I thought “Ich irre.” meant “I wander.” whereas “Ich irre mich.” meant “I wander.” The dictionary, and one German teacher I asked (who is not a native speaker but is fluent) reinforced this. Is this translation possibly incorrect?
“sich irren” (with reflexive pronoun) means “to be mistaken” or “to be wrong” etc.
“irren” (without reflexive pronoun) can mean that too, but can additionally also mean “to wander”.
Some examples where it means “to be wrong” but without “sich” from Duden | irren | Rechtschreibung, Bedeutung, Definition, Herkunft (translations are mine):
- hier irrt die Verfasserin (this is where the author is mistaken)
- in einem Punkte allerdings irrt der Bericht (there is, however, one point on which the report is wrong)
- sie ist die neue Chefin, wenn ich nicht irre (she’s the new boss, if I’m not mistaken)
It’s only rarely used with the “wander” meaning, and in a sentence like “Ich irre.” with no further qualification, I would normally assume the “be wrong” meaning. The “wander” meaning needs some indication of where one is wandering, like in these sentences:
- Ich irre von Ort zu Ort (I aimlessly wander from town to town)
- Ich irre umher (I’m aimlessly wandering about)
Thank you, this explanation is really helpful!