To Shine or to Seem in German

by Expath Language School

The sun seems to shine — how not to confuse “to seem” and “to shine” in German.


Scheinen in German means both “to shine” (as in, the sun shines) and “to seem” (to give the impression of being something).

Similarly, “to appear”, in the sense of suddenly being somewhere, is erscheinen, and Schein means “appearance” as well as “glow”, “shine” or “gleam”. But, to make things more complicated, Schein can also mean “ticket”, “bill” or “certificate”.

The English word “seemingly” (or “apparently”) is scheinbar in German.


Die Sonne scheint endlich wieder. Finally, the sun is shining again.

Der Sonnenschein tut gut. The sunshine feels good.

Er scheint heute krank zu sein. He seems to be sick today.

Es scheint nicht zu funktionieren. It does not seem to be working.

Er ist 15 Minuten später erschienen. He showed up/appeared 15 minutes later.

Die Sonne ist wieder erschienen. The sun appeared again.

Der Schein trügt. Appearances are deceptive.

Hast du einen Kfz-Schein? Do you have a motor vehicle certificate?

Scheinbar hat er alles aufgegessen. Apparently he’s eaten everything.

Good to Know

Nouns and adjectives that start with Schein- usually mean that what follows is not true, but appears to be true (at least on paper), such as scheintot (“seemingly dead”) or Scheinselbständigkeit (“false/ficticious self-employment”).

Next Article

Want to Learn More?