German Lessons


Tipping in Germany

Unlike waitresses and waiters in restaurants in the United States, who often legally receive a wage well under standard minimum wage, but make up the difference through tips they receive from customers, waitstaff and bartenders in Germany usually receive at least standard minimum wage. In some cases, German waitstaff also earn a small percentage of their food and drink sales, regardless of the tips they receive from customers. 


Perhaps it is for this reason that many German tourists, unaccustomed to tipping very much in restaurants and bars at home, often find it difficult to pay the standard 15 to 25 percent tip when visiting the United States. Germans often don't seem to understand that unlike in Germany, US waitstaff make their living primarily from tips, and merely rounding up the bill to the next dollar or fifty cents is not going to help them pay their rent.


The situation is so bad that in very expensive cities like New York, some waiters are reluctant to serve German tourists when they come into the restaurant, knowing from past experience that they may not earn any tip money from them. Since waiters are often taxed on the presumption of a 15 to 25 percent tip, they might even lose money if a table does not tip them. 


Let's turn the tables for a moment, though, with apologies for the pun. As an American in Germany, you will find most waitstaff extremely gracious when you give them a decent tip. You are not really expected to tip beyond a few euros, however, though I always tip 10% percent when the service is at least acceptable.


But what do you say when you wish to leave a tip? Best not to leave der Tipp, as that does not mean "tip" in the sense of tipping the waitstaff, but rather "tip" in the sense of a hint or advice, like a "hot tip for the racetrack." The correct German word is das Trinkgeld, literally "the drink money." There are several more subtle ways to tell waitstaff that the money you are giving them is for a tip than to use the word Trinkgeld, however.


Das macht zusammen 40 Euro 50. Zahlen Sie bar oder mit Karte? -Ich zahle bar. Hier sind 45 Euro, das stimmt so. -Danke.
All together that is 40 euros and 50 cents. Will you be paying in cash or with a card? -I'll pay in cash. Here is 45 euros, that's correct thus. -Thanks.
Captions 7-8, Nicos Weg: Zahlen, bitte!


When Lisa says "das stimmt so" in the video above, she more or less means "keep the change," meaning the restaurant can keep as a tip the amount of money she gave them above the actual amount of the bill. However, if Lisa had handed them a 50 euro bill but only wanted to tip them 4 euros and 50 cents (for a total of 45 euros), then she could have stated the total amount she wanted them to keep and simply said "45 Euro, bitte."


So if you are paying at a cafe in Germany and the total for your coffee and cake is 9 euros and 20 cents, you could hand the waitstaff a 10 euro bill and say "das stimmt so," or you could hand them a 20 euro bill and say "10 Euro, bitte" to let them know that they can keep the amount over the bill up to 10 euros.


Additionally, you should be very careful with your use of the word danke when handing over cash: this will often be interpreted the same as das stimmt so. Don't be too surprised then if you thought you were merely being polite, but then the waiter doesn't return with your change!


Further Learning
Read this German Wikipedia article on Servicewüste Deutschland, and see if you can understand it all without having to peek at the English version. Then go to Yabla German to search for "restaurant" to find some examples of German used in a restaurant context, and keep your eyes peeled in the coming month for a lesson on the general topic of restaurants! 

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Nuances of wohnen and leben

In German, two verbs can be translated as "to live." Generally, students of German are taught that wohnen relates to more temporary living situations, and leben to more permanent living situations. This may seem highly subjective, and it is! Although there are sentences where only one option is correct, there are certainly sentences in which the speaker chooses a verb dependent on their perspective on the situation.


For example, if we look at the following two sentences from the video
Berlin: Judith und die „Brezel Bar“,  we see that Judith uses both words to describe her living situation. 


Ich selbst wohne auch in Kreuzberg, hier um die Ecke.
I myself also live in Kreuzberg, here around the corner.
Caption 12, Berlin: Judith und die „Brezel Bar“


Mein eigentlicher Beruf ist Buchhändlerin, aber seit ich in Berlin lebe, arbeite ich als Kellnerin und Barista in Cafés.
My actual occupation is book dealer, but since I've lived in Berlin, I've worked as a waitress and barista in cafés.
Caption 16, Berlin: Judith und die „Brezel Bar“


We notice here that Judith talks about her apartment being in Kreuzberg with the verb wohnen and her life in Berlin with the verb leben. Wohnen is often used to talk about domesticity, such as inhabiting an apartment or a house. German philosopher Martin Heidegger is well-known for his text Bauen, Wohnen, Denken, which is translated as "Building, dwelling, thinking" in English. Ikea in Germany has for many years had the slogan Wohnst du noch oder lebst du schon? which highlights that occupying or sleeping in a space does not necessarily mean that you are really at home there. In German, the phrase Hast du dich eingelebt? means "Have you settled in?" also reflecting that leben has a deeper sense of permanence than simply dwelling or residing. 


In this sentence, Brigitta uses wohnen to express that she is staying with friends, which is obviously a temporary situation:


Vielen, vielen Dank, dass ich hier bei euch wohnen kann.
Many, many thanks for allowing me to stay here with you.
Caption 13, Die Wohngemeinschaft: Besuch


In this next sentence, it would be possible to say Ich wohne allein, but this would highlight the domestic aspect of living by oneself in an apartment or house, rather than describing a way of life. A person might also say Ich lebe gesund, for example.


Ich lebe allein, ich bin unabhängig und ich liebe meine Arbeit.
I live alone, I am independent and I love my work.
Caption 48, Malerei: Impressionistinnen


And of course, not to be forgotten, leben is also the verb for "to be alive" itself!


Schneewittchen lebt, bei den sieben Zwergen im Wald.    
Snow White is alive, with the seven dwarfs in the forest.
Caption 54, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Schneewittchen


Further Learning
There are many examples of leben and wohnen on Yabla German. Think about your own life and which verb you would use to describe various places you have lived, or your current life and lifestyle. 

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For a Long Time — Until Now

It is sometimes easy to be misled by German adverbs, which may not be quite what they appear at first glance. Take the adverb bislang: if you break it into its constituent parts bis ("until") and lang ("long"), you might conclude it means "for a long time"—but you would unfortunately be wrong. 


There are, however, a number of other expressions in German that mean "for a long time":


seit langem (or seit Langem, both are correct):


Dieses Tier wollte er schon seit langem filmen.
He has wanted to film this creature for a long time.
Caption 47, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


lange Zeit:


Im Jahr 1953 gab es in der DDR einen Aufstand, an den lange Zeit in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ein Feiertag erinnerte.    
There was an uprising in the GDR in 1953, which a holiday has memorialized for a long time in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Captions 22-23, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


seit langer Zeit:


Comedy geht mir seit langer Zeit aufn Keks.    
Comedy has been getting on my nerves for a long time.
Caption 2, Filmtrailer: Hexe Lilli


or simply lange


Und wir haben uns mit Siegfried lange unterhalten dürfen.    
And we were able to speak with Siegfried for a long time
Caption 29, Ehrlich Brothers: Show-Magier


But back to bislang: it can be variously translated as "up till now," "until now," or "so far," depending upon the context: 


Die vierzehnjährige Floh hat bislang noch keine eigenen Kinder bekommen.
Up till now, the fourteen year old Floh still has never had any children of her own.
Caption 13, Unter fremden Fittichen: Uhu-Mama zieht Hühnerküken auf


Überraschungssieger und damit neuer deutscher Meister ist der bislang in der Szene unbekannte Alexander Lehmann aus Kiel.
Surprise winner, and therefore the new German champion, is Alexander Lehmann from Kiel, who was unknown in the scene until now.
Captions 5-6, Die Insel Fehmarn: Speedsurfen auf Fehmarn


Bislang konnte das die Ausbreitung der Läden aber nicht stoppen.
So far, however, this hasn't stopped the spread of the shops.
Caption 25, Perlentee: In allen Mündern


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German to search for other examples of how the adverb bislang and expressions meaning "for a long time" are used in a real-world context.

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Expressing the conditional in German

In both English and German, there are tenses and there are moods. We use the indicative mood to state facts, the imperative mood to give commands, and the subjunctive mood to reflect wishes or actions in unreal situations ("I wish I were taller" or "I would travel around the world."). Take a look at this past newsletter for information on the formation of the subjunctive (Konjunktiv) in German. The subjunctive is a key part of conditional sentences that describe levels of possibility, from events that are very likely to missed opportunities in the past. 


Type 1 conditional sentences refer to cause-and-effect links, and events that are quite certain under particular circumstances. Because German sentences often use the present tense to imply the future, the basic structure is wenn or falls (see this newsletter) followed by the present tense, like in English, but then it can be followed by either the present tense or future constructed with werden. 


Wenn es so weitergehtwerden bis 2050 drei Viertel aller Alpengletscher verschwunden sein... mit gewaltigen Folgen.
If it continues this way, by 2050, three quarters of all the alpine glaciers will have disappeared ... with enormous consequences.
Caption 33-34, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten


Type 2 conditional sentences refer to events that are less possible or likely, often hypothetical. Its structure in German is Wenn + Konjunktiv II + Konjunktiv II. 


Wenn immer Sommer wärewürde ich jeden Tag grillen.
If it were always summer, I would grill every day.
Caption 29, Konjugation: Das Verb „grillen“


Wenn ich viel Geld hättewürde ich nie wieder arbeiten gehen.
If had a lot of money, I would never go to work again.
Caption 23, Konjugation: Das Verb „gehen“

Ich denke, wenn ich weniger arbeiten würdekönnte ich mich mehr konzentrieren.  
I think that if I worked less I could concentrate better.
Caption 34-35, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Type 3 conditional sentences are used to talk about possibilities or events that never came to be. Here is where the structure gets a bit complicated. In its full form, the construction is Wenn + participle + Konjunktiv II + Konjunktiv II + participle.


Wenn wir eine Chance gehabt hätten, dann wären wir vorher gegangen, ja.
If we had had a chance, then we would've left before, yes.    
Caption 34, Die Klasse: Berlin '61


Ja, wenn Jannik fit gewesen wäre, dann wäre er nie runtergekracht.
Yes, if Jannik had been healthy, then he wouldn't have ever gone crashing down.   
Caption 59, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern


It is worth mentioning that you may often see "mixed types" of the conditional, in which a missed opportunity in the past (expressed using the participle) is portrayed as still affecting the present. Take a look at the following sentence: 


Also, wenn wir den Vertrag letzte Woche unterzeichnet hättenwären wir in der Lage, mit unserer ursprünglichen Vereinbarung fortzufahren?        
So, if we had signed the contract last week, we would be in a position to proceed with our original agreement?
Caption 36-37, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Further Learning
For more information on the different types of conditional sentences, take a look at this helpful website. Whenever you see key words like hättewäre, or würde on Yabla German, note the subjunctive mood and try to identify which type of conditional sentence it might be related to.

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All about the preposition zeit, Part II

You are probably very familiar with the noun die Zeit, usually translated as "time," but may not know that there is also a preposition with the same spelling: zeit. We covered this to some extent in a previous lesson, but it's time for an in-depth recap. There is some potential confusion with expressions that use the noun die Zeit with a genitive modifier that we should look at first: 


Das wird die Zeit meines Lebens.
It will be the time of my life.
Caption 18, Glasperlenspiel: Geiles Leben


This very straightforward expression, "having the time of your life," meaning that you are enjoying yourself very much, is common in English too. 


However, if you were to use the genitive preposition zeit in an expression that appears to be very similar, it would in fact mean something entirely different: 


Und trotzdem hatten Morisot und ihre drei Mitstreiterinnen zeit ihres Lebens mit ihrer Malerei Erfolg.
And Morisot and her three fellow campaigners were nevertheless successful all their lives with their painting.
Captions 73-74, Malerei: Impressionistinnen


As you can see, the preposition zeit means, in a general way, "during the whole course of," so the literal translation "during the whole course of their lives" is more simply translated as "all their lives." The genitive form thus renders this standard expression in the following forms: 


zeit meines Lebens ("all of my life")

— zeit deines Lebens ("all of your life")

— zeit Ihres Lebens ("all of your life")

— zeit seines Lebens ("all of his life," or for neuter subjects like animals, "all of its life")

— zeit ihres Lebens ("all of her life" or "all of their lives")

— zeit unseres Lebens ("all of our lives")

— zeit eures Lebens ("all of your lives")


Luckily, the preposition zeit is not commonly spoken, and nearly always in the above context when used at all. Remember that if the definite article die is used, then it's referring to having a good time, whereas the lack of definite article will be a good indication of its use referring to the span of a lifetime.


There's another expression for "all of your life" that may also appear a bit odd to the non-native German speaker: 


Da sammelte es sich die Taler hinein und war reich für seinen Lebtag.
Then she gathered up the thalers and was rich for the rest of her life.
Caption 35, Märchenstunde: Die Sterntaler


You can remember the meaning of Lebtag more easily if you think of it as "the rest of the days of your life." If you are curious as to why es is translated here as "she" and seinen as "her," you should read the Yabla German lesson "Possessive Gender Benders." 


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German to find other examples of how the noun die Zeit and the preposition zeit are used in real-world contexts, and read the full definition of the preposition zeit on Duden

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Wann, wenn, ob, and falls

In a previous newsletter, we outlined the difference between wann, wenn, and als. This week, we'll take a look at wann and wenn in the context of the words listed above, which tend to be a bit confusing for beginners. 


Wann is a question word, like was or wie. It is concerned with at what point in time something will happen, but not if it will happen. 


Wann werden Sie diesen Flughafen eröffnen können?
When will you be able to open this airport?
Caption 28, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister: Pläne für 2014


Genau, ja, wir schauen grad, wann der perfekte Zeitpunkt ist.
Exactly, yes, we are looking right now when the perfect time would be.
Caption 40, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott: Musik sein


The word wenn can be confusing, because it can be translated as “if,” but also as “when” or “whenever.” 


Wenn man die Augen schließt und an Berlin denkt, was sieht man da?
If you close your eyes and think about Berlin, what do you see there?
Caption 1, Berlin: Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung


Wenn schon so starker Schneefall ist, dann muss man die Zeit eigentlich optimal nutzen.
When there is such heavy snowfall, then you actually have to use your time optimally.
Caption 30, 48 h in Innsbruck: Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps 


The word ob means "whether," but is also translated as "if." It is generally used in sentences that involve two options or a question that could be answered with "no" just as easily as "yes."


Ich bin mir aber nicht sicher, ob das Eurem Vater gefällt.
But I'm not sure if your father will like that.    
Caption 12, Das Märchen von der Prinzessin - die unbedingt in einem Märchen vorkommen wollte


Ich möchte schauen, ob ihr die Regeln verstanden habt.
I want to see whether you have understood the rules.    
Caption 63, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Trennbare Verben und Wortstellung 


Falls also means "if," but, unlike wenn, can only be used with the conditional type I and not conditional type II or III. It is also often translated as "in case." 


Ähm, falls Ihre Schwester trockene Haut hat, wär' des [das] ganz toll. -OK, super.
Um, if your sister has dry skin, that would be totally great. -OK, super.    
Caption 35-36, Rhein-Main-TV: Eva Padberg beim Weihnachtseinkauf


Natürlich auch einen warmen Pulli, falls es kalt wird.
Of course, also a warm pullover, in case it gets cold.
Caption 9, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub


Further Learning
To review the types of conditional sentences in English (mentioned above), take a look at this website. A newsletter on creating conditional sentences in German is forthcoming, so it's a good way to prepare! When you watch videos on Yabla German, note how wenn, ob, and falls are translated. Consider whether the word used could be swapped out for one of the others, and why or why not. 

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Handeln and um etwas handeln

The basic definition of the noun das Handeln is "the action." As a verb, handeln can mean "to act" or "to take action," but also "to trade," "to deal in," or "to bargain."


Wenn sich die eigenen Kinder einen Hund als Haustier wünschen, sollten Eltern nicht gleich voreilig handeln.
If their own children wish to have a dog as a pet, parents shouldn't act hastily.
Caption 12-13, Haustiere als Geschenk?: Vier Pfoten unterm Weihnachtsbaum 


Und letztendlich hab' ich dann eben versucht in Währungen zu handeln und in Rohstoffen und so weiter.    
And in the end I just tried to deal in currencies and in commodities and so on.
Caption 10-11, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Börsen-Gewinnspiel


However, you may have also seen the construction sich um etwas handeln, which can be translated as  "to be a case of," "to be a matter of," "to be about," "to be dealing with," or "to have to do with." Pay attention to how the order of the words in the phrase is altered to fit into the sentence constructions. 


Es handelt sich also um akut verfügbare Maßnahmen.
So it is a matter of provisions made immediately available. 
Caption 21, Angela Merkel: beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat


Ich habe gedacht, es kann sich nur um doppelt vergebene Nachnamen handeln.
I thought it could only have to do with duplicately given last names.  
Caption 19, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern


Aber prüfe genau, ob es sich auch wirklich um eine Prinzessin handelt!
But check carefully whether you're really dealing with a princess!    
Caption 24, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse


Ja, der Frühling. Der kommt bestimmt bald. Kann sich ja nur noch um Monate handeln.
Yes, spring. Surely it will come soon. It can only be a matter of months now.
Caption 26, Umfragen: Zootiere im Winter


Further Learning
Look up related words such as die Handlung, die Verhandlung, and verhandeln using  your favorite dictionary and search for examples on Yabla German

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German Xenonyms

A "xenonym" is an external name for a geographical place, the people who live there or the language spoken there. For example, English speakers say "Germany" rather than Deutschland and "Munich" rather than München. The names of many countries in German are very similar to the English xenonyms. However, even if they sound almost the same, the spelling is often different. For example, we see in many names that a C converts to K (Canada is Kanada, Cameroon is Kamerun),  a Z to an S (Zimbabwe is Simbabwe, Zambia is Sambia) or a V to a W (Slovakia is die Slowakei). Of course, this may not be the only difference.


Jetzt ist deine Münze in der Slowakei.
Your coin is now in Slovakia.
Caption 23, Sparefroh-TV: Warum sehen die Euromünzen in jedem Land anders aus?


Der Kea-Papagei stammt ursprünglich aus Neuseeland.
The Kea parrot originally comes from New Zealand,
Caption 19, Wettlauf gegen den Verfall: Beruf Präparator


Another common pattern is an -ien ending. You can likely guess which countries SpanienItalienSerbienRümänienSlowenienAustralienSaudi-ArabienTunesien, and Kroatien are!

Hier haben wir zum Beispiel Rohkaffee aus Kolumbien.
Here we have, for example raw coffee from Colombia
Caption 8, Kaffee: Noch von Hand gemacht

Dabei haben die deutschen Titelverteidiger diese Woche eins zu zwei gegen Tschechienverloren.
And the German title holders lost one to two against the Czech Republic this week.
Caption 6-7, Fußball: U21-Nationalmannschaft


There is also a small group of countries with names ending in -land in German, which don't necessarily match up with those that have this ending in English. 


Hm, in Griechenland ist es im Sommer sehr heiß.
Hm, in Greece it is very hot in the summer.    
Caption 37, Jenny: Reiseziele


Diese da ist aus Russland und diese hier ist eine alte Polaroid-Kamera.
This one here is from Russia and this one is an old Polaroid camera.
Caption 23, Drei Leute: beim Kofferpacken


Further Learning
Check out this very thorough list of country names and get memorizing! Concentrate on the country names that sound less like the English versions or are easily confusable. On Yabla German you can see which require a definite article (such as die Slowakei above), as detailed in our previous newsletter, or which require one in English but not in German (such as Tschechien). 

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"Pulling Balance"

The noun die Bilanz sounds similar to the English word "balance" and is often translated thus, in the sense of a "financial balance" or a "balance sheet," as opposed to getting dizzy and losing your balance, which is das Gleichgewicht. You might occasionally run into the phrase Bilanz ziehen, which sounds a bit odd if you were to translate it literally as "pull balance." Its real meaning becomes clearer when we see the phrase used in some different contexts:


Fehmarn kann eine erfreuliche Bilanz ziehen: Es kamen 2009 zehn Prozent mehr Gäste.
Fehmarn strikes a happy balance: ten percent more guests came in 2009.
Caption 3, Die Insel Fehmarn: Gästeboom


Zeit, Bilanz zu ziehen.
It's time to strike a balance.
Caption 9, Fortuna Düsseldorf: Kreißsaal für Fußballfans


Seit knapp neun Jahren gibt es die Berliner Band, da ist es an der Zeit, einmal Bilanz zu ziehen.
The Berlin band has existed for almost nine years, so it's about time to strike a balance.
Captions 3-4, Culcha Candela: zieht Bilanz


Although I had long assumed—incorrectly—that "to strike a balance" had to do with physical balancing (die Gleichgewicht), in fact the Oxford English Dictionary defines the phrase as meaning "to determine the exact difference, if any, between the two sides of an account," thus using the same sense of "balance" as the German die Bilanz. As with the English phrase, the German phrase too is probably used more often in a metaphorical sense.


The noun die Bilanz without the verb ziehen is also commonly translated thus: 


1918 zeigt uns eine Bilanz
1918 shows us a result
Caption 38, Majolika Karlsruhe: Der Bambi-Filmpreis


Am Ende der Veranstaltung ist die Bilanz dann auch recht eindeutig.
At the end of the event, the result then is also quite clear.
Caption 64, Manga-und-Anime-Treffen: in Mainz-Kastell


The least figurative translation of die Bilanz, however, is simply "the balance sheet."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German to find other examples of how the noun die Bilanz is used in a real-world context.

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Gelegenheit, Angelegenheit and gelegen

I still sometimes find it difficult, despite speaking German for decades, to distinguish between the two nouns die Gelegenheit and die Angelegenheit. In all fairness, though, the fact that prefixes like an-, be-, ver-, ent-, etc. radically alter the meanings of German words is part of what makes German difficult for English speakers.


Let's start by stripping Gelegenheit of its -heit suffix, leaving us with the adverb/adjective gelegen:


... eine Kleinstadt für sich, gelegen entlang der schweiz-französischen Grenze.
... a small town on its own, located along the Swiss-French border. 
Caption 2, Die Weltmaschine: Der LHC-Teilchenbeschleuniger


Vor der abseits gelegenen Düne gelang ihm eine sensationelle Entdeckung.
In front of this remotely situated dune, he managed to make a sensational discovery.
Captions 22-23, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


Thus gelegen is usually translated as "located" or situated," though it also can mean "desired" (erwünscht) or "opportune" (günstig). When we add the suffix -heit and make it a noun, it becomes: 


Die Gelegenheit lässt sich Florian nicht entgehen.
Florian doesn't let this opportunity slip by.
Caption 18, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


Dann lernst du ihn auch gleich kennen bei der Gelegenheit.
Then you'll also get to know him right away on this occasion.
Caption 28, Fine: sucht einen Hammer 


Die Gelegenheit is almost always translated as "opportunity," except when preceded with the preposition bei, when it's usually translated as "occasion." On a more humorous note, just as "the facilities" are used in English as a polite euphemism for the toilet, so too is die Gelegenheit an old-fashioned euphemism in German for das WC. A perhaps overly polite way to ask where the toilet is would be Wo ist hier die Gelegenheit, bitte? 


Die Angelegenheit is, on the other hand, literally a different matter altogether: 


Die Königin war fuchsteufelswild und beschloss, die Angelegenheit jetzt selbst in die Hand zu nehmen.    
The Queen was angry and decided to take the matter into her own hands now.
Captions 55-56, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Schneewittchen


Musste zufällig jemand den Kaiser in kaiserlichen Angelegenheiten sprechen, gaben seine Diener stets dieselbe Antwort.
Should someone need to speak to the emperor about imperial affairs, his servants always gave the same answer.
Captions 20-21, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Des Kaisers neue Kleider


I use this mnemonic device to remember the difference between Gelegenheit and Angelegenheit:


–An "opportunity" should be easy and is thus the shorter of the two words, Gelegenheit. 


–A political affair or business matter tends to suggest difficult bureaucratic procedures and is thus the longer word Angelegenheit.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German to find other examples of gelegen, Gelegenheit and Angelegenheit as used in real-world context.

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All about dabei

Not to be confused with the capital city of the United Arab Emirates—that's written "Dubai" in German too, by the way—the German adverb dabei means generally "to be present" at some event, but can have many possible translations in English, depending upon the context. Let's take a look at some of the more commonly seen possibilities.


Ich freue mich, dass ihr heute dabei seid.
I'm happy that you are here today.
Caption 2, Eva erklärt: Sprichwörter


In this context, the use of dabei rather than simply hier implies "here with us."


Ich habe meine Lupe dabei, um die Schnecken zu sehen.
I have my magnifying glass with me to see the snails.
Caption 47, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


You could possibly say bei mir in this context, although bei mir also means "at my place" or "at my house."


Warst du gestern bei der Schlacht dabei?
Were you present at the battle yesterday?
Caption 20, Bretten: Das Peter-und-Paul-Fest


Der Louvre ist nicht mit dabei.
The Louvre Museum is not participating.
Caption 8, Kunst weltweit: Galerienbesuch von zu Hause aus


The above two examples translate dabei as "to be present" at or "to be participating" in an event.


Wichtig ist dabei, immer Geld zu verdienen.
It is important to always make money thereby.
Caption 51: Fluglinien: Niki Air


The adverb dabei, when seen in its constituent parts da + bei, literally "there" + "by," forms the English adverb "thereby." Most people don't use the word "thereby" very often in everyday speech, however, and it's more common to use other equivalents. 


Nun spring einfach hinab und flattere und schlackere dabei.
Now just jump down and flutter and flap as you do it.
Caption 26: Piggeldy und Frederick: Lernen fliegen


Another close equivalent to "thereby," and perhaps the most common translation in this context, is "in doing so": 


Dabei passieren sie die fünf Kilometer lange Zeeland-Brücke.
In doing so, they pass through the five kilometer long Zeeland Bridge.
Caption 10, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


The above could also have been translated: "They thereby pass through the five kilometer long Zeeland Bridge." 


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German to find other examples of dabei used in a real-world context and see if you can find some other ways that it has been translated into English.


Thank you for reading this newsletter and keep up the good work! If you have any good ideas for lesson topics, please email them to us at, and you can tweet us @yabla.

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False friends with hören

Last week, we looked at the various verbs that mean "to listen" and "to hear." But there are also several words that contain hören and have nothing to do with its meaning. The most important of these for daily conversation are likely the verbs gehören and aufhören


The verb gehören essentially means "to belong" and is used to express ownership. Note the use of the dative case in these two examples:  


Die Uhr gehört der Lehrerin.
The watch belongs to the teacher.
Caption 60, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Verben der 3. Kategorie


Wem gehört jetzt dieses Kunstwerk?
Who owns this work of art now?
Caption 47, Das Urban-Art-Projekt: Polnischer Militärhubschrauber


The related verb zugehören or dazugehören means "to be counted among” or “to be a component part of something," while the verb angehören can even be used more officially to talk about membership in a group. 


Die Australierin gehört zu den Hauptdarstellerinnen in dem Thriller.
The Australian is among the leading female actors in the thriller.
Caption 18, Cate Blanchett: dreht auf Fehmarn


You may already be thinking that gehört is indeed the past participle of the verb hören! This is true, so you will have to note the context and the prefixes and prepositions as well. 


The verb aufhören is also not related to listening or hearing. It means "to cease," "to stop," or "to quit."


Kannst du bitte aufhören zu telefonieren?
Can you please stop talking on the phone?
Caption 51, Magie: Die Zaubershow


Hör auf!“, schrie Frederick. „Du nervst mich!“
"Stop!" cried Frederick. "You are annoying me!"
Caption 11, Piggeldy und Frederick: Karton


Further Learning
Because these verbs are so common, you will be able to find many examples on Yabla German. If you are interested in learning more verbs related to listening and hearing, take a look at this list.

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Listen up!

Have you noticed that there is not only the verb hören in German, but also anhören and zuhören? Unfortunately, the difference between these three can’t exactly be equated with the difference between “to listen” and “to hear” in English. Let’s try to get to the bottom of how each one is used.  

Hören without any prefixes can actually be translated as both “to hear” and “to listen,” depending on the context. 


Hört ihr es? Mein Wasser fängt gerade an zu kochen.
Do you hear it? My water is just starting to boil.
Caption 35, Cannelloni: mit Jenny


Das haben wohl schon so einige Kinder von ihren Eltern zu hören bekommen.
Quite a few children have gotten to hear that from their parents.
Caption 2, Kochhaus Berlin: Kochen mit Kindern

OK, ich höre. Wer beginnt?
OK, I am listening. Who will begin?
Caption 26, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz


Zuhören is used to describe listening intently or paying attention. 


Du musst genau zuhören, was gesprochen wird.
You have to listen carefully to what is said.
Caption 39, Yabla-Intro: Cettina


Und nun hör zu: Der Sommer ist warm und kurz.
And now listen up. Summer is warm and short.
Caption 29-30, Piggeldy und Frederick: Sommer


Sich etwas anhören describes listening to something specific that requires some time, for example, a song or an album. This is a bit confusing as hören is also used to talk about listening to music. If you understand the difference between sehen and sich etwas ansehen, this may help you with the distinction between hören and sich etwas anhören. Perhaps it is not unlike "to have a good look" or "to have a listen."


Wir möchten uns ein bisschen von seiner Lebensgeschichte anhören.
We would like to hear a bit about his life story.
Caption 4, Dieter Kränzlein: Bildhauer


Und was erwartet uns, wenn wir uns das Album anhören?
And what awaits us [can we expect] when we listen to the album?
Caption 13, Sons of Sounds: Open-Air in Karlsruhe


At the same time, sich anhören is also used to talk about something (for example, an idea or suggestion) that “sounds good” or “sounds bad.” Take a look at the structures below: 


OK, das hört sich gut an. Ich komme gerne mit.
OK, that sounds good. I'll gladly come along.
Caption 44, Diane erklärt: Fragewörter


Im Präteritum würde sich das ungefähr so anhören.
In the preterite, it would sound like this.
Caption 31, Konjugation: Das Verb „mögen“


Now for a false friend alert: The verb überhören does not mean "to overhear" in the English sense. It actually means to ignore or miss something one has heard. 


Further Learning
Search Yabla German for more examples of these verbs to develop your understanding of how they are used. Next week, we’ll look at a few words that contain the word hören, but have little to do with listening or hearing.  

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Germany out of the World Cup

Berlin is a wonderful city during the soccer world championship. Most Spätis (small convenience stores) just place large TVs on the sidewalk and every 50 meters or so there's a makeshift outdoor sports bar. When Germany gets a goal, you can hear cheering and fireworks across the city. But when Germany loses and is no longer playing, the city seems to suddenly go quiet.


The headline today of the Berlin tabloid newspaper BZ was Die Mannschafft sich ab, reflecting the fact that after having lost 0-2 to South Korea, the German soccer team, reigning world champions, are out of the World Cup after only three games. The accompanying photograph was of five players on the field at the end of the match with their hands on their heads, much like prisoners being led away under arrest. Very depressing indeed!


The phrase in the headlines is not strictly correct, grammatically speaking. It's a play on words of the noun die Mannschaft ("the team") and the verb abschaffen ("to abolish," "to do away with," "to eliminate"). The proper non-wordplay version would be Die Mannschaft schafft sich ab. An approximate translation could read "The team eliminates itself," as they have been eliminated from playing in the World Cup. 


Let's take a look at some other contexts where the verb abschaffen can be used in the present tense:


Eine Partei im deutschen Bundestag will die Pressefreiheit abschaffen.
A party in the German Parliament wants to abolish the freedom of press.
Caption 9, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


Man will die Buslinie abschaffen, mit der Sie immer zur Arbeit fahren.
They want to get rid of the bus route that you always ride to work with.
Caption 25, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


By the way, it's not possible for a political party to "do away" with freedom of the press in Germany because it's a basic constitutional right, but if a bus line is being cut, you can start a citizen's initiative to save it. Unfortunately, no basic rights or citizen's initiatives will be able to bring the German team back into the World Cup!


Insgesamt 22 Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen wurden heute auf hessischen Autobahnen abgeschafft.
22 speed limits in total were scrapped today on Hessian autobahns.
Captions 7-8, Deutsche Autobahnen: Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen


„Captain's Dinner“ und feste Tischzeiten wurden abgeschafft.
The "captain's dinner" and fixed meal times were done away with.
Caption 18, Kreuzfahrtschiff: An Bord der Europa 2


Früher hatten sie solche Riesenmaschinen, aber die haben sie abgeschafft.
Long ago they had such giant machines, but they have abolished them.
Captions 40-41, Piggeldy und Frederick: Maschine


It's interesting to note that by taking the verb schaffen ("to create") and adding the prefix ab-, you essentially create the opposite of "create" with abschaffen: "to abolish." 

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Trödel and other Worthless Junk

I was riding on the Berlin U-Bahn (subway) recently and noticed an advertisement from a very well-known auction website on the wall of the subway car that read Trödel mehr als der M41. This use of the verb trödeln had me puzzled, though I knew it was related to the noun der Trödelmarkt:


Also, hier gibt es auch viele Secondhand- und Trödelläden.
So, there are also many secondhand and junk shops here.
Caption 26, Jonathan Johnson: Kreuzberg, Berlin


The noun der Trödelladen has a similar meaning to der Trödelmarkt, just as der Laden has a similar meaning to der Markt. I knew that trödeln means "to sell things at a junk shop or flea market," but what does this have to do with the Berlin M41 bus line? It turns out the slang and most common usage of trödeln is "to go slowly" or "to waste time," but also "to move slowly without a fixed destination," thus "to wander," "to amble," or "to meander." The auction website ad translates approximately to "Wander around (alternately: go shopping for secondhand goods) more than the M41 bus," so it's a play on words on the fact that the M41 is a long, meandering bus line and that you can use the auction site to shop for good deals.


The noun der Trödel, which is also short for der Trödelmarkt, has taken on the slang meaning of "useless, worthless things, especially clothing, furniture and household articles," just as you expect to see in a junk shop or flea market, the latter of which translates directly to German as der Flohmarkt, by the way.


Junk shops and flea markets are numerous in Berlin and range from places filled literally to the ceiling with useless, broken junk to something much closer to fine antique shops. Those people who are too poor to shop anywhere but at Trödelläden and Flohmärkte can take comfort in the wise words of Piggeldy and Frederick: 


Schätze kann man nicht essen, bloß verkaufen.
You can't eat treasures, you can only sell them.


Reich ist, wer was verkaufen kann.
Rich are those who have something to sell.


Captions 14-19, Piggeldy und Frederick: Arm


Further Learning
Go to the German Duden dictionary and see the various meanings of der Trödelmarkt, der Trödel, and trödeln, and then see if you can guess the meanings of this list of words relating related to trödeln. Then you can go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words related to shopping in German.

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French Words Used in German, Part 3

German has many French loan words or Gallicisms. Since an estimated 45% of English comes from French or Latin language sources, if you can learn to recognize words in your native English as having a French origin, there is a fair chance that these words are used in German. 


In a previous lesson, we took a look at some more French-derived words in German that have the same or similar words in English. This week, let's discuss some German words that originated from the French but have different meanings than their similar English equivalents.


Die Frau bekommt ein Kind und ihr Chef weiß das.
The woman is going to have a child and her boss knows it.
Caption 9, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


In this case, the German der Chef and French chef can be a bit of a false friend of the English word "chef," since in English it means "the head cook" and not the more general term "the boss."


Bald waren sie bei einer Fabrik, bei einer Farbenfabrik.
Soon they were at a factory, at a paint factory.
Caption 6, Piggeldy und Frederick: Malen


The German die Fabrik comes from the French fabrique, the -que ending having been Germanized to -ik. The pronunciation is nearly the same in both languages, with the emphasis on the second syllable.


Ich denke, er ist einfach eine komplexe Figur.    
I think he is simply a complex character.
Caption 9, Dreharbeiten: zum Film „Playoff“


The German die Figur comes from the French figure—like the English "figure"—and has similar meanings, but in most contexts the German is translated to "character" in English, making this a sort of false friend in most cases. Die Figur could, however, be translated to the English "figure" if you were discussing a geometric figure.


Bevor ihr einen Weihnachtsbaum aufstellt, geht am besten mal zum Friseur.
Before you set up a Christmas tree it's best that you go to the hairdresser.
Captions 17-18, Frohe Weihnachten: der Christbaum


The German der Friseur / die Friseurin, from the French friseur, is rarely used in English anymore, and even the French tend to prefer to use the term coiffeur insteadThe German also uses the term die Friseuse, but it is a pejorative. There is a secondary German spelling Frisör, but the German Duden dictionary recommends the -eur spelling!


Hast du die Gage?
Do you have the fee?
Caption 48, Verstehen Sie Spaß?: Sascha Grammel


The German die Gage and the French gage both pronounce the first G as a hard G and the second as a soft G. It might be incorrectly confused with the English "gauge."


Wenn du so viel Engagement in Mathematik aufbringst wie im Lösen von Kriminalfällen…
If you put as much effort into mathematics as into solving criminal cases…
Caption 36, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


Das Engagement, from the French engagement, has nothing to do with the English "engagement," which in German is usually translated as die Verlobung


Further Learning
As a general rule, French words found in German are spelled the same, or nearly the same, as the French words found in English, but are pronounced in a German manner and written according to German grammatical rules—with nouns capitalized, for example. Take a look at this list of Gallicisms in German and go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words used in videos. 

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All about the preposition zeit, Part I

We should all know the meaning of the noun die Zeit by now, considering it is also the title of one of the most well-known newspapers in Germany. But how many of you are familiar with the preposition zeit, written in lower-case? German, more so than English, tends to have many words and expressions that appear in print but are rarely spoken, and zeit is one of these. Let's start with the one we already know: 


Ich wünschte, die Zeit würde stillstehen.
I wish that time could stand still.
Caption 40, Die Klasse: Berlin '61


Für die Verschwörer wird die Zeit immer knapper.
For the conspirators, time gets scarcer and scarcer.
Caption 30, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944


Das wird die Zeit meines Lebens
It will be the time of my life
Caption 18, Glasperlenspiel: Geiles Leben


Note that in most cases, the German uses the definite article die (the) when referring to time, whereas English, in most cases, drops the article altogether. The last example above is interesting in that "the time of my life" is a standard expression, as is Die glücklichste Zeit meines Lebens ("The happiest time of my life"). This construction, as you will note, is very similar to the most standard use of the preposition zeit and it could be easy to confuse the two:


Ich bin Architekt von Beruf und habe zeit meines Lebens als Architekt gearbeitet.
I am an architect by profession and have worked as an architect for all of my life.


Zeit seines Lebens war er nie in Rom
During his lifetime he has never been to Rome.


In a general sense, zeit can be translated as "during" or "for." The first example of zeit meines Lebens could have been translated as "during my lifetime" or simply "all my life." Note that zeit meines Lebens therefore has a very different meaning from Die Zeit meines Lebens. The former is referring to something you have done all of your life, enjoyable or not, and the latter to having one of the best times of your life.


Further Learning
In the unlikely event that you were to hear zeit spoken, you might easily think that it was the similar-sounding preposition seit. Remember, however, that seit is pronounced with an English sounding Z and takes the dative form, whereas zeit is pronounced with a Ts sound and takes the genitive form. See the full meaning of zeit on the German dictionary website Duden and see if you can find any other German expressions that use the preposition zeit.  

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Writing Letters and Emails in German

In German, there are many different salutations and closings for letters and emails. Which one you choose will depend on your relationship with the person you are writing and whether they identify as male or female. 


Friends who write each other emails may simply write Hallo Gitta, or Hallo Micha, or Hallo zusammen, (if addressing a group). For this salutation, the comma comes after the name and not after Hallo as it would in longer sentences.


However, unless you are on very casual terms with someone, you will need to use the other salutations and make sure you use the appropriate declension. If you have never met a person and know that the circumstances are formal, you will want to use Sehr geehrter or Sehr geehrte which literally translates as "Very honored..." If you don't know exactly who will receive your letter, Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, is the German version of "Dear sir or madam."


Gut. Also... „Sehr geehrte Frau Larsen, vielen Dank für Ihre Rückmeldung“.
Good. So... "Dear Ms. Larsen, Many thanks for your response."
Caption 17-18, Das Lügenbüro: Die Bewerbung


Sehr geehrter Herr Frederick“, sagte er, „lassen Sie das sofort nach, sonst hau ich Ihnen eins auf die empfindliche Nase“.
"Dear Mr. Frederick," he said, "stop that immediately, otherwise, I'll sock you one on your sensitive nose."
Caption 32, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Brief


Lieber or Liebe which translates simply as "Dear" is more flexible. It may be followed by a first name (Lieber Hans,) or a formal term of address (Liebe Frau Hoffmann,), and is used for different types of friends and acquaintances.


Lieber Tiger, teile dir mit, dass es mir gut geht“.
"Dear Tiger, I'll share with you that I'm doing well."
Caption 17, Janoschs Traumstunde: Post für den Tiger


One important thing to remember is that the first word after the comma is usually not capitalized like it would be in English. 


When concluding your letter or email, there are a number of options. The typical closing for formal letters is Mit freundlichen Grüßen, which the Schlager star Heino recently used as an album title when he covered other musicians' songs. 


Er covert auf seinem Album „Mit freundlichen Grüßen“ Rock- und Popsongs.
He is covering rock and pop songs on his album "With Friendly Greetings."
Caption 6, Heino: Neue Volkslieder


Other closings for formal acquaintances include Herzliche Grüße, ("Heartfelt greetings") and Viele Grüße, ("Many greetings"). Between friends or informal acquaintances, Liebe Grüße, or simply Lieben Gruß, or Grüße, are more common options. 


Liebe Grüße, Elisabeth“. -Elisabeth?    
"Kind Regards, Elisabeth." -Elisabeth?
Caption 46, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


Further Learning
For more vocabulary related to letter-writing, go to Yabla German and watch the full episode of Piggeldy and Frederick in which the brothers tackle the topic. More salutations and closings can be seen on this informative website. For a more detailed account of how to use punctuation with the word Hallo, you can look at this Duden article

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