German Lessons


There she blows!

The phrase above, often written colloquially as "Thar she blows," comes from the classic 19th century American novel Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville. It refers to an exclamation made by whalers at sea in the 19th century when they spotted a whale to hunt, a practice now fortunately outlawed by most countries in the world. When whales—or dolphins—surface, some species blow air and water condensation into the air in a visible stream.


In German, the verb "to blow" can be translated with a variety of words, depending upon the context. You're probably already familiar with sich die Nase putzen, which means "to blow one's nose," literally "to clean one's nose." Let's take a look today at  some other German verbs that are often translated as "to blow."


Sie hören sogar einen Baum, der vor ihnen steht, weil der Wind, der um den Baum weht, ein Geräusch macht.

They can even hear a tree that is in front of them, because the wind that blows around the tree makes a noise.

Captions 47-48, Meine Freundin Conni: Conni schläft im Kindergarten

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The verb wehen is the usual term for the wind blowing.


Der Wind pustet ordentlich Sauerstoff in unsere verschmutzte Luft.

The wind blows lots of oxygen into our polluted air.

Caption 15, Piggeldy und Frederick: Aufräumen

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Here, the translator chose to translate the verb pusten as "to blow," but it could also have been translated as "to puff," a more common translation for this word.


Und weil in der mit 500 Metern über dem Meeresspiegel höchstgelegenen Stadt Hessens der Wind so kräftig bläst.

And since, at 500 meters above sea level, Hessen's city with the highest elevation, the wind blows so strongly.

Captions 5-6, Energiewende in Hessen: Windräder und Solarparks

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Here, the translator chose to translate the German verb blasen as "to blow," a verb related to the noun die Blase, which means "bubble." In fact, the blowhole of a whale is called das Blasloch, and the act of blowing out air and condensed moisture is called der Blas.


Zu spät, denn mitten in dem letzten Angriff pfeift Mr. Attwell ab und die Deutschen waren bedient.

Too late, because in the middle of the last attack, Mr. Attwell blows the final whistle.

Caption 27, Fußball: U21-Nationalmannschaft

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The verb pfeifen means to whistle, but it also means "to blow a whistle."  If a referee blows a whistle for a foul, you'd say er pfeift ein Foul. The verb abpfeifen above means "to blow a whistle to stop the play," "to signal the halftime," or "to end the game."


Wie schön ist doch die Welt, alles löst sich in Wohlgefallen auf.

How beautiful the world is, everything blows over.

Captions 43-44, Großstadtrevier: Alle für einen

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The idiom sich in Wohlgefallen auflösen literally means "to dissolve in pleasure," but is often translated with the English idiom "to vanish into thin air" or "to go up in smoke." Here, the translator nicely chose to use the idiom "to blow over."


Wenn's nach mir ginge, würde ich ihn lieber heute als morgen in die Luft sprengen.

If it were up to me, I would rather blow him up today than tomorrow.

Captions 62-63, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944

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The verb sprengen (as well as in die Luft sprengen) means "to blow up" or to explode something. Although murder is an extreme means of regime change, killing the person in the case above could probably be seen as justifiable, given the millions of lives at stake.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for the verb "to blow" in a variety of conjugations, such "blow," "blows," and "blown." You can also expand your knowledge of how some of the other German verbs above can alternately be translated by looking up, in various conjugations, the verbs putzen, wehen, pusten, blasen, pfeifen, and sprengen.

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