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The Verb Schaffen

Every language has certain words that are used often in everyday life, to the extent that they may seem to shape the language and the culture. One such word in German, with a myriad of implementations, would have to be the verb schaffen.


The verb schaffen can mean "to do," "to manage," "to achieve," "to cope with," or "to successfully complete something," to "make it" or "make it work."


Oh, aber das schaffst du doch auch alleine!

Oh, but you'll manage it alone after all!

Caption 64, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

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However, it can also mean "to create," "to make," or "to bring something into being."


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

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There is one thing to watch out for with the verb schaffen, and this is that the two meanings are reflected with two different participles when it is used in the past tense. Here we see the past participle for the first definition:


Juhu, dann haben wir's geschafft!

Yahoo, then we've done it!

Caption 41, Deutschkurs in Tübingen - Weil oder obwohl?

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Damit hat man also den ersten Schritt im Bewerbungsverfahren geschafft.

With that, you have succeeded with the first step in the application process.

Caption 42, Eva erklärt - Bewerbungen

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Whereas geschafft would refer to something being successfully done or achieved, geschaffen refers to creation:


Hier, mitten im Zentrum von Berlin,

Here, in the center of Berlin,

[gefahren auf einem speziellen Kurs]

[driving on a special course]

haben sich BMX-Fahrer und Mountainbiker ihr Eldorado geschaffen.

BMX riders and mountain bikers have created their El Dorado.

Captions 4-5, Pumptrack - Rad fahren, ohne zu treten

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Mit Höckern und Bänken

With stools and benches,

sollen Verschnaufmöglichkeiten für Senioren geschaffen werden.

possibilities [places] for seniors to rest and catch their breath will be created.

Captions 44-45, Bespielbare Stadt - Griesheim

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Further Learning
Here is a list of the conjugations of schaffen, including the preterite schaffte and schuf. See which of these conjugations you can find in use on Yabla German!

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