Deutsch Lessons


French Words Used in German, Part 1

German has many French loan words or Gallicisms. You may wonder why it is helpful to know that some German words originally came from the French—in fact, an estimated 45% of English comes from French or Latin language sources, and very often the French words found in German are the same or very similar to the words found in English that originated from France. If you learn to recognize words in your native English as having a French origin, there is even a fair chance that these words are used in German. All the better if you happen to speak some French already!


Let's take a look today at some of the more commonly used German words with a French origin that have obvious French word endings such as -ment, -ion, or -age.


Sie kann direkt hinüberblicken zum Parlament.
She can look directly across at the parliament.
Caption 33, Berlin: Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland


Here das Parlament is spelled slightly differently from the French parlement and English "parliament."


Für mich hat's unheimlich viel mit der Emotion zu tun.
For me, it has an awful lot to do with the emotion.
Caption 8: Astrid North: Solo-Debüt


The German die Emotion is capitalized as a noun, and except for the accent in the French émotion, is written otherwise the same in all three languages. Notice the noun das Debüt in the title of the above video? That too is based on the French début, which is, of course, "debut" in English. 


Es war Ihre Verantwortung, diese Information zu versenden.
It was your responsibility to send this information.
Caption 40, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Die Information is the same in all three languages, but is capitalized as a German noun. 


Genau, das war so eine Illusion.
Exactly, that was such an illusion.
Caption 74, Ehrlich Brothers: Show-Magier 


Die Illusion is also the same in all three languages but capitalized in German.


Mein Rücken, der braucht erst mal eine ordentliche Massage.
My back, first of all, it needs a thorough massage.
Caption 60, Selbst versucht: Gepäckabfertigung bei Fraport


Die Massage is the same noun in all three languages, though in German the verb is massieren.


Further Learning
As a general rule, French words found in German are spelled the same, or nearly the same, as the French words found in English, but are pronounced in a German manner and written according to German grammatical rules—with nouns capitalized, for example. Take a look at this list of Gallicisms in German and go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words used in videos. Next week we will discuss some more German words that originated from the French and have similar English equivalents.

Continue Reading

Entweder... oder... and weder... noch...

Today we'll look at a topic that is neither particularly difficult nor completely easy. This is because either you memorize it immediately or you constantly forget the necessary order. 


To create the "either... or..." construction in German, the words entweder and oder are employed, always in that particular order: 


Daniel Müller ist entweder nicht im Büro oder nicht erreichbar.
Daniel Müller is either not in the office or not available.    
Caption 20, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Das kann man entweder persönlich tun in einer Filiale oder online.
You can do that either in person at a branch or online.
Caption 14, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten


Used to reject more than one possibility or eliminate two different parties, weder... noch... is the German equivalent of "neither... nor...":


Es war weder Mensch noch Tier.
It was neither man nor animal.
Caption 33, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Schöne und das Biest


Keiner rechnet damit, dass ein Radfahrer auf dem Gehweg fährt, weder Fußgänger noch Autofahrer.
No one takes into account that a cyclist will be riding on the sidewalk, neither pedestrians nor auto drivers.    
Caption 12-13, Einsatz für Christophorus: Gehwegradler


Another construction which you might have seen and is worth mentioning here is sowohl als auch. This is a fancy way of saying "both... and..." or "as well as...", therefore serving the opposite function.


Sowohl Malerei als auch Bildhauerei.
Both paintings as well as sculptures.
Caption 15, Lokalhelden: Art House

Sowohl in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland als auch in der DDR wehen schwarz-rot-goldene Fahnen.    
Black, red, and gold flags wave in the Federal Republic of Germany as well as in the GDR.
Caption 61, Terra X, Natur und Geschichte: Woher kommen die Farben Schwarz-Rot-Gold?

Further Learning
Look for more examples of the entweder... oder... and weder... noch...  constructions on Yabla German to solidify your understanding. Also take a look at the different ways in which sowohl als auch can be translated.

Continue Reading

Sprechen and Other Related Verbs

As we saw a few weeks ago in the newsletter about the verb kaufen and its related verbs, prefixes are very important and can drastically change the meaning of the verb to which they are attached. You likely know the verb sprechen ("to speak"), but there are several verbs you can learn along with it that will expand your vocabulary greatly.


Besprechen means "to talk about" or "to discuss," whereas versprechen means "to promise." Widersprechen means "to contradict" or "to argue." These are all non-separable verbs


Ich glaube, das müsste man dann auch eher mit dem Management besprechen.
I think we would have to talk to the management about that.
Caption 56, Cassandra Steen: Interview


Die Zutatenliste haben wir nun besprochen.
We have now discussed the list of ingredients.
Caption 16, Cannelloni: mit Jenny


Versprechen Sie mir bitte, diesen Fehler nicht noch einmal zu begehen.
Please promise me not to make this mistake again.
Caption 56, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Zu verwirrt, um zu widersprechen, tat der junge Mann, was man ihm sagte. 
Too confused to argue, the young man did as he was told.
Caption 50, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Der gestiefelte Kater


Ansprechen means "to address" (or more colloquially "to bring up a matter" or "to appeal to a person") and is a separable verb. Take a look at the examples below:


Bevor ich die Sitzung unterbreche, muss ich noch folgenden Sachverhalt ansprechen.
Before I suspend this session, I have to address the following matter.
Caption 43-44, Bundesregierung: Vereidigung der Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel


Ganz hinten auch gern, Leute, ihr seid auch angesprochen.        
Also in the very back, people, you are also being addressed.
Caption 2, Wincent Weiss: Feuerwerk


Welche Leute sprecht ihr an, wer kommt hierher zum Lernen und was können die Menschen hier beigebracht bekommen?    
Which people are you addressing, who comes here to learn, and what can people be taught here?    
Caption 23-24, Lokalhelden: Art House


Further Learning
Here you can find a list of verbs that involve sprechen and information about whether they are separable or inseparable. See if you can find these on Yabla German to get an English translation. 

Continue Reading

Strong and Weak Verbs

Have you come across the phrase “strong verbs” or “weak verbs” in your studies and wondered what exactly is meant? 


Strong verbs have a stem-vowel change in one or more tenses, for example in the simple past or present tense. In other words, they are irregular. The sign of a strong verb is that its participle will end with -en.


For example, with genießen ("to enjoy") the present tense conjugations do not have a vowel change, but the past tense does (genoss). The participle accordingly ends with


Genießt euren Kaffee, wie auch immer ihr den zubereitet.
Enjoy your coffee, regardless of how you make it.
Caption 39, Eva zeigt uns: wie man Kaffee kocht


Und ich habe an einer sehr renommierten Universität ein sehr umfangreiches Marketingstudium genossen.
And I enjoyed a very comprehensive marketing program at a very renowned university.
Caption 26-27, Berufsleben: Das Vorstellungsgespräch


In the case of the verb empfehlen (“to recommend”), the present and simple past tenses both have a different stem vowel change. Once again, the participle ends with -en:


Neben dem Stadtrad empfiehlt sich vor allem die Innsbruck Card für die Erkundung.
In addition to the city bike, above all, the Innsbruck card can be recommended for the exploration.
Caption 26-27, 48 h in Innsbruck: Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps


Schafft das keine Linderung, wird empfohlen, die Höhe des Computerbildschirms zu überprüfen.    
If that doesn't bring relief, it's recommended that you check the height of the computer screen.    
Caption 19-20, Nackenverspannungen: Entspannungstipps für den Büroalltag


Weak verbs are more “regular” in the sense that all tenses resemble the infinitive. The participle ends with -t. Let’s look at the verb reisen

Wenn man gemeinsam reist, ist es immer besser.
It’s always better if you travel together.
Caption 20, Traumberuf: Windsurfer


Dafür reiste das Filmteam bis nach Korsika.
For this, the film team travelled all the way to Corsica. 
Caption 35, Hell: Science-Fiction-Kinotipp


Für zwei Wochen bin ich durchs Land gereist.
For two weeks, I traveled across the country.
Caption 20, Grete: eine Freiwillige in Israel


Now, of course, because German is never easy, there are exceptions in the form of irregular weak verbs. These have a participle with -rather than -en, but also have a stem vowel change. Many common verbs, such as bringen and wissen, fall into this category. 


Ein Benefiz-Fußballspiel brachte sie jedoch alle zusammen auf den Rasen.
A benefit football match nevertheless brought them all together on the turf.
Caption 2, Fußball: Prominente beim Benefizspiel


Aschenputtel wurde in den Palast gebracht.
Cinderella was brought to the palace.    
Caption 105, Märchen: Sagenhaft - Aschenputtel - Part 1


Further Learning
When you learn a new verb on Yabla German, always find out immediately whether it's strong or weak and memorize this as well as its definition. Here is an extensive list of strong and irregular verbs. Look up the participles of niesen versus genießen and of the verbs winken and stinken, which are particularly tricky. 

Continue Reading

Kaufen and other Related Verbs

You are likely already very familiar with the verb kaufen and its antonym verkaufen: 


Die Leute gehen in den Supermarkt, kaufen etwas und wissen gar nicht, woher es kommt.
People go to the supermarket, buy something and don't even know where it comes from.
Captions 12-13, Bundesregierung: Der Tomatenfisch


Wir verkaufen Brezeln mit Schokolade.
We sell pretzels with chocolate.
Caption 20, Berlin: Judith und die „Brezel Bar“


You probably know the verb einkaufen as well: 


Fritzle geht mit seiner Oma einkaufen.
Fritzle goes shopping with his grandma.
Caption 2, Ivana erzählt Witze: Fritzle und die Oma


You may, however, be less familiar with the separable verb ankaufen. It is very similar to kaufen ("to buy"), but has a very specific context related to a person or a company that offers to buy items on a regular basis: 


Der Juwelier kauft Gold an.
The jeweler buys gold. 


Der Autohändler kauft Gebrauchtwagen an.
The car dealer buys used cars. 


The separable verb aufkaufen can be used to mean "to buy up" or to buy in large quantities:


Ursprünglich hat er alte Anzüge aufgekauft, so aus den Zwanzigern und so.
Originally, he bought up old suits from the twenties and such.
Caption 6, Jonathan Johnson: Herr von Eden


The verb aufkaufen is also used when a company takes over or acquires another company: 


Facebook und Amazon wurden von Google aufgekauft.
Facebook and Amazon were acquired by Google.


Please note that the above statement is purely hypothetical and is in no way intended to represent the intention of any companies, real or imagined! 


Further Learning
Read this excellent article on the four verbs above, and see this list of words that use the root kaufen. You may then go to Yabla German and find examples of the words used in a real world context.

Continue Reading

Possessive Gender Benders: His and Her vs. Its

You are already familiar with adjectival possessive pronouns: instead of saying "the man's black hat" you may say "his black hat," etc. The main German singular possessive pronouns are ihr and sein, usually translated as "his" and "her."


In German, der Mann is a grammatically masculine noun, but in any language, a man is naturally masculine too: he is the male of the species. The same rule applies to die Frau: grammatically feminine in German, but naturally female. Thus, the possessive pronoun for der Mann is sein (his) and the possessive pronoun for die Frau is ihr (her), and it follows that the grammatical genders and natural genders are matching in these cases: 


Michael Jackson hielt im Übermut sein Baby aus einem Hotelfenster.
Michael Jackson held his baby boisterously out of a hotel window.
Captions 24-25, Berlin: Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung


Astrid North hat ihr neues Album in Eigenregie produziert.
Astrid North has self-produced her new album.
Caption 28: Astrid North: Solo-Debüt


The possessive pronoun of any grammatically masculine German noun is also masculine, just as any feminine noun takes a feminine pronoun. However, English does not translate the gender-specific sein and ihr respectively to "his" and "her" when referring to non-animate objects and many animals, but uses the gender-neutral "its" instead: 


… anhand eines massiven Sterns, der sein Leben aushauchte.
… based on a massive star which exhaled its last breath.
Captions 23-24, Unser Universum Sternengeburt: Das Leben nach dem stellaren Tod


Die Nordsee. Sieben Länder teilen sich ihre Küsten.
The North Sea: Seven countries share its coastlines.
Caption 10: Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


As you see above, non-animate nouns follow their gender equivalents in German, but in English both are translated as "its" rather than "his" or "her." But how does German deal with pronouns of neuter nouns? 


Für jeden von uns bringt das neue Jahr seine ganz eigenen Herausforderungen mit sich.    
For each one of us, the New Year brings its own very unique challenges with it.
Caption 2, Angela Merkel: Neujahrsansprache


Im Wechsel der Gezeiten verändert das Watt ständig sein Gesicht.
With changing tides, the intertidal zone is continuously altering its appearance.
Caption 10, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


As you see in the examples above, German does not have a unique possessive pronoun for neuter nouns, but instead reverts to the masculine pronoun sein. This can lead to the rather odd situation of a grammatically neuter pronoun such as das Mädchen—which is naturally feminine in that "the girl" is a female of the species—taking the masculine pronoun sein


Schnell nahm das Mädchen ein neues Streichholz in seine zitternden Hände.    
The girl quickly took a new match in her trembling hands.
Caption 36, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das kleine Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern


As you see, seine was translated to "her"—not "his"—in this case, because only "her" is correct in English. Although it is formally correct to use sein for das Mädchen, it is very common to see feminine pronouns such as ihr used for grammatically neuter but naturally feminine figures. In fact, in the video quoted above, every single pronoun reference to das Mädchen actually used grammatically incorrect feminine pronouns! So while it is good to be conscious of this rule, it won't sound unnatural if the occasional Mädchen winds up as ihr in your German!


Further Learning
Look on Yabla German for the possessive pronouns sein and ihr being used in a real-world context, and take a look at this previous Yabla lesson about possessive pronouns. 

Continue Reading

Im Garten

Die Pflanzen blühen jetzt.
The plants are blooming now.
Caption 12, Jahreszeiten: Der Sommer


After an extremely cold March, Germany experienced temperatures up to 73° F / 23° C this last week. It seems that temperatures below freezing will not return for a while, so it's time for many people to get outside and work in the garden. 


Sein Leben sind die Pflanzen, die er liebevoll rund um sein Häuschen hegt, und das Saatgut, das er daraus gewinnt.
His life consists of the plants that he lovingly tends around his little house and the seeds that he gets from them.
Caption 5-6, Ökobauer: Allein im Wald


Nitrat ist klassischer Pflanzendünger.
Nitrate is a traditional plant fertilizer.
Caption 26, Bundesregierung: Der Tomatenfisch


Piggeldy wollte wissen, was Unkraut ist.
Piggeldy wanted to know what a weed is.
Caption 1, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unkraut


People who live in the city can start planting flowers and herbs on their window sills and on their balconies. 


Ich habe meine Balkonkästen mit dieser Erde gefüllt.
I filled my balcony planters with this soil.
Caption 30, Mülltrennung: in Heidelberg


Of course, those in the agriculture business (die Landwirtschaft) have already been at work for a while, since their planting and harvesting are hardly limited to the warm months


Und hier sehen wir, wie auf der Domäne Dahlem Landwirtschaft betrieben wird.
And here we see how farming is done at the Domain Dahlem.
Caption 23, Berlin: Domäne Dahlem


Der kleine, freche Rabe Socke flitzt mit seinem Rennwagen durch den hessischen Wald, statt wie seine Freunde bei der Ernte zu helfen.
The little, impertinent raven Socke flies with his race car through the Hessian forest instead of helping with the harvest like his friends.
Caption 2-3, Filmtrailer: Der kleine Rabe Socke


Further Learning
Search for more vocabulary on Yabla German, or refer to websites such as this one for basic gardening terms, or this thorough list of words related to agriculture.

Continue Reading

Three Kinds of Band: der, die and das

If you happened to be reading a German article about a bracelet that Mick Jagger was wearing while recording the 1965 album Rolling Stones Vol. 2, you could potentially see the word Band appear three different times in single sentence, and yet the word would mean three very different things. That's a pretty unlikely scenario, but aren't you at least a little bit curious about the fact that there is a der, die and das Band?


The masculine noun der Band is probably the least common of the three, and is a term primarily used with publications, such as a volume in a book series.


Seine Arbeit hat er jetzt im Bildband „Werbung gegen Realität" veröffentlicht.
He has published his work in an illustrated volume "Advertising versus Reality.”
Caption 34, Werbung gegen Realität: Kunstprojekt Fertigprodukte


The plural of der Band is die Bände.


The neuter noun das Band has the largest variety of applications and possible translations: 


Allerdings ist es nicht das erste Band, das in diesem Jahr feierlich durchtrennt wurde.
However, this is not the first ribbon that was ceremoniously cut this year.
Caption 22, Rund um den Flughafen: Direktflug Frankfurt-Houston


Das wird bei denen auf Band aufgezeichnet.
Because that is then recorded by them on tape.
Caption 57, Frankfurter Flughafen: Flugzeugschlepper


Rund 75.000 Exemplare liefen insgesamt vom Band.
Around 75,000 specimens left the assembly line.
Caption 35, Porsche 356: Der erste Porsche


Das würde dann halt irgendwelche Bänder kosten da, wenn ich Pech hab'.
That would cost some ligaments then, if I'm unlucky.
Caption 91, Lokalhelden: Mini-Airplane


Note that the plural of das Band is die Bänder. Das Band is also used in a number of compound nouns, such as das Tonband (recording tape), das Fließband (assembly line or conveyer belt), das Armband (bracelet), das Halsband (collar or necklace), das Gummiband (rubber band) and many others. 


And now to return to the Rolling Stones with the feminine noun die Band:


Die Band mit den spröden Songs und den klaren, ehrlichen Texten…
The band with the rough songs and the clear, honest lyrics…
Caption 9, Pankow: Rolling Stones des Ostens


Und weil die in ganz vielen Bands gespielt haben…
And because they played in a lot of bands
Caption 23, Lokalhelden: Art House


Thus die Band singular becomes die Bands plural, just as in English.


So to simply round it all up:
der Band (die Bände) is mostly about publications; 
— das Band (die Bänder) is mostly about things relating to belts and rubber bands, etc.
die Band (die Bands) is about music groups.


Further Learning
Look at these many examples of compound words containing Band and see if you can find them on Yabla German to see them used in a real world context.

Continue Reading

A Singular Million

We had a Yabla lesson some time back about false friends in large numbers, where we discussed how a million is eine Million in German, but that bigger numbers get confusing, since a billion is eine Milliarde but a trillion is eine Billion. 


Smaller numbers like a hundred or a thousand are treated like standard adjectives in German: they are written in the lower case, and the plural nouns they modify remain the subjects of the sentence: 


Über hundert Leute der Bundesregierung dürfen sie einsehen.
Over one hundred people in the Federal Government are allowed to see them.
Caption 15, Deutsche-Welle-Nachrichten: Massenprotest gegen TTIP 


Also, beim Finale waren halt auch tausend Leute.
So, a thousand people were at the finale.
Caption 29, Eva Croissant: Interview 


As you see in the two examples above, hundert Leute dürfen and tausend Leute waren, the adjectives hundert and tausend modify the subjects of the sentence, which remain plural and require the plural conjugation of the verbs. 


However, larger numbers are treated differently in standard German. If you have a million of something, the core of the subject remains the term "a million" and the verb is conjugated for a singular subject, even if the subject appears plural.


Rund eine Million Menschen wird in der Stadt erwartet.
Around one million people are expected in the city.
Captions 23-24, Rhein-Main-TV: Feier zur deutschen Einheit in Frankfurt wird gigantisch


Note that in the above, the verb werden is conjugated for a singular subject as wird, rather than the plural werden that you might have expected. That's because the core subject of the sentence is the singular eine Million, not the plural die Menschen. 


As a rule, it's just good German to use eine Million and larger numbers in the singular as that is standard usage, but an article on the topic of the German Duden dictionary states that der Plural wird aber auch akzeptiert. So at least if you say eine Million Menschen sind instead of the standard eine Million Menschen ist, then it's not really a mistake, it's just an accepted variation of the standard German. 


Further Learning
Look for more examples of eine Million and other larger numbers on Yabla German and re-read the original Yabla lesson on large German numbers.

Continue Reading

Verschieden, unterschiedlich, and anders

On Yabla German, you have probably come across these three words, which are most often all translated as "different." However, they are actually not always synonyms. The following distinction is to be taken with a grain of salt, but may be helpful:


anders = "different," implying "other" or "another"
verschieden = "different," implying "various" or "diverse"
unterschiedlich = "different," implying "dissimilar" 


Following this, you would say that these adjectives have unterschiedliche Bedeutungen, but not verschiedene Bedeutungen. What exactly is the correct usage of verschieden then?


Wir haben jetzt viele verschiedene Leute gefragt.
Now we've asked a lot of different people.
Caption 91, Silvester: Vorsätze für das neue Jahr - Linkenheim


In the sentence above, the use of the adjective verschieden simply implies that a large number of people were asked about their New Year's resolutions in a survey. If the sentence used the phrase viele unterschiedliche Leute, it would emphasize that the people asked were different from each other, perhaps in terms of age or background. 


Es gibt ja unterschiedliche Gründe, warum Erwachsene spielen, ne...
There are indeed different reasons that adults play, right...
Caption 42, Gamification: Wie Spielen den Alltag interessanter macht


In this example, the opposite occurs, and the emphasis is on how dissimilar the reasons are, not the fact that a wide variety exists. 


Die Kündigung hat bestimmt andere Gründe.
The layoff probably has other reasons.
Caption 30, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


In this sentence, the use of andere Gründe emphasizes that there are reasons that are different from what has already been considered. Verschiedene Gründe would imply that there are a variety of reasons, while unterschiedliche Gründe would more likely be used if two people got fired for distinct reasons. 


Remember that anders can also be used with als for comparisons, which is not the case for the other two adjectives. 


Man kann hier natürlich noch andere Sachen tun als nur schwimmen.
You can, of course, do other things here besides just swimming.
Caption 6,  Berlin: Wannsee


Further Learning
There are many examples of these adjectives used on Yabla German. When you see them, ask yourself exactly which meaning is being implied. 
You might also want to watch this video, which looks at this tricky topic in more detail.

Continue Reading

Das Telefonieren

Whether you are learning German for business purposes or with the goal of traveling to German-speaking countries, you may find at some point that you are required to talk on the phone in German. This week, we'll look at a group of phrases that is used particularly for telephone conversation.


While anrufen means "to call," the verb telefonieren means "to speak on the phone." Have you ever been in the situation in which someone calls for you or tries to start a conversation with you and doesn't realize that you are talking on the phone? In German, you would tell that person Ich telefoniere gerade!


Kannst du bitte aufhören zu telefonieren?
Can you please stop talking on the phone?
Caption 51, Magie: Die Zaubershow


"To pick up the phone" is literally den Hörer abnehmen, but for "to answer the phone" you are more likely to hear ans Telefon gehen, or simply rangehen.


Ich gehe nicht ran, ich bin nicht da.
I'm not answering it, I'm not here.
Caption 8, Caracho: Ich bin weg


"To hang up" is auflegen:


Er hat auch erst gesagt: „Leg auf!    
He also first said: "Hang up!
Caption 7, 3nach9: Ehrlich Brothers - Show-Magier


Most people in Germany answer the phone by saying their last name, or the last name of their family if receiving a call on their home landline. 


Ja, Paschke. -Ich bin's.
Yes, Paschke residence. -It's me.
Caption 12, Weihnachtsfilm: Ein Sack voll Geld


To state who is calling, use hier ist or hier spricht.


Hallo, Frau Meier. Hier ist Melanie Schmidt.    
Hello, Ms. Meier. This is Melanie Schmidt.
Caption 8, Berufsleben: das Vorstellungsgespräch 


Wer spricht denn dort? -Hier spricht der Herr Bär.
Who's speaking there then? -This is Mr. Bear.
Caption 45-46, Janoschs Traumstunde: Post für den Tiger 


To ask to speak to a particular person, you will need to use the verb dürfen, and don't forget that mit is a dative preposition! 


Darf ich mit dir sprechen? -Ja, klar.
May I speak with you? -Yes, of course.
Caption 29, Das Lügenbüro: Die Bewerbung


Generally, the verb erreichen ("to reach") plays a large role in talking on the phone. 


Ich erreiche sie nicht, weder über Funk noch auf Handy.
I can't reach her, neither on the radio nor on her cell phone.
Caption 51, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern 


If the person you wish to speak to is nicht erreichbar, you will have the choice of calling back (zurückrufen) or leaving a message (eine Nachricht hinterlassen). 

Ey, ruf doch mal zurück!   
Hey, call back sometime!
Caption 27, Monsters of Liedermaching: Atomfreies Kraftwerk


Further Learning
Use these phrases to write out a telephone dialogue from start to finish, making sure that you conjugate all verbs correctly and that the accusative and dative are also implemented correctly. If you need more context for the phrases, watch the corresponding videos on Yabla German.

Continue Reading

Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann

Irgendwie fängt irgendwann irgendwo die Zukunft an.
Somehow, somewhere the future begins sometime.
Caption 4, Nena: Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann


Again, we are happy to respond to a subscriber request! The lyrics above by German singer Nena are a good point of departure for a lesson on irgend, which as a prefix has a similar function to “some-” or “any-” in English. It is used to augment adverbs and pronouns to demonstrate a lack of specificity or information. 


Irgendwo is perhaps the simplest of these words, translating to “somewhere.”  


Du wirst bestimmt irgendwo am Strand sein. -Ja, genau. Am Meer.    
You will surely be somewhere at the beach. -Yes, exactly. At the sea.
Caption 50, Konjugation: Das Verb „sein“


Irgendwie translates to “somehow,” but is also used in spoken German to express “in some way,” “in any way,” or even “sort of.”


Irgendwie muss man ihr ja helfen.
Somehow she has to indeed be helped.
Caption 5, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


The adverb irgendwann covers the English phrases “someday,” “sometime,” or “at some point,” which means it can refer to a non-specific time in either the past or the future. 


Aber irgendwann, als man mich nicht mehr gezwungen hat, hab ich dann meine persönliche Liebe zur Musik entdeckt.
But at some point, when I wasn't forced to anymore, I discovered my own love for music.
Captions 36-37, Deutsche Bands: Glashaus


But let’s not stop here! You have also probably seen irgendein and irgendwelche, which translate to “any” or “some.” The important thing to remember is that they behave similarly to adjectives and will always have the appropriate ending based on the conditions of the sentence. As you might guess, irgendein is never used in the plural. See this useful chart for irgendwelche.


Nun, wenn Sie irgendwelche Fragen haben: Ich werde in meinem Büro sein.
So, if you have any questions, I will be in my office.
Caption 49, Berufsleben: das Vorstellungsgespräch


Haben Sie den Namen von irgendeiner Autovermietung?
Do you have the name of any car rental company?
Caption 16, Reiseplanung: Anruf bei einem Reisebüro


For the pronoun “someone” or “somebody,” it is common to see both irgendwer and irgendjemand


Irgendjemand kocht Kaffee in der Luftaufsichtsbaracke.
Someone is making coffee in the air traffic control hut.
Captions 29-30, Reinhard Mey: Über den Wolken


You may also have seen irgendwas and irgendetwas. These are more or less synonyms, which are even less specific than etwas (“something”) and are usually translated as “anything.”


Sagen Sie mir Bescheid, wenn ich irgendetwas tun kann.
Tell me if I can do anything.
Caption 58, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

Further Learning
There are a myriad of examples on Yabla German where you can see these words in use. Make sure you understand the declensions required for irgendein and irgendwelche. Irgendjemand and irgendwer also sometimes require a different ending — can you figure out when this might occur?

Continue Reading

Fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn

The German electronic band Kraftwerk ("power plant") had a US radio hit back in the 1970s with their song "Autobahn," and as kids we used to like to sing along to it. I suspect, however, that we weren't the only ones who superimposed sound-alike English lyrics onto the German. Instead of the correct text Fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn, we sang "fun, fun, fun on the autobahn." At least we got the Autobahn part right!


Although the verb fahren is the root word of many other German verbs, verbs based on fahren can have a significantly different meaning than "to drive." One such word is the verb verfahren, which itself has several distinct meanings: 


Lange klingeln lassen und dann wie gehabt verfahren.
Let it ring for longer and then proceed as usual.


Fast hätte ich mich noch verfahren.
Then I would've almost lost my way.


Following up with various translations of the verb erfahren


Das mussten wir wieder mit Schrecken erfahren.
We were forced once again to experience this with horror.
Caption 57, Angela Merkel: Neujahrsansprache


Wir haben nichts gefilmt. -Niemand wird davon erfahren.
We didn't film anything. -Nobody will find out about it.
Caption 30, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


Ich hab' das erst mal durch die „Aktuelle Kamera“ erfahren.
I learned about it for the first time through "Aktuelle Kamera.”
Caption 23, 25 Jahre Mauerfall: Bürger Lars Dietrich erinnert sich


And then there is the verb anfahren, which can mean "to start driving" or "to approach," but also has another meaning:


In Kopenhagen ist es wahrscheinlicher, von einem Fahrrad angefahren zu werden, als von einem Auto.
In Copenhagen, you are more likely to get run over by a bicycle than by a car.
Captions 5-6, TEDx: Der Supermarkt der Zukunft


Further Learning
A search on the crowd-sourced German-English dictionary yields over a thousand words of all grammatical types that include fahren in some way. Find some new words in that list and look up the various meanings they have on Duden, then go to Yabla German to find examples of the words used in videos. You can also look at this Dartmouth University article on German word formation and how prefixes significantly alter the meaning of the root word upon which they are based.

Continue Reading

All about darum

Last week, we discussed the conjunctions denn, weil, and da, the most common ways of saying "because" in German. There is, however, yet a third far less common German word that can be translated as "because" in slang usage: darum. But first, let's take a look at the way darum is more commonly used.


The adverb darum, depending upon its context in a sentence, most commonly has a topical meaning as "about," almost always in conjunction with the verb gehen:


Es ging eigentlich darum, Wohnraum zu schaffen in der Stadt.
It was actually about creating living spaces in the city.
Caption 20, Umweltbewusstes Wohnen: Architekturpreis Green Building


Or as "therefore, which can also be alternately translated as "that's why" or "for this reason":


Darum nenn mich nie mehr dummes Huhn.
Therefore never call me "dumb chick" anymore.
Caption 20, Cosma Shiva Hagen: So trägt man Pelz


You sometimes see darum as part of the separable verb darumstehen, which can translate as "to stand around" or "to stand around there," as opposed to the more common herumstehen ("to stand around" or "to stand around here"). Darumstehen can also mean to stand around something, as in um etwas herumstehen


Wir sehen das Fahrrad und die Kinder, die darumstehen.
We see the bicycle and the children standing around it.


A slang usage of the adverb darum, however, is typically seen as a childish answer to a question, or an answer that is really no answer at all! 


Warum hast du das gemacht? -Darum
Why did you do that? -Because


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for darum to see the word used in a real-world context.  For a more advanced article on the various uses of darum, read this DWDS article.

Continue Reading

Distinguishing dann from denn

This week we are going to take a look at the differences between dann and denn, a fairly difficult topic even for experienced non-native German speakers. Part of the problem lies in the fact that in Old High German and Middle High German, these two currently distinct words were just one word, thus they both come from the same root. If we reduce dann and denn to their basic grammatical forms, it's possible to get a better understanding of how they are used.


1. As an adverb, dann is usually translated as "then":


Wenn die Klassen größer werden als 15 bis 20, dann fange ich an zu teilen.
When the classes get bigger than 15 to 20, then I start to split them.
Caption 67, Strothoff International School: Interview mit dem Rektor


Dann ist auch die Mutter damit beschäftigt, Nahrung herbeizuschaffen.
Then the mother is also occupied with providing nourishment.
Caption 31, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten


If you ever hear a native German say denn as an adverb in sentences similar to the above, that's because in Northern German dialect, denn and dann are still interchangeable. According to Duden, any other use of denn as an adverb is only very rare. 


2. As a particle, denn is usually translated as "then":


Und was ist denn los?
And what is happening then?
Caption 45, Das Lügenbüro: Die Bewerbung


Wo wollen wir denn hin?
Where do we want to go then?
Caption 30: Die Klasse: Berlin '61


Note that the particle denn is almost exclusively found in interrogative sentences (sentences that ask a question)!


3: As a coordinating conjunction, denn is usually translated to English as "because" (or sometimes "since"):


Wir erleben Emotionen und heben ab, denn wir sind frei.
We experience emotions and lift off, because we are free.
Caption 12: Christina Stürmer: Fieber


Denn plötzlich wurden wir eine richtig moderne Familie.
Because suddenly we became a really modern family.
Caption 21, Mama arbeitet wieder: Alle haben sich lieb


Notice that denn is a conjunction like und or aber or oder and does not force the sentence order to place the verb at the end of the sentence. 


So to recap:  
1. dann as an adverb usually translates as "then";
2. denn as a particle is usually found in sentences asking a question and usually translates as "then," though as an emphasis word it may not be translated at all;
3. denn as a conjunction usually translates as "because," except in
4. Northern German dialect, where denn is used interchangeably for the standard German adverb dann.


Perhaps the easiest way to remember the basic gist of this is: if you want to say "then" in a sentence, it's usually dann; if you want to say "then" in a question, it will most often be denn; or if you want to say "because" you can use denn. This is somewhat oversimplifying the situation, but should serve as a good way to sort out the basics of the differences between dann and denn!


In next week's lesson, we will learn about the difference between the conjunctions denn and weil, both ways to say "because."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for dann and denn to see the words used in a real-world context. For an in-depth analysis of the origin of the words dann and denn, read this DWDS page under Etymologie, and be sure and click below it for the full version of the text! For a somewhat lighter-hearted view on the two words, check out this German language blog.

Continue Reading

Three Ways to Say "Because"

Last week, we discussed the differences between denn and dann. This week we are going to look at denn, weil, and da, the most common ways of saying "because" in German. There is a big difference in the way these words affect the sentence structure, however. Without getting too in-depth with complicated grammar rules, we can easily understand that the coordinating conjunction denn does not require that the sentence order of Subject-Verb-Object be changed, but the subordinating conjunctions weil and da do. The German verbs are marked in green so you can note their placement in the sentence:


Solche Bilder sind selten, denn Olme haben nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs.
Such images are rare, because olms have offspring only every 6 to 8 years.
Caption 33, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten


The subordinate conjunction weil forces the sentence structure to place the verb at the end of the sentence. Compare the above with how it would read if it used weil or da instead of denn:


Solche Bilder sind selten, weil Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben.
Solche Bilder sind selten, da Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben.

Such images are rare, because olms have offspring only every 6 to 8 years.


Note that the English translation is identical. Another example:


Ich übernehme mal den Part, denn ich bin Pressesprecher.
I will take over this part because I'm the press spokesman.
Caption 5, Die OLElympischen Spiele: Laotischer Hühnertanz


But this time with weil and da:


Ich übernehme mal den Part, weil ich Pressesprecher bin.
Ich übernehme mal den Part, da ich Pressesprecher bin.

I will take over this part because I'm the press spokesman.


So you see how using denn, the sentence structure remains the same as the standard English Subject-Verb-Object, but with weil and da, the verb must go at the end of the sentence.


The conjunctions denn, weil and da also differ in other ways relating to how each word affects the sentence structure.  A clause or sentence part with denn must come after the part of the sentence that it is modifying, so the sentence structure is required to stay like the denn examples above. With weil and da,  however, you could structure the examples above three different ways, depending on how you wish to place the emphasis in the sentence: 


Solche Bilder sind selten, weil Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben.
Weil Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben, sind solche Bilder selten.
Solche Bilder sind, weil Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben, selten.


Ich übernehme mal den Part, da ich Pressesprecher bin.
Da ich Pressesprecher bin, übernehme ich mal den Part.
Ich übernehme mal, da ich Pressesprecher bin, den Part.


In the above examples, the first sentences are the most commonly seen sentence structure, the second sentences less so, and the last is the least likely, although all three are grammatically correct. 


Next week we'll take a look at a fourth way of saying "because," but it's not a conjunction — it's an adverb! Can you guess what it is?


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for denn and weil to see the words used in a real-world context and note how the sentence structure can vary with the two words. For an advanced analysis the conjunctions denn and weil, read this DWDS article on denn and this DWDS article on weil

Continue Reading

Some German Slang Expressions

Many Germans use slang in their everyday speech. Some slang may be rude or inappropriate, so it's best to avoid that. But there are lots of other kinds of slang expressions that are considered "normal" and perfectly polite in everyday speech. 


Diese Frau ist einfach ein Dauerbrenner.
This woman is simply a long burning oven.
Caption 1: Angelique Kerber: Fotoshooting mit dem neuen Porsche 718 Boxster S


Calling somebody a "long burning oven" in English sounds a bit odd, to say the least, and possibly even insulting, but the slang German expression merely means that somebody is perennially popular


Sophie, bist du immer noch sauer?
Sophie, are you still sour?
Caption 6, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


Of course, the person doesn't really want to know if Sophie is literally sour, but if she is still angry!


Weil du natürlich ihr Bärenführer wirst.
Because you will, of course, become her bear trainer.
Caption 36, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern


Nor does der Bärenführer have anything to do with real bears, what it means is a job trainer for new employees. 


Frühlingszeit ist Fahrradzeit, also raus mit dem Drahtesel.
Springtime is bike time, so get out the wire donkey.
Caption 1, Fahrrad: Frühjahrs-Check


Naturally there are no donkeys, mules, burros or other pack animals involved, der Drahtesel is a slang word for bicycle


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for "slang" to find examples of slang German words used in videos. Then test the knowledge of other students in your German class by using the newly-learned German slang word in an appropriate context. For those who don't understand, it could sound pretty funny: imagine telling the class you rode your "wire donkey" to school that day! 

Continue Reading

Die Sorte, der Typ, and die Art

When we are trying to make a specification, we rely on phrases like "sort of," "type of," and "variety of." You may think these words each correspond with the most similar word in the title above, but things are not that simple. This is German, after all!


Die Art can be most generically employed as a translation for "the type of" or "the sort of," and also "the way of." 


Spätzle sind eine Art bayrische Nudeln.
Spaetzle are a type of Bavarian noodle.
Caption 2, Bayrische Spätzle: mit Christiane


Es gibt verschiedene Arten von Wind: den säuselnden Hauch, die leichte, die frische und die steife Brise...
There are different types of wind: the murmuring breath, the light, the fresh and the stiff breeze...
Caption 10-12, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Wind


Die Art also can refer to someone's personality, as in their way of being or way of behaving, and it also can refer to a species of animal. 


Es ist überhaupt nicht ihre Art, einfach so wegzulaufen.
It's not her nature to simply run away like that.
Caption 33, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern


Hier sind vier Tierarten, die nach langer Zeit wieder nach Deutschland zurückgekehrt sind.
Here are four species of animals that have returned to Germany after a long time.
Caption 6-7, WWF – Welt in Zahlen: 4 Tierarten, die nach Deutschland zurückgekehrt sind!


Die Sorte is quite similar to die Art, but will more likely be employed for things that are in some way man-made. For example, if you are talking about a variety or flavor of food, often one that is specified by a name, you generally will use die Sorte rather than die Art. 


Die Sorte „Jamaika Blue Mountain“, quasi der Champagner unter den Kaffees, kostet sogar über zwanzigmal so viel wie ein Kaffee aus dem Supermarktregal.
The variety "Jamaica Blue Mountain," quasi the champagne of coffees, even costs over twenty times as much as a coffee from the supermarket shelf.
Caption 14-17, Kaffee: Noch von Hand gemacht


Die Eissorten werden jedes Jahr exotischer.
The ice-cream flavors get more exotic every year.
Caption 2, Eis: Eiskalte Leidenschaft


Der Typ is a bit trickier, as it is not universally used to mean "type" like in English. In fact, it is most often used as a slang expression to simply mean "the guy." But it can also mean "type of guy." Like in English, you can say Er/Sie ist nicht mein Typ, which means that the person doesn't interest you romantically. 


Ich bin ein sehr nachdenklicher Typ und Mensch.
I am a very thoughtful guy and human being.
Caption 16, Andreas Bourani: Startet durch


Er war schon immer so ein Typ, dem alles so zufliegt.
He was always the kind of guy who always gets everything.
Caption 22-23, Joris: Er

Further Learning
Keep an eye out for examples with these words used on Yabla German, and always look at the noun in the sentence. You will notice patterns which can help you choose the right option later on. 

Continue Reading