German Lessons

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Im Garten

Die Pflanzen blühen jetzt.
The plants are blooming now.
Caption 12, Jahreszeiten: Der Sommer

 

After an extremely cold March, Germany experienced temperatures up to 73° F / 23° C this last week. It seems that temperatures below freezing will not return for a while, so it's time for many people to get outside and work in the garden. 

 

Sein Leben sind die Pflanzen, die er liebevoll rund um sein Häuschen hegt, und das Saatgut, das er daraus gewinnt.
His life consists of the plants that he lovingly tends around his little house and the seeds that he gets from them.
Caption 5-6, Ökobauer: Allein im Wald

 

Nitrat ist klassischer Pflanzendünger.
Nitrate is a traditional plant fertilizer.
Caption 26, Bundesregierung: Der Tomatenfisch

 

Piggeldy wollte wissen, was Unkraut ist.
Piggeldy wanted to know what a weed is.
Caption 1, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unkraut

 

People who live in the city can start planting flowers and herbs on their window sills and on their balconies. 

 

Ich habe meine Balkonkästen mit dieser Erde gefüllt.
I filled my balcony planters with this soil.
Caption 30, Mülltrennung: in Heidelberg

 

Of course, those in the agriculture business (die Landwirtschaft) have already been at work for a while, since their planting and harvesting are hardly limited to the warm months

 

Und hier sehen wir, wie auf der Domäne Dahlem Landwirtschaft betrieben wird.
And here we see how farming is done at the Domain Dahlem.
Caption 23, Berlin: Domäne Dahlem

 

Der kleine, freche Rabe Socke flitzt mit seinem Rennwagen durch den hessischen Wald, statt wie seine Freunde bei der Ernte zu helfen.
The little, impertinent raven Socke flies with his race car through the Hessian forest instead of helping with the harvest like his friends.
Caption 2-3, Filmtrailer: Der kleine Rabe Socke

 

Further Learning
Search for more vocabulary on Yabla German, or refer to websites such as this one for basic gardening terms, or this thorough list of words related to agriculture.

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Three Kinds of Band: der, die and das

If you happened to be reading a German article about a bracelet that Mick Jagger was wearing while recording the 1965 album Rolling Stones Vol. 2, you could potentially see the word Band appear three different times in single sentence, and yet the word would mean three very different things. That's a pretty unlikely scenario, but aren't you at least a little bit curious about the fact that there is a der, die and das Band?

 

The masculine noun der Band is probably the least common of the three, and is a term primarily used with publications, such as a volume in a book series.

 

Seine Arbeit hat er jetzt im Bildband „Werbung gegen Realität" veröffentlicht.
He has published his work in an illustrated volume "Advertising versus Reality.”
Caption 34, Werbung gegen Realität: Kunstprojekt Fertigprodukte

 

The plural of der Band is die Bände.

 

The neuter noun das Band has the largest variety of applications and possible translations: 

 

Allerdings ist es nicht das erste Band, das in diesem Jahr feierlich durchtrennt wurde.
However, this is not the first ribbon that was ceremoniously cut this year.
Caption 22, Rund um den Flughafen: Direktflug Frankfurt-Houston

 

Das wird bei denen auf Band aufgezeichnet.
Because that is then recorded by them on tape.
Caption 57, Frankfurter Flughafen: Flugzeugschlepper

 

Rund 75.000 Exemplare liefen insgesamt vom Band.
Around 75,000 specimens left the assembly line.
Caption 35, Porsche 356: Der erste Porsche

 

Das würde dann halt irgendwelche Bänder kosten da, wenn ich Pech hab'.
That would cost some ligaments then, if I'm unlucky.
Caption 91, Lokalhelden: Mini-Airplane

 

Note that the plural of das Band is die Bänder. Das Band is also used in a number of compound nouns, such as das Tonband (recording tape), das Fließband (assembly line or conveyer belt), das Armband (bracelet), das Halsband (collar or necklace), das Gummiband (rubber band) and many others. 

 

And now to return to the Rolling Stones with the feminine noun die Band:

 

Die Band mit den spröden Songs und den klaren, ehrlichen Texten…
The band with the rough songs and the clear, honest lyrics…
Caption 9, Pankow: Rolling Stones des Ostens

 

Und weil die in ganz vielen Bands gespielt haben…
And because they played in a lot of bands
Caption 23, Lokalhelden: Art House

 

Thus die Band singular becomes die Bands plural, just as in English.

 

So to simply round it all up:
der Band (die Bände) is mostly about publications; 
— das Band (die Bänder) is mostly about things relating to belts and rubber bands, etc.
die Band (die Bands) is about music groups.

 

Further Learning
Look at these many examples of compound words containing Band and see if you can find them on Yabla German to see them used in a real world context.

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A Singular Million

We had a Yabla lesson some time back about false friends in large numbers, where we discussed how a million is eine Million in German, but that bigger numbers get confusing, since a billion is eine Milliarde but a trillion is eine Billion. 

 

Smaller numbers like a hundred or a thousand are treated like standard adjectives in German: they are written in the lower case, and the plural nouns they modify remain the subjects of the sentence: 

 

Über hundert Leute der Bundesregierung dürfen sie einsehen.
Over one hundred people in the Federal Government are allowed to see them.
Caption 15, Deutsche-Welle-Nachrichten: Massenprotest gegen TTIP 

 

Also, beim Finale waren halt auch tausend Leute.
So, a thousand people were at the finale.
Caption 29, Eva Croissant: Interview 

 

As you see in the two examples above, hundert Leute dürfen and tausend Leute waren, the adjectives hundert and tausend modify the subjects of the sentence, which remain plural and require the plural conjugation of the verbs. 

 

However, larger numbers are treated differently in standard German. If you have a million of something, the core of the subject remains the term "a million" and the verb is conjugated for a singular subject, even if the subject appears plural.

 

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

 

Note that in the above, the verb werden is conjugated for a singular subject as wird, rather than the plural werden that you might have expected. That's because the core subject of the sentence is the singular eine Million, not the plural die Menschen. 

 

As a rule, it's just good German to use eine Million and larger numbers in the singular as that is standard usage, but an article on the topic of the German Duden dictionary states that der Plural wird aber auch akzeptiert. So at least if you say eine Million Menschen sind instead of the standard eine Million Menschen ist, then it's not really a mistake, it's just an accepted variation of the standard German. 

 

Further Learning
Look for more examples of eine Million and other larger numbers on Yabla German and re-read the original Yabla lesson on large German numbers.

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Verschieden, unterschiedlich, and anders

On Yabla German, you have probably come across these three words, which are most often all translated as "different." However, they are actually not always synonyms. The following distinction is to be taken with a grain of salt, but may be helpful:

 

anders = "different," implying "other" or "another"
verschieden = "different," implying "various" or "diverse"
unterschiedlich = "different," implying "dissimilar" 

 

Following this, you would say that these adjectives have unterschiedliche Bedeutungen, but not verschiedene Bedeutungen. What exactly is the correct usage of verschieden then?

 

Wir haben jetzt viele verschiedene Leute gefragt.
Now we've asked a lot of different people.
Caption 91, Silvester: Vorsätze für das neue Jahr - Linkenheim

 

In the sentence above, the use of the adjective verschieden simply implies that a large number of people were asked about their New Year's resolutions in a survey. If the sentence used the phrase viele unterschiedliche Leute, it would emphasize that the people asked were different from each other, perhaps in terms of age or background. 

 

Es gibt ja unterschiedliche Gründe, warum Erwachsene spielen, ne...
There are indeed different reasons that adults play, right...
Caption 42, Gamification: Wie Spielen den Alltag interessanter macht

 

In this example, the opposite occurs, and the emphasis is on how dissimilar the reasons are, not the fact that a wide variety exists. 

 

Die Kündigung hat bestimmt andere Gründe.
The layoff probably has other reasons.
Caption 30, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

 

In this sentence, the use of andere Gründe emphasizes that there are reasons that are different from what has already been considered. Verschiedene Gründe would imply that there are a variety of reasons, while unterschiedliche Gründe would more likely be used if two people got fired for distinct reasons. 

 

Remember that anders can also be used with als for comparisons, which is not the case for the other two adjectives. 

 

Man kann hier natürlich noch andere Sachen tun als nur schwimmen.
You can, of course, do other things here besides just swimming.
Caption 6,  Berlin: Wannsee

 

Further Learning
There are many examples of these adjectives used on Yabla German. When you see them, ask yourself exactly which meaning is being implied. 
You might also want to watch this video, which looks at this tricky topic in more detail.

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Das Telefonieren

Whether you are learning German for business purposes or with the goal of traveling to German-speaking countries, you may find at some point that you are required to talk on the phone in German. This week, we'll look at a group of phrases that is used particularly for telephone conversation.

 

While anrufen means "to call," the verb telefonieren means "to speak on the phone." Have you ever been in the situation in which someone calls for you or tries to start a conversation with you and doesn't realize that you are talking on the phone? In German, you would tell that person Ich telefoniere gerade!

 

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

 

"To pick up the phone" is literally den Hörer abnehmen, but for "to answer the phone" you are more likely to hear ans Telefon gehen, or simply rangehen.

 

Ich gehe nicht ran, ich bin nicht da.
I'm not answering it, I'm not here.
Caption 8, Caracho: Ich bin weg

 

"To hang up" is auflegen:

 

Er hat auch erst gesagt: „Leg auf!    
He also first said: "Hang up!
Caption 7, 3nach9: Ehrlich Brothers - Show-Magier

 

Most people in Germany answer the phone by saying their last name, or the last name of their family if receiving a call on their home landline. 

 

Ja, Paschke. -Ich bin's.
Yes, Paschke residence. -It's me.
Caption 12, Weihnachtsfilm: Ein Sack voll Geld

 

To state who is calling, use hier ist or hier spricht.

 

Hallo, Frau Meier. Hier ist Melanie Schmidt.    
Hello, Ms. Meier. This is Melanie Schmidt.
Caption 8, Berufsleben: das Vorstellungsgespräch 

 

Wer spricht denn dort? -Hier spricht der Herr Bär.
Who's speaking there then? -This is Mr. Bear.
Caption 45-46, Janoschs Traumstunde: Post für den Tiger 

 

To ask to speak to a particular person, you will need to use the verb dürfen, and don't forget that mit is a dative preposition! 

 

Darf ich mit dir sprechen? -Ja, klar.
May I speak with you? -Yes, of course.
Caption 29, Das Lügenbüro: Die Bewerbung

 

Generally, the verb erreichen ("to reach") plays a large role in talking on the phone. 

 

Ich erreiche sie nicht, weder über Funk noch auf Handy.
I can't reach her, neither on the radio nor on her cell phone.
Caption 51, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern 

 

If the person you wish to speak to is nicht erreichbar, you will have the choice of calling back (zurückrufen) or leaving a message (eine Nachricht hinterlassen). 
 

Ey, ruf doch mal zurück!   
Hey, call back sometime!
Caption 27, Monsters of Liedermaching: Atomfreies Kraftwerk

 

Further Learning
Use these phrases to write out a telephone dialogue from start to finish, making sure that you conjugate all verbs correctly and that the accusative and dative are also implemented correctly. If you need more context for the phrases, watch the corresponding videos on Yabla German.

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Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann

Irgendwie fängt irgendwann irgendwo die Zukunft an.
Somehow, somewhere the future begins sometime.
Caption 4, Nena: Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann

 

Again, we are happy to respond to a subscriber request! The lyrics above by German singer Nena are a good point of departure for a lesson on irgend, which as a prefix has a similar function to “some-” or “any-” in English. It is used to augment adverbs and pronouns to demonstrate a lack of specificity or information. 

 

Irgendwo is perhaps the simplest of these words, translating to “somewhere.”  

 

Du wirst bestimmt irgendwo am Strand sein. -Ja, genau. Am Meer.    
You will surely be somewhere at the beach. -Yes, exactly. At the sea.
Caption 50, Konjugation: Das Verb „sein“

 

Irgendwie translates to “somehow,” but is also used in spoken German to express “in some way,” “in any way,” or even “sort of.”

 

Irgendwie muss man ihr ja helfen.
Somehow she has to indeed be helped.
Caption 5, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche

 

The adverb irgendwann covers the English phrases “someday,” “sometime,” or “at some point,” which means it can refer to a non-specific time in either the past or the future. 

 

Aber irgendwann, als man mich nicht mehr gezwungen hat, hab ich dann meine persönliche Liebe zur Musik entdeckt.
But at some point, when I wasn't forced to anymore, I discovered my own love for music.
Captions 36-37, Deutsche Bands: Glashaus

 

But let’s not stop here! You have also probably seen irgendein and irgendwelche, which translate to “any” or “some.” The important thing to remember is that they behave similarly to adjectives and will always have the appropriate ending based on the conditions of the sentence. As you might guess, irgendein is never used in the plural. See this useful chart for irgendwelche.

 

Nun, wenn Sie irgendwelche Fragen haben: Ich werde in meinem Büro sein.
So, if you have any questions, I will be in my office.
Caption 49, Berufsleben: das Vorstellungsgespräch

 

Haben Sie den Namen von irgendeiner Autovermietung?
Do you have the name of any car rental company?
Caption 16, Reiseplanung: Anruf bei einem Reisebüro

 

For the pronoun “someone” or “somebody,” it is common to see both irgendwer and irgendjemand

 

Irgendjemand kocht Kaffee in der Luftaufsichtsbaracke.
Someone is making coffee in the air traffic control hut.
Captions 29-30, Reinhard Mey: Über den Wolken

 

You may also have seen irgendwas and irgendetwas. These are more or less synonyms, which are even less specific than etwas (“something”) and are usually translated as “anything.”

 

Sagen Sie mir Bescheid, wenn ich irgendetwas tun kann.
Tell me if I can do anything.
Caption 58, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Further Learning
There are a myriad of examples on Yabla German where you can see these words in use. Make sure you understand the declensions required for irgendein and irgendwelche. Irgendjemand and irgendwer also sometimes require a different ending — can you figure out when this might occur?

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Fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn

The German electronic band Kraftwerk ("power plant") had a US radio hit back in the 1970s with their song "Autobahn," and as kids we used to like to sing along to it. I suspect, however, that we weren't the only ones who superimposed sound-alike English lyrics onto the German. Instead of the correct text Fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn, we sang "fun, fun, fun on the autobahn." At least we got the Autobahn part right!

 

Although the verb fahren is the root word of many other German verbs, verbs based on fahren can have a significantly different meaning than "to drive." One such word is the verb verfahren, which itself has several distinct meanings: 

 

Lange klingeln lassen und dann wie gehabt verfahren.
Let it ring for longer and then proceed as usual.

 

Fast hätte ich mich noch verfahren.
Then I would've almost lost my way.

 

Following up with various translations of the verb erfahren

 

Das mussten wir wieder mit Schrecken erfahren.
We were forced once again to experience this with horror.
Caption 57, Angela Merkel: Neujahrsansprache

 

Wir haben nichts gefilmt. -Niemand wird davon erfahren.
We didn't film anything. -Nobody will find out about it.
Caption 30, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche

 

Ich hab' das erst mal durch die „Aktuelle Kamera“ erfahren.
I learned about it for the first time through "Aktuelle Kamera.”
Caption 23, 25 Jahre Mauerfall: Bürger Lars Dietrich erinnert sich

 

And then there is the verb anfahren, which can mean "to start driving" or "to approach," but also has another meaning:

 

In Kopenhagen ist es wahrscheinlicher, von einem Fahrrad angefahren zu werden, als von einem Auto.
In Copenhagen, you are more likely to get run over by a bicycle than by a car.
Captions 5-6, TEDx: Der Supermarkt der Zukunft

 

Further Learning
A search on the crowd-sourced German-English dictionary dict.cc yields over a thousand words of all grammatical types that include fahren in some way. Find some new words in that list and look up the various meanings they have on Duden, then go to Yabla German to find examples of the words used in videos. You can also look at this Dartmouth University article on German word formation and how prefixes significantly alter the meaning of the root word upon which they are based.

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All about darum

Last week, we discussed the conjunctions denn, weil, and da, the most common ways of saying "because" in German. There is, however, yet a third far less common German word that can be translated as "because" in slang usage: darum. But first, let's take a look at the way darum is more commonly used.

 

The adverb darum, depending upon its context in a sentence, most commonly has a topical meaning as "about," almost always in conjunction with the verb gehen:

 

Es ging eigentlich darum, Wohnraum zu schaffen in der Stadt.
It was actually about creating living spaces in the city.
Caption 20, Umweltbewusstes Wohnen: Architekturpreis Green Building

 

Or as "therefore, which can also be alternately translated as "that's why" or "for this reason":

 

Darum nenn mich nie mehr dummes Huhn.
Therefore never call me "dumb chick" anymore.
Caption 20, Cosma Shiva Hagen: So trägt man Pelz

 

You sometimes see darum as part of the separable verb darumstehen, which can translate as "to stand around" or "to stand around there," as opposed to the more common herumstehen ("to stand around" or "to stand around here"). Darumstehen can also mean to stand around something, as in um etwas herumstehen

 

Wir sehen das Fahrrad und die Kinder, die darumstehen.
We see the bicycle and the children standing around it.

 

A slang usage of the adverb darum, however, is typically seen as a childish answer to a question, or an answer that is really no answer at all! 

 

Warum hast du das gemacht? -Darum
Why did you do that? -Because

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for darum to see the word used in a real-world context.  For a more advanced article on the various uses of darum, read this DWDS article.

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Distinguishing dann from denn

This week we are going to take a look at the differences between dann and denn, a fairly difficult topic even for experienced non-native German speakers. Part of the problem lies in the fact that in Old High German and Middle High German, these two currently distinct words were just one word, thus they both come from the same root. If we reduce dann and denn to their basic grammatical forms, it's possible to get a better understanding of how they are used.

 

1. As an adverb, dann is usually translated as "then":

 

Wenn die Klassen größer werden als 15 bis 20, dann fange ich an zu teilen.
When the classes get bigger than 15 to 20, then I start to split them.
Caption 67, Strothoff International School: Interview mit dem Rektor

 

Dann ist auch die Mutter damit beschäftigt, Nahrung herbeizuschaffen.
Then the mother is also occupied with providing nourishment.
Caption 31, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

 

If you ever hear a native German say denn as an adverb in sentences similar to the above, that's because in Northern German dialect, denn and dann are still interchangeable. According to Duden, any other use of denn as an adverb is only very rare. 

 

2. As a particle, denn is usually translated as "then":

 

Und was ist denn los?
And what is happening then?
Caption 45, Das Lügenbüro: Die Bewerbung

 

Wo wollen wir denn hin?
Where do we want to go then?
Caption 30: Die Klasse: Berlin '61

 

Note that the particle denn is almost exclusively found in interrogative sentences (sentences that ask a question)!

 

3: As a coordinating conjunction, denn is usually translated to English as "because" (or sometimes "since"):

 

Wir erleben Emotionen und heben ab, denn wir sind frei.
We experience emotions and lift off, because we are free.
Caption 12: Christina Stürmer: Fieber

 

Denn plötzlich wurden wir eine richtig moderne Familie.
Because suddenly we became a really modern family.
Caption 21, Mama arbeitet wieder: Alle haben sich lieb

 

Notice that denn is a conjunction like und or aber or oder and does not force the sentence order to place the verb at the end of the sentence. 

 

So to recap:  
1. dann as an adverb usually translates as "then";
2. denn as a particle is usually found in sentences asking a question and usually translates as "then," though as an emphasis word it may not be translated at all;
3. denn as a conjunction usually translates as "because," except in
4. Northern German dialect, where denn is used interchangeably for the standard German adverb dann.

 

Perhaps the easiest way to remember the basic gist of this is: if you want to say "then" in a sentence, it's usually dann; if you want to say "then" in a question, it will most often be denn; or if you want to say "because" you can use denn. This is somewhat oversimplifying the situation, but should serve as a good way to sort out the basics of the differences between dann and denn!

 

In next week's lesson, we will learn about the difference between the conjunctions denn and weil, both ways to say "because."

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for dann and denn to see the words used in a real-world context. For an in-depth analysis of the origin of the words dann and denn, read this DWDS page under Etymologie, and be sure and click below it for the full version of the text! For a somewhat lighter-hearted view on the two words, check out this German language blog.

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Three Ways to Say "Because"

Last week, we discussed the differences between denn and dann. This week we are going to look at denn, weil, and da, the most common ways of saying "because" in German. There is a big difference in the way these words affect the sentence structure, however. Without getting too in-depth with complicated grammar rules, we can easily understand that the coordinating conjunction denn does not require that the sentence order of Subject-Verb-Object be changed, but the subordinating conjunctions weil and da do. The German verbs are marked in green so you can note their placement in the sentence:

 

Solche Bilder sind selten, denn Olme haben nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs.
Such images are rare, because olms have offspring only every 6 to 8 years.
Caption 33, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

 

The subordinate conjunction weil forces the sentence structure to place the verb at the end of the sentence. Compare the above with how it would read if it used weil or da instead of denn:

 

Solche Bilder sind selten, weil Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben.
Solche Bilder sind selten, da Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben.

Such images are rare, because olms have offspring only every 6 to 8 years.

 

Note that the English translation is identical. Another example:

 

Ich übernehme mal den Part, denn ich bin Pressesprecher.
I will take over this part because I'm the press spokesman.
Caption 5, Die OLElympischen Spiele: Laotischer Hühnertanz

 

But this time with weil and da:

 

Ich übernehme mal den Part, weil ich Pressesprecher bin.
Ich übernehme mal den Part, da ich Pressesprecher bin.

I will take over this part because I'm the press spokesman.

 

So you see how using denn, the sentence structure remains the same as the standard English Subject-Verb-Object, but with weil and da, the verb must go at the end of the sentence.

 

The conjunctions denn, weil and da also differ in other ways relating to how each word affects the sentence structure.  A clause or sentence part with denn must come after the part of the sentence that it is modifying, so the sentence structure is required to stay like the denn examples above. With weil and da,  however, you could structure the examples above three different ways, depending on how you wish to place the emphasis in the sentence: 

 

Solche Bilder sind selten, weil Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben.
Weil Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben, sind solche Bilder selten.
Solche Bilder sind, weil Olme nur alle 6 bis 8 Jahre Nachwuchs haben, selten.

 

Ich übernehme mal den Part, da ich Pressesprecher bin.
Da ich Pressesprecher bin, übernehme ich mal den Part.
Ich übernehme mal, da ich Pressesprecher bin, den Part.

 

In the above examples, the first sentences are the most commonly seen sentence structure, the second sentences less so, and the last is the least likely, although all three are grammatically correct. 

 

Next week we'll take a look at a fourth way of saying "because," but it's not a conjunction — it's an adverb! Can you guess what it is?

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for denn and weil to see the words used in a real-world context and note how the sentence structure can vary with the two words. For an advanced analysis the conjunctions denn and weil, read this DWDS article on denn and this DWDS article on weil

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Some German Slang Expressions

Many Germans use slang in their everyday speech. Some slang may be rude or inappropriate, so it's best to avoid that. But there are lots of other kinds of slang expressions that are considered "normal" and perfectly polite in everyday speech. 

 

Diese Frau ist einfach ein Dauerbrenner.
This woman is simply a long burning oven.
Caption 1: Angelique Kerber: Fotoshooting mit dem neuen Porsche 718 Boxster S

 

Calling somebody a "long burning oven" in English sounds a bit odd, to say the least, and possibly even insulting, but the slang German expression merely means that somebody is perennially popular

 

Sophie, bist du immer noch sauer?
Sophie, are you still sour?
Caption 6, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche

 

Of course, the person doesn't really want to know if Sophie is literally sour, but if she is still angry!

 

Weil du natürlich ihr Bärenführer wirst.
Because you will, of course, become her bear trainer.
Caption 36, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

 

Nor does der Bärenführer have anything to do with real bears, what it means is a job trainer for new employees. 

 

Frühlingszeit ist Fahrradzeit, also raus mit dem Drahtesel.
Springtime is bike time, so get out the wire donkey.
Caption 1, Fahrrad: Frühjahrs-Check

 

Naturally there are no donkeys, mules, burros or other pack animals involved, der Drahtesel is a slang word for bicycle

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for "slang" to find examples of slang German words used in videos. Then test the knowledge of other students in your German class by using the newly-learned German slang word in an appropriate context. For those who don't understand, it could sound pretty funny: imagine telling the class you rode your "wire donkey" to school that day! 

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Die Sorte, der Typ, and die Art

When we are trying to make a specification, we rely on phrases like "sort of," "type of," and "variety of." You may think these words each correspond with the most similar word in the title above, but things are not that simple. This is German, after all!

 

Die Art can be most generically employed as a translation for "the type of" or "the sort of," and also "the way of." 

 

Spätzle sind eine Art bayrische Nudeln.
Spaetzle are a type of Bavarian noodle.
Caption 2, Bayrische Spätzle: mit Christiane

 

Es gibt verschiedene Arten von Wind: den säuselnden Hauch, die leichte, die frische und die steife Brise...
There are different types of wind: the murmuring breath, the light, the fresh and the stiff breeze...
Caption 10-12, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Wind

 

Die Art also can refer to someone's personality, as in their way of being or way of behaving, and it also can refer to a species of animal. 

 

Es ist überhaupt nicht ihre Art, einfach so wegzulaufen.
It's not her nature to simply run away like that.
Caption 33, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

 

Hier sind vier Tierarten, die nach langer Zeit wieder nach Deutschland zurückgekehrt sind.
Here are four species of animals that have returned to Germany after a long time.
Caption 6-7, WWF – Welt in Zahlen: 4 Tierarten, die nach Deutschland zurückgekehrt sind!

 

Die Sorte is quite similar to die Art, but will more likely be employed for things that are in some way man-made. For example, if you are talking about a variety or flavor of food, often one that is specified by a name, you generally will use die Sorte rather than die Art. 

 

Die Sorte „Jamaika Blue Mountain“, quasi der Champagner unter den Kaffees, kostet sogar über zwanzigmal so viel wie ein Kaffee aus dem Supermarktregal.
The variety "Jamaica Blue Mountain," quasi the champagne of coffees, even costs over twenty times as much as a coffee from the supermarket shelf.
Caption 14-17, Kaffee: Noch von Hand gemacht

 

Die Eissorten werden jedes Jahr exotischer.
The ice-cream flavors get more exotic every year.
Caption 2, Eis: Eiskalte Leidenschaft

 

Der Typ is a bit trickier, as it is not universally used to mean "type" like in English. In fact, it is most often used as a slang expression to simply mean "the guy." But it can also mean "type of guy." Like in English, you can say Er/Sie ist nicht mein Typ, which means that the person doesn't interest you romantically. 

 

Ich bin ein sehr nachdenklicher Typ und Mensch.
I am a very thoughtful guy and human being.
Caption 16, Andreas Bourani: Startet durch

 

Er war schon immer so ein Typ, dem alles so zufliegt.
He was always the kind of guy who always gets everything.
Caption 22-23, Joris: Er


Further Learning
Keep an eye out for examples with these words used on Yabla German, and always look at the noun in the sentence. You will notice patterns which can help you choose the right option later on. 

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Etwas is not the plural of etwa

But then you hopefully knew that already! You may not, however, be completely familiar with differences between the two words and the different meanings they can have in specific contexts. 

 

The most common translation of the pronoun etwas is "something":

 

Etwas hat sich schon verändert.
Something has indeed changed.
Caption 11: 2raumwohnung: Achtung fertig

 

Und doch hat diese Ausstellung etwas sehr Besonderes.
However, this exhibition has something very distinct about it.
Caption 5, DDR zum Anfassen: Ganz tief im Westen

 

However, when etwas is used as an adjective pronoun (usually a possessive, or noting quantities of something), it can be translated as "a bit," "somewhat," or less commonly, the simple "some":

 

Planktonfresser hin oder her, ihm ist doch etwas mulmig geworden.
Plankton eaters or not, he did get a bit queasy.
Caption 25, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen 

 

Bachforellen sind etwas kleiner als die ursprünglich hier lebenden Marmoratas.
Freshwater trout are somewhat smaller than the marble trout that originally lived here.
Caption 1, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

 

… verlor das Fahrrad zwischenzeitlich etwas an Bedeutung.
… the bicycle lost some of its significance for a while.
Caption 25, 200. Geburtstag: Die Geschichte des Fahrrads in 2 Minuten

 

The adverb etwa can be translated as "about," "approximately" or "something like." It is most often used before a numerical measurement:

 

Und es sind etwa 35 Kilometer von Dover zu den Sanddünen von Calais.
And it's about 35 kilometers from Dover to the sand dunes of Calais.
Caption 20, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

 

Jährlich werden pro Person in Deutschland etwa 160 Liter Kaffee getrunken.
Every year, approximately 160 liters of coffee are drunk in Germany per person.
Caption 5, Eva zeigt uns: wie man Kaffee kocht

 

Das bedeutet etwa „Ende des Sommers“.
That means something like "end of the summer."
Caption 6, Cettina erklärt: Halloween

 

The adverb etwa can also be used as a grammatical particle, which is often difficult to directly translate, but in this case lends a suggestion of disbelief to the statement: 

 

Rauchst du etwa wieder?
Are you smoking again?
Caption 4, 12 heißt: Ich liebe dich: Erfolgreiche Vernehmung

 

Zweifelst du etwa an der Aufrichtigkeit meiner Gefühle?
Are you doubting the sincerity of my feelings?
Caption 9, Küss mich, Frosch: Die Zeiten haben sich geändert

 

As you see in the two examples above, etwa is not directly translated. A more literary translation of the above examples, which gives them more of an expression of disbelief on the part of the speakers, could respectively be: "But you aren't smoking again?" and "But you aren't doubting the sincerity of my feelings?"

 

Further Learning
Read the definition and examples given for the particle usage of etwa on Duden, and search for etwa and etwas on Yabla German to see other examples of these words used in a real-world context.

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Wessen, dessen, deren, and denen

One topic that tends to intimidate students learning German is the use of these four words: Wessendessenderen, and denen. They are indeed tricky, but they make it possible to construct elegant sentences and are therefore very good to get acquainted with!

 

Wessendessen, and deren can all be translated as "whose." However, unlike "whose" they are each only correct in certain situations. Wessen is related to wer, wen, and wem, i.e. it is asking "who?," but it is possessive. It is used when the "who" of the sentence is not known and could therefore be any gender:

 

Sach ma [Sag mal], wessen Freundin bist du eigentlich?
Tell me, whose friend are you actually?
Caption 42, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche

 

Es dachte auch nicht darüber nach, wessen Haferbrei das war.
She also didn't think about whose oat porridge it was.
Caption 19, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Goldlöckchen und die drei Bären
 

Dessen is used when the person or noun in question has already been named or referred to, and is masculine or neuter:

 

Acht Minuten später schickt der Paulianer geschickt Julian Schieber, dessen Schuss aber knapp vorbeigeht.
Eight minutes later the "Paulianer" [someone from St. Pauli] skillfully sends Julian Schieber, whose shot, however, just misses.
Caption 10, Fußball: U21-Nationalmannschaft

 

Deren is used when the person or noun in question has already been named or referred to, and is feminine or plural:

 

Seine königliche Hoheit, der Prinz, wird die Frau heiraten, deren Fuß in diesen Glasschuh passt.
His Royal Highness, the Prince, will marry the woman whose foot fits into this glass slipper.
Caption 83-84, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Aschenputtel

 

Wessendessen, and deren are all genitive relative pronouns. The relative pronoun denen, however, is used for relative clauses involving a plural noun in the dative case, with prepositions such as mitauf, nach, or bei.

 

Es macht einfach Spaß, mit denen Zeit zu verbringen
It is simply fun to spend time with them.
Caption 36, Curly Horses: Pferdeglück auch für Allergiker

 

Und hier sehen wir zwei alte Kutschen, auf denen man im Sommer Kutschfahrten machen kann mit der Familie zusammen.
And here we see two old coaches, upon which you can take coach rides together with your family in the summer.
Caption 38, Berlin: Domäne Dahlem


Further Learning
Searching for any of these words on Yabla German will bring up a lot of examples that can help you solidify your understanding of the topic. You can additionally watch our videos featuring German teacher Barbara and her students working on relative clauses, starting with this one

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Accusative phrases with wünschen

Frohes neues Jahr from our team here at Yabla German!

 

Unfortunately, the newsletter is not in time to wish you guten Rutsch this year (see this lesson for more information on that), but we hope you had a lovely Sylvester.

 

Have you ever wondered how the adjectival endings on phrases such as these are formed? In the examples below, you can see the full versions of these expressions. In the first one, Ich is the subject, das Jahr is the direct object, and Ihnen und Ihren Familien is the indirect object. All adjectives pertaining to das Jahr have the appropriate accusative case ending for a neuter noun, as does the indefinite article ein.

 

Ich wünsche Ihnen und Ihren Familien ein frohes, gesundes und gesegnetes neues Jahr zweitausendzwölf!
I wish you and your families a happy, healthy and blessed New Year two thousand twelve!
Caption 36-37, Angela Merkel: Neujahrsansprache

 

Similarly, in the following sentence, der Rutsch is the direct object, and all articles and adjectives (ein, gut) receive the accusative ending for a masculine noun.
  

Ich wünsch' euch auch einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr.
I also wish you all a good slide into the New Year.
Caption 100, Silvester: Vorsätze für das neue Jahr - Linkenheim

 

Of course, this is not at all restricted to New Year’s expressions. All of the basic phrases that you already know also follow this rule, for example, Guten Tag and Schönen Tag noch (der Tag), Guten Abend (der Abend), Gute Reise (die Reise), and Gute Nacht (die Nacht). Understanding why these expressions include the adjective endings they do unlocks a very essential aspect of German grammar. 

 

Dann wünsch' ich dir noch einen schönen Tag.
Then I wish you a nice day.
Caption 45, Jenny interviewt: Sabine

 

Einen schönen guten Abend aus Karlsruhe.
A pleasant good evening from Karlsruhe.    
Caption 1, Architektur: der Stadt Karlsruhe

 

Further Learning
We hope that you will take special note of these and other phrases when you see them on Yabla German in the future. If you want some practice with your direct and indirect objects, write some sentences about the presents you gave to various people this year, for example: Ich (subject) habe meiner Mutter (indirect object) einen Schal (direct object) geschenkt

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An Extra False Friend

The German adjectival prefix Extra- can often be translated as the English adjective "extra." If you wish to use "extra" as an adjective in German, it is not usually a freestanding word (excepting certain anglicisms such as extra dry) but is instead added to whatever noun is being modified. Let's first take a look at examples of the German adjectival prefix Extra-:

 

Niemand hat einen Extrapullover für Catherine?
Nobody has an extra pullover for Catherine?
Caption 49, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Die Konjunktion "dass"

 

Ein Extrapaar Schuhe ist auch immer praktisch.
An extra pair of shoes is also always practical.
Caption 21, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub

 

Note that it would not be correct to write extra Pullover or extra Paar, instead the adjectival prefix Extra- is placed together with the noun: Extrapullover and Extrapaar. In some cases where extra is required to modify another adjective, it is still written in lower case, such as in extragroß ("extra large") and extrastark ("extra strong").

 

The German adverb extra, however, is usually a false friend, meaning it is written the same way in both languages but has a different meaning:

 

Die habe ich dir jetzt extra geholt, jetzt komm schon.
I got it especially for you, now come on.
Caption 58, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor

 

Ach so, stimmt! Extra hergeflogen aus Saudi-Arabien.
Oh, that's right! Especially flown here from Saudi Arabia.
Caption 30, Fasching: mit Cettina

 

As you see in the above examples, the German adverb extra is usually translated into English as "especially." However, sometimes the word "especially" is a bit too simplistic for the context, and it is better to use a more tailored translation such as "for the occasion" or "for that reason": 

 

Manfred Schoof hat extra eine einfache Melodie komponiert.
Manfred Schoof composed a simple melody for the occasion.
Caption 5, Bibliothek der Sachgeschichten: Müllmännerlied

 

Die Hölzer kommen dort meist nicht von extra angelegten Plantagen.
The wood there does not usually come from plantations cultivated for that reason.
Caption 27, Umweltschutz: WWF zur Rettung des Regenwaldes

 

Further Learning
Come up with a good phrase that you can use as a mnemonic device for remembering the difference between the adjectival prefix Extra- and the adverb extra. Here's such an example that works for me — as do most things chocolate:

 

Ich habe einen Extrariegel Schokolade extra für dich mitgenommen.
I've taken an extra bar of chocolate along especially for you.

 

Look for other examples of the German adjectival prefix Extra- and adverb extra in use in a real-world context on Yabla German and learn some other ways in which the word can be used.

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The Winter of our Mispronunciation

This poor pun on the first line from Shakespeare's tragedy Richard III was inspired by one of the most commonly mispronounced words of all: the word "mispronunciation." It's ironic that the word "mispronunciation" — with the single "u" between the two letters N in the spelling — should so often be mispronounced as "mispronounciation" (sic). The "ou" in the the verb "mispronounce" is often falsely carried over into the nominalization of the word. The same applies to "pronounce" and "pronunciation," with the latter often being mispronounced "pronounciation" (sic). 

 

The German words for "comedy" and "tragedy," die Komödie and die Tragödie, are also commonly mispronounced by non-native German speakers. You may find these two types of dramas referred to fairly often on Yabla German:

 

Til Schweiger und Nora Tschirner in der schönsten romantischen Komödie des Jahres.
Til Schweiger and Nora Tschirner in the most beautiful romantic comedy of the year.
Caption 32, Filmtrailer: Keinohrhasen

 

Und das nächste wird dann wieder eine Komödie.
And the next one will then be a comedy again.
Caption 75, Schauspielerin: Jessica Schwarz

 

Diese Mischung aus Action und Drama-Komödie…    
This mixture of action and dramatic comedy
Caption 91, rheinmain Szene: Selig

 

But how do you pronounce Komödie? If you pronounced it according to standard German rules of pronunciation, it would have three syllables and end, like the English "comedy", with the sound "ee". You would, however, in that case be mispronouncing the word. Both Komödie and "comedy" are based upon the original Latin word comœdia, and the German pronunciation rather unexpectedly follows the Latin "ia" ending, so rather than pronouncing the German "ie" as "ee" phonetically, it is pronounced closer to the Latin "ia" as "ee-yeh" phonetically, giving the word four syllables: Ko -  - di - e. And the same with "tragedy": Tra - - di - e. Note too that the accent falls on the second syllable of both words: Kodie and Tradie.

 

Weißt du, es ist eine Tragödie!
You know, it's a tragedy!
Caption 49, Mama arbeitet wieder

 

While mispronouncing Komödie or Tragödie may not exactly be a tragedy, if you get it right you can at least avoid being the star of your own unintentional comedy!

 

Further Learning
Hear the proper pronunciation of the word by listening to the recorded playback of Komödie and Tragödie and practice it a few times out loud on your own. Then go to Yabla German and find different examples of the words being used by native German speakers in a real-world context.

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Letztens vs. Letztlich

In our last lesson, we talked about temporal adverbs for events that have occurred in the recent past or "just now." This week, let's take a look at one of those adverbs that might cause you problems. But first, a little background: the German adjective letzt is usually translated as the English adjective "last, " as in das letzte Mal ("the last time") or in letzter Minute ("at the last minute"). However, the adverb letztens, which might easily be mistaken for "lastly," in fact means "recently," — quite a different meaning indeed. Here are a some examples of letztens from Yabla:

 

Ich war letztens mal bei Rammstein.
I was recently at Rammstein.
Caption 32, rheinmain Szene: Unheilig - „Der Graf“

 

Wir haben letztens auf einer Veranstaltung gespielt, wo jede Band einen Song covern musste. 
We recently played at an event where every band had to cover a song.
Caption 15, Sons of Sounds: Interview

 

You can see how some misunderstandings might arise if you misunderstand letztens to mean "last of all" or something similar. But what German words can you use if you actually want to say "lastly," "in the end," or "ultimately?" The easiest German word to remember for native English speakers is probably letztlich

 

Letztlich ist so ein Gepard also auch nur ein Mensch.
Lastly, such a cheetah is also just like a human.
Caption 14, Für Tierfreunde: Geparden

 

Letztlich scheitert der Gastgeber schon im Viertelfinale.
In the end, the host team already lost in the quarter finals.
Caption 33, Frauenfußball: 11 Freundinnen

 

Habe ich letztlich besser gemacht gesehen.
I have ultimately seen it done better.
Caption 99, Free Birds: Interview mit Nora Tschirner & Rick Kavanian

 

The adverb schließlich can have a similar meaning: 

 

Schließlich kamen sie an ein großes Wasser.
Finally they came to a great body of water.
Caption 27, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Himmel

 

As can the adverb zuletzt:

 

Mein Wahlspruch heißt: „Die Dummheit stirbt zuletzt“. 
My campaign slogan is: "Stupidity is last to die."
Caption 43, Tom Gerhardt: Die Superbullen

 

Further Learning
It's important to remember that letztlich, which is structurally very close to "lastly," also means just that, whereas letztens means "recently." Go to Yabla German and find different examples of letztens, letztlich, schließlich, and zuletzt to learn the different ways in which these words are used by native German speakers in a real-world context.

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