How to Say That You Are Busy in German

by Stephan Brenner

Busy as a bee? Wie sagt man das auf Deutsch?

beschäftigt

This is perhaps the most common translation, and people use it to indicate that they employ somebody or that they are currently occupied with a task or work in a certain field.

Ich bin grad beschäftigt. I am busy at the moment.

Ich beschäftige drei Mitarbeiter*innen. I have three employees.

Ich beschäftige mich beruflich mit Künstlicher Intelligenz. I work professionally with artificial intelligence.

fleißig

This word is used more in the sense of “industrious” — as in the proverbial “busy bee” — to acknowledge someone's hard work or to motivate children to work hard.

Da warst du aber fleißig! You have been busy!

Wenn du fleißig lernst, dann bekommst du eine gute Note. If you study hard, you will get a good grade.

besetzt

This word is used to indicate that the telephone line is busy or the lavatory (or country) is occupied.

Das Telefon ist besetzt. The telephone line is busy.

Entschuldigung, die Toilette ist besetzt. I am sorry, the lavatory is occupied.

Das Land wurde vor zehn Jahren vom Nachbarland besetzt. Ten years ago, the country was occupied by its neighbouring country.

sehr viel zu tun – zu viel zu tun

This is probably the best way to indicate that one is very busy or even too busy for something else. Sehr viel zu tun haben literally means to have a lot to do and zu viel zu tun haben is simply too much on your plate.

Die Woche habe ich sehr viel zu tun. I am very busy this week.

Ich habe zu viel zu tun, um heute ins Kino zu gehen. I am too busy to go to the cinema today.

And lastly, there is good old Denglish to help you out. The phrase: Tut mir leid, ich bin grad ziemlich busy. (I am sorry, I am quite busy at the moment.) is perfectly understandable.

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