Watch Out for ‘Mustn’t’—A Sneaky False Friend!

Must‘ seems simple—it means ‘müssen‘ in German.

But here’s the tricky part: ‘mustn’t‘ doesn’t mean ‘nicht müssen’ as you might think.

No, it actually means ‘nicht dürfen‘. Yes, that’s right!

Nicht müssen‘ is actually ‘needn’t‘ or ‘not to have to‘ in English.

English can be a bit tricky sometimes, can’t it?

You want to say something innocent and suddenly you’re caught in the trap of this tricky word ‘must‘. It’s a little word with a big impact! Who would’ve thought?

So, if you said “I mustn’t work today.”—thinking it means “Ich muss heute nicht arbeiten.” or “Ich brauche heute nicht zu arbeiten,” you’re wrong. It actually means “Ich darf heute nicht arbeiten!” That makes the day off sound much less relaxed, doesn’t it? 

Why am I telling you all this?

Because every word we use is important. The right words can make the difference between understanding and confusion or happiness and frustration.

Now that you know about this tricky word, you can be careful and avoid making mistakes in your next English conversation!

But wait! Before you go … Have you ever misunderstood any English words before? I’d love to hear your stories!

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Foto Christine Sparks

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