Free German Lessons
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Lesson 20. Vocabulary
One of the challenges in learning a language is making the right choice among words with similar meanings. Tun means “to do.” Simple enough, but another word means “to do” too. Machen basically means “to make,” and is very often used just like in English (see explanations and examples here), but it also means “to do.” So which one do we use, and when? Usage changes from area to area and sometimes from generation to generation, but as a very general guide, if there is no particular object, machen and tun are usually interchangeable.
Piggeldy and Frederick happen to be talking about a sheep.
Es hat eben gesagt, was es den ganzen Tag tut.
It just said what it does the whole day.
Caption 33, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Schaf
Piggeldy could have said:
Es hat eben gesagt, was es den ganzen Tag macht.
It just said what it does the whole day.
And here, someone is suspected of cheating at German Monopoly:
Was machst du da an der Kasse?
What are you doing there at the cash register?
Caption 26, Monopoly: Geheime Tipps und Tricks
He could have said:
Was tust du da an der Kasse?
What are you doing there at the cash register?
We've seen how machen and tun can be interchangeable. In practice, though, German speakers will use one over the other in a given situation. So pay attention. Little by little, you will start getting a feel for which one sounds more natural. The important thing is to know when machen and tun cannot replace each other.
When you are making an apology, go for tun.
Es tut mir sehr leid, dass ich dich danach gefragt habe.
I am very sorry that I asked you about it.
Caption 36, Piggeldy und Frederick: Sprichwörter
When you accept an apology, you’ll use machen.
Das macht nichts.
It doesn’t matter.
When you want to explain that you’re busy, tun is the right verb to use:
Was willst du von mir? Ich hab' zu tun.
What do you want from me? I have [things] to do.
Caption 66, Alexander Hauff: Showreel - Part 2
And pretending to do something is child’s play, as long as you remember to use tun!
Ich könnt' so tun, als ob ich dir zum Beispiel eine verpasse.
I could pretend, for example, as if I were to sock you one.
On the Yabla video page, do searches with machen and tun in any or all of their conjugations, and see where they are used. Then go to the video itself to see the context and the translation.
Another suggestion: Think of a sentence using one or the other, like Was tust du denn so in deiner Freizeit? and Google it to see if and how many times it comes up. If you searched tun where most of the time machen is used, you will find that Google gives results for machen—the more commonly used word.
Have a look at this blog about machen and tun.
Lesson 19. Vocabulary
You may have come across the phrase “false friends” or “false cognates” (as they are more accurately known) during your language training. So what does it mean? It has nothing to do with disloyal friends, although linguistic false friends can also be treacherous. They are words that sound similar or are spelled identically but have different meanings in their respective language.
Here are some common German phrases with their English “false friend” below them.
Be careful what aktuell actually means:
German: aktuell – topical, current, up-to-date
English: actually – eigentlich, tatsächlich, wirklich
Eigentlich stammt es aus dem aktuellen Album der Rocksängerin.
Actually, it comes from the rock singer’s current album.
When Germans talk about the imminent future, you may think they're talking about someone's lack of hair:
German: bald – soon
English: bald – kahl
…die olympischen Winterspiele, die bald in Vancouver stattfinden werden.
…the Winter Olympic Games that will soon take place in Vancouver.
Watch what you give someone on their birthday!
German: das Gift – poison, venom
English: gift – das Geschenk
Sein Gift ist vergleichbar mit einem Bienenstich.
His poison is comparable to a bee sting.
If you want to make a marriage proposal to a German, pay attention to how you ask...
German: sich engagieren – to be committed, get involved
English: to get engaged – sich verloben
Find' ich das immer gut, sich für solche Sachen zu engagieren.
I think [it's] always good to get involved in such things.
Caption 8, Luxuslärm: rockt gegen's Saufen
The winter is dragging on and spring seems a long way off, but we all know it will come eventually. However, confusing “eventually” with the German eventuell makes spring seem far less likely:
German: eventuell – possibly, perhaps
English: eventually – schließlich, endlich, irgendwann
Eventuell habe ich in der einen oder anderen Situation emotional überreagiert.
Possibly I overreacted emotionally in one or another situation.
Caption 28, Filmtrailer: Keinohrhasen
You may describe a horse as being brav, but this has nothing to do with being brave!
German: brav – well, well-behaved, dutifully
English: brave – mutig, tapfer
Die schönste Wiesn-Erfahrung? Dass immer die Pferde brav gingen.
The best meadow experience? That the horses always went dutifully.
Caption 9, Oktoberfest München: Auf der Wiesn - Part 2
As you can see, using “false friends” in the wrong context can be embarrassing, but most of the time it is just a funny mistake. However, you should try to learn these deceitful words to avoid any faux pas!
Lesson 18. Vocabulary
Did you know that the Beatles, owing in part to the time they spent in Hamburg at the start of their career, released a version of "She Loves You” in German? Its title is „Sie liebt dich."
The German noun and verb for love (Liebe, lieben) are used with more variety of meaning than “love” in English. So, liebe (dear) Yabla subscribers, let’s see all of the different ways we can make love work for us in German!
As illustrated above, the adjective liebe/lieber (dear) is used as an informal form of address. We see this usage in the following Yabla video, starting at the very top: with God.
Du lieber Gott, welchen Weg müssten die denn abends zurücklegen, wenn Köln Gulu wäre?
Dear God, which way would they have to travel in the evening, if Cologne were Gulu [a city in Uganda]?
Caption 47, World Vision: Wolfgang Niedecken
Working our way down from God to tattoo exhibitions, we find:
Liebe Zuschauer, es fand eine Tattoo-Ausstellung in Frankfurt im Hotel „Roomers" statt.
Dear viewers, a tattoo exhibition took place in Frankfurt at the Hotel Roomers.
Caption 1, Tätowierungen: Tattoo-Ausstellung
If you would prefer your Liebe to mean more than merely "dear," listen to how Thomas uses a variation of the root word (lieb) to mean “rather” or “preferably”:
Aber ich glaube, ich nehm' mir lieber ein Taxi.
But I believe I'd rather take a taxi.
Caption 49, Melanie und Thomas: treffen sich
This can work to express superlative preferences as well:
Am liebsten vermutlich eine Sendung…
Most preferably, presumably, a broadcast…
If you prefer popularity to love, add the be- prefix for a refreshing change of meaning:
Orangensaft ist sehr beliebt in Deutschland.
Orange juice is very popular in Germany.
Caption 11, Jenny beim Frühstück: Teil 1 - Part 1
Add -haber to lieb to stir up some enthusiasm:
Machst du ja auch Auftragswerke für Kunden oder für Interessenten und Liebhaber.
You also do contract work for customers or for potential buyers and enthusiasts.
Caption 2, Lokalhelden: Art House - Part 2
Liebhaber can also mean “lover” in the more intimate sense:
Tristan und Isolde waren Liebhaber.
Tristan and Isolda were lovers.
And in the end, it is best to make love, even while preparing for war:
In zwei Sekunden Frieden stiften, Liebe machen, den Feind vergiften…
In two seconds make peace, make love, poison the enemy…
So you see that in German, the word for “love” (Liebe) is the basis for a number of different expressions ranging from “dear” to “preferably” to “enthusiast” to the actual object of one’s desire.
Lesson 17. Vocabulary
The most typical New Year’s greeting in Germany is the slang phrase Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr! or simply Guten Rutsch! These can be translated literally as “A good slide into the New Year!” or “Good slide!”
Dann wünsch' ich euch schöne Weihnachten, 'nen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr und viel Spaß beim Anschauen. Tschüß!
In which case I wish you a wonderful Christmas, a good slide into [start to] the New Year and a lot of fun while watching. Bye!
Captions 83-84, Weihnachtsinterviews: Cettina in Linkenheim
The word Rutsch means a downward sliding movement, and the greetings are meant to convey a smooth transition into the New Year, though the origin of the phrase is still uncertain. Let’s have a look at the more ordinary ways Rutsch and rutschen are used.
In an interview, Germany’s top windsurf star, Bernd Flessner, is asked if he can get from Altenteil Halpen to the Lighthouse in einem Rutsch durch (in one go [literally “through in one slide”]). The answer? Yes!
In einem Rutsch durch? -In einem Rutsch.
In one go? -In one go.
Caption 9, Das "Race around Fehmarn": Neuer Surfrekord
A professor involves his talking pet bird named Dodo in demonstrating Newton's law of inertia using the “Dodomobil," (really just a shoebox). The verb rutschen (to slide or skid) is in more common usage than the noun Rutsch:
Dann... theoretisch, fährt dann das Dodomobil oder rutscht, besser gesagt... rutscht das Dodomobil unendlich weiter.
Then… theoretically, the Dodomobile then continues to drive... or slide, rather… the Dodomobile continues to slide infinitely.
Piggeldy and Frederick are playing on a Rutschbahn (a slide):
„Richtig", schrie Frederick und rutschte die Rutschbahn hinunter.
"Right," shouted Frederick and slid down the slide.
Caption 36, Piggeldy und Frederick: Spielen
Watch out, Grandma! Here rutschen takes on another meaning:
Dann rutscht die Oma auf einer Bananenschale aus.
Then the grandmother slips on a banana peel.
Caption 27: Sabine und Ivana - erzählen Witze
So whether you are sliding down a slide, sliding into the New Year, or slipping on a banana peel, understanding this versatile word can help you have a guten Rutsch ins Deutsch!
Lesson 16. Idioms
German has many colorful idioms and slang expressions, some of which closely parallel those in English but many of which have completely different meanings that are occasionally difficult to interpret. German idioms and slang expressions using the word Hund (dog) are plentiful and provide an interesting insight into the wide variety of German expressions.
Here are some examples using the word Hund which parallel the English:
Was kostet ein Hundeleben?
What does a dog’s life cost? [Idiom: What is the price of living in poverty?]
Caption 1, Queensberry: gegen Pelz
müde wie ein Hund sein (to be as tired as a dog)
treu wie ein Hund sein (to be as faithful as a dog)
jemanden wie einen Hund behandeln (to treat someone like a dog)
wie ein Hund leben / ein Hundeleben führen (to lead a dog’s life)
vor die Hunde gehen (to go to the dogs, to be faring poorly)
Ein toter Hund beißt nicht mehr. (Dead dogs don’t bite.)
Hunde, die bellen, beißen nicht. (Literally: Dogs that bark don’t bite; his bark is worse than his bite.)
Es hat keinen Sinn, schlafende Hunde zu wecken. (Literally: It makes no sense to wake sleeping dogs; let sleeping dogs lie.)
Other German slang and idiomatic usages of Hund are more difficult, since they have no direct parallel expressions in English:
Und genau hier liegt der Hund begraben.
And this is exactly where the dog is buried. [Idiom: And that is exactly the crux of the matter.]
Caption 35, Für Tierfreunde: Tierheim Nied
Here are some usages of Hund with no direct English parallels:
ein gemeiner Hund (literally: a mean dog; a mean person, a nasty piece of work)
kein Hund (nobody, no one)
armer Hund (literally: poor dog; poor devil, poor wretch)
jemanden auf den Hund bringen (literally: to bring someone to the dogs; to ruin someone’s health or nerves)
des Pudels Kern (literally: at the core of the poodle; at the crux of the matter) This phrase is from the classic German writer Goethe’s work Faust I: Mephistopheles.
Kein Hund nimmt von jemandem mehr einen Bissen Brot. (Literally: No dog takes a bite of bread from someone anymore; no one wants to know someone, no one wants anything to do with someone.)
Learning idiomatic and slang expressions is not only fun, but it also brings you closer to the culture whose language you are learning—and impresses native speakers. So don’t be a fauler Hund (lazy dog): use Yabla to improve your skills with idioms and slang!