Deutsch-Lektionen

Themen

German Body Idioms

Like English, German has many idioms that involve parts of the body. If you read our past newsletter about idioms that relate to feet, you can see the German idiom von Kopf bis Fuß — from head to foot — and note right away that there is a similar idiom in English. Like its German counterpart, "from head to toe" also means "completely" or "thoroughly."

Often, idioms with the same meaning in both languages will be similar, but not identical. Have a look:

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Kopf hoch! Wie heißt es doch so schön?

Head up! What is it indeed that they say?

Caption 34, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

 Play Caption

 

In English, we say "chin up" when we are encouraging someone to remain optimistic. Another expression for this in German is halt die Ohren steif.

 

Wir drücken die Daumen.

We'll press the thumbs.

Caption 40, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor

 Play Caption

 

In English, we "keep our fingers crossed" when we are wishing for a positive outcome.

 

Essen kann er auch in Ruh'. Vater drückt ein Auge zu.

He can eat in peace. Father turns a blind eye.

Caption 4, Der Struwwelpeter: Ausschnitte

 Play Caption

 

"To turn a blind eye" is the equivalent expression in English.

 

Und jetzt willst du für ihn den Kopf hinhalten?

And now you want to hold your head out for him?

Caption 24, Die Pfefferkörner: Endspurt

 Play Caption

 

English-speakers wouldn't "hold their head out" for someone and take the blame for them. Instead, they would "stick their neck out."

 

Eine Hand wäscht die andere“ bedeutet, dass Hilfsbereitschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit beruht.

"One hand washes the other" means that helpfulness is based on reciprocity.

Captions 50-51, Cettina erklärt: Sitten und Bräuche

 Play Caption

 

In English, there is an expression with a similar meaning, which is "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."

 

Further Learning
You will find more idioms on Yabla German (for example, in this video) and on the Yabla German lessons page. Look up the following German idioms and see if you can figure out their English equivalents: sich ins Knie schießenjemandem auf die Füße tretensich Hals über Kopf verliebenjemandem ein Dorn im Auge seindas Herz auf der Zunge tragen, and viel um die Ohren haben. 

Melde dich an um GRATIS-Deutsch-Lektionen per E-Mail zu erhalten



German Adverbs of Indefinite Frequency

These German adverbs answer the question of how often something happens or is the case — Wie oft? Let's take a look at how to describe the most frequent to least frequent occurrences. 

First of all, we have immer, or "always." Like in English, there are different options for the placement of adverbs in German sentences. In this first sentence, the word einfach is also serving as an adverb, and both adverbs are placed after the verb. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Es ist einfach immer was los und man ist in einer halben Stunde hier oben.

There is simply always something going on and you are up here in half an hour.

Caption 20, 48 h in Innsbruck - Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps

 Play Caption

 

Meistens, häufig and oft describe a relatively common or frequent occurrence. Note that, in this particular example, meistens is in the first position with the verb immediately following, which gives it extra emphasis. In the other two examples, the adverb comes after the verb (although not the participle!). 

 

Meistens sind ja die Fenster dann auch noch recht schmal.

Most of the time, the windows are also really narrow.

Caption 57, Feuerwehr Heidelberg - Löschfahrzeug

 Play Caption

 

In Deutschland ist das Wetter im Herbst häufig kühl und feucht.

In Germany, the weather in autumn is frequently cool and damp.

Caption 6, Herbst - mit Eva

 Play Caption

 

Große Erfindungen werden oft von ungewöhnlichen Ereignissen inspiriert.

Great inventions are often inspired by unusual events.

Caption 3, 200. Geburtstag - Die Geschichte des Fahrrads in 2 Minuten

 Play Caption

 

From manchmal to selten, the frequency of something happening or being the case decreases rapidly.

 

Es ist nur manchmal einfach etwas schwierig, wenn man zusammenlebt und so gut befreundet ist.

It is just sometimes a bit difficult when you live together and are such good friends.

Caption 34, Die Wohngemeinschaft - Probleme

 Play Caption

 

Ab und zu kann es aber auch mal ganz schön laut werden.

Once in a while it can, however, get pretty loud too.

Caption 62, Rhein-Main-TV - Badesee Rodgau

 Play Caption

 

Seinen schicken Umhang trug er gar nicht mehr,

He no longer wore his chic cloak

und mit seinem Pferd ritt er nur noch selten.

and he rode his horse only rarely.

Captions 38-39, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

 Play Caption

 

Finally, we come to "never." It is also possible to say fast nie or "almost never."

 

Also, früher wollt ich nie zum Klavierunterricht gehen.

Well, at the time I never wanted to go piano lessons.

Caption 35, Deutsche Bands - Glashaus

 Play Caption

 

Further Learning
Many examples of these words can be found on Yabla German, and you can also look up the following German adverbs of definite frequency: täglich, wöchentlich, monatlich, jährlich, morgens, nachmittags, and abends. For more information on adverb placement, take a look at this helpful page.

Von Kopf bis Fuß , Part I

In the classic 1930 film Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) by director Josef von Sternberg, the young actress Marlene Dietrich sings a song by Friedrich Hollaender with the lyrics: 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt
Denn das ist meine Welt und sonst gar nichts

 

This is a good example of the noun der Kopf used in an idiomatic context. Many of the idioms using der Kopf in German are identical — or nearly so — to similar sayings in English.

 

Die Königin gab sich größte Mühe, ihn zu trösten: „Kopf hoch! 

The Queen did her best to comfort him: "Head up [Chin up]!"

Captions 33-34, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

 Play Caption

 

In English it's common to say "hold your head up" to help comfort somebody, a British English equivalent being "chin up."  

 

Hiroshi Kajimoto hat den traditionellen Aufbau des Schirms nun auf den Kopf gestellt.

Hiroshi Kajimoto has now turned ​​the traditional construction of the umbrella on its head.

Captions 6-7, Erfindung aus Japan - Der verkehrte Regenschirm

 Play Caption

 

Thus the figurative meaning of "turning something on its head" is similar in German.

 

Ich habe doch Augen im Kopf!

I have indeed got eyes in my head!

Caption 60, Alexander Hauff - Showreel

 Play Caption

 

Most of us, of course, have eyes in our head, but the figurative meaning here is the same as in English: "I can see that" or "I'm not blind."

 

But there are some idioms using der Kopf that would sound very odd indeed if translated literally to English:

 

Ach, mach dir keinen Kopf [Umgangssprache], Lothar.

Oh, don't make yourself a head [slang, don't worry], Lothar.

Caption 36, Großstadtrevier - Neben der Spur

 Play Caption

 

This is similar to the predominantly British English expression "don't bother your head."

 

... weil da jeder Spieler schon seinen eigenen Kopf hat.

...because there every player already has their own ideas [literally: head].

Caption 31, Eishockey - Erich Kühnhackl

 Play Caption

 

While it's obvious that — short of some terrible disaster — everyone "has their own head," it's used here in a context similar to "headstrong" or "willful."

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Further Learning
Watch Marlene sing the song "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt" in this video clip from the original 1930 film, then see if you can accurately translate the lyrics quoted at the start of this lesson. You can also go to Yabla German and find some more examples of der Kopf used in other contexts.

Melde dich an um GRATIS-Deutsch-Lektionen per E-Mail zu erhalten



Handeln and um etwas handeln

The basic definition of the noun das Handeln is "the action." As a verb, handeln can mean "to act" or "to take action," but also "to trade," "to deal in," or "to bargain."

 

Wenn sich die eigenen Kinder einen Hund als Haustier wünschen, sollten Eltern nicht gleich voreilig handeln.

If their own children wish to have a dog as a pet, parents shouldn't just act hastily.

Captions 12-13, Haustiere als Geschenk? - Vier Pfoten unterm Weihnachtsbaum

 Play Caption

 

Und letztendlich hab' ich dann eben versucht, in Währungen zu handeln und in Rohstoffen und so weiter.

And in the end I just tried to deal in currencies and in commodities and so on.

Captions 10-11, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell - Börsen-Gewinnspiel

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

However, you may have also seen the construction sich um etwas handeln, which can be translated as  "to be a case of," "to be a matter of," "to be about," "to be dealing with," or "to have to do with." Pay attention to how the order of the words in the phrase is altered to fit into the sentence constructions. 

 

Es handelt sich also um akut verfügbare Maßnahmen

So it is a matter of provisions made immediately available.

Caption 21, Angela Merkel - beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat

 Play Caption

 

Ich habe gedacht, es kann sich nur um doppelt vergebene Nachnamen handeln.

I thought it could only have to do with duplicately given last names.

Caption 19, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

 Play Caption

 

Aber prüfe genau, ob es sich auch wirklich um eine Prinzessin handelt!

But check carefully whether you're really dealing with a princess!

Caption 24, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

 Play Caption

 

Ja, der Frühling. Der kommt bestimmt bald. Kann sich ja nur noch um Monate handeln.

Yes, spring. Surely it will come soon. It can only be a matter of months now.

Caption 26, Umfragen - Zootiere im Winter

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning
Look up related words such as die Handlung, die Verhandlung, and verhandeln using  your favorite dictionary and search for examples on Yabla German

The word sei

The word sei is something that can be a bit confusing when it appears. Although it is rare and more often used in written German, sei does comes up on Yabla German every once in a while.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

It is, for one, the informal second person command form of the verb sein ("to be"). 

 

Wir haben Fieber, komm sei dabei

We have the fever, come be involved

Caption 11, Christina Stürmer - Fieber

 Play Caption

 

Sei ruhig, Findus, ich bin ja noch gar nicht aufgestanden.

Be quiet, Findus, I indeed haven't gotten up yet at all.

 

But sei appears in other contexts as well. The phrase es sei denn can be translated as "unless":

 

Man hat uns erzählt, sie läge bis zum heutigen Tag dort, es sei denn, es hat sie jemand gegessen.

Someone has told us [it is said] that it is there to this very day, unless someone has eaten it.

Captions 93-94, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

 Play Caption

 

Sei is particularly used when something is or was reported or thought to be true, but isn't proven. However, it is used most often in written German, or narration and reporting. 
 

Also hat der Papst die Armbrust verboten und hat gesagt, es sei ein Werkzeug des Teufels.

So the Pope forbade [the use of] the crossbow and said it is a tool of the devil.

Captions 30-31, Die Armbrust - im Mittelalter

 Play Caption

 

Nein, der unbekannte Verkehrsteilnehmer hatte nur irrtümlich angenommen, die Parkuhr sei beschädigt...

No, the unknown motorist had just mistakenly assumed the parking meter was damaged...

 

Die böse Königin glaubte, Schneewittchen sei tot...

The evil Queen believed Snow White to be dead...

Caption 51, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Schneewittchen

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning

 

Do you know all of the conjugations of sein in the imperative? If not, review them now with the table on this page. When you encounter sei in its other contexts, remember that it essentially communicates the subjunctive and what is being said may not be true at all!

Melde dich an um GRATIS-Deutsch-Lektionen per E-Mail zu erhalten



Untertitel 31, 30
Mittel bis fortgeschritten

Dragons or Kites?

The German word for "dragon" is der Drache, but the word for "kite" is der Drachen, with an -n at the end. Since the plural for both "kites" and "dragons" is die Drachen, if the definite article is not mentioned, the only way you can tell which word is meant is from the context. This week's new installment of the TV series Großstadtrevier has a good example:

 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Er wollte die Küche streichen und Maries Drachen reparieren.

He wanted to paint the kitchen and repair Marie's kite.

Caption 8, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

 Play Caption

 

Er fand überall welche, in Schlössern und Palästen, verhext von Hexen und gefangen von Drachen.

He found them everywhere, in castles and palaces, bewitched by witches and captured by dragons.

Captions 28-29, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

 Play Caption

 

It is pretty clear from the contexts above that it probably isn't Marie's dragon that is being repaired, nor that the people found in the castles were being captured by kites!  

The singular genitive forms are different, however, with "of the dragon" written des Drachen and "of the kite" written des Drachens, with an -s at the end! 
 

Wir haben einen Garten des friedvollen Drachen.

We have a "Garden of the Peaceful Dragon."

Caption 18, Das Tollwood-Festival - BAP und Clueso in der Musik-Arena

 Play Caption


Further Learning
Visit Yabla German and search for examples of der Drache and der Drachen as used in a real world—or perhaps a purely imaginary—context.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Melde dich an um GRATIS-Deutsch-Lektionen per E-Mail zu erhalten



Dies könnte dir auch gefallen: