German Lessons


False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

In our last lesson on false friends, we discussed a few false cognates that begin with the letters C and D. Today, we're moving yet another step down the alphabet to learn about some falsche Freunde starting with E and F:

eventuell: maybe, possibly, perhaps
False English friend: eventually, finally, ultimately, at some later time (German: endlich, schließlich)

Ich rieche daran, ob die wirklich auch nach einer Erdbeere riecht, und eventuell könnte ich noch oben schauen.
I smell it to see if it also really smells like a strawberry, and maybe I could look on top.
Captions 23-24, Kochhaus Berlin: Frische Zutaten erkennen

die Fabrik: factory
False English friend: fabric, cloth (German: der Stoff, das Gewebe)

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

der Fotograf: photographer
False English friend: photograph, an image taken by a camera (German: das Foto)

Also so richtig dunkelkammermäßig so, wie Fotografen das früher gemacht haben.
Well, really like a darkroom, like photographers used to do it.
Caption 51, Lokalhelden: Art House

Further Learning:

Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a thorough list of German false friends, take a look at this extensive chart and then search Yabla videos to find the words used in context!

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Some Countries Have Genders Too!

In German most countries are, as in English, just called by their names, such as Deutschland, Frankreich, and Belgien; but some country names require the definite article, just as in English: the United States or the Netherlands. The rules for whether a country name requires a definite article or not are not always the same as their English equivalents, however, and have a specific feminine or masculine gender too:

Für mich war es schon ein Erfolg damals mit in die Türkei ins Trainingslager zu kommen.
For me, it was already a success to come to training camp in Turkey at the time.
Caption 17, Fußball: Spielerportrait Lars Stindl

To "come to training camp in the Turkey" would certainly purvey a different meaning than intended, but in German, the country Turkey requires the feminine definite article: die Türkei. Some other countries with the feminine definite article are: die Mongolei, die Schweiz, die Slowakei, and die Ukraine. Furthermore:

Es gibt maskuline Länder, zum Beispiel „der Iran".
There are masculine countries, for example "the Iran."
Caption 55, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Präpositionen

Obviously "the" is used before "Iran" in the English translation only to emphasize the use of the definite article. Some other countries requiring the masculine definite article are: der Irak, der Jemen, der Kongo, der Libanon, der Sudan, and der Tschad. The only countries that require the neuter definite article are those that use the word "Kingdom" in their name such as das Vereinigte Königreich (the United Kingdom), but this is clear in the grammar, since das Königreich is a neuter noun.

Last but not least come the countries that require the plural definite article:

Frankreich war weitaus rückständiger als die Vereinigten Staaten.
France was much more backward than the United States.
Caption 45, Malerei: Impressionistinnen

In most cases, the countries that use plural definite articles are the same as those that do so in English: die Bahamas, die Niederlande, die Philippinen, die Salomonen, and die Seychellen.

A quick word of warning regarding the use of definite articles and country names: If a country with a non-plural definite article is preceded by an adjective, then the definite article is referring to the neuter noun das Land (the country, the nation) and always requires the neuter definite article. Even countries that do not require the definite article in normal usage get the neuter article das if they are being described preceded by an adjective. This is actually easier in practice than theory: Das schöne Frankreich, das teure Norwegen, das warme Brasilien.

Further Learning:

Browse through Yabla videos and find some country names being used in context and in different cases like dative, accusative, and genitive. For an interesting in-depth article on the topic, see the ever-fascinating Zwiebelfisch-ABC series from Der Spiegel.

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Same word, different gender!

Arme haben Arme
Arme haben Beine
Beine haben keine Arme
Arme Beine!

There are two versions of Arme in the above saying, one meaning "poor people" and the other meaning "arms." Actually, German has many homonyms: words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings. These are called homonyms. It is especially important to know the genders of German homonyms, since you may wind up saying or writing something entirely different than you intend, merely because you got the gender wrong!

Die Band ist eingespielt; die Models wissen, wie sie laufen müssen.
The band has warmed up; the models know how they must walk.
Caption 29, Mode: Backstage auf der Modenschau

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

In addition to die Band (the band, or musical group) and das Band (the ribbon), there is also a third meaning: der Band (the volume of a book). Be careful with your genders so that you don't wind up reading a rock band, cutting the volume of a book, or listening to a ribbon!

Der damalige Leiter des Museums Wiesbaden tauscht Kunst.
The former director of the Museum Wiesbaden trades art.
Caption 9, Restituierung von Raubkunst: aus der Nazi-Zeit

Der Herbst steht auf der Leiter [dative case of die Leiter] und malt die Blätter an.
Fall stands on the ladder and paints the leaves.
Caption 11, Sabine und Ivana: Gedichte im Bus

Der Leiter is the leader, director, or head of an organization, and die Leiter is a ladder. Here too, with the wrong gender you may wind up following the ladder or climbing up a director!

Further Learning:

Browse through Yabla videos and find the correct genders of some German homonyms. Here are some examples of homonyms with different genders: Erbe (inheritance vs. inheritor), Gehalt (salary vs. content), Junge (boy vs. young one), Heide (moor vs. heathen), Hut (hat vs. protection), Kiefer (pine tree vs. jaw), Lama (llama vs. Tibetan religious leader), Marsch (march vs. marsh), Messer (knife vs. measuring device), Pony (hairstyle vs. pony), Schild (sign vs. shield), See (sea vs. lake), Steuer (tax vs. steering wheel), Stift (pencil vs. monastery), Tau (rope vs. dew), Taube (pigeon vs. deaf person), Titan (giant vs. titanium), Tor (goal vs. fool), Verdienst (income vs. merit), and Weise (manner vs. wise person). The next lesson will be about German homonyms with the same gender, so put your learning caps on!

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Football and Flowers

Gertrude Stein may have felt that a "rose is a rose is a rose is a rose," but William Shakespeare wrote that "the summer's flower is to the summer sweet," especially after a "barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold." You probably already know that flowers are Blumen, but do you know the names of some of the common varieties? Let's start with some parts of the flower:

Die Bienen und Hummeln ohne Gegenwind von Blüte zu Blüte fliegen konnten.
The bees and the bumblebees could fly from blossom to blossom without a headwind.
Caption 9, Piggeldy und Frederick: Vergessen

Irgendwas zum Fressen gibt's eigentlich immer, Knospen, Blätter oder Früchte von Platanen.
There's always something to eat, buds, leaves, or fruit from the plane trees.
Captions 25-26, Freilebende Papageien: Überwintern in Wiesbaden

And on to some specific flower varieties:

Ein achtundzwanzig Meter großer Baum und sechzehn riesige beleuchtete Lilien
A twenty-eight meter tall tree and sixteen gigantic illuminated lilies
Captions 1-2, Der Sternschnuppenmarkt: in Wiesbaden

Weil heute Valentinstag ist, gibt es besonders viele rote Rosen.
Because today is Valentine's Day, there are especially many red roses.
Caption 9, Valentinstag: in Karlsruhe

Die Hagebuttenrosen blühten so rosa wie schon lange nicht mehr.
The rose hips were blooming pinker than they had for a long time.
Caption 26, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Fernweh

Those whose seasonal interests extend beyond the horticultural may enjoy watching some videos on another favorite summer pastime: soccer (aka football). Check out this Yabla video at the top of this article and search for more soccer videos on German Yabla.

Further Learning:

Take a look at this excellent list of German flower names. See which ones are easy to remember for their similarities to English, and make up a set of flash cards for the ones you find difficult. Hibiscus is clearly der Hibiskus, but who could've guessed that baby's breath is das Schleierkraut? Then go through the Yabla videos above and explore the context in which these flowery sentences were used!

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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

In our last lesson on false friends, we discussed a few false cognates that begin with the letter B. Today, we're moving one stop further down the alphabet to learn about some falsche Freunde starting with C and D:

der Chef / die Chefin: the boss or departmental head
False English friend: chef, the head cook (German: der Chefkoch / die Chefköchin, der Küchenchef / die Küchenchefin)

Ich werde morgen mit meinem Chef reden.
I will talk with my boss tomorrow.
Caption 53, Lektionen: Morgen

dezent: discreet, discreetly, low-key, unobtrusive
False English friend: decent, appropriate, fitting (German: anständig, ordentlich)

Normalerweise sind die Tuaregs ja auch eher dezent gekleidet.
Normally the Tuaregs are indeed dressed rather discreetly.
Caption 46, Rat für nachhaltige Entwicklung: Mode gegen Armut

Dose: can, tin
False English friend: dose, a quantity of medicine (German: die Dosis)

… denn über den Schaumwein in Dosen geht ihr nichts.
… because for her, there's nothing like the sparkling wine in cans.
Caption 17, Paris Hilton: in Frankfurt

Further Learning:

Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a thorough list of German false friends, take a look at this extensive chart and then search Yabla videos to find the words used in context!

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Springtime Activities in Germany

All Mel Brooks jokes aside, Germany is a cold, gray place in winter, and the first hints of spring draw everyone out into the sunshine like hibernating bears emerging from their winter caves. Springtime is truly appreciated in Northern Europe, not like your year-round boring Southern California sunshine, and with this special time of year come special springtime activities, as well.

How better to get about than on a bicycle?

Frühlingszeit ist Fahrradzeit, also raus mit dem Fahrrad und ab auf die Piste.
Springtime is bike time, so get out the bike and hit the road.
Caption 1, Fahrrad: Frühjahrs-Check

And as you pass by Viktoriapark in Berlin's Kreuzberg district,

Man kann sich dort sonnen, Frisbee spielen oder ein Picknick machen.
You can sun yourself, play frisbee, or have a picnic.
Caption 9, Berlin: Eva im Viktoriapark

After all that sunshine, what better way to cool off than with some exotically flavored ice cream?

Leopardeneis und Vanilleeis, ein Traum für einen sonnigen Frühlingsnachmittag.
Leopard ice cream and vanilla ice cream, a dream for a sunny spring afternoon.
Caption 46, Eis: Eiskalte Leidenschaft

This is the time to really enjoy life, after all!

Das ist der Frühling… alle freuen sich: die Tiere, die Pflanzen, die Menschen.
This is spring… everyone rejoices: the animals, the plants, the people.
Captions 10-11, Jahreszeiten: Der Frühling

Further Learning:

Gardening is also a very popular spring and summer activity. Go to this extensive garden glossary and then go outside and see if you can put some of your new vocabulary to practical use in nature! After getting some fresh air, see if you can find some of the newly-learned springtime terms in context in a video on German Yabla!

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Are you certain?

Has anyone ever had the audacity to doubt you, despite your obvious inborn genius and natural talents? The best response to such outrageous treatment is, of course, to put the disbelievers firmly in their place, and this is best accomplished through modifiers that express certainty, ways of emphasizing that there can simply be no doubt: you are the greatest, and they are just going to have to live with the fact.

Former German president Christian Wulff may have been forced to resign in a 2012 scandal, but nobody ever doubted his support for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup:

Die Unterstützung des Schirmherrn aus dem Schloss Bellevue ist also gewiss.
The support of the patron from Bellevue Castle is certain.
Captions 13-14: Frauenfußball-WM: Der Bundespräsident am Ball

As to life after the resignation, Wulff may be facing difficulties similar to those of an animal shelter in Nied:

Die Zeiten werden rauer, so viel steht fest.
The times are getting rougher, that is for sure.
Caption 48, Für Tierfreunde: Tierheim Nied

Though Wulff's smile is still looking good, there's always room for improvement, as suggested by Diane and Franca:

Wenn ich weniger Schokolade essen würde, wäre mein Zahnarzt bestimmt zufriedener mit mir.
If I ate less chocolate, my dentist would certainly be happier with me.
Captions 30-31: Konjugation: Das Verb „essen“

And were Wulff to be accused of smuggling a polar bear into the Frankfurt Zoo, he would surely respond:

Doch wie Sie sicherlich wissen, gibt's im Frankfurter Zoo keine Eisbären.
But as you surely know, there aren't any polar bears in the Frankfurt Zoo.
Caption 11: Umfragen: Zootiere im Winter

Further Learning:

Gewiss, feststehen, bestimmt, and sicherlich are just a few examples of the many ways of expressing certainty in German. Go the the aforementioned interview with former German president Christian Wulff on Yabla and see if you can find other examples of Mr. Wulff expressing certainty. As the old saying goes, Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall.

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German: What for?

The German combination of wo with a preposition is good for asking questions to clarify specific situations when warum (why) is too general. Since wo is generally translated as "where" in English, the wo + preposition combination can cause confusion among German beginners, since in this case wo is usually translated as "what." If the man is waiting (Er wartet), you may be tempted to ask what he is waiting for. Für was wartet er? would be wrong and a typical beginner's mistake — correct is Worauf wartet er? This translates as "What is he waiting for?", thus worauf is "what for."

Wo can be combined with the following prepositions: an, auf, aus, bei, durch, für, gegen, in, mit, nach, über, unter, von, vor, and zu. Note that when combining wo with a preposition that starts with a vowel, the letter r is added between wo and the preposition: woran, worauf, woraus, worin, worüber, worunter. This may seem complicated at first, but in context you will find it much easier than expected! Here are some examples from Yabla:

Der Höhepunkt des Abends, worauf alle gewartet haben...
The highlight of the evening, which everybody had been waiting for...
Caption 35, Rund um den Flughafen: Der neue Airbus A-380

Es macht viel Spaß, wobei die Füße jetzt langsam anfangen doch etwas zu schmerzen.
It's a lot of fun, although the feet now are indeed slowly starting to ache somewhat.
Captions 10-11, IAA: Traumland für Autobegeisterte

Ich weiß nicht, wovon Sie sprechen!
I don't know what you're talking about!
Caption 10, Kein Kredit: im Land der Klone

Further Learning:

Go the the main Yabla German page and search for some of the following wo + preposition combinations: woran = on what, of which; worauf = at which, whereupon; woraus = from what, whence; wobei = whereby, although; wodurch = by which means, whereby; wofür = for what; wogegen = against what; worin = in what, wherein; womit = whereby, wherewith; wonach = after what, whereupon; worüber = about what, whereat; worunter = under which, from what; wovon = from what, whereof; wovor = of what, in front of what; wozu = what for, why.

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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

In our last lesson on false friends, we discussed a few false cognates that begin with the letter A. Today, we're moving one stop further down the alphabet to learn about some falsche Freunde starting with B:

das Bad: the bath or bathroom (room with a bath, not the toilet!)
False friend: bad: of low quality or poor standard (German: schlecht)

Jetzt packe ich die Sachen vom Bad in den Koffer.
Now I'll pack the things from the bathroom into the suitcase.
Caption 18, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub

bekommen: to get or receive
False friend: become: to begin to be, to develop into (German: werden)

Ich hab' noch nie einen Preis bekommen in Deutschland.    
I've never received an award in Germany.
Caption 17, DIVA-Verleihung: Schauspieler des Jahres

brav: good, well-behaved

False friend: brave: possessing or exhibiting courage (German: tapfer, mutig)

Und wer nicht brav war, der soll auch noch darum bitten.    
And those who were not good, they should even beg for it.
Caption 14, Jan Wittmer: Weihnachtslied

Further Learning:

Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a thorough list of German false friends, take a look at this extensive chart.

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German Soccer Expressions

If you are a soccer fan, you are probably already familiar with many soccer terms, but here are few that may be new for you!

A referee is a Schiedsrichter, but just as "ref" is often used as a shorter form for "referee" in English, so too in German is Schiri a shortening of Schiedsrichter:

Am besten holt sich jeder Schiri...
It would be best if every ref got…
Caption 30, Die OLElympischen Spiele: Laotischer Hühnertanz

The slang term Gelb sehen, literally to "see yellow," means a player has been penalized with a yellow penalty card:

Dafür habe ich aber ‘ne gelbe Karte wegen Foulspielen an ’n Rasen bekommen.
For that, however, I received a yellow card for foul plays on the field.
Caption 49, RheinMainTv Aktuell: Kick für Kid

In the above caption you see the football terms das Foulspiel (foul play) and der Rasen (the playing field) too!

A penalty shot is called an Elfmeter, literally an "eleven meter," in reference to the distance from the goal, and in this case the shot was verschossen or "missed":

Aus Scham über den verschossenen Elfmeter pumpt Vettel erstmal ein paar Liegestütze.
From shame over the missed eleven meter [penalty shot], Vettel first pumps a few push-ups.
Caption 40, Fußball: Prominente beim Benefizspiel

Here we manage to get four football terms in a single sentence!

Es ist ein Laufduell, ein Pass, der vor die Abwehr kommt, und ein Zweikampf.
It's a sprinting duel, a pass that comes before the defense, and a tackle.
Caption 37, Fußball: U21-Nationalmannschaft

Further Learning:

Pop quiz: without peeking, what do the terms we just read about mean? Der Schiri, die gelbe Karte, das Foulspiel, der Rasen, verschossen, der Elfmeter, das Laufduell, der Pass, die Abwehr, der Zweikampf. If you would like to go beyond vocabulary and into some very funny German soccer philosophy, read the article in der Spiegel entitled "German Football's Greatest Sayings."

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Ich Liebe Dich (In Other Words)

Perhaps you are interested in German because you fell in love, or maybe there is that "special someone" in German class you have a bit of a crush on. We all know the basic Ich liebe dich — the Beatles even did a version of “She Loves You” in German (“Sie liebt dich”) — but how about some other ways to express your attraction for somebody?

It might not be a great idea to say you love somebody too soon, so to play it safe, let’s just say you like him or her, in which case the verb mögen is perfect:

Oh nein, niemand mag mich!
Oh no, no one likes me!
Caption 44, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das hässliche Entlein

Another way of expressing that you like someone is to say you “have them gladly” (gern haben) or care for them (lieb haben):

Wenn man jemanden richtig gern und lieb hat…     
If you really love and care for someone…
Caption 42, Valentinstag: In Karlsruhe

Another possibility is du gefällst mir, or if you want to make it even stronger, du gefällst mir sehr. Then the next step is falling in love, sich verlieben:

Der Prinz hatte sich verliebt.
The Prince had fallen in love.
Caption 69, Sagenhaft, Märchen: Aschenputtel

When you are ready to make the leap, however, there is always the classic standby:

John, ich liebe dich. Adrianne, ich liebe dich!
John, I love you. Adrianne, I love you!
Captions 13–14, Alexander Hauff: Showreel

Followed ideally by the grand finale:

Ich möchte dich heiraten.
I want to marry you.
Caption 86, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der Froschkönig

Further Learning:

How do I love thee? Rather than getting into counting the ways and all the mathematics involved, why not try getting a taste of German love poems from the 16th to the 20th centuries, including an exclusive set from German women poets? Make a vocabulary list of words you are unfamiliar with, and then search on Yabla to find the ways the words are used in other contexts.

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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part I

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

Many words in German look like words in English, but can be tricky because they actually have different meanings. These paired words are called false friends or false cognates and can be the source of many difficulties when starting to learn a new language. Here are a few examples from Yabla, all starting with the letter A:

absolvieren: to finish a course of study or exam
False friend: absolve: to declare (someone) free from guilt, obligation, or punishment (German: entlasten)

Auch wenn man ein Studium absolviert hat...
Even after finishing a study...
Caption 63, Lokalhelden: Art House

aktuell: current, latest
False friend: actual: existing in fact; real. (German: eigentlich, wirklich)

Neunundsechzig ist die aktuelle Diskussion. 
Sixty-nine is the current debate. 
Caption 46, Kurzfilm-Festival: Shorts at Moonlight 

die Argumentation: the reasoning, process of reasoning
False friend: argument: an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one (German: der Streit)

Das hessische Ministerium hat kein Verständnis für diese Argumentation.    
The Hessian Ministry has no understanding for this reasoning.
Captions 28-29, Deutsche Autobahnen: Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen

Further Learning:
Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a very funny commentary in German containing false friends, read this dialog on Grimm GrammarBis bald! (No, this is not about hair loss…)

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Dating in German

Expressing dates or the passage of time in German sometimes parallels English, and sometimes doesn't. Let’s take a closer looks to get our dates straight.

The standard expression “on the [day] of [month]” is similar in form to English: 

Am dreizehnten April zweitausendneunundzwanzig...

On the thirteenth of April, two thousand twenty-nine.

Caption 48, Unser Universum, Asteroiden: Gefahr aus dem All

The expression of passing time “from the [day] of [month] to the [day] of [month]" goes like this: 

Vom achtzehnten Juni bis zum zwölften Juli...

From the eighteenth of June till the twelfth of July.

Caption 4, Das Tollwood-Festival: Bap und Clueso in der Musik-Arena

Instead of vom, the preposition ab can be used to express the start of an event: 

Ab Juni wird der Riesenvogel dann in Linienbetrieb gehen.

From June, the giant bird will be starting route service.

Caption 49, Rund um den Flughafen: Der neue Airbus A-380

One German date-related expression that differs from English is "Wir haben gerade": 

Wir haben gerade Oktober.

Just now, we have October.

Caption 5, Herbst: mit Eva

Yabla has translated this very literally in order to show the language parallels, but another way of translating Wir haben gerade Oktober could be: “It is now October.”

Further Learning:

If you state the day of the week with the date, you use the form: Am Freitag, dem 21. Februar. Note the dative article dem used for the month. On the other hand, if you are writing a formal letter, you write the city name and the accusative article: Berlin, den 21. Februar. There has been a creeping tendency recently in German to express the year (in German) as in 2014, which is an Anglicism and considered poor style in formal German. Historically, German uses either just 2014 or im Jahr 2014, but not in 2014. Natives speakers of English learning German often get confused about this; luckily now you know better!

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Es geht nur ums Geld: German Idioms about Money

Many German expressions having to do with money are very similar to those in English, in fact the expressions may have been derived from and adapted by one or the other of the two languages. Some examples are: Geld waschen (to launder money), Das Geld zum Fenster hinauswerfen (to throw money out the window) and nach Geld stinken (to be filthy rich). Some expressions are not quite so direct, however, such as: Geld regiert die Welt (money makes the world go round, literally "money rules the world"), Im Geld schwimmen (to roll in money, literally "to swim in money"), and Das Geld liegt nicht auf der Straße (money doesn't grow on trees, literally "money doesn't lie on the street"). Here are some more examples from Yabla videos:

This one is pretty obvious:

Zeit ist Geld und Geld ist gut.

Time is money and money is good.

Caption 9, Jan Wittmer: Leben für den Lebenslauf

Here the expression Es geht ins Geld means it will get expensive:

Dann geht es aber auch irgendwann mal ins Geld.

Then at some point, however, it will also start costing money.

Caption 29, Endlich glücklich: Liebe im Netz

But this is the most important thing of all to remember about money:

Geld allein ist nicht alles.

Money alone isn't everything.

Caption 62, Für Tierfreunde: Tierheim Nied

Learning Suggestions:

See if you can understand the correct English meanings for the following German money-related expressions without resorting to a search engine or online dictionary by just using the vocabulary you already have: Geld allein macht nicht glücklich; Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist des Talers nicht wert (a hint on this one: a Taler is an old-fashioned currency like the dollar or euro); Sie haben Geld wie Heu; Es geht nur ums Geld; and last of all, the most difficult one: Unrecht Gut gedeihet nicht

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Funktionsverben: German Light Verbs

A light verb (Funktionsverb, also called vector verb or empty verb) is a verb that has very little intrinsic meaning on its own and requires an additional expression, usually a noun, to give it meaning. Some light verb expressions in German are similar to English, and therefore easy to understand, such as Einfluss ausüben (to exert infuence), zu Ende sein (to be at an end, to be over) or in Sicht bleiben (to remain in view). But many other German light verbs do not have direct parallels in English and are somewhat more difficult to understand. Let's look to some Yabla videos for some examples!

in Angriff nehmen (to attack, to tackle, to proceed with):

Und dann mal schauen, ob wir eventuell irgendwas Live-Mäßiges in Angriff nehmen.

And then see if we perhaps take on something live.

Caption 16, RheinMain Szene: Selig

unter Druck stehen (to be under pressure):

Ich denke, dass die Russen natürlich genauso unter Druck stehen.    

I think that the Russians are certainly under an equal amount of pressure.

Caption 13, Fußball: Die deutsche Nationalmannschaft

auf etwas Rücksicht nehmen (to show consideration for):

Wenn die Menschen doch nur mehr Rücksicht aufeinander nehmen würden.

If only people would show more consideration for one another.

Caption 10, Rücksicht im Verkehr: Christophorus, Die Mission

Learning Suggestions:

See if you can find out the proper English meanings for the following German expressions containing light verbs: eine Anwendung finden, in Verlegenheit geraten, eine Mitteilung machen, eine Wahl treffen, unter Beobachtung stehen, zu Ansehen gelangen, in Druck geben, sich in Abhängigkeit befinden, in Erfahrung bringen, in Auftrag geben, in Frage stellen. If you would like to go deeper into the finer distinctions between active and passive light verbs, look here!

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Classic German Aphorisms for the New Year

Are you bored with the same old clichés every year about the upcoming year? Let's go "back to the future" and take a look at some original aphorisms from classic German authors, followed up with a word from the aphorism used in another context in a Yabla video:

Wird's besser? Wird’s schlimmer? fragt man alljährlich.

Seien wir ehrlich: Leben ist immer lebensgefährlich!

Will it get better? Will it get worse? You ask every year.

Let's be honest: Life is always life-threatening!

Erich Kästner (1899–1974)

Ein paar Jahre zuvor wäre das noch lebensgefährlich gewesen.

A few years prior, this would still have been life-threatening.

Caption 14, Curly Horses: Pferdeglück auch für Allergiker

Ich kann freilich nicht sagen, ob es besser wird, wenn es anders wird,

Aber soviel kann ich sagen: Es muss anders werden, wenn es gut werden soll.

I cannot say, of course, if it will be better when it is different,

But this much I can say: It must be different, if it is going to get better.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799)

Ja, freilich! So machen wir das, jedes Jahr aufs Neue.

Yes, of course! We do it like this every year again and again.

Caption 17, München: Krampuslauf auf dem Christkindlmarkt

Gut ist der Vorsatz, aber die Erfüllung ist schwer.

Good is the resolution, but the fulfillment is difficult.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)

Die Arbeit mit den Tieren ist die Erfüllung eines Lebenstraums.    

The work with the animals is the fulfillment of a life's dream.

Caption 62, Für Tierfreunde: Falknerei Feldber

Learning Suggestions:

The "Happy New Year!" greeting is different in different parts of Germany: Frohes neues Jahr (Northern Hesse); Frohes neues (Middle Rhein and Hesse); Gesundes neues Jahr (Eastern Germany); Gesundes neues (Dresden region); Gutes neues Jahr (Austria); Gutes neues (Baden-Württemberg, Switzerland and parts of Bavaria); Prosit Neujahr (Eastern Austria, Vienna); and Prost Neujahr (parts of Western Germany). But are you familiar with the German New Year's greeting "Ich wünsche dir einen guten Rutsch"? See last year's Yabla German Lesson "Rutsch and rutschen: A good “slide” into the New Year!" to find out more! ou can also read something by the authors quoted above. For beginners, Erich Kästner's Emil und die Detektive makes for a fun read. Readers of all levels can enjoy the many clever sayings of physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who is known as the father of the German aphorism. For the very advanced, there is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, which is considered the most important work in all of German literature.

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Some German Words with "Christmas"

In keeping with the holiday spirit, let's take a look at a few German words that can be formed using Weihnachts- (Christmas-) as a root. Many of today's standard Christmas traditions originated in Germany, but as you can see from the "Krampuslauf" video, Germany still has a few Christmas traditions that remain very unique!

If you haven't done your Christmas shopping yet, you only have a couple of days left! Better head down to the Weihnachtsmarkt, which, although traditionally Southern German, can also be found in other parts of Germany:

Hier am Berliner Gendarmenmarkt gibt es auch einen kleinen tollen Weihnachtsmarkt.

Here at the Berlin Gendarmenmarkt, there is also a great little Christmas market.

Caption 7, Weihnachtsmärkte: mit Eva

And while you are there, you'd better pick up something delicious at the Weihnachtsbäckerei, because:

In der Weihnachtsbäckerei gibt es manche Leckerei.

In the Christmas bakery there is many a treat.

Caption 23, Der Sternschnuppenmarkt: in Wiesbaden

Of course, your main purpose there is not to snack on pastries, but to pick up some Weihnachtsgeschenke:

Hier kann man schöne Weihnachtsgeschenke kaufen.

You can buy beautiful Christmas presents here.

Caption 14, Diane: am Weihnachtsmarkt

When you get home, it may be time to decorate the Weihnachtsbaum

Also der Weihnachtsbaum wird bei uns am Vierundzwanzigsten aufgestellt.

Well, the Christmas tree will be set up at our place on the twenty-fourth.

Caption 27, Weihnachtsinterviews: Cettina in Linkenheim

Learning suggestions:

Can you figure out what some of these other words based on Weihnachts- (Christmas-) mean?

Weihnachtssachen, Weihnachtsbaumständer, Weihnachtsspenden, Weihnachtstrubel, Weihnachtsferien, Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtsessen

Search for videos on Yabla that use these words to better understand their meaning and context!

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Indefinite Quantity Adjectives (Unbestimmte Zahladjektive)

Let’s take a look today at adjectives that define quantitative amounts without actually resorting to the specifics of numbers. The most common of them, viele (“much” or “many”) and wenige (“little” or “not many”), are used irregularly, however, so let’s check them out first. When viele and wenige occur as a definite article or after a definite article, they are conjugated as normal adjectives: 

Für die vielen amerikanischen Soldaten im amerikanischen Sektor…

For the many American soldiers in the American Sector...

Caption 9, Berlin: der alte amerikanische Sektor

But when viele or wenige occur without an article before a singular noun, they are usually left unconjugated: 

Aber dafür bleibt wohl wenig Zeit.

But there seems to be too little time for that.

Caption 25, Fußball: Torwandschießen

As you can see above, a normal adjective for the feminine word die Zeit would, in the nominative case as here, end with an “e.” Wenig is a little different!

Here are some examples of more typical indefinite quantity adjectives, which are conjugated as normal adjectives. We can start will alle (“everything”):

Natürlich stehe ich hinter allen Songs.

Of course I'm behind all of the songs.

Caption 62, Deutsche Bands: Luxuslärm

And then wind up with keine (“none” or “no”): 

Bisher allerdings ist noch keine Schildkröte in Sicht. 

Up to now though there's still no turtle in sight.

Caption 43, Ausgrabungen: Auf den Spuren der Dinosaurier

Some other common indefinite quantity adjectives to look out for are: beide (both), einige (some), einzelne (single, individual), ganze (whole), gesamte (entire), manche (some), sonstige (other, further), übrige (the rest), weitere (further), zahllose (innumerable), and zahlreiche (numerous). 

Learning suggestions:

Keep your eyes out in every Yabla video for the many ways that indefinite quantity adjectives are used, and pay particular attention to the way that viele and wenige are conjugated, because the irregular usage will take some training and getting a feel for! For a further foray into the world of indefinite quantity adjectives written in German, take a look here and here. Ich wünsche euch viel Spaß beim Lernen!

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