German Lessons

Topics

Plural vs. Singular Nouns

This week, we're going to take a look at a few nouns that are automatically plural in English but singular in German. It is important for English speakers to take note of these before the wrong conjugation gets used, or an article gets left out.

 

A classic example of this is die Brille, which unlike its English translation "the glasses" is singular in German:

 

Wo ist meine Brille?
Where are my glasses?
Caption 3, Nicos Weg - Folge 21: Was ist das?

 

As you can see, the third person singular form of sein is used with die Brille, and NOT the third person plural like in English. Die Brillen sind... would indicate multiple pairs of glasses.

 

There are quite a few of these nouns, for example, die Hosedas Geschirr, and die Schere:

 

Ich habe mir auch gleich eine neue Hose gekauft.
I just bought myself new trousers as well.
Caption 23, Pettersson und Findus: Eine Geburtstagstorte für die Katze 

 

Hier gibt's viel Geschirr, aber ich glaube, Christiane hat genug Geschirr.    
There are a lot of dishes here, but I believe Christiane has enough dishes.    
Caption 37, Fine: bringt ihre Sachen vorbei

 

Das hier ist eine Schere, mit der kann ich Metall schneiden. 
These here are scissors with which I can cut metal. 
Caption 5, Feuerwehr Heidelberg: Löschfahrzeug

 

While we say "the police are" in English, the noun is actually singular in German. Take a look at the conjugation of ermitteln below:

 

Die Polizei ermittelt wegen Hausfriedensbruch.
The police are investigating because of criminal trespassing.
Caption 12, Atomkraft: Streit um AKW-Laufzeiten
 

 

Further Learning
Take a note of any similar nouns you find on Yabla German and make sure to memorize them. Can you find any nouns that follow the opposite pattern?

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Some German Sayings

Let's take a look this week at some German idioms as outlined in the Yabla video series Eva erklärt Sprichwörter

 

Wenn du so dreinschaust, ist nicht gut Kirschen essen mit dir.
When you look like that, it's not good to eat cherries with you.
Caption 41, Marga Engel schlägt zurück

 

The above saying has little to do with the pleasant pastime of eating cherries, but as Eva explains: 

 

Wenn mit jemandem nicht gut Kirschen essen ist, dann meinen wir damit eine unfreundliche Person.
If it's not good to eat cherries with someone, then we mean by that an unfriendly person.
Captions 10-11, Eva erklärt: Sprichwörter

 

From eating cherries, we move up to the nose:

 

Früher habe ich Fußball gemocht, aber seit dem gestrigen Halbfinale hab ich die Nase voll!
I used to like soccer, but since yesterday's semi-finals, I have the nose full!
Captions 22-23,  Konjugation: Das Verb „mögen“

 

The person above is not literally suffering from nasal congestion, but rather:

 

Wenn man die Nase voll hat, dann bedeutet das, dass man auf eine bestimmte Situation keine Lust mehr hat, verärgert ist oder einer Sache überdrüssig wird.

 

If you have your nose full, then it means that you have no more patience for a certain situation, are annoyed, or have become weary of a matter.
Captions 34-36, Eva erklärt: Sprichwörter

 

And lastly we go from nasal situations to an apparent lack of pigs:

 

„Das“, sagte Frederick, „tja... das weiß kein Schwein.“
"That," said Frederick, "well... no pig knows that."
Captions 39-40, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Fernweh

 

„So lange Vorderfüße hat doch kein Schwein und damit basta!“    
"But no pig has such long front feet, and that's the end of it!"
Caption 38, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unendlichkeit

 

Vom Schwein spricht man übrigens auch, wenn man Desinteresse ausdrücken möchte. Dann sagt man: „Das interessiert doch kein Schwein.“
By the way, you also speak about pigs when you want to express disinterest. Then you say: "But no pig is interested in that."
Captions 55-56, Eva erklärt: Sprichwörter

 

The simplest straightforward translation of the idiom kein Schwein is thus "no-one."

 

Further Learning
Kein Schwein should be misunderstanding German idioms: Go to Yabla German and watch the Eva erklärt Sprichwörter series and find other examples of these expressions in different contexts. Later in the month we will be bringing you some more examples of idioms from this Yabla series!

 

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For the Sake of Learning German

As you certainly know by now, a German adjective in the nominative or subject case for a masculine noun with an indefinite article usually takes an -er as an ending. 

 

For example, with the adjective halb:

 

...ein halber Teelöffel über drei Stücke Wurst.
... a half a teaspoon on three pieces of sausage.
Caption 39, Currywurst: Berlins schärfstes Stück

 

So ein halber Marathon sind 20 Kilometer.
Such a half marathon is 20 kilometers.
Caption 10, Internationale Automobilausstellung: IAA in Frankfurt öffnet die Pforten

 

Ein halber Mond versinkt vor mir.
A half moon sinks before me.
Caption 17, Tokio Hotel: Durch den Monsun

 

From knowing that the adjective halb, seen here as halber, means "half," you might make a mistake when you see a word of the same spelling in some other contexts: 

 

Der Ordnung halber... 

 

When you find a noun in the genitive case followed by halber, this is the preposition halber and means "for the sake of..." The above could be translated as "for the sake of orderliness" or "for the sake of clarity." Here are few other examples: 

 

Der Einfachheit halber = for the sake of simplicity
Der Transparenz halber = for the sake of transparency
Der Vollständigkeit halber = for the sake of completeness
Der Datenqualität halber = for the sake of data quality
Der Ehrlichkeit halber  = for the sake of honesty

 

In some cases, the use of the adjective halber became so common that it fused with a noun to become an adjectival suffix, or the ending of an adjective. The meaning that the suffix -halber lends a word is usually the same as the adjective: 

 

gerechtigkeitshalber = der Gerechtigkeit halber = for the sake of justice
sicherheitshalber = der Sicherheit halber = for the sake of security

 

But sometimes it can have a slightly different meaning as the cause of something rather than for the sake of something: 

 

krankheitshalber = because of illness
umständehalber = due to circumstances

 

Further Learning
Go to the German Duden dictionary and read the definitions of the adjective halber and the adjectival suffix halber. See if you can translate the title of this lesson to proper German, too! (Hint: it will use the genitive case of das Deutschlernen.)

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Winter Clothing

This year, it has been an unusually warm fall in Germany. Even in early October, there were some days in the high 60s (Fahrenheit, between 17 and 21 degrees celsius). However, there have been some very chilly, windy days recently, and Germans have finally had to get out their winter clothing to be prepared for lower temperatures.

 

Let’s go from head to toe and take a look at what items you need to brave the German winter.

 

There are two words for “the hat” in German, but only one of them is associated with the wool knit caps that are worn in the cold months.

 

Und im Winter braucht man unbedingt eine Mütze.
And in the winter you absolutely need a cap.
Caption 24, Eva: zeigt uns Kleidungsstücke

 

Although some may prefer a daintier version (das Tuch, which is usually a thinner scarf or kerchief) even in the summer, a warm scarf or shawl (der Schal) is a must for the winter. 

 

Was ist denn los? -Mir ist so kalt. Schenk mir doch deinen Schal!
What then is the matter? -I am so cold. Give me your shawl!
Caption 23, Märchenstunde: Die Sterntaler

 

Of course, a warm coat (der Mantel) or a jacket (die Jacke) is essential to any winter outfit. There are many options depending on the weather conditions. You can likely recognize the words der Wollmantelder Daunenmanteldie Daunenjacke, or die Regenjacke without our help!

 

Es ist kalt. Ich trage einen Mantel.
It is cold. I'm wearing a coat
Caption 14, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Fragen

 

Der Handschuh is the singular form, but unless you've lost one, generally the plural for of "the gloves" is what you will use.  Here, compound nouns also abound: such as die Strickhandschuhedie Fleece-Handschuhedie Lederhandschuhe, among others. 

 

Giada, ist dir kalt? -Ja. -Möchtest du Handschuhe haben?
Giada, are you cold? -Yes. -Would you like to have some gloves?
Caption 82, Unterwegs mit Cettina: auf dem Bruchsaler Weihnachtsmarkt

 

And for rain and snow, you will want a good pair of boots for those slippery cobblestone streets. 

 

Und er trägt wirklich Stiefel? Das muss ich sehen!
And is he really wearing boots? This I have to see!
Caption 29, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Der gestiefelte Kater
 

Further Learning
Watch the video Eva: zeigt uns Kleidungsstücke in its entirety on Yabla German. To
to immerse yourself even more, take a look at a website that sells outerwear and do some window shopping. You will learn a lot of new words and compound nouns as you scroll through the various items.

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In a German Restaurant

Some of the most practical German words that you can use immediately upon arrival in a German-speaking country (don't forget that German is spoken in Austria and Switzerland too!) are related to ordering food. When you first enter a restaurant, the waitstaff may invite you to take a seat: 

 

Nehmen Sie bitte Platz.
Please have a seat.
Caption 35, Das Lügenbüro: Die Bewerbung

 

You may then be offered a menu: 

 

Die Speisekarte, bitte schön. -Danke schön.    
Here's the menu. -Thank you.
Caption 7, Abendessen: mit Marko

 

Note that another word for menu is das Menü, and sometimes Speisekarte is shortened simply to die Karte. When you are ready to order, you may inform the waitstaff:

 

Wir würden gerne bestellen, bitte.
We would like to order, please.    
Caption 47, Melanie und Thomas: im Restaurant

 

Those of you with dietary restrictions may wish to discuss some menu items: 

 

Kichererbsenbuletten sind das, ist auch vegetarisch, rein vegan ist das... ohne tierische Produkte.
Those are chick pea burgers, it's also vegetarian, it's purely vegan... without animal products.
Captions 26-28, Jonathan Johnson: Nahöstliches Essen in Berlin

 

Then there are several ways you can express your order to the waitstaff: 

 

Ich hätte gerne eine Berliner Kartoffelsuppe.
I would like a Berlin potato soup.
Caption 21, Abendessen: mit Marko

 

Dann nehmen wir doch die Apfelküchle mit Vanilleeis.    
Then we'll take the apple pies with vanilla ice cream after all.
Caption 43, Melanie und Thomas: im Restaurant

 

Before you begin eating: 

 

Zu Beginn der Mahlzeit sagen wir „guten Appetit“.
At the beginning of the meal we say "Enjoy your meal."
Caption 19, Tisch decken: mit Eva 

 

And when you are ready to pay, you can simply say bezahlen, bitte or die Rechnung, bitte. If you wish to pay with a credit card, you may ask: 

 

Kann ich auch mit Kreditkarte bezahlen?
Can I also pay with a credit card?
Caption 7, Diane: auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt 

 

If you need a receipt for tax or expense account purposes, after you pay you can ask for eine Quittung, bitte. As for tipping in Germany, you may want to read this Yabla lesson!

 

Further Learning
There are a lot of Yabla German videos related to food. Here are a few for you to start with!

Abendessen: mit Marko

Apfelpfannkuchen: mit Alina und Sabine

Grillzeit: Grill anzünden und los geht's

Jonathan Johnson: Nahöstliches Essen in Berlin

Käsespätzle: mit Eva

Kochhaus Berlin: Rucola-Salat-Rezept

Melanie und Thomas: im Restaurant

Tisch decken: mit Eva

Weihnachtsessen: mit Eva

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The verb setzen

While studying German, you have probably confronted both sitzen and setzen. Generally, the verb sitzen is quite straightforward in simply meaning "to sit," or more specifically "to be sitting." The reflexive verb sich setzen is also translated as "to sit" but refers to the action of sitting down (there is also the verb sich hinsetzen which can be more or less a synonym). 

 

Wir sitzen hier am Strand in der Nähe von Todos Santos und sind am Meer.
We are sitting here on the beach near Todos Santos and are by the sea.
Caption 3, Anna: Am Strand in Mexiko

 

Wo setzen wir uns denn hin? -Setzen wir uns da drüben hin. -OK.
Where should we seat ourselves then? -Let's sit over there.
Caption 1, Fernsehmoderatorin: Sonya Kraus

 

To remember the distinction, it is perhaps helpful to consider that setzen as a non-reflexive verbs means "to put," "to place," or "to set." 

 

Die helfen mir, noch leichter Ziele zu setzen.
They help me to set goals even more easily.
Caption 15, Gamification: Wie Spielen den Alltag interessanter macht 

 

Setzen is also the root of a multitude of verbs. Take a look at the following examples with einsetzen ("to use," "to implement"), absetzen (which is used in many contexts, from "to deduct" something for your taxes to "to remove" a pair of glasses), and besetzen ("to occupy").

 

Früher hat man mehr als zwei-, dreitausend Liter eingesetzt für einen Wohnungsbrand.
In the past they used more than two or three thousand liters for an apartment fire.
Caption 88, Feuerwehr Heidelberg: Löschfahrzeug

 

Den Helm hatte er abgesetzt, weil es so heiß war.
He'd taken off the helmet because it was so hot.
Caption 53, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

 

Man sollte keine Plätze besetzen mit Taschen oder mit Jacken, damit andere Gäste sich hinsetzen können.
You shouldn't occupy seats with bags or with jackets so that other guests can sit down.
Caption 33-34, Unterwegs mit Cettina: Bahn fahren

 

Further Learning
Here is a list of verbs with setzen as their root for your perusal. Look for examples of some of these verbs, such as aufsetzen, durchsetzen, or umsetzen, on Yabla German. Try to searching for their participles as well!

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Tipping in Germany

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Further Learning
Read this German Wikipedia article on Servicewüste Deutschland, and see if you can understand it all without having to peek at the English version. Then go to Yabla German to search for "restaurant" to find some examples of German used in a restaurant context. For more restaurant vocabulary, see this article about eating at restaurants in Germany.

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Nuances of wohnen and leben

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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For a Long Time — Until Now

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

lange Zeit:

 

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

 

seit langer Zeit:

 

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

 

or simply lange

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Expressing the conditional in German

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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All about the preposition zeit, Part II

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

zeit meines Lebens ("all of my life")

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Wann, wenn, ob, and falls

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Handeln and um etwas handeln

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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German Xenonyms

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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"Pulling Balance"

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Gelegenheit, Angelegenheit and gelegen

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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All about dabei

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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False friends with hören

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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