"In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen."

Translation:Beggars can't be choosers.

January 22, 2014



in times of need [even] the devil eats flies

March 15, 2014


Thank you! I was so confused.

July 22, 2014


Danke! The translations of idioms they offer don't really help me learn if I don't know what it actually means.

June 13, 2016


I agree! it is confusing to me that it doesn't' literally translate.

October 17, 2016


I agree, DBMarkoff. Thank you for saying this, and thank you, hadasi2013, for clarifying the direct translation, so its analogy is clearer than Duo's!

January 1, 2017


yes, like "One hand washes the other" was translated as "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" what is this supposed to lead to? "I have to go scratch the laundry, see you"

January 9, 2018


Thanks. I thought they were asking us to eat some kind of devil flies.

June 13, 2015


That sounds so hardcore metal lol, eating devil flies..

July 6, 2016



August 4, 2014


That makes sense

September 24, 2014



July 10, 2014


Danke (:

September 7, 2014



November 18, 2014


Thank you!

December 31, 2014


Thank you

September 27, 2015


Thanks! Have 3 lingots.

September 20, 2016


They still marked it wrong for me

March 20, 2017


why the word "even" in brackets?

April 12, 2017


Because the original German sentence doesn't contain the word "even" (= German: "sogar"), but adding it clarifies the meaning.

April 12, 2017


There is no way I would have gotten that translation! lol

March 7, 2014


Stimmt... ich auch. >.<

March 22, 2014


I've seen somewhere that this one means "It's any port in a storm". well....

March 11, 2014


That's a valid alternative translation. Report it so they can add it.


March 11, 2014


That's what I came up with, too. Thanks!

May 31, 2014


this is insane ! this level is so hard !!

July 11, 2014


I interpreted it as "desperate times call for desperate measures". I feel this could also be an accurate alternative.

March 30, 2014


'desperate times calls for desperate measures' is something different, like rationalizing an unethical behavior to get one's way. whereas 'beggars can't be choosers' means when one is in need, not to be choosy about what is offered..

May 1, 2014


I'm curious about what the devil refers to in this idiom! I understand the English equivalent, but still. Curious.

March 7, 2014


From what I understand, the origins of the idiom are uncertain, but I think there is little doubt that the word "Teufel" ("devil") refers to Satan, the adversary of God. There might be a possible connection with the name "Beelzebub", which is often translated as "The Lord of the Flies" and refers to a demon/the devil in the Bible. In times of need, the devil does not eat what he normally eats (human souls?), but has to make do with flies, i.e. insignificant little insects that are moreover his own subjects. That might be an explanation, but, as I said, the origins of the idiom are apparently unknown.

March 7, 2014


Does this mean to say that the literary work "Lord of the Flies" was supposed to be some reference to Satan? In 6th or 7th grade when we read that, that didn't process at all, so I never put the pieces together until now (15 years later). You can only stretch idiomatic implications/subtleties so far before they're lost.

March 10, 2014


Yes, I believe that's how the title is generally understood. See:



March 10, 2014


Wow. Mind blown! Thanks for the 15-years-later epiphany!

March 11, 2014



I wish I could understand...

I saw an explanation that "Beelzebub" (a name for Satan¹ or a name for one of prominent fallen angels²) is often translated as "The Lord of the Flies" and the meaning of the sentence it'll be something like "in emergency (when there's no food) the devil eats flies". The meaning could be more than this. "In an emergency, the devil wouldn't eat only flies, but his fellows"¹.

Also I thought the words "Teufel Fliegen" might be "Lord of the Flies". Trying to examinate the phrase, I see that the verb is "fressen" not "essen". Maybe because the "Teufel" is not a human, and he's treated like an animal. Beelzebub is also treated like the demon of gluttony², so I just can't understand the real meaning of this phrase to German people. We can think that "when you have nothing, the devil is on you". Some people are capable doing everything.

Can you understand my thoughts? Like Dostoievsky said in Crime and Punishment "the poor can be honest, but the miserable cannot be." About this we can expand this thought to someone who's not have no money, but anyone who has a miserable soul (in a figured way. Soul can be understand like "the person's personality" or "the person's character". I'm not saying this in a religious way). Those people can do everything 'cause they're hungry (in a figured way) and they can pass through everybody. They're hungry and they can even eat (in a figured way) other people, just like the people who are corrupt do.

Another way to think about the phrase is like the example I think would fit in Duolingo's sugestion: when some guy did not study for a test and he does not know anything and he has an opportunity to look the test of his classmate who didn't study too, he might think "In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen". I'm wondering myself if the German people use this proverb in the same situation as the native english speaker use "Beggars can't be choosers" or "any port in a storm".

Just to say, I'm not a native english speaker, and I'm studying english yet. Because of this, might be some wrong things in this text.

PS.: I didn't find in english the link 1.

November 18, 2016


I said in hard times the devil eats flies. Why is this wrong?

June 11, 2014


I said the same thing my guess is it doesn't recognise the alternate english use of hard...

Going to report it as an alternate translation.

July 7, 2014


I think you would have to include "even" in hard times the devil eats flies

August 6, 2014


"In the hardship you gobble the devils flies"

Lol i have no idea when it comes to these idioms! Having fun though

June 3, 2014


Sometimes the meaning itself taught me something.

January 28, 2015


I'm not native of English and German,so I'm curious. Why "In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen" can translate to "Beggars can't be choosers"?

June 17, 2014


Idioms and proverbs vary a lot from language to language; they are closely connected to a specific language and culture. For this reason, you normally don't translate them literally, but have to look for an idiom/proverb in the target language that has a similar meaning, even though the wording might be different. "Zur Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen" means that there are situations in life in which you have to accept an inferior product/food, etc., because it's better than nothing and you don't really have a choice. The English idiom "Beggars can't be choosers" has a similar meaning. Maybe you can even think of an idiom with a similar meaning in your own language.

June 18, 2014


Both basically seem to mean that you take what you can get. Like if you haven't eaten all day and someone offers you a banana you'd take it even though you don't like banana's because you're too hungry to be picky about it.

July 7, 2014


I just write "I don't know what that means" as translation. ...

August 28, 2014


I just write all the literal meanings of the words in the order given and hope I get lucky!

August 28, 2014


I put "The Devil flies in distress." Dont ask me why.

September 28, 2014


What's wrong with "needs must when the devil drives"?

January 21, 2015


I've reported "needs must as the devil drives" as another English idiom expressing this sentiment.

February 16, 2015


In Russian there is an idiom "The crawler is fish in lack of fish" - "на безрыбье и рак рыба". But to English analogue its closer "дарёному коню в зубы не смотрят" - they don't look at a given's horse teeth

October 6, 2015


Could this also be translated by the expression ' Needs must when the Devil drives?

June 19, 2016


i think it would really help if duolingo not only showed the realistic translation of what it means as well as the literal translation of the phrase, and also some other possible translations of the idiom

December 21, 2017


Literal translation?

January 22, 2014


The literal translation would be something like "When in need (= when no other food is available), the devil eats flies." But it's an idiom and can't really be translated literally.

die Not = need, distress

fressen (er frisst) = to eat (he eats) (usually used with animals; for people the verb "essen" is used)

der Teufel = the devil

die Fliege, Pl. die Fliegen = the fly, Pl. the flies

January 22, 2014


Thank you! The noun flies, not the verb! No wonder it wouldn't work for me.

March 7, 2014


I was wondering why Fliegen was capitalized. Doink. Thanks for the help!

March 13, 2014


I think this one can be translated literally. We may not use the idiom in English, but people can understand it.

June 13, 2014


Bingo... this should be true for all idioms when learning them. Know what the literal translation is, and enjoy learning the meaning of them, rather than grasping at loosely equivalent ones in another language.

August 15, 2016


I got into a big argument with someone over this in the Italian language unit. It's been a while, but the sentence translates literally to "rare as white flies" in English. Duolingo was looking for "rare as hen's teeth". I, for one, an native English speaker, had never heard the expression, "rare as hen's teeth", so I was flummoxed and said the literal translations of these folk sayings / idioms should be the main translation. Someone disagreed, strongly, and stated that I'd never be able to master another language if I couldn't stuff an Italian saying into a "close-enough" English one.

August 15, 2016


Whoever disagreed is full of baloney. I lived in Argentina and learned to speak Spanish fluently. I feel there is more value in learning the actual translation and then understanding the meaning of it. Parroting a memorised idiom, backed with only a loose understanding of its approximate meaning in another language, is beyond amateur and should be shunned as a negative transfer practice. I'm disappointed duo lingo is doing that here. It's lazy.

August 15, 2016


sorry , that was 'beggars'

June 12, 2014


"Not" has feminine gender, however the sentence says "der" not "die" why is that?

July 25, 2014


The preposition "in" is followed by either the dative or the accusative cases. If it refers to time ("when does something happen?"), it's followed by the dative case. That's why die Not (feminine nominative) becomes in der Not (feminine dative). The article "der" isn't only used for masculine nominative, but also for some cases of feminine and plural nouns.

See this table:


July 26, 2014


thank you for your helpful reply.

August 4, 2014


I put "In the distress you are eating the devil flies." Nailed it.

August 4, 2014


Isn't 'cannot' actually written together, without a space??

August 7, 2014


How in the Sam hell am I supposed to know that?

September 15, 2014



September 22, 2014


Ich denke das DER NOT in english can auch wie EMERGENCY übersetzten sein!

October 16, 2014


When I came across this, I first guessed 'in your suffering you eat what the devil flies' and guessed maybe fliegen meant 'toss' or 'throw'. Obviously I have a long way to go.

October 21, 2014


When you are in distress everybody leaves , even the devel flees. I can not see ,what has beggars got to do with it....why would you say ...beggars can't be choosers. If I understand the German idiom ..in a emergency (need) feeds (Frisst) even the devil lieves you ....flies away In distress nobody helps not even the devil.. You German preaker help

November 12, 2014


"Fliegen" is capitalized in this sentence, which tells you that it's a noun. "Fliegen" (flies) are insects:

alt text

In other contexts, "fliegen" can also be used as a verb (to fly, e.g. Vögel fliegen - Birds fly). When used as a verb, however, "fliegen" is only capitalized at the beginning of a sentence, not in the middle of it. "To flee" (German: flüchten) is a different verb. "Frisst" means "eats", and is generally used instead of "isst" (eats) when talking about animals or animal-like eating habits. If you want to use the English verb "to feed" in the sense of "to eat" and with an object, you need a preposition, IMO (e.g. He feeds on flies). If you need further clarification, please read the other comments in this thread.

November 12, 2014


A similar idiom in hindi goes likes this In hard times you even make an ass ( donkey) your master. Majburi me gadhe ko bhi baap banana padta hai.

January 27, 2015


Is there a similar idiom in French?

June 19, 2016


In Slovene: V sili hudič še muhe žre. Exactly the same. I wonder what is the origin, too bad Duolingo doesn't explain that.

January 4, 2017


Why not "In times of need one can not choose"?

April 24, 2017


in time of need the Devil eats flies is correct.

September 17, 2017


Magyar tanulótársaimnak/ In Hungarian- similar way as in English: "Éhes ember nem válogat." (SZTAKI szótár)


October 23, 2017


in persian we say: i you really be hungry, you will eat stone!

November 9, 2017


Buy why does the devil eat flies when in distress?

November 11, 2017

December 13, 2017
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