Dragons or Kites?

The German word for "dragon" is der Drache, but the word for "kite" is der Drachen, with an -n at the end. Since the plural for both "kites" and "dragons" is die Drachen, if the definite article is not mentioned, the only way you can tell which word is meant is from the context. This week's new installment of the TV series Großstadtrevier has a good example:

Er wollte die Küche streichen und Maries Drachen reparieren.    
He wanted to paint the kitchen and repair Marie's kite.
Caption 8, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

Er fand überall welche, in Schlössern und Palästen, verhext von Hexen und gefangen von Drachen.    
He found them everywhere, in castles and palaces, bewitched by witches and captured by dragons.
Captions 28, 29: Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

It is pretty clear from the contexts above that it probably isn't Marie's dragon that is being repaired, nor that the people found in the castles were being captured by kites!  

The singular genitive forms are different, however, with "of the dragon" written des Drachen and "of the kite" written des Drachens, with an -s at the end! 

Wir haben einen Garten des friedvollen Drachen.
We have a "Garden of the Peaceful Dragon.”
Caption 18, Das Tollwood-Festival: BAP und Clueso in der Musik-Arena

Further Learning
Visit Yabla German and search for examples of der Drache and der Drachen as used in a real world—or perhaps a purely imaginary—context. 

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Grad or gerade?

In colloquial German, it is common to hear the word grad, which is slang for the adverb/adjective gerade and could easily be confused with the noun Grad. The adverb gerade can be translated as "just," "especially," "exactly," "just now," or even as "directly." The adjective gerade is usually used to describe "even," as in even and odd numbers, and is translated as "level," "direct," "upright," and "ingenuous" as well.

Wir sind ja grad [gerade] erst gekommen.
We indeed only just arrived.
Caption 4, Oktoberfest München: Auf der Wiesn

However, the neuter noun das Grad is a technical term that refers to measurable "degrees" of temperature or the "degree" of a geometric angle. In non-technical usage, it is a masculine noun (der Grad) and may refer an academic degree.

Es soll bis über zwanzig Grad warm werden.
It should get warm, up to more than twenty degrees.
Caption 16, München: 180. Oktoberfest eröffnet

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for examples of geradegrad and Grad as spoken in a real world context. 


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German Idioms of Decline

The German language has a colorful variety of idioms for describing when a situation is in decline or when things have gone badly.


If something is "in the bucket" in German, at least it's not as bad as "kicking the bucket" in English!


Wenn Thorsten nicht genommen wird, ist seine Karriere im Eimer.
If Thorsten is not accepted, his career will be in the bucket [idiom, over].
Captions 18-19, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor


The less polite version of the above is im Arsch, which for politeness' sake is perhaps best left untranslated.


Whereas something going badly is said to be "going downhill" in English, in German the expression relates to water rather than mountains.


Seit ich wieder angefangen habe, geht unsere Ehe den Bach runter.    
Since I started again, our marriage has been going downstream [idiom, falling apart].
Caption 7, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder


If things get too bad, maybe it's high time you hightail it out of there!


Sie macht sich aus dem Staub.
She makes herself out of the dust [idiom, absconds].
Caption 45, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten


Further Learning
This extensive listing of German idioms is amusing for the fact that the English translations are all literal and intentionally humorous. Pick out a few whose real meaning is unclear to you and look online to discover what the expressions really express, then search for some examples used in real conversations on Yabla German.


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English Present Perfect vs. German Perfekt

Both English and German refer to past events using the simple past tense and the present perfect tense. The perfect past tense is called Perfekt in German, but it is important to understand that although the German Perfekt is considered the closest equivalent of present perfect in English in terms of its structure, in fact there are some notable differences in the ways each language uses this tense. 

Both English present perfect and German Perfekt have in common that they are compound tenses, formed with an auxiliary or helping verb together with the past participle. This auxiliary verb is usually "to have" (haben) and sometimes, in German, "to be" (sein):

Wir haben sieben Tafeln Schokolade gegessen.    
We have eaten seven chocolate bars.
Caption 15, Konjugation: Das Verb „essen“

Wir sind zusammen in die Stadt gegangen.
We have gone to the city together.
Caption 12, Konjugation: Das Verb „gehen“

The main difference, however, is that the English present perfect refers to an action or state that begins in the past and continues into the present, whereas the German Perfekt is usually used to speak about completed states and actions, and is therefore rather the direct equivalent of the simple past tense. In fact, Perfekt is often called the "conversational past" because it is the primary spoken form of the past tense. In many cases where spoken English would use the simple past tense ("We already ate."), German would almost always use the Perfekt tense (Wir haben schon gegessen).

Alternately, the German Präsenz (present tense) can sometimes be best translated into the English present perfect: 

Und Gitarre spielt die Vierunddreißigjährige schon seit ihrem sechsten Lebensjahr.
And the thirty-four year old has played guitar since her sixth year of age.
Caption 12, Ann Doka & Band: New Country aus dem Rhein-Main-Gebiet

Further Learning
Read this article about simple past vs. Perfekt and take this quiz about the German Perfekt tense, then find some examples of the tense used in real conversations on Yabla German.


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German Verbs: sagen, ansagen, or besagen?

The verbs sagen, ansagen, and besagen appear similar when written in their infinitive forms, but have quite different meanings. In common English usage, there are a number of examples where all three might be translated with the English verb "to say," although for besagen the English verbs "to state," "to imply," "to mention," or "to mean" are usually more accurate, and for ansagen, "to declare," "to introduce," or "to present" are usually better.

Here is the verb sagen in its present perfect (German Perfekttense:

Sie haben mal gesagt, dass sich erfolgreicher Fußball in erster Linie durch Schnelligkeit und Präzision auszeichnet.
You once said that successful soccer is, above all, characterized by velocity and precision.
Captions 22-23, Fußball: Saisonpremiere

The verb ansagen, in its Perfekt tense, is written identically to and should be distinguished from its slang adjectival form angesagt, which means "popular," "hip," or "hot" (the latter two in the English slang sense). Here is the verb ansagen in present perfect tense:

Einige Schüler haben lästigem Kabelsalat den Kampf angesagt.
Some students have declared war on annoying cable clutter.
Caption 8, Erfinder: Erfindermesse in Nürnberg

And lastly, here is an example of besagen in present tense:

Zu wenig Einsatz, wenig überzeugend beim weiblichen Geschlecht, besagt die Studie.    
Too little effort, less than convincing for the female sex, says the study.
Caption 25, Balztanz: für Fortgeschrittene

To sum up: the verb sagen is the act of saying; the verb besagen is referring to what is stated, such as in a law, a study, or on a sign; and the verb ansagen is referring to the act of stating, usually in reference to declaration, such as declaring war.

Further Learning
Read these posts about about sagen and besagen, and brush up on the conjugation of sagen with this video on Yabla German. For advanced learners, check out what Friedrich Wilhelm Genthe wrote about sagenbesagen and ansagen in the "Handwörterbuch deutscher Synonyme" way back in 1834!

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Dankeschön, Danke schön or danke schön?

This basic expression of gratitude can be written in three different ways: 1. Upper case as Dankeschön, one word; 2. Two words upper case Danke and lower case schön; or 3. as two words danke schön in lower case. But which of these are correct?

The uppercase single word Dankeschön is a neuter noun, and should actually only be written thus when clearly used as a noun in a sentence: 

Das Lied ist ein Dankeschön an Menschen, die die Sporties inspiriert haben.
The song is a thank-you to people who have inspired the "Sporties."
Captions 26-27, Sportfreunde Stiller: Neues Album

Und ganz herzliches Dankeschön auf jeden Fall.    
And very heartfelt thanks in any case.
Caption 20, Tierfreund Mario Barth: Der Tätowierer der Stars

The more common greeting of Danke schön / danke schön is written as two words, and in most cases is written lower case (except when starting a sentence, of course): 

Das bestelle ich später, danke schön.
I'll order that later, thank you.
Caption 17, Abendessen: mit Marko

The upper case exception Danke schön, which is recommended (but not required) by Duden, can be used when expressions of gratitude are referred to with the verb sagen in a sentence, in which case the expression is handled grammatically as a noun phrase:

Nächste Woche geht es wieder weiter und ich sage Danke schön und Auf Wiedersehen.
We'll continue next week, and I'd like to say thank you and goodbye.
Captions 28-29, Ball des Weines: Tombola

Note that even the Auf in Auf Wiedersehen is upper case, but this rather complicated rule is not of great concern, since lower case is also an acceptable form. Remember too that danke can also be the first person singular form of the verb danken, "to thank," and is therefore always written in lower case. Ich danke euch herzlich!

Further Learning
Find some more ways to express thanks in German and look for these expressions on Yabla German to see them used in a real world context. 


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Upper Case in German: Adjectives

Capitalizing words in German is, for the most part, easier than English. In German, all nouns are capitalized, and most pronouns (except for the formal and "royal we" cases) are written in lower case. Unlike English, most German adjectives (including nationality) are written lower case.

 Der Unterschied zwischen deutschen Texten und englischen Texten...
The difference between German lyrics and English lyrics...
Caption 34, Frida Gold: Interview

Nor are adjectives capitalized, unlike the English title case in headlines or names of films, songs, etc. For book and film titles, only the first word and nouns (or nominative cases) are in upper case.

Deswegen gucken wir jetzt einfach mal rein in „Das heimliche Geräusch“.
Therefore we'll now simply take a look at "The Secret Noise."
Caption 10, Kurzfilm-Festival: Shorts at Moonlight

The only exceptions are if the adjective is part of a proper name, such as of a species, a legal or historical term, or a place name, or titles of books, films, etc.

Nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg wurde Berlin in vier Sektoren unterteilt.
After the Second World War, Berlin was divided into four sectors.
Caption 1, Berlin: der alte amerikanische Sektor

Nominalized adjectives are adjectives that are used as nouns, and in German these too are written in upper case. Generally, an adjective that has the definite article before it (derdie oder das) is a nominalized adjective: 

Das ist das Beste, was es gibt auf der Welt.
That's the best thing that there is in the world.
Caption 36, Monsters of Liedermaching: Ein Pferd

A possibly confusing exception are superlative adjectives, usually preceded by am and written in lower case:

Was hat dir am besten gefallen?    
What did you like best?
Caption 33, Umweltlernen: Propellerpflanzen am Kräutertag

Sometimes too, adjectives are written apart from the noun they are modifying and may at first appear to be nominalized. As you see in the following, schönsten actually modifies the preceding noun Auswärtssiege

Am Samstag, da wir eh alle nach Kaiserslautern fahren und Auswärtssiege die schönsten sind, müssen auf jeden Fall drei Punkte her.
On Saturday, since we are all already driving to Kaiserslautern and away wins are the most beautiful, three points are definitely a must.
Captions 54-56, Fußball: Eintracht-Fan gewinnt Wimpel

Further Learning
Find some nominalized adjectives from this list, then search for them on Yabla German to see them used in a real world context. If you want to go really deep into German nominalization rules, see the rules themselves as specified by Duden

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Upper Case in German: Nouns

Understanding which words to capitalize in German is, for the most part, easier than English. In German, all nouns are capitalized. There are, however, a few cases where words that at first appear to be nouns are not capitalized. When used with the verbs seinbleiben, or werden, the words angstleidpleiterecht, and schuld become predicate adjectives and are written lower case: 

Sie hat geantwortet. „Lieber Unbekannter, Sie haben völlig recht.“
She replied. "Dear stranger, you are absolutely right."
Caption 43, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche

As a noun, the word das Recht is written starting with upper case, but in this case the word recht is in fact a predicate adjective, not a noun. If you deconstruct the sentence and replace recht with a noun, it is immediately clear that the sentence makes no sense with anything but an adjective.

Aber hey, ich bin nicht schuld dran, ganz bestimmt nicht.
But hey, I am not to blame for it, definitely not.
Caption 55, Rapucation: Guten Appetit

Here again, in some expressions with the verb "to be" (sein), what may appear to be a noun is actually a predicate adjective. So other than these few exceptions, capitalizing nouns in German is easy. If only noun genders were so simple! 

Further Learning
Read more here about the rules of German upper and lower case. Search on Yabla German for forms of the words listed above in a real world context. 


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Bring the Noise!

In this week's new video Mama arbeitet wieder, a construction company boss tells his foreman: 

Aber bevor wir hier abziehen, lassen wir's noch mal richtig krachen, was?
But before we pull out here, we'll make a really big noise [celebrate], right?
Caption 4, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder

The verb krachen is defined by the Duden dictionary as primarily "einen Krach verursachen, auslösen" or "causing a loud noise." Its slang meanings are "to have a fight with somebody" (Krach haben) or "to suffer a bankruptcy" (Krach erleiden), the latter similar to the "crash" of the stock market in English. The verb combination krachen lassen, however, usually means "to celebrate."

Da wünsche ich euch viel Spaß! Lasst es krachen!
Then I hope you have a lot of fun! Make some noise [celebrate]!
Caption 70, Silvester und Vorsätze für das Neue Jahr

A variation to the translation "to celebrate" is made in the case where a car really "makes some noise":

Und die lassen es in der brandneuen, über zweihundert PS starken A-Klasse so richtig krachen.
And they'll really, in the brand new over two hundred horsepower strong A-Class, make some noise [idiom: "cut loose"].
Captions 16-17, Mercedes Benz: Michael Schumacher und Nico Rosberg bei der Nationalmannschaft 

So the slang term "krachen lassen" is usually used in connection with some kind of celebration, such as a birthday party or New Year's celebration. 2016 is still some months away, but that gives you a chance to get some practice celebrations going in the meantime. Lass es krachen! 

Further Learning
Search for more videos on German Yabla that use the verb krachen and watch the entire video to improve your party vocabulary!

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French Loanwords in German

Around 45% of English words have French origins and most of them, such as art, competition, force, machine, money, police, publicity, role, routine, and table are everyday English words spoken with English pronunciation. There are, however, a number of French words that are commonly used in English that have retained their French character and are unmistakably "French sounding" to the English listener. These foreign words that have been incorporated into the native language are called Loanwords (or Lehnwörter in German).

German too has its share of French loanwords, or Gallicisms, although German vocabulary has fewer words of French origin than English does.

Was Avantgardistisches? -Genau, genau, so kann man das sehen.
Something avant-garde? -Exactly, exactly, you can look at it like this.
Caption 16, Rat für nachhaltige Entwicklung: Mode gegen Armut

Some terms come from cultural milieus such as art. In avantgardistisch, the German version of "avant-garde," the hyphen has been dropped, forming single word.

Der Mohn kommt in die Vinaigrette, ein wenig Honig dazu.
The poppy seeds go into the vinaigrette, a little honey's added to it.
Caption 56, Kochhaus Berlin: Rucola-Salat-Rezept

As with English, many French loanwords come from the culinary world. The German Vinaigrette is capitalized as a noun, but otherwise identical to the English and the French.

Du hast für PeTA eine ziemlich coole neue Kampagne geschossen.
You shot a pretty cool new campaign for PeTA.
Caption 30, Tierfreund Mario Barth: Der Tätowierer der Stars

Many other French loanwords in German come from politics and military jargon. In this last example, the spelling of the original French word campagne is Germanized as die Kampagne, and the English spelling "campaign" is different as well! In most cases, however, loanwords retain the original spellings and diacritical marks.

Further Learning
Go to the German Wikipedia listing of Gallicisms, and when you find a familiar word, do a video search on Yabla German and see how the French loanword is used in German.


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