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Let's talk about lassen

Or as you'd say in German: Lass uns über „lassen“ reden. The verb lassen can be translated in many different ways: "to let," "to leave," or "to have," among others. Let's take a look today at some examples, and see if we can learn how the different contexts affect the meanings and the translations of the word.


Lange klingeln lassen und dann wie gehabt verfahren.

Let it ring for longer and then proceed as usual.

Caption 38, Antilopen Gang: Enkeltrick

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Also lassen Sie mich mal nachsehen, welche Termine noch frei sind.

So let me take a look what appointments are still available.

Captions 41-42, Berufsleben: das Vorstellungsgespräch

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Ich lass dich nicht raus, ich lass dich nicht gehen.

I won't let you out, I won't let you go.

Caption 15, Ab durch die Heimat: 4 Comedians unterwegs im Südwesten

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As you see above, a common translation of lassen is "to let."


Ich kann euch versprechen, dieser Film lässt niemanden kalt.

I can promise you, this movie will leave no one unmoved.

Captions 47-48, Twinfruit: Glaubhaftigkeit in der Werbung

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Du lässt mich niemals allein.

You'll never leave me alone.

Caption 42, Sophia: Niemals Allein

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Sometimes too, lassen is translated as "to leave," but not in the sense of leaving (verlassen) a place.


König Konrad schickte Boten voraus und ließ sie in der Stadt verkünden.

King Conrad sent messengers ahead and had them make an announcement in the city.

Captions 36-37, Deutsche Sagen: Die tapferen Weiber von Weinsberg

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In cases where somebody is following orders, it wouldn't make much sense (as in the example above) to say the King "let" them make an announcement. In cases like this, you'll occasionally understand lassen as "to have."


Auch Natali will sich das nicht entgehen lassen.

Natali doesn't want to let herself miss out on this either.

Caption 50, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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Often, when lassen is used in a reflexive sense with sich, it's not translated at all. In the example above, it could just as well have been translated as "Natali doesn't want to miss out on this either." In such cases, sich lassen is often redundant in translation.


... um meine neue Adresse in meinen Personalausweis eintragen zu lassen.

... to register my new address on my identity card.

Caption 3, Deutsch mit Eylin: Personalien und Namen

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Wann haben Sie sich scheiden lassen?

When did you get divorced?

Caption 17, Yabla Gerichtshof: Probleme des Zusammenlebens

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The sentences above could have been translated as "... to let my new address be registered on my identity card" and "When did you let yourself get divorced," but this seems pretty clumsy. In these cases, the better translation for sich eintragen lassen is "to register," and for sich scheiden lassen "to get divorced."


Last but not least, I'll "let" you see some example of some common idioms using the verb lassen:


Sie haben meiner Tochter schöne Augen gemacht und sie dann sitzen lassen.

You made eyes at my daughter and then abandoned her.

Caption 20, Oskar; Gehen, wenn es am schönsten ist Loslassen

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Du kannst es ja nicht lassen.

You just can't resist.

Caption 85, Alexander Hauff: Showreel

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ich will niemanden im Stich lassen.

I don't want to let anyone down.

Caption 19, Nicos Weg: Lernen

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Du kannst es nicht lassen is a bit like the English "You just couldn't leave it alone." As der Stich can mean a sting or a stab wound, the saying im Stich lassen, which first appeared in the 1400s, may be related to jousting: if someone left a comrade behind, they risked being stabbed! Luckily, we live in a society today where such violence is socially and legally unacceptable.


Further Learning
Search for lassen in its various conjugations on Yabla German to see the verb used in different contexts. You may also want to read more about it in the previous Yabla lesson "German verbs connected with lassen."

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