How Do You Say Attack in German? Let's Tackle the German Language!

How Do You Say Attack in German? Let's Tackle the German Language!

You might be wondering why it is even important to know how to say “attack” in German. It is obviously not in the top 100 words you need to know, for example, when visiting Germany as a tourist. But it might be in the top 100 for German dog commands!

However, when learning a foreign language, it is recommended to read and watch movies in the respective language as much as you can. It helps you expand your vocabulary and learn new grammar naturally through context. It is also much more fun than studying textbooks!


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How Do You Say Attack in German?

We have mentioned above that it is great to watch movies in German to improve your language skills. It is advised to start with a less complicated genre. Action movies are a good choice. Also, one of the most popular action heroes of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger, comes from Austria, which means he is originally German speaking.

“Attack” ranks among the most common words in this movie genre. However, we will explain its usage in other contexts and translations as well.

Attack as a Verb in German

The most common translation is angreifen. It is pronounced [ˈanɡʁaɪ̯fən] in the IPA transcription. It is irregular, so you should remember its past forms – griff an and angegriffen. You can also see that it has a separable prefix.

Let’s take a look at some example sentences you would expect to hear from Arnie in one of his movies.

  • Der Feind hat unsere Stadt angegriffen. – The enemy has attacked our town.
  • Wir wussten, sie wurden im Morgengrauen angreifen. – We knew they would attack at dawn.
  • Maybe he only attacks when you are alone. – Vielleicht greift er nur an, wenn man allein ist.


Other Translations of “to Attack”

  1. Überfallen – it is mostly used when talking about mugging or holding someone or something up. Figuratively, it can also mean to drop in on someone unexpectedly.


  • Die Bank ist vor zwei Tagen überfallen worden. – The bank was held up two days ago.
  • Entschuldige, dass ich dich jetzt überfalle. – I’m sorry for dropping in on you so unexpectedly.


  1. Anfallen – while it also usually translates as “to attack.” It is mostly used when referring to animals attacking their prey.


  • Mein Bruder wurde von einem Bären angefallen. – My brother was attacked by a bear.
  • This verb also means to arise or accrue: Sollten höhere Kosten anfallen, können wir einen Kostenvoranschlag schicken. – If higher costs arise, we can send a cost estimate.


  1. Beschimpfen – use this when talking about attacking someone verbally.


  • Es ist keine gute Idee deinen Arzt zu beschimpfen. – It isn’t a good idea to insult your doctor.


  1. Attackieren this verb is easy to remember as it looks similar to its English counterpart. It is a synonym to angreifen, but angreifen is more commonly used.


  • Gestern wurde die Wache attackiert. – The guards were attacked yesterday.
  • Wenn sie Sie attackieren und beißen, können Sie sterben. – If they attack and bite you, you can die.


Other Meanings of Angreifen

We have already mentioned that the most universal translation of attack into German is angreifen. However, this verb has other meanings as well. Let’s take a look at a quick overview with example sentences to demonstrate its usage.


  1. To affect – Die globale Erwärmung kann den Artenreichtum angreifen. – Global warming can affect the number of species.
  2. To corrode – Verwenden Sie keine säurehaltigen Reiniger, denn diese können die Oberfläche angreifen. – Don’t use any acidic cleaners as they may corrode the surface.
  3. To tackle – Wirst du auch dieses Problem angreifen? – Are you going to tackle this problem as well?
  4. To break into – Wir mussten diesen Monat die Reserven angreifen. – We have had to break into the reserves this month.


Attack as a Noun

You can form (der) Angriff from the verb angreifen. The plural is Angriffe.


  • Der Angriff auf die Hauptstadt dauerte nur 20 Minuten. – The attack on the capital lasted only 20 minutes.


Remember a handy phrase – etwas in Angriff nehmen, which means “to address something.”


  • Die Kommission nimmt dieses Thema nicht in Angriff. – The Commission isn't addressing this topic.
  • Jetzt können wir unseren Plan in Angriff nehmen. – We can proceed with our plan now.


Similarly, you can form (der) Überfall (Überfälle) from überfallen. It is mostly translated as “robbery.”


  • Beim Überfall wurden drei Männer getötet. – Three men were killed in the course of the robbery.


(Der) Anschlag often describes terrorist activities. Duden describes it as “auf Zerstörung zielender Angriff.(Die) Zerstörung means destruction.


  • Eine terroristische Gruppe wird hinter dem Anschlag vermutet. – It’s believed that a terrorist group is behind this attack.


(Der) Anfall is mostly used in a medical context.


  • Gestern hatte er einen Anfall. – He had a fit yesterday.


When talking about health and medicine, let’s see how to say “heart attack” in German. The correct translation is (der) Herzinfarkt or (der) Herzanfall.


  • Mein Vater hatte einen leichten Herzinfarkt. – My father had a mild heart attack.
  • Bei einem Herzanfall entscheiden die ersten Minuten über Leben und Tod. – The first minutes after a heart attack decide over life and death.


Attack Is the Best Form of Defense

This phrase means that proactively attacking your opponents or enemies is the best way to protect yourself. You can also hear “the best defense is a good offense.” Germans say Angriff ist die beste Verteidigung.

Why are we mentioning this phrase? Attack and defense go hand in hand and cannot be separated. In German, defense translates as (die) Verteidigung or (die) Abwehr.


Let’s take a look at some examples:


  • Es ist zur Verteidigung der Stadt notwendig. – It is necessary for the defense of the town.
  • Sie müssen natürlich an Ihrer Abwehr arbeiten. Of course, you have to work on your defense.


The verb is verteidigen – to defend or sich verteidigen – to defend oneself. It is regular, so the past forms are verteidigte/(h) verteidigt.

  • Freiheit und Demokratie werden durch Wissen verteidigt. – Freedom and democracy are defended by knowledge.


Most Used Words in German

Don't forget to take a look at our revolutionary German Frequency Dictionary series. They are a great source if you want to learn German effectively. And not just German vocabulary! We have carefully selected 10,000 example sentences and translated them into English to show you the word usage in context. This way, you will learn new grammar and more advanced phrases naturally.


In today’s lesson, we have learned how to say attack in German. You can choose from various translations depending on the context. One last tip to remember – if you forget everything, you won’t go wrong with the universal angreifen.

If you have any questions or suggestions, let us know in the comments below!

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