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Halten and Other Related Verbs

This week, let's have a look at the German verb halten and consider how it is combined with prefixes to make other verbs. Even by itself, the verb halten has a number of meanings. First of all, it translates as "to stop": 


Nein, Peter! Du darfst ihnen nichts geben. -Halt!

No, Peter! You mustn't give them anything. -Stop!

Caption 9, Heidi: Die Mutprobe

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Halten may also mean "to hold" or "to hold onto" (also in the variation festhalten) in either a literal or figurative sense.


Und zwar dürfen Sie sich jetzt mal hier kurz festhalten. Genau.

And, that is, you may now hold onto this here for a moment. Exactly.

Caption 44, TEDx: Lebenslange Fitness

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...und dann halt die Finger so über deinen Ohren.

...and then hold your fingers over your ears like this.

Caption 112, Coronavirus: Schutzmasken zum Selbermachen

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It can also mean "to keep" or "to last." Here you can see an example with the reflexive verb sich halten:


Die Rohmilch hält sich natürlich nicht ganz so lange wie die Supermarkt-Milch.

The raw milk, of course, doesn't keep quite as long as supermarket milk.

Caption 47, Rhein-Main-TV Moderne Milchtankstelle

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The first phrase below is heard constantly these days, and is one instance in which halten means "to keep" as in "to maintain." The phrase aufrecht halten would normally be translated as "to uphold," but in this case is also better translated as "to maintain."


Wir müssen Abstand halten.

We have to maintain distance.

Caption 24, Bundesamt für Gesundheit: Coronavirus und Schulen

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Und ich leite den Einsatz und halte die Kommunikation mit den Gastronomen und Hoteliers aufrecht.

And I lead the operation and maintain the communication with the restaurants and hotels.

Captions 23-24, Schweizer Felsenputzer: suchen Nachwuchs

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"To sustain" and "to abide by" are other possible translations of halten. The structure in this example is sich an etwas halten:


Alle Einwohner und Einwohnerinnen und der Staat müssen sich an die Gesetze halten.

All inhabitants and the federal state have to abide by the law.

Captions 36-37, Bundesrepublik: Deutschland Einbürgerungstest

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Then, as is the case with many other common German verbs, there are verbs that consist of halten combined with a prefix and may have either a related or an entirely different meaning. Here are two examples:


So, was könnte Olaf Scholz noch aufhalten auf seinem Weg ins Kanzleramt?

So, what could still stop Olaf Scholz on his way to the chancellorship?

Caption 20, heute-show: Die männliche Merkel hat Erinnerungslücken

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Wie sollte sie es nur ohne ihn aushalten?

Just how was she supposed to bear it without him?

Caption 70, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Weiber von Weinsberg

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Further Learning

Many examples with halten and related verbs can be found on Yabla German in both reflexive and non-reflexive forms. Can you find examples with enthalten sich enthalten, erhalten, behalten, and verhalten sich verhalten?

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