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Pluralis Majestatis or the "Royal We" in German

The "royal we" form is mostly found today in fairy tales, medieval fiction, and fantasy literature such as "The Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones." In centuries past, it was common for royalty and religious leaders to be referred to (and to refer to themselves) in the plural tense, based upon the conceit that, in referring to themselves, they were referring to "God and I." German uses the Latin term Pluralis Majestatis to denote the "royal we."

This obsolete form of personal pronoun does not present any grammatical problems in English, since it is commonly either rendered in modern English as "we" or "you" (in the plural sense), or in archaic English as thee, thou, thine etc., although these forms are also merely archaic and not necessarily reflecting the "royal we" form.

In German, however, the use of "royal we" can be initially perplexing. For the nominative second person singular pronoun, instead of the modern Sie  (you), the "royal we" form uses Ihr, with the Ihr always capitalized. Initially this may appear to be the same as the plural pronoun ihr, but is actually addressed to a single person:

Majestät, Ihr seid die Schönste hier.
Majesty, you are the most beautiful here.
Caption 86, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Schneewittchen

In standard German, the above sentence would have been written: Sie sind die Schönste hier. The "royal we" case Ihr conjugates the verb the same as the plural nominative second person pronoun ihr.

The accusative second person singular pronoun Sie (you), in a similar fashion, uses for the "royal we" form of the capitalized version of the accusative second person plural Euch:

Ich befreie Euch von dem Versprechen, Prinzessin!
I free you from the promise, princess!
Caption 58, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Hans, mein Igel

In standard German, the above sentence would have been written: Ich befreie Sie von dem Versprechen.

Further Learning
To further familiarize yourself with the use of the "royal we," go through the videos (listed on the right hand side of this lesson) on Yabla German that include extensive examples of Pluralis Majestatis.

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"Fertig" as idiom and slang

The German adjective fertig is typically translated as "finished" or "done," and we generally see it used on Yabla in its most common standard usage:

So, mein Apfelkuchen ist jetzt fertig.
So, my apple cake is now done.
Caption 37, Apfelkuchen: mit Eva

There are, however, a number of slang uses of the adjective, including its inclusion in the separable verb fertigmachen:

Ich mache euch fertig!
I'll finish you off [idiom: retaliate]!
Caption 12, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor

According to the Duden German dictionary, the definitions of the slang word word fertigmachen (or fertig machen) are: 1. to issue a sharp rebuke or reprimand; 2. to break or wear out somebody's will, to drive them to desperation; 3. to completely vanquish or physically destroy or kill; 4. to satisfy sexually or bring to an orgasm. The above translation is closest to the second and third meanings.

Probably the most common slang usage that you'll hear in everyday spoken German means "tired":

Wir sind fix und fertig, hä?
We are worn out, huh?
Caption 4, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz

The above video uses the full phrase fix und fertig, but even using only the word fertig in the right context is enough:

Und dann war ich wieder völlig fertig
And then I was completely down again…
Caption 14, Udo Lindenberg feat. Clueso: Cello

As you see here, fertig is translated as "down" in the sense of tired, or worn out, or in the American vernacular: blue!

Further Learning
Do a search on German Yabla for the word fertig to find some examples of its usage in a real-world context.

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Bieten versus Anbieten

I have been speaking German for well over three decades, and although I've only lived in Germany and spoken German on a daily basis for about 15 of those years, I still get confused occasionally by verb prefixes. As I was formulating a freelance job offer the other day, it struck me that I wasn't entirely sure about the difference between bieten and anbieten, both of which are commonly defined as "to offer" in English.

To confuse matters even further, the Duden dictionary, which sets the standards for the German language, gives the primary definitions as: anbieten: zur Verfügung stellen und seine Bereitschaft dazu erkennen lassen, zeigen and bieten: anbieten, zur Verfügung, in Aussicht stellen. As you see, the meanings seem nearly identical; in fact, the first definition of bieten is anbieten!

There is, however, a rule of thumb that can help you remember the main difference between the two: anbieten is the specific process or act of making an offer, whereas bieten is a general state or condition, that is, a standing offer or a feature.

To illustrate, here are a few examples of anbieten from Yabla German, first in present tense, then in past tense, then in simple tense as a separable verb:

Kann ich Ihnen einen Kaffee anbieten?
Can I offer you a coffee?
Caption 19, George und Donna: Die Milch macht's

Deutsch wird als zweite Sprache ab Stufe eins angeboten.     
German is offered as a second language from the first grade.
Caption 41, Strothoff International School: Imagefilm

Wir bieten unseren Tieren saisonale Produkte an, wie beispielsweise Weihnachtsbäume.
We offer our animals seasonal products like, for example, Christmas trees.
Caption 48, Umfragen: Zootiere im Winter

And some examples of bieten from Yabla German, first in present tense, then in past tense:

Yabla bietet dir das weltweit fortschrittlichste System.
Yabla offers you the most advanced system worldwide.
Caption 3, Yabla-Intro: Jenny

Und auch dieses Jahr ist wieder allerhand für Jung und Alt geboten.
And this year too, a lot is offered again for young and old.
Caption 5, Das Tollwood-Festival: BAP und Clueso in der Musik-Arena

Lastly, when someone is bidding in an auction you would always use the word bieten (or steigern), but never anbieten.

Further Learning
Make up some sentence examples in English using the word "offer" and then translate them into German to see if you understand the principal difference between bieten and anbieten.  Also, do a search on German Yabla for both of the words to find some examples of their usage in a real-world context.

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Ask the Dust

The title of this week's mini-lesson is from an American depression-era novel of the same title by John Fante, and is an allusion that can be taken both literally and figuratively. In most contexts, however, words take on their literal original meaning, as in the use of the word "dust" (German: der Staub) here:

Die Mischung aus Staub und Sonnenstrahlen ließ das gleißende Licht entstehen, das die tödliche Hitze im Film so glaubhaft macht.    
The mixture of dust and sunbeams gave rise to the glistening light that makes the deadly heat in the film so believable.
Captions 28-30, Hell: Science-Fiction-Kinotipp

This week’s video release, “Alpenseen,” however, uses the word “dust” in an idiomatic sense meaning “to leave.” The English idiom “to dust out” and the 1920s-era slang "to take a powder" have similar meanings.

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

Further Learning
Take a look at this German Wikipedia list of German sayings  and do a search on German Yabla  to see if you can find some of the sayings used in context in a video.

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Race and Gender Stereotypes in German Culture

The made-for-TV miniseries Mama arbeitet wieder explores the roles that men and women play at home and in the workplace in Germany. Studies show that for the fifth consecutive year, women earn on average 22% less than men in the same job positions, ranking Germany as one of the most wage discriminatory countries based on gender in the industrialized world.

In one scene of part 4 of  "Mama arbeitet wieder," Mark tells his boss that his wife is going back to work and requests to delay his transfer to Dubai. His boss responds:

Wenn das Mädel weiter Zicken macht, dann schaff' dir ein Exemplar der alten Gattung an.
If the girl continues to be bitchy, then get yourself an example of the old species [a more traditional woman].

This is misogynistic on several levels: first of all, he calls Mark's wife a Mädel, which is an ironic and often demeaning term term for a woman (equivalent to "stupid girl"); he then employs the term Zicken (literally a "she-goat") to classify her behavior as bitchy; he then suggests that Mark find a more "traditional woman."

The message of the series is actually pro gender equality, and the scriptwriters purposefully use such provocative and sexist language to point out how common gender stereotyping is in Germany. The writers additionally added racial stereotyping to the script. Directly after telling Mark to get a more "traditional" wife, the boss says to a worker walking by, who was not privy to the conversation:

Da gibt's nämlich nie Probleme, was, Mehmet?
With that there are namely never problems, right, Mehmet?

The name "Mehmet" is Turkish, and the worker's appearance suggests that he or his family originally came from the Middle East. Mark's boss is putting forth racial, religious and gender stereotypes in a single sentence by suggesting that men from the Middle East, or Moslems, always force the women in their households into "traditional" subservient roles.

Racism is strictly taboo in Germany due to its Nazi past, and by equating sexism and racism, the scriptwriters are attempting to heighten awareness of the seriousness of the problems that Germany currently faces in regard to gender discrimination.

Mama arbeitet wieder shows how a German man comes to terms in a positive way with modernizing his views and learning to drop stereotypes of a woman's role in the household and in the workplace. Watch the entire series on Yabla German.

 

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Cool Off this Summer in the Alps

This week saw the introduction of an exciting new nature series on German Yabla. Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten is a beautifully filmed documentary about wildlife deep in the icy lakes of the Alps. If the summer heat is starting to get to you, cool down with this video and learn the German names of some very curious plants and animals while you're at it:

Die Alpen haben vielfältige Gesichter. Luchse und Steinböcke gehören dazu...
The Alps have many faces. Lynxes and ibexes are part of this...

Wenn Gemsen mit scharfen Hufen Pflanzentriebe, Moose und Flechten freischarren, müssen sie aufpassen.
When chamois with sharp hooves scratch up plant shoots, moss and lichen, they must be careful.

Auch die Bergmolche zieht es hier oben später zum Wasser als ihre Artgenossen im Tiefland.
Even the alpine newt takes to the water later up here than its species counterparts in the lowlands.

Doch daneben existiert noch eine andere Welt. Sie liegt verborgen unter'm Eis...
But next to it exists yet another world. It lies hidden beneath the ice...

So chill out with Yabla German when the heat gets be too much, and bleibt cool beim Deutschlernen!

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Go Green for the Planet!

Germany is one of the most advanced countries in world in terms of environmentally-friendly energy. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in 2011 that all German nuclear power plants will be closed by 2022 as part of a plan to gain a competitive edge worldwide in renewable energy.

This week's new video, Green-Region-Konferenz zur Nachhaltigkeit, uses a number of energy-related terms (below in bold text) that can give you a good jump start in improving your environmental vocabulary.

Eine Energie-Effizienz-Revolution soll her.
An energy-efficiency revolution should happen.

Um die Klimaschutzziele in Deutschland zu erreichen…
In order to achieve the climate protection targets in Germany…

Rund um Darmstadt bedeutet das vor allem den Ausbau der Windkraft sowie mehr Geothermie-Anlagen und Biomasse-Kraftwerke.
Around Darmstadt, that means, above all, the expansion of wind power and more geothermal plants and biomass power plants.

Further Learning
Watch the complete video above and add any new German terms to your vocabulary learning list. The Urban Climate website of the University of Freiburg has created an extensive German-English glossary of environmental protection terms. See if you can find some of these words used in context in Yabla German videos.

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Get off on the right foot

English has quite a few idioms using the word "foot," and the German language also "puts its best foot forward" in this regard!

Some German foot expressions are very similar to English:

Ich nehm' mein Herz und leg's dir zu Füßen.
I'll take my heart and lay it at your feet.
Caption 3, Deutsche Musik: Chris und Croissant

Sometimes, a German expression is close to English, but with a spin of its own:

Er war von Kopf bis Fuß grün angezogen.
He was dressed in green from head to foot [idiom: completely].
Caption 23, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Ein Topf voll Gold

The above expression is very similar, of course, to the English "from head to toe." Most German idiomatic expressions with the word Fuß are quite different, however:

Die Besucher müssen wirklich gut zu Fuß sein.
The visitors must be really good to foot [idiom: agile].
Captions 18-19, Internationale Automobilausstellung: IAA in Frankfurt öffnet die Pforten

The English foot idiom that comes closest is "light on their feet." At Yabla, we translate idioms literally (word for word), and then add a dictionary-style definition for clarity.

Be careful you don't "put your foot in it" though, as some expressions sound similar to English, but have a completely different meaning:

Was Henne gesagt hat, hat ja eigentlich auch Hand und Fuß.
What Henne has said also actually has a hand and a foot [idiom: makes sense].
Caption 48, Luxuslärm: Interview

If you recall the English saying "to wait on someone hand and foot," you might falsely interpret the German to mean that Henne was being servile, when in fact she was making sense!

Further Learning
Learn some more expressions using the word "foot" here, and go to Yabla German and see how the word Fuß is used in different contexts.

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How well can you deal with it?

This week's new video, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Wichtelmänner, uses the prepositional phrase mit (etwas) umgehen:

Sie war keine Schneiderin, konnte aber gut mit Nadel und Faden umgehen.
She was not a seamstress, but was good with a needle and thread.
Caption 70, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Wichtelmänner

The word umgehen on its own usually means to avoid, to circumvent, or to get around something, but when you put it with an adjective and the preposition mit, its meaning is broadened to mean how something is handled, dealt with, or treated. Here are a couple more examples from Yabla videos:

Ich werde dir beibringen, wie du damit umgehen kannst.
I will teach you how you can deal with that.
Caption 18, Lektionen: Morgen

Da muss man sehr sauber arbeiten, muss sehr pfleglich mit seinen Grundstoffen umgehen.    
You must work very cleanly, you must handle your basic materials very carefully.
Captions 67-68, Whesskey: Whiskey aus Hessen

Further Learning
Go to this link on Yabla German and see how the word umgehen is used in different contexts.

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The Mouse is Out!

Idiomatic expressions can be difficult, because even if you know what all of the words mean, it can sometimes be nearly impossible to understand what the phrase means. Just think about how some standard English idioms sound if you try to understand them literally: "It's raining cats and dogs," or "Don't spill the beans." Neither cats, nor dogs, nor beans have anything to do with what is really being expressed! This week's new Yabla video, the film trailer from "Frau Müller muss weg," contains a number of colorful German idioms:

Das ist die Realität. Aus die Maus.
That is the reality. The mouse is out [idiom: It's over and done].

Although German idioms often don’t have a direct English equivalent, a more literal translation might be: “The game is up."

Fassen Sie sich gefälligst an Ihre eigenen Nasen.
Kindly grab your own noses [idiom: mind your own concerns], please.

The English idioms "keep your nose out of my business" and "mind your own business" have similar meanings.

Wenn's um Konflikte geht, wird das hier immer unterirdisch.
Whenever it's about conflicts, it always ends up underground [idiom: things become abysmal] here.

Yabla German always provides you with a direct word-for-word translation as well as the direct meaning of the phrase to help you better understand these idiomatic expressions.

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