False Friends in Big Numbers

It's easy to get confused by the names of large numbers in German, as many of them are false friends — number names that are the same as in English but represent different numbers entirely. Let's start relatively small with a mere million: 

 

Rund eine Million Menschen wird in der Stadt erwartet.
Around one million people are expected in the city.
Captions 23-24, Rhein-Main-TV: Feier zur deutschen Einheit in Frankfurt wird gigantisch 

 

Thus "million" in English is the same as die Million in German: a 1 followed by 6 zeros, 1,000,000. But when we ramp it up to an English billion, we find our first false friend:

 

Drei Milliarden Jahre lang war kein Lebewesen auf der Erde mit bloßem Auge zu erkennen.
For three billion years no living thing on earth was visible to the naked eye.
Captions 19-20, Zeit: Die Vergangenheit und Zukunft von allem

 

An English billion is die Milliarde in German (plural Milliarden). That's a 1 followed by 9 zeros, 1,000,000,000. Let's get even bigger with our next false friend: 

 

Ich bin eine aus sechs Billionen.
I am one of six trillion.
Caption 7, Frida Gold: 6 Billionen 

 

An English trillion is die Billion (plural Billionen) in German. That's a 1 followed by 12 zeros, 1,000,000,000,000. I'm not sure what Frida Gold is referring to, since the population of planet Earth is 7.4 billion (in English, 7,4 Milliarden in German), so even if she means the English "billion," the count should be 7 billion, not 6 billion! Maybe it just sounded better in the song...

 

So let's recap what we've learned and go a bit further (false friends are highlighted in bold): 

 

English / German 
Million / die Million (1 plus 6 zeros)
Billion / die Milliarde (1 plus 9 zeros)
Trillion / die Billion (1 plus 12 zeros)
Quadrillion / die Billiarde (1 plus 15 zeros)
Quintillion / die Trillion (1 plus 18 zeros)
Sextillion / die Trilliarde (1 plus 21 zeros)
Septillion / die Quadrillion (1 plus 24 zeros)
Octillion / die Quadrilliarde (1 plus 27 zeros)
Nonillion / die Quintillion (or: die Quinquillion) (1 plus 30 zeros)

 

Note that all plurals of these high-count words in German end with -en.

 

Further Learning
Take a look here at the complete list of names of large German numbers and do a search for some big numbers on Yabla German and see some more examples of how they are used in German in a real world context! 

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For or Against

The preposition gegen is usually translated as "against" in English, but there are some exceptions, especially when gegen comes up in a health context. When discussing whether a medicine is effective for a specific health condition, gegen is usually translated as "for":

 

Gegen die Halsschmerzen hilft ein Hustenbonbon.
For sore throats, a cough drop helps.
Caption 9, Krank sein: mit Eva

 

Das kann ganz gut gegen das Bauchweh helfen.    
This can help a lot for a stomachache.
Caption 17, Krank sein: mit Eva

 

However, gegen in regards to allergies is usually translated as "to": 

 

Ich bin erst mal allergisch gegen Pferde geworden…
I first became allergic to horses…
Caption 44, Curly Horses: Pferdeglück auch für Allergiker

 

One exception, however, is regarding immunization, where gegen is usually translated as "against": 

 

Bist du eigentlich gegen die Schweinegrippe geimpft?
Are you actually immunized against the swine flu?
Caption 24, Deutsche Musik: Thomas Godoj

 

Further Learning
Do a search for gegen on Yabla German and see some more examples of how this preposition is used in German in a real world context! 

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Ein Mann will nach oben

There are a number of ways to indicate that something is going "up" in German, but today let's take a look at the prepositional phrase nach oben, which can be translated into English in a number of ways, depending on the context. Let's take a look at some different interpretations of the phrase in German Yabla videos.

 

Vielleicht halten Sie's grad so ein bisschen nach oben.    
Maybe you could hold it up a little bit.
Caption 29, Fußball: Torwandschießen

 

… dass ein unsichtbarer Faden am Kopf den ganzen Körper nach oben zieht.
… that an invisible thread on top of your head is pulling the whole body upward.
Caption 15, Flirt-Coach-Serie: Die richtige Körpersprache

 

Das war ein langer Weg nach oben.
It was a long way to the top.
Caption 3, Preisverleihung: Bestes Magazin

 

Nach oben sind dem Preis keine Grenzen gesetzt.
No price limits are set at the top.
Caption 13, Highend-Fashion aus dem Kloster: Ein Mönch als Maßschneider

 

Als der Frosch nach oben in ihr Bett getragen werden wollte …    
When the Frog wanted to be carried upstairs to her bed …
Caption 57, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der Froschkönig

 

In the examples above, you see nach oben used to mean "up," "upward," "to the top," "at the top," and "upstairs." Note that when you say in German that you are going upstairs, it is more common to simply say you are going nach oben than to use the more literal die Treppe hinaufgehen.

 

The prepositional phrase nach oben also has a number of idiomatic usages: 

 

Das heißt natürlich nicht, dass hier alle Leute die Nase nach oben tragen.
Of course, that doesn't mean that all the people here put their noses up
Caption 5, Rhein-Main-TV: Badesee Rodgau

 

Die Nase nach oben tragen means "to be conceited."

 

Es gibt noch Potential nach oben.
There is still upward potential.
Caption 21, Rhein-Main-TV: Green-Region-Konferenz zur Nachhaltigkeit

 

And here, Potential nach oben means there is room for improvement.

 

Ein Mann will nach oben is the title of a novel by Hans Fallada, whose final novel from 1947, Jeder stirbt für sich allein (English title: "Alone in Berlin"), became a surprise bestseller in its English translation in 2009. Ein Mann will nach oben was made into a 13-part TV film in 1978.

 

Ein Mann will nach oben.    
A man wants to move up.
Caption 1, Mathieu Carriere: Ein Mann will nach oben

 

Further Learning
Do a search for nach oben on Yabla German and see some more examples of how this phrase is used in German in a real world context! 

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Like totally whatever...

Let's take a break this week from the downward spiral of dismal news reports and have a look at something that's, like, totally whatever. The English interjection "whatever" can be rendered as the German phrase wie auch immer, which directly translates to the rather clumsy sounding "as always too." 

 

Na ja, gut, wie auch immer. Wie auch immer.
Well, good, whatever. Whatever.
Captions 17-18, Warten auf: Rihanna

 

If the interjection "whatever" is used in a disparaging way, however, to mean "I don't care" or "it doesn't matter," then there is a somewhat less than entirely polite solution: 

 

… mit oder ohne Bindestrich, scheißegal!
… with or without the dash, whatever!
Caption 82, Frankfurter Oktoberfest: Dirndl und Lederhosen

 

The English pronoun "whatever" is usually simply rendered with the German was

 

Man kann machen und tun, was man will.
You can make and do whatever you want.
Caption 20, Abenteuer und Sport: Fallschirmspringen

 

The English adjective "whatever" has several possible translations in German: 

 

In welchen Höhen und welchen Tiefen wir gemeinsam waren...
In whatever ups and whatever downs we were in together...
Caption 11: Die Toten Hosen: Altes Fieber

 

Egal, wo ich hingekommen bin, in irgendein Auto eingestiegen bin, lief immer FFH.
No matter where I went, or whatever car I got inside of, FFH was always playing.
Caption 8, Formel-1-Rennfahrer: Timo Glock

 

The more common translation of welche is "which," and irgendein is usually rendered as "any" or "some," but those would not have worked very well in the examples above. As always with translations, the most important consideration is the context.

 

Further Learning
Do a search for the word "whatever" on Yabla German and see the many examples of how this word is used in German in a real world context! 

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Ruf die Polizei!

Not to be alarmist, but with police troubles in the USA and the rest of the troubles around the world, this might be a good time to note that although the noun "the police" is always plural in English, the noun die Polizei is dealt with quite differently in German.

 

Die Polizei ermittelt wegen Hausfriedensbruch.
The police are investigating because of trespassing.
Caption 12, Atomkraft: Streit um AKW-Laufzeiten

 

Ruh dich aus, bis die Polizei kommt.
Relax until the police come.
Caption 15, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor

 

Die Polizei sprach von hunderttausend Menschen.    
The police spoke of one hundred thousand people.
Caption 4, Papst Benedikt: Erster Rücktritt eines Papstes in der Neuzeit

 

In English, there is no singular for the noun "the police", but in the German die Polizei, there is no plural noun form. As you can see in the above examples: die Polizei ermittelt, die Polizei kommt, and die Polizei sprach, the conjugations of the verbs used reflect a singular noun.

 

Further Learning
Do a search for the noun Polizei on Yabla German and see the many examples of how this word is used in German in a real world context! 

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The German Perspective on the Brexit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave an important speech before the German Bundestag (Parliament) on June 28, giving a clear summary of the German perspective on the recent British referendum to leave the European Union. For those of you who don't yet subscribe to Yabla, we are publishing an excerpt of her speech here as an example of the kind of content that you can have access to by subscribing. For Yabla subscribers, it's a great way to view this excerpt of her speech in its entirety.

 

Nach Artikel 50 der Europäischen Verträge 
According to Article 50 of the European Treaties,
hat Großbritannien formal den Europäischen Rat darüber zu unterrichten,
Great Britain must formally inform the European Council
dass es seine Mitgliedschaft beenden möchte.
that it would like to end its membership.
Nach diesem Antrag werden die 27 anderen Mitgliedsstaaten
After this request, the 27 other member countries will specify
die in Artikel 50, Absatz 2, der Europäischen Verträge erwähnten Leitlinien
the guidelines—mentioned in Article 50, paragraph 2 of the European treaties
des Europäischen Rates für die Verhandlungen festlegen.
of the European Council—for the negotiations.
Und nach der Festlegung dieser Leitlinien können die Verhandlungen beginnen,
And after the establishment of these guidelines, the negotiations can begin,
nicht vorher, weder formell noch informell.
not before, neither formally nor informally.
Um es klipp und klar zusammenzufassen: Wir nehmen zur Kenntnis, dass Großbritannien
To summarize it in plain language: We acknowledge that Great Britain
einen Antrag gemäß Artikel 50 der EU-Verträge noch nicht stellen will,
does not yet want to submit a request in accordance with Article 50 of the EU Treaties
und Großbritannien seinerseits muss zur Kenntnis nehmen,
and Great Britain must for its part acknowledge
dass es keine wie auch immer gearteten Verhandlungen oder
that there can and will be no negotiations or
Vorgespräche geben kann und wird, solange der Antrag
preliminary discussions whatsoever as long as the motion in accordance
nach Artikel 50 nicht gestellt wurde, weder formell noch informell.
with Article 50 has not been submitted, neither formal nor informal.
Und ich kann unseren britischen Freunden nur raten, sich hier nichts vorzumachen
And I can only advise our British friends not to have any misconceptions
bei den notwendigen Entscheidungen, die in Großbritannien getroffen werden müssen.
regarding the necessary decisions that must be reached in Great Britain.
Sobald beziehungsweise erst wenn der Antrag gemäß Artikel 50
As soon as, or respectively, only when the motion in accordance with Article 50
der EU-Verträge vorliegt, beginnt eine zweijährige Frist für die Verhandlungen.
of the EU Treaties is submitted, will a two year period for the negotiations begin.
Diese Frist kann verlängert werden, und zwar wieder nur durch einen einstimmigen Beschluss.
This time period can be extended and only—indeed once again—through a unanimous ruling.
An ihrem Ende wird eine Vereinbarung über die genauen Einzelheiten
At its end, an arrangement about the exact details
des Austritts Großbritanniens aus der Europäischen Union stehen.
of Great Britain's exit from the European Union will be produced.
Solange die Verhandlungen laufen, bleibt Großbritannien Mitglied der Europäischen Union.
As long as the negotiations are in progress, Great Britain will remain a member of the European Union.
Alle Rechte und Pflichten, die sich aus dieser Mitgliedschaft ergeben,
All rights and obligations that result from this membership
sind bis zum tatsächlichen Austritt vollständig zu achten und einzuhalten,
are, until the actual exit, to be completely respected and complied with,
und das gilt für beide Seiten gleichermaßen.
and that applies for both sides equally.
Captions 1-25, Brexit-Votum: Merkel warnt vor Spaltung Europa

 

Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German for some of the bureaucratic terms in Merkel's speech that you may be less familiar with to see the words used in other contexts. Here is a list to start with: der Antrag, der Beschluss, die Frist, der Mitgliedsstaat, die Verhandlung, die Vereinbarung. You can also read Chancellor Merkel's entire speech here. If you have not yet subscribed to Yabla German, try these sample videos to see how our language learning system works! 

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German Bank Accounts

If you are planning a longer-term stay in Germany to study or just to live, you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the typical terms used when banking in Germany. Our latest Yabla video Eva erklärt Bankkonten does just that!  

 

Damit man dieses Geld auch bekommt, benötigt man ein Bankkonto beziehungsweise ein Girokonto.
In order to also receive this money, you need a bank account or respectively a checking account.
Captions 7-8, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten

 

Terms: das Bankkonto, das Girokonto

 

Um das Konto einzurichten, benötigt die Bank eine Anmeldebestätigung des Bürgeramtes.    
In order to set up the account, the bank needs a confirmation of registration from the municipal office.
Captions 15-16, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten

 

Terms: die Anmeldebestätigung, das Bürgeramt

 

Wenn man das möchte, kann man bei der Bank auch einen Dispositionskredit beantragen.
If you would like, you can also apply for a credit line at the bank.
Captions 20-21, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten

 

Term: der Dispositionskredit

 

Mit dieser kann man Geld abheben, Kontoauszüge holen und beim Einkaufen bezahlen.
With this, you can withdraw money, get bank statements, and pay when shopping.
Captions 26-27, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten

 

Terms: abheben, der Kontoauszug

 

Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German for more terms related to opening a bank account and familiarize yourself with any terms you may not know. Here is a list to start with: die Bankgebühr, die Bankkarte, die Filiale, der Geldautomat, die Geldkarte, das Guthaben, die Hypothek, die Kreditwürdigkeit, der Personalausweis, der Reisepass. 

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Getting German Citizenship

The German media has been reporting a sharp rise in applications from Brits in Germany seeking German citizenship, because as long as their application is made before Britain officially leaves the European Union, they will be able to retain their British passport. Once the Brexit is finalized, however, British citizens applying for German citizenship may have to give up their British citizenship to do so—an understandably difficult decision. 

 

Yabla is introducing the first installment of a new six part series this week with sample questions from the naturalization test required by the German government. The test is drawn from a total of 310 questions, ten of them specific to the state in which you are applying. But don't worry, they randomly draw a total of only 33 questions from the 310 for the test, and you only have to get 17 (or about 52%) of them correct. Today we can go through some German terms related to citizenship issues.

 

Heute geht es um den deutschen Einbürgerungstest.
Today we're talking about the German naturalization test.
Caption 2, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

 

From der Bürger (citizen) you get die Einbürgerung (naturalization). 

 

Wann kann in Deutschland eine Partei verboten werden? -Wenn sie gegen die Verfassung kämpft.
When can a political party become banned in Germany? -When it strives against the constitution.
Captions 6-7, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

 

Was ist mit dem deutschen Grundgesetz vereinbar? -Die Geldstrafe.
What is compatible with the German constitution? -Monetary penalties [fines].
Captions 17-18, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

 

Here you see two common words for the constitution: die Verfassung and das Grundgesetz. In Germany, the concept of freedom of speech is, unlike that in the United States, defined in the constitution to forbid any speech which is hostile to democratic ideals or expresses hatred of people based on their nationality, race, or religion. The latter is a felony crime called die Volksverhetzung or "incitement to hatred" in the official government translation. It is also a serious crime in Germany to give a so-called Hitler salute with the right arm upraised, even in jest. A Canadian tourist found this out the hard way some years ago and had to pay a stiff fine.

 

Was ist Deutschland nicht? -Eine Monarchie.
What is Germany not? -A monarchy.
Captions 9-10, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

 

If you didn't know that German isn't a monarchy, you may find this test difficult, but for the rest of you it should be pretty easy. Don't forget to learn the 16 Bundesländer

 

Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German for terms like der Staatsbürger or der Flüchtling to find videos with migration themes. You can also take a sample test with all 310 questions on the website of the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge

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Goodbye Great Britain and Other Exits

The referendum in Great Britain to leave the European Union was nicknamed "Brexit," a portmanteau of the words "Britain" and "exit." The same nickname was used in Germany. Let's take a moment to divert our attention from that event and focus instead on the different ways we can say "exit" in German. 

 

Wir können die nächste Ausfahrt nehmen oder noch weiterfahren.    
We can take the next exit or keep on driving.
Caption 7, Deutsche Bands: Luxuslärm

 

Die Ausfahrt is the most commonly seen translation of "exit" and is usually used in reference to the offramp of a roadway.

 

Wo ich reinkomme, geht man raus.
Where I enter, they exit.
Caption 43, Frank Zander: Hier kommt Kurt

 

This is "exit" in its simple slang form of rausgehen, or "to go out."

 

Und zeigst nur stumm auf die Ausgangstür.
And just point silently to the exit door.
Caption 10, Herbert Grönemeyer: Was soll das?

 

Der Ausgang is usually meant as the point where you leave a building.

 

Brüller, Lacher, Brüller, Abgang, mehr ist nicht zu machen.
Big laugh, laugher, big laugh, exit, there isn't more to do.
Caption 19, Ab durch die Heimat: 4 Comedians unterwegs im Südwesten

 

Der Abgang is the simple act of leaving or the act of leaving a specific sphere of activity. It can also mean the person who has left, as in "the one who left," although the more common terms are der Abgänger or die Abgängerin. Der Abgang is still occasionally used in medical and military circles to refer to death.

 

Das sind alles Leute, die eigentlich nichts weiter verbrochen haben,    
als dass sie einen Ausreiseantrag gestellt haben.

These are all people who actually violated nothing more than that they submitted an exit visa application.
Caption 27-28, DDR zum Anfassen: Ganz tief im Westen

 

Der Ausreiseantrag or "exit visa application" uses the word die Ausreise for "exit," which on its own would usually be translated as "departure." Hopefully the citizens of the United Kingdom —possibly soon consisting only of non-EU countries England and Wales — will not be required to file an Ausreiseantrag in order to leave what remains of the UK. It is nearly certain, however, that they will now have to get a residence permit (die Aufenthaltserlaubnis) to live in the EU. 

 

Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German to see the different ways that terms for "exit" such as der Abgang, die Ausfahrt, and der Ausgang are used in a real world context.

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Smack Dab in the Middle

In English, a person can be described as standing in the middle of the sidewalk in the middle of the day, and whether you are talking about place or time, the phrase "in the middle of" is correct. In German, however, there are two expressions: mitten im (or mitten in der for feminine nouns) and mitten am (mitten an der for feminine nouns). In most cases, whether discussing time or place, the phrase mitten im (in der) is used, whether for time of the year:

 

Vor langer Zeit mitten im eisigsten Winter…
A long time ago in the middle of the iciest winter…
Caption 5, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Schneewittchen

 

Or for place: 

 

Ich finde das eine wichtige Stelle, mitten in der Stadt.
I think it is an important place, in the middle of the city.
Captions 25-26, Holocaust-Gedenktag: Gedenkstätte am Michelsberg 

 

The phrase mitten am (mitten an der) is used less frequently but in very specific contexts. For place, mitten am is used primarily when something is physically located on a place. In the following example, you can see why mitten im would sound wrong, as it would suggest that the kiosk is inside Friedberger Platz rather than on it: 

 

Neben mir steht der Besitzer von dem schönen Kiosk mitten am Friedberger Platz.
Next to me stands the owner of the nice kiosk in the middle of Friedberger Platz.
Captions 1-2, Frankfurt: Der Friedberger Platz

 

Generally you wouldn't say mitten am Friedberger Platz anyway, you would simply say auf Friedberger Platz. If the kiosk were located on the edge of the square, you would say an Friedberger Platz.

 

When used with period of day terms, it is more common to use mitten am than mitten imMitten am Morgen (in the middle of the morning); Mitten am Nachmittag (in the middle of the afternoon); or Mitten am Tag (in the middle of the day, or "in broad daylight"). When discussing nighttime, however, the mitten in der phrase is standardly used: Mitten in der Nacht (in the middle of the night). In general, mitten does not have any influence on the above usage of the prepositions am or in der, as they are also am Morgen and in der Nacht etc. when used without the word mitten.

 

Further Learning
Look for further examples of mitten im, mitten in der, mitten am, and mitten an der on Yabla German to see these phrases used in a real-world context.

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