Use of English – “sleep in” versus to “oversleep”

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Use of English Q&A Email – For those of us who like to sleep-in!

Hi everyone,

A German-speaking student e-mailed me this tricky question about the difference between when we use to “sleep in” versus to “oversleep”.  Here’s how I responded:

Question: Which is correct?

If I don’t wake up on time (verschlafen), do I sleep in or oversleep?

Answer:  I like your question.  There definitely is a difference in attitude when I sleep in or oversleep.  My husband mistakes my sleeping in for oversleeping all the time on Saturdays!   He’s a real early bird. Here’s what I mean….

When we want to wake up at a specific time, especially for work, and don’t – then we would use the term to oversleep.  For example: “My alarm clock didn’t go off and I overslept.  Sorry I’m late.”

When we purposely want to sleep for a long time in the morning, for example, on Saturdays of Sundays, then we say:  “No alarm clocks tomorrow for me – let’s just sleep in.” (American English)  OR ” Let’s have a lie in tomorrow.”  (British English)

Maybe the visual below might help you remember the meaning of “oversleep”, taken from:


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