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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: Does musst in German mean the same thing as “must” in English?
Unfortunately, musst and the English, “must” are “false friends.” That means they sound similar, but they actually mean something a little different.
Musst du comes from the verb müssen, which means “to have to.” In some cases, it can be translated as “must.” However, the word “must” has a much stronger connotation in English than it has in German.
You can see musst du at the beginning of a standard question. For example, Musst du heute arbeiten? Meaning “Do you have to work today?” You can also see the reverse when making a statement, Du musst heute unbedingt Einkaufen gehen. “You really have to go shopping today.”
Let’s do some examples so you can learn how to use the verb müssen correctly.
Let’s use the sentence, Ich muss los, “I have to go,” as an example. “I must go,” sounds really strong in English, but in German, it can be used just to let someone know when you have to leave. For example, Ich muss heute um 17 Uhr los, “I have to leave at 5pm today.” Or, you can use it when you suddenly realize the time and you have to go somewhere else, as in, Oh, ich muss los. “Oh, I have to go.”
If you want to say “I have to go,” in a business situation, it would be better to use the phrase, Ich müsste dann mal los… which literally translates to, “I would then have to go…” You can use this if you’re talking to your boss after work and need to make a quick exit. By trailing off after the word los you are implying, “If that’s okay with you.” This phrase is usually replied to with, Oh, natürlich, “Of course.”
A good point to remember is that while müssen can be loosely translated as “must” in some cases, “must not” does not translate to nicht müssen. Instead, you’d use, nicht dürfen.
What do you think?
Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”