t use it very often. But it’s good to know in case you hear someone else say it to you.

Confusing Words Words of the Week

nevlich and dufftich

Both nevlich and dufftich are adjectives (description words) that mean foggy.

Foggy adj = nevlich (when speaking about the weather)

Foggy adj = dufftich (as in fogged up; glasses, windows, etc)

💡 What’s the Difference?


Heit is gans nevlich draus.

Use nevlich (foggy) when you’re talking about the weather—when it’s foggy outside and hard to see.

’Sis gans nevlich dimeiya.

’Sis am reiyra draus un nevlich dimeiya.


Di fenshtahra sinn dufftich.

On the other hand, use dufftich (foggy) when talking about an object that is fogged up; usually from steam or a difference in temperature—such as glass, windows, mirror, or eyeglasses.

Dufftich can also be used jokingly:

Mei brain is dufftich dimeiya.

Confusing Words Words of the Week

mayna, ohgukka, da view

view / have opinion verb = mayna (to have a set opinion or view about something)
Dayl leit mayna es si immah recht sinn.

view verb = ohgukka (to look at something a certain way; perhaps even by comparing)
Boviah sacha ohgukka vi anri doon.

view noun = da view (an opinion or viewpoint)
Avvah, sell is da letz view.

💡 What’s the Difference?

While all three words look the same in English, mayna is a verb that refers to the action of having a certain (usually set or established) view or opinion about something.

Ohgukka is also a verb, but means to look at something a certain way; perhaps considering and comparing things.

On the other hand, da view is a noun that refers to the viewpoint or opinion itself.

Confusing Words

Noch vs Nohch

Both noch and nohch can mean after. They also sound very, very similar. So how can you tell them apart and use them correctly in conversation?

How to Pronounce Noch and Nohch

Both words sound very similar.

Noch is said with less of a long ‘o’ sound (like in English words of and love).

Nohch is said with a stronger long ‘oh’ sound (like in English words Kohls or coherent).


While both noch * and nohch can mean after, it’s what you mean by after that’s important.


Use noch when talking about something that happens at some point later in time, without mention of specifically when.


Use nohch when talking about something that happens right after or immediately after or following next in order.

When to use Noch in a sentence

PDC: Vass fa plans hosht du noch dess?

EN: What plans do you have after this?

PDC: Du kansht en buch laysa noch shool.

EN: You can read a book after school.

PDC: Ich vesh di ksharra eb un noch alli meal.

EN: I wash the dishes before and after every meal.

When to use Nohch in a sentence

PDC: Vass hott kaebbend nohch es da Johnnie dihaym kumma is?

EN: What happened right after Johnnie came home?

PDC: Miah zayla en gebayt sawwa eb un nohch da shtoddi.

EN: We will say a prayer (right) before and (right) after the study.

PDC: Leit braucha hilf nohch en disaster.

EN: People need help (following) after a disaster.


Both noch and nohch can be used to say after. But nohch mentions time and makes it clear that you’re talking about something happening immediately after or next.

* Footnote 1: The word noch has other meanings, such as another, and still (to come).

See the Pennsylvania Dutch Words List for more info.

† Footnote 2: The word nohch is also sometimes used along with other verbs in phrases.

  • nohch gay (go after)
  • nohch gukka (look after)
Confusing Words

Prepositions – diveyya, difunn, ditzu, difoah

Let’s talk about when to use common Pennsylvania Dutch prepositions in sentences. For example, here are some common prepositions in Deitsh:

  • about: veyyich or diveyya
  • from: funn or difunn
  • to: zu or ditzu
  • for: fa or difoah
  • before: eb or difoah*

You may have noticed with these words, that one is used in one sentence, and the other used in a different sentence. For example, when do you use veyyich and when do you use diveyya? How do you know which one to use?

What Are Prepositions?

Words like about, from, to, before are prepositions. Prepositions introduce or announce information to the listener or reader (for example the start or change of a new thought). When you see or hear a preposition, you often expect to hear more. The subject being introduced is generally a noun, pronoun, or location words.

What is a Subject?

Subjects are generally a noun or pronoun. So remember:

  • Nouns are people, places, or things.
  • Pronouns are substitutes for people, places or things (I, you, he, she, it, we, you all, they).
    • In questions, what and who and where are considered pronouns.

Since there may be other nouns and pronouns in a sentence, you have to identify which is the subject.

The subject is the part of the sentence that shows:

  • what it is about, or
  • who or what performs the action

Using Prepositions in Pennsylvania Dutch

Prepositions Before the Subject

Each preposition is in bold; the subject it introduces (noun or pronoun) is in italics.

  • We will talk about your grades.
    • Miah zayla shvetza veyyich dei grades.
  • It’s about 15 miles from our house to the store.
    • ‘Sis baut 15 meil funn unsah haus zu da shtoah.
  • She goes to the school.
    • See gayt zu di shool.
  • He brushes his teeth before he goes to bed.
    • Eah brohsht sei zay eb eah zu bett gayt.

Notice in each example above, the preposition (about, from, to, before) introduces a noun or pronoun. The preposition comes before the subject it’s introducing.

Prepositions After the Subject

But sometimes, the subject has already been introduced in the sentence before the preposition appears.

Here are some examples:
Again, each preposition is in bold; the subject it introduces is in italics.

  • What are you talking about?
  • Where are you from?
  • I have something to look forward to.
  • Who is that cake for?
  • I’ve never heard that before (or previously).

In Pennsylvania Dutch, there are special versions of prepositions to show the subject has already been mentioned in the sentence. Most often, it’s simply a case of adding di- to the front of the word.

  • veyyich becomes diveyya
  • funn becomes difunn
  • zu becomes ditzu
  • fa becomes difoah
  • eb becomes difoah*

When do you use certain Pennsylvania Dutch prepositions?

The important thing to keep in mind is whether the preposition comes before or after the subject. Here’s a quick chart to help you know which version of each to use.

Before the subjectAfter the subject
veyyich (about)diveyya (about)
funn (from)difunn (from)
zu (to)ditzu (to)
fa (for)difoah (for)
eb (before)difoah (before/previously)*
* Technically, difoah can also mean previously. However, at the end of a sentence, when a person says before even in English, they really mean previously.


Let’s look at some examples. Each preposition is in bold; the subject is in italics.

English wordBefore the subject (PDC)After the subject (PDC)
aboutHeit, zayla miah shvetza veyyich di eaht.Vass zayla miah shvetza diveyya?
from‘Sis nett veit funn do.Vo bisht du difunn?
to‘Sis baut ay shtund funn mei haus zu Evansville.Vass bisht du faddi gukka ditzu heit?
forDess is fa diah.Dess is vass ich gvoaht habb difoah.
beforeMiah zayla essa eb sell.Ich habb sell nett keaht difoah!

Confusing Words

Eahsht vs S’eahsht vs Seahsht

All three words mean first. So what is the difference between eahsht, s’eahsht, and seahsht?

Eahsht (adj)

Use with nouns

Eahsht is an adjective in Pennsylvania Deitsh. So it’s used to describe a noun that is first in order or time.

This means that it needs to go along with a noun in a sentence — usually right before the noun.


  • Vass henn selli in di eahsht century gedu…? (as in the first century)
  • Gukket da eahsht paragraph. (as in the first paragraph)
  • Eahsht, Zvett, un Dritt Johannes. (as in first John)
  • Vass finna ma in di eahshti fiah bichah? (as in the first 4 books. Notice -i is added because it goes with a plural noun.)

S’eahsht (adj)

Use with nouns

S’eahsht is really just eahsht when used with a neuter noun.

The word es (the) sometimes gets shortened to s’ or ‘s; especially near the start of a sentence. Even though the and first are two separate words, they are often pronounced so they almost sound like one word.


  • S’eahsht moll es ich do voah… (as in the first time)
  • Gukket’s eahsht piktah. (as in the first picture)
  • Vass hott kaebbend in’s eahsht part funn di fasamling? (part is neuter)

In both examples above, moll and piktah are neuter nouns, so they would normally have ‘s or es in front of them.

Seahsht (adv)

Use with verbs

Seahsht is an adverb in Pennsylvania Deitsh. It works along with a verb. It can also describe placing or viewing something as first in priority or importance.


  • Vi kann ebbah mitt nett feel zeit alsnoch iahra family seahsht halda kann?
  • Bei seahsht abheicha zu anri zayld’s uns helfa fa nett kshvind bays vadda.
  • Boviah seahsht da mayn idea greeya funn da subject.