German Lessons


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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Recently, lately, and just now

A couple of months ago, we took a look at the temporal adverbs damals and früher and how they are used when talking about the distant past. You can follow this link to read or review that lesson. This week, we will focus on talking about events that have occurred in the recent past or "just now."


First, there are many ways to say "recently" in German, including vor kurzem, kürzlich, letztens, in letzter Zeit, and neulich


Vor kurzem haben wir das Atelier des Juweliers Jonathan Johnson besucht.
Recently, we visited the atelier of jeweler Jonathan Johnson.
Caption 1, Jonathan Johnson: Atelier-Tour


Mit dem Architekturpreis Green Building wurden in Frankfurt kürzlich acht Gebäude ausgezeichnet.
Eight buildings in Frankfurt were recently awarded the Green Building architecture prize.
Caption 1, Umweltbewusstes Wohnen: Architekturpreis Green Building


Ich habe letztens noch im Regen gegrillt.
I recently grilled in the rain.
Caption 4, Tim Bendzko: Grillen auch im Regen


War Ihr Mann in letzter Zeit anders als sonst? Bedrückt, müde?    
Was your husband recently different than usual? Depressed, tired?
Caption 4, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern


Ja, haben wir. -Ach, deswegen diese Fragen neulich.
Yes, we did. -Oh, that's the reason for these questions recently.
Caption 10, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


When we talk about something that "just happened," we tend to use other adverbs. Most common is likely gerade eben, but sometimes gerade is used with the past tense to also refer to the recent past rather than what is currently happening. Vorhin can mean "earlier," but also "a short while ago."


Was gerade eben noch unvermeidbar schien...
What had just seemed unavoidable...
Caption 21, Jan Wittmer: Bereit mich zu verlieren


Die Besitzerin hat mir gerade gesagt, dass sogar alle Seifen aus Stutenmilch sind.
The owner just said to me that all of the soaps are actually made out of mare's milk.
Caption 22, Diane: auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt 


Vorhin haben wir gelernt, dass es drei Artikel gibt in der Einzahl: "der", "die" und "das".
Earlier we learned that there are three singular articles: "the" [der] , "the" [die] and "the" [das].
Caption 2, Grammatik: Der Artikel in der Mehrzahl


Further Learning
When you look at these sentences and other examples from Yabla German, you may notice that the position of the verb remains unchanged despite the adverb. You can read more about this here and take a look at the different kinds of adverbs as well. 

Continue Reading

At the table

This week, for our beginners, we'll go over the elements of a place setting at the table. First, let's review the different utensils (das Besteck):


Ich brauche zum Essen noch eine Gabel. Eine Gabel... und ein Messer.
In order to eat I need a fork. A fork... and a knife.
Caption 21, Zu Besuch bei Jenny: In der Wohnung


Nein, einen großen Löffel brauche ich nicht, denn ich esse keine Suppe und auch keine Soße.
No, I don't need a large spoon, since I'm not eating any soup or any sauce either.
Caption 23, Zu Besuch bei Jenny: In der Wohnung


Generally, all of these can be described as groß or klein. Just make sure you have the correct declension. The same is the case for der Teller – we can say ein großer Teller or ein kleiner Teller. 


... und dann hat man nicht nur was Buntes auf dem Teller,
sondern es schmeckt hoffentlich auch den kleinen Feinschmeckern.

... and then you not only have something colorful on the plate,
but, hopefully, it'll even taste good to the little gourmets.
Caption 47-48, Kochhaus Berlin: Kochen mit Kindern


Here you can see the way different types of bowls are described. Generally, eine Schüssel will be a larger bowl, even a serving or mixing bowl, while eine Schale is smaller and intended for an individual. If it's very small, you can also say ein Schälchen


Wir schütten den Teig in eine Schüssel oder in einen Suppenteller.
We'll pour the batter into a bowl or into a soup plate.
Caption 27, Apfelpfannkuchen: mit Alina und Sabine


Dann gibt dir jemand ein Schälchen Vanille-Pudding, dann freust du dich da drüber...
Then someone gives you a small bowl of vanilla pudding, which you are then happy about...
Caption 22, Helge Schneider: Auf der Bühne geht's mir gut


You probably already know the difference between eine Tasse and ein Glas, but this list wouldn't be complete without it. Both examples below remind us that when translating "a cup of" or "a glass of," the "of" is dropped in the German version:


Kommt mal mit. Wir machen jetzt mal eine Tasse Kaffee für mich.
Come along. We'll make a cup of coffee for me.
Caption 16, Jenny beim Frühstück: Teil 1


Willst du erst mal ein Glas Wasser trinken? -Ja, gerne. Danke schön.
Do you first want to drink a glass of water? -Yes, gladly. Thank you.
Caption 11, Fine: sucht eine Wohnung


Further Learning
Review the gender for each of these words and look for how declensions are created in typical sentences on Yabla German. For more vocabulary, you can also take a look at this list

Continue Reading

Zeichnen, zeigen, and das Zeichen

... and the list goes on to include die Zeichnung and das Zeichnen, among others. Do you know which word is which?


Das Zeichen is a noun and can be translated as "the sign" or "the mark."


Das ist ein gutes Zeichen, denn es bedeutet, dass dem Arbeitgeber die Bewerbungsunterlagen gefallen haben...
That is a good sign, since it means that the employer liked the application documents...
Caption 39-40, Eva erklärt: Bewerbungen


The verb zeichnen means "to draw." Das Zeichnen is the act/action of drawing, whereas die Zeichnung is "the drawing" as in a sketch or artwork on paper. The participle of the verb is gezeichnet, which also means "to plot" or "to mark." 


Dreimal in der Woche kommt sie ins Atelier, um zu zeichnen.
Three times a week she comes to the atelier to draw.
Caption 29, Malerei: Atelier Goldstein


Ich hab' sehr viel Sport gemacht, äh, habe sehr viel gezeichnet...
I did a lot of sports, uh, drew a whole lot...
Caption 58, Rhein-Main Szene: Unheilig - Der Graf 


Quite separate from these two words is the verb zeigen, or "to show," the participle of which is "gezeigt."


Hallo, mein Name ist Christiane und ich werd' euch heute zeigen, wie man Spätzle macht.
Hello, my name is Christiane and I am going to show you today how to make spaetzle.
Caption 1, Bayrische Spätzle: mit Christiane


Im kommenden Jahr soll der Film dann auf der Berlinale erstmals gezeigt werden.
Next year, the movie is to be shown for the first time at the Berlinale [Berlin Film Festival].
Caption 50, Dreharbeiten: zum Film „Playoff 


Further Learning
There are more examples of these words in their various forms and conjugations to be found on Yabla German. For an overview, this page can help you with the conjugations for zeichnen, while this page fully conjugates the verb zeigen. 

Continue Reading

Why me of all people?

And why on Yabla German of all places? Well, that's easy: it's because you want to learn German and you know how great the Yabla language learning system is! But speaking of learning, how do you say phrases like "... of all places" and "... of all people" in German? 


First, a little background on the phrase. The separable German verb ausrechnen, in its standard form, means "to compute," "to figure out," "to calculate," or "to estimate," as in this example: 


Wie rechnet ihr eure Chancen aus zu gewinnen?
What do you estimate your chances of winning are?
Caption 11, Yabla-Filmfestspiele: Preisverleihung


However, a slang adverb developed out of the past participle of the verb ausrechnen:


Ja, ausgerechnet Stauffenberg. Wer hätte das gedacht?
Yes, Stauffenberg of all people. Who would have thought that?
Caption 54, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944


Ich wundere mich ein wenig, dass ausgerechnet heute Ihre Sekretärin nicht da ist.
I'm a bit surprised that today of all days your secretary isn't here.
Captions 54-55, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944


Und ausgerechnet im „Skatershop“ wartete auch schon der nächste Spießer.
And in the skate shop of all places the next philistine is waiting too.
Caption 9, Thomas D: Ärgernisse  


Und das ausgerechnet von Hühnern…
And that, of all things, from chickens…
Caption 5, Tierakademie Scheuerhof: Tiertrainer im Hühner-Seminar


So basically you can use the slang adverb ausgerechnet to mean "... of all" and then whatever the topic of your discussion is. Occasionally, the slang adverb ausgerechnet may be translated otherwise: 


… und wieso man ausgerechnet für die betreffende Firma arbeiten möchte.    
… and why you specifically would like to work for the respective company.
Caption 25: Eva erklärt: Bewerbungen


Of course, this could also have been translated: "... and why you would like to work for this respective company, of all companies." As with all translations, it's best to use whatever catches the meaning and is most graceful at the same time. 


Achtung: sometimes the past participle of ausrechnen shows up and might fool you:


… über hundertsechzig Filme, hab' ich jetzt mal einfach so grob ausgerechnet.
… more than one hundred and sixty movies, I've just now roughly estimated.
Caption 38, Kurzfilm-Festival: Shorts at moonlight


Further Learning
Look for more examples of ausgerechnet used in a real-world context on Yabla German, and for further study compare the Duden definition of the verb ausrechnen with the slang adverb ausgerechnet.


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.

Continue Reading

Mindestens, zumindest, & zum Mindesten

The words in the above headline all mean "at least," but it can be confusing as to which context is correct for the right word. Note too that "at least" is a prepositional phrase in English, whereas in German the expression is usually a simple adverb. The adverb mindestens is probably the most common: 


In Deutschland ist es so: Asylbewerber müssen mindestens drei Monate warten. Fünfunddreißig Prozent haben mindestens die Mittelschule besucht.
In Germany, it's like this: Asylum applicants must wait at least three months. Thirty-five percent have at least attended middle school.
Captions 15, 36, Flüchtlingskrise: 10 Vorurteile, die nicht stimmen 


The adverb mindestens usually, as in the first case above, refers to a length of time or an amount of something:


Heutiger Hochwasserstand: wieder mindestens zehn Zentimeter.
Today's flood water level: at least ten centimeters again.
Caption 44: Die Klasse: Berlin '61


It's used somewhat less often to refer to circumstances: 


Zwar haben die Zuwanderer in der Regel eine hohe oder auch mittlere Qualifikation, die also mindestens einem deutschen Abschluss entspricht.
Indeed, the immigrants normally have a high or also mid-level qualification that is at least on par with a German degree.
Captions 35-36, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Mehr Beschäftigung in Rhein-Main


The related adverb zumindest, on the other hand, is used much more commonly for situations rather than lengths of time or amounts: 


Nun, zumindest habe ich meinen ersten Anruf hinter mir.    
So, at least I have my first call behind me.
Caption 69: Bewerbung: das Vorstellungsgespräch


Be careful not to jumble mindestens and zumindest into one (incorrect) word, something that even native German speakers occasionally do!


Eislaufen ist leicht, zumindestens [sic, zumindest] leichter als auf Vanessas Party eingeladen zu werden.
Ice skating is easy, at least easier than getting invited to Vanessa's party.
Captions 82-83, Küss mich, Frosch: Leb wohl, kleiner Prinz


So remember that mindestens and zumindest are real words, either of which would have been correct in the above sentence, but "zumindestens" is not a proper word at all!


Even less common, but making things even more complex, is the adjective min­des­te / min­des­ter / min­des­tes. This adjective can also be nominalized, or turned into a noun, such as das Mindeste (the least thing), or zum Mindesten (at least). 


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and find examples of the above adverbs and adjectives to see how they are used in a real-world conversational context. To go even deeper into the adjectival usage, read the Duden page for min­des­te / min­des­ter / min­des­tes.  


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.

Continue Reading

Hin und her

You asked a question and we are happy to respond! We will devote this lesson to the adverbs/prefixes hin and her. 


We frequently see the expression hin und her, which can be translated as "back and forth," "to and fro," or occasionally "there and back." But there often isn't a precise translation when they appear individually.


As you can see below, the prefixes hin and her create a more specific sense of direction in the meaning of a sentence. Generally, hin refers to movement away from the speaker, and her refers to movement towards the speaker.


Also, wo ziehst du jetzt hin? -Nach Hamburg.
So, where are you moving to now? -To Hamburg.
Caption 2, Drei Leute: beim Kofferpacken


Wo kommt eigentlich euer Interesse her an den Sepien?
Where does your interest in cuttlefish actually come from?
Caption 18, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


But that isn't all! Hin and her are also used to talk about time, with hin referring to the future and her to the past. 


Rainer Roth, Saisonpremiere ist auch noch bisschen hin.
Rainer Roth, it's also still a while until the season premiere.
Caption 7, Fußball: Saisonpremiere


Drei Jahre ist es schon her, dass er sich das letzte Mal ins Studio gesetzt hat.
It's already been three years since the last time that he sat himself down in the studio.
Caption 3, Max Herre: Will kein Frauentyp sein


Further Learning


There are, of course, many instances of hin and her used on Yabla German. For some more vocabulary, you can refer to this page for words prefixed with hin, and this for words prefixed with her. For even more information, take a look at this lesson


Continue Reading

Cheap, Low-Priced and Inexpensive

Adjectives and adverbs describing the cost or quality of an item in English can have positive or negative connotations, depending on the context. In German however, the words on this topic tend to be a bit more defined. In most contexts, the adjective/adverb billig has negative connotations, such as when a wife finds out her ex-Stasi* agent husband is having an illicit affair with a woman he once interrogated: 


Das ist so billig.
That is so cheap.
Caption 2, 12 heißt: Ich liebe dich, Versuch der Verdrängung


On a more positive note, you can use the adjective/adverb preiswert


Sie können bei uns Getränke umsonst haben und noch preiswert fliegen.
With us they can have drinks for free and still fly inexpensively.
Caption 32-33, Fluglinien: Niki Air 


And on an even more positive note, the adjective/adverb günstig


Er hat sich ein günstiges Gerät gekauft.
He bought himself an inexpensive device.
Caption 15, Flipperautomaten: Kunstwerke für flinke Kugeln


Auch aufgrund der Mietpreise, die hier sehr günstig sind.
Also because of the rent prices, which are very reasonable here.
Caption 20, Jonathan Johnson: Kreuzberg, Berlin


Die Gerichte sind günstig.
The meals are reasonably priced.
Caption 12, Universität: Karlsruhe


Günstig may also be translated as "affordable" or "low-priced" or even "cheap," but it's important to remember here that it's usually meant positively, and never to indicate that something was of poor quality like the word billig. Günstig also has quite a different meaning in other contexts: 


Das Wetter ist hier sehr günstig, es ist einfach schön.
The weather here is very favorable, it's simply nice.
Caption 22, Konstantin: ein Freiwilliger in Israel


It's pretty unlikely that weather would be described as "cheap." In this sense, günstig may also be used to describe situations that are fortunate, beneficial, providential, auspicious or merely convenient. A very favorable word indeed!


Further Learning
To conclude: billig is usually "cheap" in a negative sense, preiswert is "inexpensive" in a more positive sense, and günstig is "reasonable" in the most positive sense. Günstig also has additional positive meanings. Go to Yabla German to find more examples of all three words used in a real world context and see if you can find some other German words that can also mean "cheap" or "inexpensive."


*Stasi is an acronym for der Staatssicherheitsdienst, the secret police in the former German Democratic Republic.


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.

Continue Reading

The word sei

The word sei is something that can be a bit confusing when it appears. Although it is rare and more often used in written German, sei does comes up on Yabla German every once in a while.


It is, for one, the informal second person command form of the verb sein ("to be"). 


Wir haben Fieberkomm sei dabei
We have the fever, come be involved
Caption 11, Christina Stürmer: Fieber


Sei ruhig, Findus, ich bin ja noch gar nicht aufgestanden.
Be quiet, Findus, I indeed haven't gotten up yet at all.
Caption 13, Pettersson und Findus: Eine Geburtstagstorte für die Katze


But sei appears in other contexts as well. The phrase es sei denn can be translated as "unless":


Man hat uns erzählt, sie läge bis zum heutigen Tag dort, es sei denn, es hat sie jemand gegessen.
We were told that it is there to this very day, unless someone has eaten it.
Caption 93-94, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse


Sei is particularly used when something is or was reported or thought to be true, but isn't proven. However, it is used most often in written German, or narration and reporting. 


Also hat der Papst die Armbrust verboten und hat gesagt, es sei ein Werkzeug des Teufels.
So the Pope forbade the crossbow and said it was a tool of the devil.
Caption 30-31, Die Armbrust: im Mittelalter


Nein, der unbekannte Verkehrsteilnehmer hatte nur irrtümlich angenommen, die Parkuhr sei beschädigt...
No, the unknown motorist had just mistakenly assumed the parking meter was damaged...
Caption 56-57, Loriot: Die Politesse


Die böse Königin glaubte, Schneewittchen sei tot...
The evil Queen believed Snow White to be dead...
Caption 51, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Schneewittchen


Further Learning


Do you know all of the conjugations of sein in the imperative? If not, review them now with the table on this page. When you encounter sei in its other contexts, remember that it essentially communicates the subjunctive and what is being said may not be true at all!

Continue Reading

The Importance of Being Ernst

While the appreciative audience for bad puns on Oscar Wilde play titles may be limited, it is important to know if somebody is being serious or not in German, especially when your goal is to achieve a proficient level of communication in that language.


If Johanna and Julia both have husbands named Ernst, and somebody announces to them that a man named Ernst is on the telephone, Johanna might ask Julia Das ist nicht dein Ernst, oder? to see if Julia's husband is calling or if it's her own husband on the telephone. In all other cases, however, a reference to the noun der Ernst ("seriousness") preceded by a possessive pronoun (mein, dein, Ihr, euer, unser) means something else altogether: 


Das ist nicht dein Ernst, oder?
You're not serious, right?
Caption 24, 12 heißt: Ich liebe dich, Liebe auf den ersten Blick


The phrase would translate literally (and rather clumsily) as "Is that not your seriousness?," but what is meant is "You're not serious?"


Here's another example of the phrase, this time with the second person plural possessive pronoun: 


Das ist nicht euer Ernst.
You can't be serious.
Caption 71, Die Pierre-M.-Krause-Show: Classics


Another way of stating whether somebody is being serious or not is to use the noun der Ernst preceded by the dative preposition in


Das meinst du nicht im Ernst.
You do not mean that seriously.
Caption 17, Mama arbeitet wieder: Kompromisse zu finden ist nicht einfach


Im Ernst is in fact the most common way to say "seriously": 


Nein! -Ja, ganz im Ernst.
No! -Yes, seriously.
Caption 11, Barbara Schöneberger: Bambi-Verleihung backstage


Further Learning
If you are taking your German lessons seriously, you can go to Yabla German and find other uses of der Ernst in a real-world context — excepting, of course, the rare occasion when Johanna or Julia's husband Ernst shows up!

Continue Reading

Rabbit Expressions in German

It's typical in many languages to use phrases with animals as idiomatic expressions, such as the English expressions "to let the cat out of the bag" (to reveal a secret) or "Hold your horses!" (ordering someone to stop whatever they are doing). German has a number of animal expressions too, but in this lesson today, we'll only concern ourselves with those related to rabbits!


…aber die alten Hasen trotzdem noch kommen, die Die-Hard-Fans
…but the old rabbits nevertheless still come, the die-hard fans.
Caption 44, Sons of Sounds: Open-Air in Karlsruhe


Musikalisch könnten Ärzte, Rammstein und Co von einem alten Hasen wie ihm noch richtig was lernen.
Musically, the Ärzte, Rammstein and others could really still learn something from an old rabbit like him.
Captions 24, 25: Heino: Neue Volkslieder


The idiom ein alter Hase is equivalent to the English idiom "an old hand", meaning somebody who has a lot of experience at something. Judging from the videos above, the expression seems to be a particular favorite of musicians!


Hallöchen, ihr Hasen! Ich bin die kleine, süße Olivia Jones.
Hello, you bunnies! I am sweet little Olivia Jones.
Caption 1: Hamburger Hafenrundfahrt: Schrill unterwegs mit Olivia Jones


Tschüss, Prinzessin. -Tschüss, Mama. -Tschüss, mein Hase.
Bye, Princess. -Bye, Mama. -Bye, my bunny.
Caption 60: Mama arbeitet wieder, Kapitel 1: Alle haben sich lieb


In the examples above, Hase has been translated as "bunny," in this case it means a term of endearment like "darling."


Damit ist der Hase wohl gelutscht und der Drops sitzt in der Falle.
With that the rabbit has been sucked and the lozenge is in the trap.
Caption 66: Die Pierre-M.-Krause-Show: Classics


The above example actually reversed the subjects of the sentence as a joke. The phrase should be: Der Hase sitzt in der Falle, which is not really an idiom at all, rather just a metaphorical phrase meaning they have caught the criminal they intended to arrest. 


Further Learning
The following phrases are typical idiomatic expressions using der Hase. See if you can intuitively guess their meaning, then go to this Duden page and see if your guesses were correct! 


— ein heuriger Hase


— sehen, wie der Hase läuft


— da liegt der Hase im Pfeffer 


Afterwards, you can go to Yabla German and find other uses of der Hase in a real-world context.


Thank you for reading this. 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.

Continue Reading

Expressions with Weg and Weise

This week we'll look at the German translations for English expressions using the word "way." 


Both "on my way" (also with "your" or any other possessive adjective) and "on the way" are translated as auf dem Weg in German.


Ich bin auf dem Weg und jetzt geh' ich unter das Tor.
I'm on the way and now I'll go under the gate.
Caption 34, Diane erklärt: Präpositionen


This can also be used figuratively as well, as it is in English: 


Dann gibt es nur noch eine kleine Hürde auf dem Weg zu Ihrem Traumjob.
Then there is still only one small hurdle on the way to your dream job.
Caption 16, Bundestagswahl: Stellenanzeige - Bundeskanzler gesucht


The same goes for something standing or being "in the way":


Und dem soll auch vorerst nichts im Wege stehen.
And for now nothing should stand in the way of that.
Caption 15, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Der Frühling ist da


Dann kann der aufsteigenden Künstlerin ja nichts mehr im Wege stehen.
Then, indeed, nothing can stand in the way any longer of this rising artist.
Caption 33, Singer-Songwriterin Elif: Eine Achterbahn der Gefühle


The expression unterwegs means "on the way," "traveling"/"in transit" or "on the go."


„Wann sehen wir endlich die Faulheit?“, fragte Piggeldy unterwegs.
"When will we finally see the laziness?" Piggeldy asked on the way.
Caption 7, Piggeldy und Frederick: Faulheit


Sie waren den ganzen Tag unterwegs gewesen und es wurde dunkel...
They had been traveling the whole day, and it grew dark...
Caption 36, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten


Eva Padberg ist als Model viel unterwegs.
Eva Padberg is, as a model, on the go a lot.
Caption 1, Rhein-Main-TV: Eva Padberg beim Weihnachtseinkauf


When we talk about a way of doing something or the way something happened, we use the words die Art, die Weise, or the expression die Art und Weise.


Doch im dritten Viertel wendete sich das Blatt in kaum vorstellbarer Weise.
Indeed, in the third quarter the page [the tables] turned in an almost unimaginable way.
Caption 23, Deutsche Bank Skyliners: Basketball-Bundesliga 


Und das tun die Tiere im Frankfurter Zoo auf ganz unterschiedliche Art und Weise.
And the animals at the Frankfurt Zoo do this in very different ways.
Caption 15, Umfragen: Zootiere im Winter


There are a couple of different ways to express "either way," such as in beiden Fällen or so oder so. 


So oder so, wir werden dann auf alle Fälle mit Ihnen Kontakt aufnehmen.
Either way, we will in any event get in touch with you.
Caption 68, Bewerbung: das Vorstellungsgespräch


Further Learning
Try integrating these phrases in your daily language practice. If you need more examples, do a search on Yabla German.

Continue Reading

Promises, Secrets, and Lies

Quite a few words, phrases, and expressions related to promises, secrets, and lies have popped up in some of Yabla's recent video series. Let's look at some of these, as they can be a useful and fun addition to your vocabulary.


The basic word for a promise is das Versprechen, which stems from the verb versprechen. However, schwören can be used like "to swear" in English to indicate a promise as well:


Er erinnerte sie daran, dass man halten muss, was man verspricht.
He reminded her that you must keep what you have promised.
Caption 66, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Der Froschkönig


Wir haben Flügel, schwören uns ewige Treue
We have wings, we swear eternal loyalty to each other
Caption 18, Andreas Bourani: Auf uns


You may know the noun for "secret" but do you know the adjective for "top secret"?


Wie meinst du das? -Ich kenne dein Geheimnis! -Was?
How do you mean that? -I know your secret! -What?
Caption 37, Das Lügenbüro: Die Bewerbung


Das streng geheime Papier, das in Olbrichts Panzerschrank lagert...
The top secret paper stored in Olbricht's safe...
Caption 3, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944


The expression unter vier Augen means "in private" or "between the two of us":


Ich halte es sowieso für besser, mit Prinz Dietbert unter vier Augen zu sprechen.
I think it is better anyway to speak with Prince Dietbert under four eyes [in private].
Caption 33, Küss mich, Frosch: Leb wohl, kleiner Prinz


You may know the noun die Lüge and the verb lügen, but there is also anlügen, which refers to lying to directly to a person. 


Und wir sind umgezogen, ich hab' dich angelogen    
And we moved, I lied to you
Caption 2, AnnenMayKantereit: Oft gefragt


Further Learning
Practice conjugating the verbs schwören, versprechen, and lügen/anlügen. You can find more examples of these verbs used in real life situations on Yabla German

Continue Reading

Better and better

In last week's newsletter, we looked at the various ways of expressing the adverb "even" in German. We shouldn't forget that adverbs not only describe verbs, but adjectives as well. In this case, "even" is expressed with "noch":


Und mit ein bisschen Unterstützung der Teamkollegen klappt's vielleicht noch besser.
And with a little support from the team members it might work out even better.
Caption 11, Fußball: Torwandschießen


In English we say something is "even better" or that it is getting "better and better." The latter exists in German as well and is often constructed with the verb werden, the word immer, and a comparative adjective. 


Man wird ja immer besser durch die Übung.
You do get better and better through practice. 
Caption 26, Singer-Songwriter: Sebastian Niklaus


As you can see, this construction can be used with most adjectives: 


Sie wird im Spiegel immer kleiner
It gets smaller and smaller in the mirror
Caption 85, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott: Musik sein


Und deshalb wird es auch immer wichtiger werden, dieses auch in Zukunft zu verstärken.
And therefore it is going to become more and more important to also emphasize this in the future.
Caption 35-36, Angela Merkel: beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat 


Sie ist durch die Erweiterung des Flughafens natürlich immer komplexer geworden.
It's become more and more complex through the expansion of the airport, of course.
Caption 35-36, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister: Pläne für 2014


However, make sure to take context of the sentence and the presence or absence of werden into account. The sentence below shows that immer can be combined with an adjective and still just mean "always."


Wenn man gemeinsam reist, ist es immer besser.
It's always better if you travel together.
Caption 20, Traumberuf: Windsurfer


Further Learning
Based on the tips above, how would you translate the phrase immer wieder? Do a search on Yabla German!

Continue Reading

Auch, sogar, selbst: The adverb "even" in German

Auch im zweiten Drittel ließen die Löwen nicht locker.    
Even in the second third of the game, the Löwen did not relax.
Caption 25, Eishockey - Löwen Frankfurt: EC Bad Nauheim


You are likely used to auch meaning "also," but did you know that it can mean "even" as well? There are three words for the adverb "even" that are essentially interchangeable in German: auch, selbst, and sogar. They are often combined with wenn. Below we see that auch wenn means "even if" and sometimes "even though":


Auch wenn es mir mein Herz zerreißt
Even if it tears my heart up
Caption 5, Beatrice Egli: Irgendwann


Doch auch wenn im Film viel Basketball gespielt wird, ein Sportfilm soll es dennoch nicht werden.
But even though a lot of basketball is played in the movie, it is not intended to be a sports movie.
Caption 44-45, Dreharbeiten: zum Film „Playoff“


In a previous lesson, we wrote about how the word selbst is used in the context of a person having made or done something themselves. However, in certain contexts, it is placed in front of the subject and means "even" as well:


Doch selbst bei Temperaturen wie im Kühlschrank...
But even at temperatures like in the refrigerator...
Caption 31, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten


Selbst ausgewachsen werden diese Tintenfische gerade mal zwanzig Zentimeter groß.
Even fully grown, these squid will only become twenty centimeters long.
Caption 28, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


The dual meaning of selbst means that it cannot be used in every sentence, because it would cause confusion. You have likely heard sogar more often:


In Berlin treten die besten von ihnen sogar in Wettkämpfen gegeneinander an.
In Berlin, the best of them even enter into competitions against one another.
Caption 34, Currywurst: Berlins schärfstes Stück


Er kann sogar den Airbus A dreihundertachtzig drücken und ziehen.
It can even push and pull an Airbus A three hundred eighty.
Caption 18, Frankfurter Flughafen: Flugzeugschlepper 


Further Learning
For further examples, just do a simple search, as there are many on Yabla German!
See if you can also find examples of noch, which can also be translated as "even" when it augments an adjective. 

Continue Reading

Using wohl

This week, we'll take a look at the word wohl and its different usages in German. 


The word wohl by itself is used to create a tone of assumption or affirmation in a sentence, meaning "indeed," "likely," "probably," or "apparently." Understanding the exact level of certainty or affirmation involved will require looking at the verb tenses and other context clues in the sentence. 


Und das wird wohl auch erst mal so bleiben.
And it will first also likely stay like that.
Caption 19, Andreas Bourani: Startet durch


Am Ende hat es dann doch wohl gepasst.
In the end, it did indeed fit well.
Caption 65, Clueso: ist endlich erwachsen


Relatedly, the phrase jawohl means "yes, indeed":


Ich finde, hier ist es besser. Jawohl!
I think it's better here. Indeed!
Caption 23, Pettersson und Findus: Pettersson zeltet


At the same time, the word wohl also refers to well-being. We often see the verb sich wohlfühlen, which means to feel "well," "happy," or "comfortable." 


Die Rote Meerbarbe fühlt sich seitdem in der Nordsee wohl.
The red mullet since then, has felt just fine in the North Sea.
Caption 22-23, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen


Alle fühlen sich hier wohl, ist aber nicht ganz meine Musik.
Everyone's feeling comfortable here, but it's not really my type of music.
Caption 38, Deutsche Sporthilfe: Ball des Sports


As you may have guessed, this meaning of wohl relates to the phrase zum Wohl, which is often used in toasts. 


Wenn wir anstoßen, sagen wir „zum Wohl“ oder einfach nur „prost“.
When we clink glasses, we say "to health!" or simply just "cheers!"
Caption 18, Tisch decken: mit Eva


Further Learning
Look for more examples with the word wohl on Yabla German and see if you can integrate it into a sentence the next time you converse or write sentences in German. What do you think the words das Wohlfühlhotel, der Wohlfühleffekt, die Wohlfühloase, der Wohlfühlort or der Wohlfühlanzug might mean?

Continue Reading