German Lessons

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Decreasing, shrinking, and falling

Two weeks ago, we looked at verbs that express growth or increase. Now we'll explore the opposite and have a look at transitive and intransitive verbs that express something that's becoming less in number, capacity, or extent. 

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The three following verbs can refer to numbers or amounts. For temperature, sinken is the verb you will generally hear people use. 

 

Die Bestände der Elefanten sind in den letzten Jahrzehnten weltweit stark geschrumpft.

In recent decades, elephant populations have shrunk sharply worldwide.

Captions 33-34, Evolution: An Land

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Allerdings... die Arbeitslosenzahlen werden wohl nicht in gleichem Maße zurückgehen.

However... the unemployment numbers will certainly not decrease to the same extent.

Caption 26, Rheinmain im Blick: Mehr Beschäftigung in Rhein-Main

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Bevor die Temperaturen wieder sinken und das Wetter wechselhaft wird.

Before temperatures fall again and the weather becomes changeable.

Caption 25, Rheinmain im Blick: Der Frühling ist da

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However, not everything can be quantified, and there are many verbs that can refer to lessening, minimizing, and downsizing.

 

Und die mindert sich erst, nachdem Charlie zusammen mit seinem Bruder eine Glückssträhne erwischt hat.

And it lessens only after Charlie, together with his brother, goes on a winning streak.

Captions 78-79, Theater: Rain Man

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Die Risiken, die natürlich vorhanden sind, die kann man aber durch, äh, entsprechende Schulung und Ausbildung so weit verringern.

Those risks, which naturally exist... you can minimize them, uh, through appropriate training and education.

Captions 48-49, Abenteuer und Sport: Fallschirmspringen

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Er sagte jedenfalls was von „sich verkleinern wollen“.

At least he said something about "wanting to downsize."

Caption 71, Wendy: Pferde sind ihr Leben Pferdeklau

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When it comes to wanting to take action to reduce something, there are a number of relevant verbs (etwas mindern) but the easiest is very simple: reduzieren

 

Ich würde gerne aus privaten Gründen meine Stunden reduzieren.

I would like to reduce my hours, for personal reasons.

Caption 10, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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Further Learning

An online dictionary can help you find many different translations for each of these verbs, which will help you to understand their nuances. For example, sinken can be translated with "to drop" or "to decline," but not "to lessen" or "to minimize." This tells you that it's an intransitive verb, as are schrumpfen and zurückgehen

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