German Lessons


Wake Up and Smell the Roses

In last week's lesson, we discussed how translating animal names directly may not be wise, and the same applies to flora as well. If you were to directly translate the German word for "dandelion" into English, for example, you would wind up with "lion's tooth" (der Löwenzahn). You may be relieved, however, to recall that, as poet Gertrud Stein once famously wrote: "A rose is a rose is a rose." Or as the case may be, eine Rose


With spring hopefully just around the corner, let's take a look at some flower names as they appear in some Yabla German videos. 


Eine Kornblume mit vielen Blütengeschwistern.
A cornflower with many sibling blossoms.
Caption 30, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unkraut


Das Stoppelfeld, die Sonnenblume, schläfrig am Zaun…
The stubbled field, the sunflower, sleepy against the fence…
Captions 8-9, Sabine und Ivana: Gedichte im Bus


Er hat sich die Tulpen überallher bringen lassen. 
He had tulips brought in from all over the world. 
Caption 52, Karlsruher Stadtgeburtstag: die Majolika-Manufaktur


The above are quite easy examples, in that they are either coincidentally correct as direct English translations or, in the case of "tulips," are very similar words. 


Further Learning
Take a look at this list of German flower names and see how many you can guess correctly without having to look them up. Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for the first flower of spring...

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Avoiding Animal Names Confusion

You may come across the names of some unusual animals on German Yabla, especially in some of the nature series like Abenteuer Nordsee. One problem with a lot of animal names is that the German name, if translated directly word for word, may actually be a completely different animal altogether. 

Ein Butterfisch lauert auf Beute.
A rock gunnel fish lies in wait for prey.
Caption 39, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

If you look up der Butterfisch on German Wikipedia, you see that they are part of the Pholidae fish species. If you had translated the name to the English "butterfish," however, you would have wound up mistakenly referring to a completely different fish of the Stromateidae species. A German Butterfisch is in fact a "rock gunnel fish" in English, and an English "butterfish" is a Medusenfisch in German. Looking up an animal's name on German Wikipedia and then going to the equivalent English Wikipedia page (or vice versa, of course) is a good way to be sure you are getting the animals' names right! 

Ein Steinpicker sucht mit seinen Barteln nach Fressbarem.    
A hooknose fish is searching with its barbels for edibles.
Caption 27, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

The German term der Steinpicker may translate directly to something like "stone picker," but in English no such species name exists, and as you see above, it's referring to the "hooknose fish."

Taschenkrebse, die berühmten Helgoländer „Knieper“, brechen Bohrmuscheln aus dem Kalkstein.
Brown crabs, the famous Heligoland pinchers, are breaking false angel wing clams out from the limestone.
Captions 29-30, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

The example above has two animals which might easily be misidentified, der Taschenkrebs and die Bohrmuschel, which you might be tempted to translate as "pocket crab" and "drill mussel" respectively, but you'd be wrong if you did: neither of these animal names exist in English! In fact, der Taschenkrebs is a "brown crab" or "edible crab," and die Bohrmuschel is not a mussel at all, but a "false angel wing clam."

Further Learning
Watch or re-watch the Abenteuer Nordsee series on Yabla German and pay special attention to the names of animals. Read more about these animals on German Wikipedia and expand your German vocabulary at the same time!

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Twenty-Dollar German Words

The landmark writer's guide The Elements of Style states that you should "not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready, and able." German, however, has quite a number of words that "are so long that they have a perspective," as Mark Twain once wrote. The longest word actually included in the Duden German dictionary is die Kraft­fahr­zeug-Haft­pflicht­ver­si­che­rung (auto liability insurance), with 35 letters. There are, however, many longer words that are acceptable to use although not listed in Duden, such as die Verkehrsinfrastrukturfinanzierungsgesellschaft  (traffic infrastructure financing society) and das Elektrizitätswirtschaftsorganisationsgesetz (electricity economy organization law). Such "20 euro" words are not only found in written German, but also in spoken German, as evidenced by these Yabla German videos!

Auf Weltmeisterschaftsebene sind wir so Mittelfeld, unteres Mittelfeld...
At World Cup level, we are about midfield, lower midfield...
Caption 70, Frisbee: Karlsruher Weihnachtsturnier

Außerdem kann man hierzulande manche Reisestrecke auch ohne Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung erfahren.
In addition, you can, in this country, experience some travel routes also without a speed limit.
Captions 22-23, Reiseland Deutschland: Vielfalt im Herzen Europas

Wir haben die gesetzliche Verpflichtung, regelmäßig die Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkungen auf den hessischen Autobahnen zu überprüfen.
We have the legal obligation to check the speed limits on the Hessian autobahns regularly.
Captions 10-11, Deutsche Autobahnen: Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen

Ein Porsche dreihundertsechsundfünfzig B eintausendsechshundert GS Carrera GTL Coupé, Baujahr neunzehnhundertsechzig hat einen Versicherungswert von sechshundertfünfzigtausend Euro.
A Porsche three hundred fifty-six B one thousand six hundred GS Carrera GTL coupé, built in nineteen hundred sixty, has an insurance value of six hundred and fifty thousand euros.
Captions 57-59, Porsche 356: Der erste Porsche

So as you can see, in common conversation about sports and cars and numbers (or a combination thereof), it is possible to find some "mouthfuls" indeed. 

Further Learning
Read some of these fun articles about long German words at The Week and Time, and if you are feeling brave, read this Duden article about writing words together or separately. 

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Bear Trainers on their Legs

If the headline above sounds pretty odd, it's because it's a literal word-for-word translation of a slang expression and an idiom taken from this week's exciting installment of Großstadtrevier. This series has consistently merited a difficulty rating of 4, due in part to its heavy usage of idioms and slang. Let's take a look at some examples from this week's release. 

Das macht nix.
That doesn't matter.
Caption 5, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

The usual expression das macht nichts is spoken here with the slang word nix used instead of nichts, a form you would usually only see in spoken and very casual written German.

Jannik Sternberg hat dieses Zeug die ganze Zeit geschluckt
Jannik Sternberg was swallowing [slang, taking] this stuff the whole time.
Caption 9, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

 The verb schlucken, in its standard definition, means "to swallow." Here, however, it is a slang usage referring to the consumption of medications. A corresponding English slang translation would be "to down," as in "downing drinks."

Die sind auf dieser Baustelle bis zum Anschlag mit Wachmachern vollgepumpt.
They were pumped full of "awake-makers" [slang, stimulants] to the limit at this construction site.
Caption 11, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

The slang noun der Wachmacher refers to a stimulant medication, which we translated literally as an "awake-maker." A literary English slang translation might be "pep pills."

Ich bin kein guter Bärenführer
I’m not a good bear trainer [slang, job trainer]. 
Caption 45, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

Ich bin seit über vierundzwanzig Stunden auf den Beinen und überhaupt nich' müde.    
I have been on my legs [idiom, busy working] for twenty-four hours and I'm not at all tired.
Caption 3, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

The noun der Bärenführer standardly means "the bear trainer," but in slang usage connotes a job trainer. To be auf den Beinen, literally "on your legs," means to be busy and active. An good English literary translation could be "on your feet." A proper translation for this week's odd headline could be "Job Trainers on their Feet" or "Busy, Active Job Trainers."

Further Learning
Watch some past episodes of Großstadtrevier and review your understanding of some of the many idiomatic and slang expressions to be found in this interesting crime drama.

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Syllabic Abbreviations in German

A syllabic abbreviation is formed by taking the first syllable of several words and putting them together. It is a common practice in German that is rarely used in English. One English syllabic abbreviation you may recognize is Interpol, formed from "international police." You may not have known that the word for the Nazi secret police terror organization the Gestapo comes from a syllabic abbreviation of die Geheime Staatspolizei. Note that the gender of a German abbreviation is determined by the main noun of the word it is derived from, hence die Gestapo.  Let's take a brief look at some other common German syllabic abbreviations.

Stasi-Akten aus dem Schredder...
Stasi files from the shredder...
Caption 2, DDR zum Anfassen: Ganz tief im Westen

The notorious East German secret police die Stasi also had their own syllabic abbreviation, in this case formed from die Staatssicherheit, the Ministry of State Security.

Das sind Fragen für die Kripo, nicht für uns. 
Those are questions for the criminal investigation department, not for us. 
Caption 14, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

In this case, die Kripo is derived from die Kriminalpolizei, the department of the police that specializes in criminal investigations. But let's get away from the police while we still can! 

Du musst in die Kita.    
You have to go to daycare.
Caption 14, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder

Ironic, considering its German origin, that the most common German word for a daycare center is not der Kindergarten, but rather die Kita, an abbreviation of die Kindertagesstätte.

Ich stehe hier vor dem Audimax.
I am standing here in front of the main lecture hall.
Caption 28, Universität: Karlsruhe

At the university level, the term das Audimax is standard student parlance for the largest lecture hall of a given university, and in this case is an abbreviation of the Latin term auditorium maximum.

Further Learning
Take a look at this German article about syllabic abbreviations and go to German Yabla to find some of the words and phrases used in context.  

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Some German Abbreviations & Acronyms

At Yabla, we like to write out words in their entirety (for instance, 2016 is zweitausendsechzehn) in our video captions so that you can learn them better. But you may also come across abbreviations and acronyms in German articles that you are reading, so it's not a bad idea to catch up on some of the more common ones. (An acronym is an abbreviation too, but it's used in speaking.) You won't find many actual abbreviations in Yabla videos since they aren't usually spoken, but there are plenty of examples where words or phrases would be abbreviated if they were in standard written form! 

Unterschrift, Stempel und so weiter und so weiter, ne?    
Signature, stamp, and so forth and so on, right?
Caption 23, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

One of the most common abbreviations of all is usw., which is short for und sweiter, and pretty much interchangeable (even in German) with "etc."

Merkel hat noch TÜV bis zweitausenddreizehn.
Merkel still has a TÜV that's valid until two thousand thirteen.
Caption 33, Der Merkelpilot: der kleine Mann, der es macht

If your car won't pass the TÜV (an acronym, with the "Ü" pronounced like the "oo" in "foot") inspection in Germany, you'd better get it fixed or get rid of it, because you can't drive it on the street without the certificate from the Technical Inspection Organization or Technischer Überwachungs-Verein. This non-profit organization (eingetragener Verein or e. V.), responsible for overseeing technical inspection procedures in Germany, even owns a registered trademark on the term. Hopefully Chancellor Merkel will get her TÜV approved this year! 

Wir sind sehr zuversichtlich beziehungsweise sehr froh auch.
We are very confident, or rather, very happy too.

Caption 26, Strothoff International School: Interview mit dem Rektor

The word beziehungsweise is often shortened to bzw. in informal writing, and is one of the most commonly abbreviated German words. It's also a very effective word that has no single-word equivalent in English, meaning "and/or" all in a single word. It's a bit tricky to translate because "and/or" is just not an elegant solution, so it's often translated as "respectively" or "alternately."

The undisputed champion of German acronyms, however, must be "for example": 

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

"For example" or zum Beispiel takes the acronym z. B., and this being German, don't forget to capitalize the "B" even in its short form! 

Further Learning
Take a look at this list of common German abbreviations and  go to German Yabla to find some of the words and phrases used in context.

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German Idioms and Slang

As always, Yabla's German videos show how the language is spoken in a real world context, offering you a lively selection of idioms and slang. Here are some examples from this week's new videos.

So, dann geht's jetzt ans Eingemachte
So then, it's getting to the preserves [to the matter at hand].
Caption 3, Pastewka: Cantz fährt betrunken Auto

In its standard definition, the noun das Eingemachte means canned or jarred food preserves (especially fruit), but in slang usage it means "getting to the matter at hand." An English equivalent might be "getting down to brass tacks."

Frau Korff verarscht uns nach Strich und Faden.    
Ms. Korff is fooling us after stitch and thread [idiom, thoroughly].
Caption 14, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

The idiom of doing something nach Strich und Faden means to do something very thoroughly. There are no equivalents in English related to sewing, but a literary translation of this might be "to go through something with a fine-toothed comb."

Mann, jetzt halt doch einfach mal die Fresse.    
Man, now simply just shut your mouth.
Caption 37, Pastewka: Cantz fährt betrunken Auto

The noun die Fresse, described by Duden dictionary as derb ("coarse" or "crude"), means the mouth or the face. It is derived from the verb fressen, which means "to devour," but is also used as the verb "to eat" when referring to animals. The phrase die Fresse halten, or literally "hold your mouth," is a definite request to stop talking!

Further Learning
Brush up on your German idioms on this Wikipedia page and go to German Yabla to find the phrases used in context in some Yabla videos.

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German Cognate Verbs from English

cognate is a word that has its origins in a word from another language, and there are many verbs in German that have their roots in the English language. Some of these German verbs have in common the fact that they end with -ieren, are usually weak verbs, and usually do not use the prefix ge- in the past participle.

Many English verbs that end in consonants can be turned into German verbs by adding the suffix -ieren, such as "to profit":

Davon profitieren wir jetzt natürlich.
We're profiting from this, of course.
Caption 2, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder

Sometimes you drop a "y" from an English verb and add -ieren to make it German, such as "to study": 

Ab dem Wintersemester möchte ich Medizin studieren.
Starting in the winter semester I would like to study medicine.
Caption 23, Konstantin: ein Freiwilliger in Israel

Many English verbs ending in -ize can simply take the German -isieren ending, such as "to organize": 

Vor jedem Event muss man alles organisieren.    
Before every event one has to organize everything.
Caption 37, Traumberuf: Windsurfer

Further Learning
Take a few English verbs such as to alarm, to dominate, to export, to exist, to modernize, to probe, to reserve, and to ventilate, and see if you can construct German verbs from them based on the ideas above, then go to German Yabla and find the words used in a real world context. 

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All About Anniversaries

This week marks the 100th Yabla German lesson, and in celebration we'd like to offer you some examples of the German word das Jubiläum in context. 

2010 feierte der Klassiker unter den deutschen Volksfesten zweihundertjähriges Jubiläum.
In 2010, the classic among the German folk festivals celebrated its two hundred year anniversary.
Captions 26-27, Reiseland Deutschland: Vielfalt im Herzen Europas

In German, das Jubiläum can mean not only the anniversary, but the party or celebration for the anniversary as well: 

Ich bin heute hier in der Rockfabrik in Bruchsal zu dem dreißigjährigen Jubiläum.    
Today I am here in the Rock Factory in Bruchsal for the thirtieth anniversary celebration.
Caption 2, Rockfabrik Open-Air: Demons-Eye-Interview

Das Jubiläum can also, like many German words, be used to form a compound word.

2014 ist ja das große Jubiläumsjahr der Rapper.    
2014 is, indeed, the rapper's big anniversary year.
Caption 2, Thomas D: Der Aufstieg und Fall des Tommy Blank

Further Learning
Brush up on your usage of typical celebration words like Prostfeiern, and Sekt on Yabla German and see if you can properly translate these compound words that are formed with das Jubiläumdie Jubiläumsausgabedie Jubiläumsausstellungdie Jubiläumsfeierdas Jubiläumsheftdas Jubiläumsspiel, and die Jubiläumsveranstaltung.

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Some German Business Idioms

This week's dramatic installment of the German TV series Mama arbeitet wieder has some good examples of German idioms in a context that makes them easy to understand. Let's take a quick look!

Kann sich der Grünschnabel erst mal die Hörner abstoßen.
The greenhorn can first shed his horns.
Caption 30, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder

The phrase die Hörner abstoßen translates directly as "to shed the horns" and alludes to an old German student hazing ritual, in which a newcomer has to put on horns like a goat and knock them off as a sign of maturity. In this case, it means "to gain some experience."

Wird Zeit, dass wir da runterkommen und den Laden auf Trab bringen.
It's time that we get down there and bring the shop to a trot.
Caption 31, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder

Here you'll find two idiomatic usages. The noun der Laden usually refers to a shop, but is often used in a slang way to indicate any kind of business or even a specific project. The noun der Trab, which is a nominalization of the verb traben, means "trot" as in "a horse breaks into a trot." To bring den Laden auf Trab thus refers to bringing their "business operation up to speed."

Further Learning
If you haven't been keeping up with Mama arbeitet wieder, now is the time to start! Go to this Yabla German video page to see the entire series.

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Weak Masculine Nouns Not Ending in -e

Most nouns that are masculine and end in -e in their nominative singular form are called weak nouns, or schwache Substantive. Since most German nouns ending in -e are feminine, these exceptions are easy to recognize. There are, however, also weak nouns that don't end in -e in the nominative singular form, and these are harder to recognize. Many of these words are very similar to their English equivalents and relate to professions or politics. They can often be recognized by the fact that they end in -ant or -ist. 

What sets them apart from other nouns is the fact that in all cases except for nominative, they end in -en or -n.

Here's an example of the weak noun der Präsident with the -en ending in the singular dative case: 

Ich habe auch mit dem französischen Präsidenten darüber gesprochen.
I've also talked to the French President about this.
Caption 68: Angela Merkel: beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat

And the weak noun der Elefant in the singular accusative case:

Frederick, zeig mir einen Elefanten!
Frederick, show me an elephant!
Caption 3, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Elefant

And finally, der Mensch in the singular genitive case: 

Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar.
The dignity of a human being is inviolable.
Caption 38, Integration von Nationalitäten: Hessen miteinander

Further Learning
Visit this page to see more examples of weak nouns, and visit Yabla German to find more examples of weak masculine nouns in practice.

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Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

We've gone into detail about the German phrase of "sliding" (rutschen) into the New Year in a lesson last year, so let's instead take a quick peek at two new videos that Yabla is releasing in celebration of Silvester — and I don't mean "Sylvester and Tweetie!"

Was machen wir eigentlich an Silvester?    
What are we actually doing on New Year's Eve?
Caption 2, Im Zoo: Der Jahreswechsel für die Tiere

A major part of New Year celebrations in many countries is the shooting off of fireworks and firecrackers. Der Böller is a firecracker, and "to set off a firecracker" is the verb böllern. If we turn this verb into a noun or nominalize it, it becomes das Böllern

Fester Bestandteil: meist das Anstoßen auf das neue Jahr und das Böllern.
An integral part: usually the toast to the new year and the setting off of firecrackers.
Caption 4, Im Zoo: Der Jahreswechsel für die Tiere

And of course parties are a key part of the celebration: 

Der Neujahrsempfang ist aber auch die ideale Plattform, um gute Neuigkeiten bekannt zu machen.    
The New Year's reception is indeed also the ideal platform for announcing some good news.
Captions 3-4, Rhein-Main-TV: FSV-Neujahrsempfang

You may also see it described as die Silvesterparty or das Neujahrsfest. Either way, have fun — but not so much that you'll regret it the next day! 

Further Learning
Visit Yabla German to find more examples of typical New Year's terms like das Anstoßen and das Feuerwerk.

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Fröhliche Weihnachten von Yabla!

It's Christmas time again and in the spirit of the season, Yabla has three new videos with a Yuletide theme. Let's take a quick look at some highlights and expand our holiday vocabulary.

The literal translation of the German version of "Christmas Eve" is "Holy Eve": der Heilige Abend or even der Heiligabend.

Gehen Sie da direkt am Heiligen Abend zu Ihrem Sohn? 
Are you going to your son's house right on Christmas Eve?
Caption 26, Weihnachtsinterviews: Diane in Karlsruhe

Another holiday eve with which you may be less familiar is Saint Nicholas' Eve: der Nikolausabend. You can read more about the European traditions associated with this holiday on Wikipedia

Bald ist Nikolausabend da.    
Soon Saint Nicholas' Eve will be here.
Caption 11, Weihnachtslieder: Lasst uns froh und munter sein

The phrase "Bitte nehmen Sie Platz" is an invitation to sit down or literally "take a place." And although das Plätzchen is indeed the diminutive of der Platz, in this case we're not talking about sitting down at all — we're talking about baked goods! 

Ich will ein Plätzchen nehmen. 
I want to take a cookie.
Caption 28, Weihnachtslieder Detlev Jöcker: Heute wird gebacken

Further Learning
Practice your German by singing a Christmas song or two for your family and friends, and find even more videos about Weihnachten on Yabla German.

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German: besonders, besonderes or Besonderes ... ?

German language beginners may easily get besonders, besonderes, and Besonderes confused, since they sound nearly the same and have only minor differences in spelling. Once you learn the grammar behind the different spellings, however, you should be able to easily distinguish the reasons for the spelling differences. 

The adverb besonders (and remember, adverbs modify adjectives as well as verbs), usually translated as "particularly" or "especially," is spelled in lower case (except at the beginning of a sentence) and without the third "e" before the "s."  It will only be used with this spelling as an adverb:

So was zum Beispiel läuft besonders gut.
Something like this, for instance, is going particularly well.
Caption 15, Auftrumpfen: Mit Kitsch und Protz

The adjective besondere (only written with "-s" in its nominative neuter form) is usually translated as "special" or "particular." It is always written in lower case except when it is the first word in a sentence. It will, like all German adjectives, have different endings depending on whether it's in the nominative, dative, accusative, or genitive case, and depending on whether the noun it modifies is feminine, masculine or neuter, and singular or plural.

Here's an example of the adjective besondere in the singular genitive (feminine) case:

Einen Wettlauf der besonderen Art liefern sich der britische Milliardär Richard Branson und Hollywood-Regisseur James Cameron.
A race of a special kind is being carried out by the British billionaire Richard Branson and Hollywood director James Cameron.
Caption 2, Expedition Marianengraben: Zum tiefsten Punkt der Erde

The word Besonderes, always written capitalized and with the extra "e" before the last "s," is a nominalized adjective, which is an adjective that has been turned into a noun. Note that nominalized adjectives in German are not necessarily so in English! In German, it is usually preceded by either etwas or was (meaning "something" in this context) or the word nichts (meaning "nothing"). 

In vielen Familien ist es an Weihnachten Tradition, dass es etwas Besonderes zum Essen gibt.
In many families, it is a tradition at Christmas that there is something special to eat.
Caption 3, Weihnachtsessen: mit Eva

Further Learning
To review: besonders is an adverb, besondere (with possible declensions ending with -r, -s, -n, -m) is an adjective, and Besonderes is a nominalized adjective. For more in-depth information on how German turns non-nouns into nouns, read this paper. Then visit Yabla German and search for examples of the above words as spoken in a real world context. 

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Weak Masculine Nouns Ending in -e

Most nouns that are masculine and end in -e in their nominative singular form are called weak nouns, or schwache Substantive. They are often nouns that refer to nationalities, animals, or professions, such as der Schwede, der Löwe or der Psychologe. Since most German nouns ending in -e are feminine, these exceptions are easy to recognize. What sets them apart from other nouns is the fact that in all cases except for nominative, they end in -en. It is obvious that nouns ending in -e will end in -en in plural cases, but this applies to the singular case too!

Here's examples of the weak noun der Junge with the -en ending in different singular cases, starting with dative:

Der Zauberer sah zu dem zitternden Jungen hinab.
The sorcerer looked down at the trembling boy.
Caption 80, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der Zauberlehrling

And again in the singular accusative case: 

Schiffsverkehr... für einen Jungen aus dem Pott klingt das nur bedingt naheliegend.    
Ship traffic... for a boy from the Pit that sounds only conditionally obvious.
Caption 9, Herbert Grönemeyer: stellt sein neues Album vor

And finally in the singular genitive case: 

Der Fisch wurde von der Mutter des kleinen Jungen gekauft.
The fish was bought by the mother of the little boy.
Caption 65, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der standhafte Zinnsoldat

There are also some weak nouns that end in letters other than -e, but more about them later! 

Further Learning
Go to this page to practice your weak noun endings, and visit Yabla German to find more examples of weak masculine nouns in practice.

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wurden vs. würden | konnten vs. könnten

You're not likely to mix up the meaning of wurden with würden (or konnten with könnten) when reading or having a conversation in German, as the context makes it pretty obvious what is meant. But I've noticed occasionally when writing in German that it's important to have a clear sense of the difference between the two.

The words wurden and konnten are the Präteritum / Indikativ (preterite / realis) moods of the verbs werden and können, respectively. The words würden and könnten are the Präteritum / Konjunktiv II (preterite / subjunctive) moods of the verbs werden and können, respectively. 

But all grammatical complications aside, an easy way to remember the difference is that these verb forms do not use the umlaut letter when talking about the actual past, and both words do use the umlaut letter when talking about the conditional present or future.

Sie flohen aus dem Königreich und wurden nie wieder gesehen.
They fled from the kingdom and were never seen again.
Caption 85, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das tapfere Schneiderlein

Wir würden gerne auf eine kleine Clubtour gehen.
We would like to go on a small clubs tour.
Caption 17, Deutsche Bands: Die "No Angels"

Die hungrigen Kinder konnten es kaum erwarten, davon zu essen.
The hungry children could barely wait to eat from it.
Caption 61, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Hänsel und Gretel

„Wir könnten unendlich so weiterlaufen“, antwortete Frederick.
"We could continue walking endlessly like this," answered Frederick.
Caption 10, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unendlichkeit

Got it? An easy way to remember with wurden/würden and konnten/könnten is: if an umlaut letter is present, you are talking about the possible present or future!

Further Learning
Visit Yabla German and watch the two Yabla videos conjugating the verbs werden and können and practice writing some of your own sentences using the different tenses of the verbs.

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What's Mine is Yours

A substantival possessive pronoun is a personal determiner that is used without an accompanying noun, such as "mine," "his" or "hers," "yours," "ours," and "theirs." In English, substantival possessive pronouns sometimes have a different form than standard personal pronouns with a noun: "my" becomes "mine," as in "My wallet is in my bag." "Oh, where is mine?" In German, however, the substantival variant depends upon the inflective ending of the original pronoun that it is replacing. 

Ich nehme mal an, Ihre Schulzeit liegt ähnlich weit zurück wie meine.
I take it your time at school dates, likewise, back as far back as mine.
Caption 1, Sprachschulen: Sprachcaffe Frankfurt

Since he is referring to his time at school (feminine noun, singular nominative case: die Schulzeit), the substantival possessive pronoun is inflected accordingly: meine

Dafür könnt' ich sie bei der Schulbehörde anzeigen, aber dann stünde dein Wort gegen ihres.
I could report her for that to the school authorities, but then it would be your word against hers.    
Caption 15, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche

Although the possessive of das Wort would be ihr Wort, the substantival possessive pronoun adds -es to the neuter singular nominative case. If the substantival possessive pronoun were standing in for a masculine noun, it would add -er for the masculine case. You will most often encounter -es endings on pronouns in the genitive case, so best keep a sharp eye out for this exception!

Further Learning
Visit Yabla German and search for examples of nouns that you can practice turning into substantival possessive pronouns. Check out this site to further practice your pronoun skills! 

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Dragons or Kites?

The German word for "dragon" is der Drache, but the word for "kite" is der Drachen, with an -n at the end. Since the plural for both "kites" and "dragons" is die Drachen, if the definite article is not mentioned, the only way you can tell which word is meant is from the context. This week's new installment of the TV series Großstadtrevier has a good example:

Er wollte die Küche streichen und Maries Drachen reparieren.    
He wanted to paint the kitchen and repair Marie's kite.
Caption 8, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

Er fand überall welche, in Schlössern und Palästen, verhext von Hexen und gefangen von Drachen.    
He found them everywhere, in castles and palaces, bewitched by witches and captured by dragons.
Captions 28, 29: Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

It is pretty clear from the contexts above that it probably isn't Marie's dragon that is being repaired, nor that the people found in the castles were being captured by kites!  

The singular genitive forms are different, however, with "of the dragon" written des Drachen and "of the kite" written des Drachens, with an -s at the end! 

Wir haben einen Garten des friedvollen Drachen.
We have a "Garden of the Peaceful Dragon.”
Caption 18, Das Tollwood-Festival: BAP und Clueso in der Musik-Arena

Further Learning
Visit Yabla German and search for examples of der Drache and der Drachen as used in a real world—or perhaps a purely imaginary—context. 

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