Unterwegs is the German brother of underway, but while that one is more about something happening or being in progress, the main meaning of unterwegs is on the way. In the sense of currently “travelling” or “going places”.
- Deine Bestellung ist unterwegs.
- Your order is on the way.
- Ich rufe dich von unterwegs an.
- I’ll call you from the road. (“from on the way”)
- “Wollen wir Sandwiches machen?”
“Nein, wir kaufen uns unterwegs was.”
- “Should we make sandwiches?”
“No, we’ll buy something on the way.”
Pretty useful in daily life, and definitely worth adding to your active vocabulary.
And if you’re a fan of colloquial language, it’s even doubly valuable Because combined with adjectives, unterwegs sein is a colloquial, very casual way to talk about how someone is going through the current period of life, or the day.
It’s kind of hard to explain, actually, but hopefully the examples will make it clear.
- Diesen Sommer bin ich sehr sportlich unterwegs.
- This summer, I am doing a lot of sports. (“I’m on the sporty side”)
- Maria war schon immer musikalisch unterwegs. Kein Wunder, dass sie Pianistin geworden ist.
- Maria has always been into music. No wonder she became a piano player.
(It’s more than just “liking” music. It’s having a certain talent and pursuing it actively.)
- Die Türsteher waren ziemlich aggressiv unterwegs.
- The bouncers were quite aggressive/in an aggressive mood.
Note that it DOESN’T work for just baseline characteristics and features. So you can’t say that someone is “klug unterwegs”.
And like with any slang, the golden rule is… use it very sparsely unless it comes out naturally. Or you will be like a try-hard unterwegs :).