German Lessons


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, 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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Listen up!

Have you noticed that there is not only the verb hören in German, but also anhören and zuhören? Unfortunately, the difference between these three can’t exactly be equated with the difference between “to listen” and “to hear” in English. Let’s try to get to the bottom of how each one is used.  

Hören without any prefixes can actually be translated as both “to hear” and “to listen,” depending on the context. 


Hört ihr es? Mein Wasser fängt gerade an zu kochen.
Do you hear it? My water is just starting to boil.
Caption 35, Cannelloni: mit Jenny


Das haben wohl schon so einige Kinder von ihren Eltern zu hören bekommen.
Quite a few children have gotten to hear that from their parents.
Caption 2, Kochhaus Berlin: Kochen mit Kindern

OK, ich höre. Wer beginnt?
OK, I am listening. Who will begin?
Caption 26, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz


Zuhören is used to describe listening intently or paying attention. 


Du musst genau zuhören, was gesprochen wird.
You have to listen carefully to what is said.
Caption 39, Yabla-Intro: Cettina


Und nun hör zu: Der Sommer ist warm und kurz.
And now listen up. Summer is warm and short.
Caption 29-30, Piggeldy und Frederick: Sommer


Sich etwas anhören describes listening to something specific that requires some time, for example, a song or an album. This is a bit confusing as hören is also used to talk about listening to music. If you understand the difference between sehen and sich etwas ansehen, this may help you with the distinction between hören and sich etwas anhören. Perhaps it is not unlike "to have a good look" or "to have a listen."


Wir möchten uns ein bisschen von seiner Lebensgeschichte anhören.
We would like to hear a bit about his life story.
Caption 4, Dieter Kränzlein: Bildhauer


Und was erwartet uns, wenn wir uns das Album anhören?
And what awaits us [can we expect] when we listen to the album?
Caption 13, Sons of Sounds: Open-Air in Karlsruhe


At the same time, sich anhören is also used to talk about something (for example, an idea or suggestion) that “sounds good” or “sounds bad.” Take a look at the structures below: 


OK, das hört sich gut an. Ich komme gerne mit.
OK, that sounds good. I'll gladly come along.
Caption 44, Diane erklärt: Fragewörter


Im Präteritum würde sich das ungefähr so anhören.
In the preterite, it would sound like this.
Caption 31, Konjugation: Das Verb „mögen“


Now for a false friend alert: The verb überhören does not mean "to overhear" in the English sense. It actually means to ignore or miss something one has heard. 


Further Learning
Search Yabla German for more examples of these verbs to develop your understanding of how they are used. Next week, we’ll look at a few words that contain the word hören, but have little to do with listening or hearing.  

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Germany out of the World Cup

Berlin is a wonderful city during the soccer world championship. Most Spätis (small convenience stores) just place large TVs on the sidewalk and every 50 meters or so there's a makeshift outdoor sports bar. When Germany gets a goal, you can hear cheering and fireworks across the city. But when Germany loses and is no longer playing, the city seems to suddenly go quiet.


The headline today of the Berlin tabloid newspaper BZ was Die Mannschafft sich ab, reflecting the fact that after having lost 0-2 to South Korea, the German soccer team, reigning world champions, are out of the World Cup after only three games. The accompanying photograph was of five players on the field at the end of the match with their hands on their heads, much like prisoners being led away under arrest. Very depressing indeed!


The phrase in the headlines is not strictly correct, grammatically speaking. It's a play on words of the noun die Mannschaft ("the team") and the verb abschaffen ("to abolish," "to do away with," "to eliminate"). The proper non-wordplay version would be Die Mannschaft schafft sich ab. An approximate translation could read "The team eliminates itself," as they have been eliminated from playing in the World Cup. 


Let's take a look at some other contexts where the verb abschaffen can be used in the present tense:


Eine Partei im deutschen Bundestag will die Pressefreiheit abschaffen.
A party in the German Parliament wants to abolish the freedom of press.
Caption 9, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


Man will die Buslinie abschaffen, mit der Sie immer zur Arbeit fahren.
They want to get rid of the bus route that you always ride to work with.
Caption 25, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


By the way, it's not possible for a political party to "do away" with freedom of the press in Germany because it's a basic constitutional right, but if a bus line is being cut, you can start a citizen's initiative to save it. Unfortunately, no basic rights or citizen's initiatives will be able to bring the German team back into the World Cup!


Insgesamt 22 Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen wurden heute auf hessischen Autobahnen abgeschafft.
22 speed limits in total were scrapped today on Hessian autobahns.
Captions 7-8, Deutsche Autobahnen: Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen


„Captain's Dinner“ und feste Tischzeiten wurden abgeschafft.
The "captain's dinner" and fixed meal times were done away with.
Caption 18, Kreuzfahrtschiff: An Bord der Europa 2


Früher hatten sie solche Riesenmaschinen, aber die haben sie abgeschafft.
Long ago they had such giant machines, but they have abolished them.
Captions 40-41, Piggeldy und Frederick: Maschine


It's interesting to note that by taking the verb schaffen ("to create") and adding the prefix ab-, you essentially create the opposite of "create" with abschaffen: "to abolish." 

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Trödel and other Worthless Junk

I was riding on the Berlin U-Bahn (subway) recently and noticed an advertisement from a very well-known auction website on the wall of the subway car that read Trödel mehr als der M41. This use of the verb trödeln had me puzzled, though I knew it was related to the noun der Trödelmarkt:


Also, hier gibt es auch viele Secondhand- und Trödelläden.
So, there are also many secondhand and junk shops here.
Caption 26, Jonathan Johnson: Kreuzberg, Berlin


The noun der Trödelladen has a similar meaning to der Trödelmarkt, just as der Laden has a similar meaning to der Markt. I knew that trödeln means "to sell things at a junk shop or flea market," but what does this have to do with the Berlin M41 bus line? It turns out the slang and most common usage of trödeln is "to go slowly" or "to waste time," but also "to move slowly without a fixed destination," thus "to wander," "to amble," or "to meander." The auction website ad translates approximately to "Wander around (alternately: go shopping for secondhand goods) more than the M41 bus," so it's a play on words on the fact that the M41 is a long, meandering bus line and that you can use the auction site to shop for good deals.


The noun der Trödel, which is also short for der Trödelmarkt, has taken on the slang meaning of "useless, worthless things, especially clothing, furniture and household articles," just as you expect to see in a junk shop or flea market, the latter of which translates directly to German as der Flohmarkt, by the way.


Junk shops and flea markets are numerous in Berlin and range from places filled literally to the ceiling with useless, broken junk to something much closer to fine antique shops. Those people who are too poor to shop anywhere but at Trödelläden and Flohmärkte can take comfort in the wise words of Piggeldy and Frederick: 


Schätze kann man nicht essen, bloß verkaufen.
You can't eat treasures, you can only sell them.


Reich ist, wer was verkaufen kann.
Rich are those who have something to sell.


Captions 14-19, Piggeldy und Frederick: Arm


Further Learning
Go to the German Duden dictionary and see the various meanings of der Trödelmarkt, der Trödel, and trödeln, and then see if you can guess the meanings of this list of words relating related to trödeln. Then you can go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words related to shopping in German.

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French Words Used in German, Part 3

German has many French loan words or Gallicisms. Since an estimated 45% of English comes from French or Latin language sources, if you can learn to recognize words in your native English as having a French origin, there is a fair chance that these words are used in German. 


In a previous lesson, we took a look at some more French-derived words in German that have the same or similar words in English. This week, let's discuss some German words that originated from the French but have different meanings than their similar English equivalents.


Die Frau bekommt ein Kind und ihr Chef weiß das.
The woman is going to have a child and her boss knows it.
Caption 9, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


In this case, the German der Chef and French chef can be a bit of a false friend of the English word "chef," since in English it means "the head cook" and not the more general term "the boss."


Bald waren sie bei einer Fabrik, bei einer Farbenfabrik.
Soon they were at a factory, at a paint factory.
Caption 6, Piggeldy und Frederick: Malen


The German die Fabrik comes from the French fabrique, the -que ending having been Germanized to -ik. The pronunciation is nearly the same in both languages, with the emphasis on the second syllable.


Ich denke, er ist einfach eine komplexe Figur.    
I think he is simply a complex character.
Caption 9, Dreharbeiten: zum Film „Playoff“


The German die Figur comes from the French figure—like the English "figure"—and has similar meanings, but in most contexts the German is translated to "character" in English, making this a sort of false friend in most cases. Die Figur could, however, be translated to the English "figure" if you were discussing a geometric figure.


Bevor ihr einen Weihnachtsbaum aufstellt, geht am besten mal zum Friseur.
Before you set up a Christmas tree it's best that you go to the hairdresser.
Captions 17-18, Frohe Weihnachten: der Christbaum


The German der Friseur / die Friseurin, from the French friseur, is rarely used in English anymore, and even the French tend to prefer to use the term coiffeur insteadThe German also uses the term die Friseuse, but it is a pejorative. There is a secondary German spelling Frisör, but the German Duden dictionary recommends the -eur spelling!


Hast du die Gage?
Do you have the fee?
Caption 48, Verstehen Sie Spaß?: Sascha Grammel


The German die Gage and the French gage both pronounce the first G as a hard G and the second as a soft G. It might be incorrectly confused with the English "gauge."


Wenn du so viel Engagement in Mathematik aufbringst wie im Lösen von Kriminalfällen…
If you put as much effort into mathematics as into solving criminal cases…
Caption 36, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


Das Engagement, from the French engagement, has nothing to do with the English "engagement," which in German is usually translated as die Verlobung


Further Learning
As a general rule, French words found in German are spelled the same, or nearly the same, as the French words found in English, but are pronounced in a German manner and written according to German grammatical rules—with nouns capitalized, for example. Take a look at this list of Gallicisms in German and go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words used in videos. 

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All about the preposition zeit, Part I

We should all know the meaning of the noun die Zeit by now, considering it is also the title of one of the most well-known newspapers in Germany. But how many of you are familiar with the preposition zeit, written in lower-case? German, more so than English, tends to have many words and expressions that appear in print but are rarely spoken, and zeit is one of these. Let's start with the one we already know: 


Ich wünschte, die Zeit würde stillstehen.
I wish that time could stand still.
Caption 40, Die Klasse: Berlin '61


Für die Verschwörer wird die Zeit immer knapper.
For the conspirators, time gets scarcer and scarcer.
Caption 30, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944


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


Note that in most cases, the German uses the definite article die (the) when referring to time, whereas English, in most cases, drops the article altogether. The last example above is interesting in that "the time of my life" is a standard expression, as is Die glücklichste Zeit meines Lebens ("The happiest time of my life"). This construction, as you will note, is very similar to the most standard use of the preposition zeit and it could be easy to confuse the two:


Ich bin Architekt von Beruf und habe zeit meines Lebens als Architekt gearbeitet.
I am an architect by profession and have worked as an architect for all of my life.


Zeit seines Lebens war er nie in Rom
During his lifetime he has never been to Rome.


In a general sense, zeit can be translated as "during" or "for." The first example of zeit meines Lebens could have been translated as "during my lifetime" or simply "all my life." Note that zeit meines Lebens therefore has a very different meaning from Die Zeit meines Lebens. The former is referring to something you have done all of your life, enjoyable or not, and the latter to having one of the best times of your life.


Further Learning
In the unlikely event that you were to hear zeit spoken, you might easily think that it was the similar-sounding preposition seit. Remember, however, that seit is pronounced with an English sounding Z and takes the dative form, whereas zeit is pronounced with a Ts sound and takes the genitive form. See the full meaning of zeit on the German dictionary website Duden and see if you can find any other German expressions that use the preposition zeit.  

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Writing Letters and Emails in German

In German, there are many different salutations and closings for letters and emails. Which one you choose will depend on your relationship with the person you are writing and whether they identify as male or female. 


Friends who write each other emails may simply write Hallo Gitta, or Hallo Micha, or Hallo zusammen, (if addressing a group). For this salutation, the comma comes after the name and not after Hallo as it would in longer sentences.


However, unless you are on very casual terms with someone, you will need to use the other salutations and make sure you use the appropriate declension. If you have never met a person and know that the circumstances are formal, you will want to use Sehr geehrter or Sehr geehrte which literally translates as "Very honored..." If you don't know exactly who will receive your letter, Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, is the German version of "Dear sir or madam."


Gut. Also... „Sehr geehrte Frau Larsen, vielen Dank für Ihre Rückmeldung“.
Good. So... "Dear Ms. Larsen, Many thanks for your response."
Caption 17-18, Das Lügenbüro: Die Bewerbung


Sehr geehrter Herr Frederick“, sagte er, „lassen Sie das sofort nach, sonst hau ich Ihnen eins auf die empfindliche Nase“.
"Dear Mr. Frederick," he said, "stop that immediately, otherwise, I'll sock you one on your sensitive nose."
Caption 32, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Brief


Lieber or Liebe which translates simply as "Dear" is more flexible. It may be followed by a first name (Lieber Hans,) or a formal term of address (Liebe Frau Hoffmann,), and is used for different types of friends and acquaintances.


Lieber Tiger, teile dir mit, dass es mir gut geht“.
"Dear Tiger, I'll share with you that I'm doing well."
Caption 17, Janoschs Traumstunde: Post für den Tiger


One important thing to remember is that the first word after the comma is usually not capitalized like it would be in English. 


When concluding your letter or email, there are a number of options. The typical closing for formal letters is Mit freundlichen Grüßen, which the Schlager star Heino recently used as an album title when he covered other musicians' songs. 


Er covert auf seinem Album „Mit freundlichen Grüßen“ Rock- und Popsongs.
He is covering rock and pop songs on his album "With Friendly Greetings."
Caption 6, Heino: Neue Volkslieder


Other closings for formal acquaintances include Herzliche Grüße, ("Heartfelt greetings") and Viele Grüße, ("Many greetings"). Between friends or informal acquaintances, Liebe Grüße, or simply Lieben Gruß, or Grüße, are more common options. 


Liebe Grüße, Elisabeth“. -Elisabeth?    
"Kind Regards, Elisabeth." -Elisabeth?
Caption 46, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


Further Learning
For more vocabulary related to letter-writing, go to Yabla German and watch the full episode of Piggeldy and Frederick in which the brothers tackle the topic. More salutations and closings can be seen on this informative website. For a more detailed account of how to use punctuation with the word Hallo, you can look at this Duden article

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French Words Used in German, Part 2

Like English, 45% of which comes from French or Latin language sources, German has many French loan words or Gallicisms. If you can learn to recognize words in your native English as having a French origin, there is a fair chance that they are used in German. 


In last week's lesson, we took a look at some of the more commonly used German words with a French origin. These have obvious French word endings such as -ment, -ion, or -age. This week, let's take a look at some more French-derived words in German that also have English counterparts.


Vor genau 66 Jahren befreite die Rote Armee die Überlebenden des Nazi-Vernichtungslagers Auschwitz.
Exactly 66 years ago the Red Army liberated the survivors of the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz.
Captions 1-2, Holocaust-Gedenktag: Gespräch mit jüdischen Schülern


The German word for "army," die Armee, comes from the French word armée. Note that the German capitalizes the noun as per German grammar rules and has dropped the accented letter E. 


„Die Süßigkeit“ ist etwas Süßes: Gummibär, Kaugummi, Bonbon.
"Candy" is something sweet: a gummy bear, a piece of chewing gum, a bonbon.
Caption 6, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Verben der 3. Kategorie.


The German Bonbon can be the masculine der but is most commonly the neuter das. The French bonbon is literally "good good," from what a child might say when they see some candy!


Aktualisieren Sie bitte das Budget.
Please update the budget.
Caption 47, Berufsleben: das Vorstellungsgespräch


Das Budget is the same word "budget" in French and English as well, though the French and German both render the T silent.


Ein bisschen Weihnachtsdekoration, so Engel... -Dekoration, ja.
A little bit of Christmas decoration, such angels... -Decoration, yes.
Captions 22-23, Unterwegs mit Cettina: auf dem Bruchsaler Weihnachtsmarkt


The word "decoration" in English is closer to the French décoration, but then most hard C sounds in German utilize the letter K!


Das ist tatsächlich ein Hotel in Berlin mit einem ganz verrückten Konzept.
This is, in fact, a hotel in Berlin with a completely crazy concept.
Caption 2, Berlin: Indoor-Camping im „Hüttenpalast“


The French word hôtel is spelled with a circumflex accent on the O, and of course pronounced entirely differently.


Ich bin bei der Firma SAC Applikations-Ingenieur.
I am an applications engineer for the company SAC.
Caption 2, Bildverarbeitung: Sirius Advanced Cybernetics in Pforzheim


The German der Ingenieur provides another fairly rare example of the soft G pronunciation in German. It's spelled nearly the same as the French ingénieur


Further Learning
As a general rule, French words found in German are spelled the same, or nearly the same, as the French words found in English, but are pronounced in a German manner and written according to German grammatical rules—with nouns capitalized, for example. Take a look at this list of Gallicisms in German and go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words used in videos.

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French Words Used in German, Part 1

German has many French loan words or Gallicisms. You may wonder why it is helpful to know that some German words originally came from the French—in fact, an estimated 45% of English comes from French or Latin language sources, and very often the French words found in German are the same or very similar to the words found in English that originated from France. If you learn to recognize words in your native English as having a French origin, there is even a fair chance that these words are used in German. All the better if you happen to speak some French already!


Let's take a look today at some of the more commonly used German words with a French origin that have obvious French word endings such as -ment, -ion, or -age.


Sie kann direkt hinüberblicken zum Parlament.
She can look directly across at the parliament.
Caption 33, Berlin: Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland


Here das Parlament is spelled slightly differently from the French parlement and English "parliament."


Für mich hat's unheimlich viel mit der Emotion zu tun.
For me, it has an awful lot to do with the emotion.
Caption 8: Astrid North: Solo-Debüt


The German die Emotion is capitalized as a noun, and except for the accent in the French émotion, is written otherwise the same in all three languages. Notice the noun das Debüt in the title of the above video? That too is based on the French début, which is, of course, "debut" in English. 


Es war Ihre Verantwortung, diese Information zu versenden.
It was your responsibility to send this information.
Caption 40, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Die Information is the same in all three languages, but is capitalized as a German noun. 


Genau, das war so eine Illusion.
Exactly, that was such an illusion.
Caption 74, Ehrlich Brothers: Show-Magier 


Die Illusion is also the same in all three languages but capitalized in German.


Mein Rücken, der braucht erst mal eine ordentliche Massage.
My back, first of all, it needs a thorough massage.
Caption 60, Selbst versucht: Gepäckabfertigung bei Fraport


Die Massage is the same noun in all three languages, though in German the verb is massieren.


Further Learning
As a general rule, French words found in German are spelled the same, or nearly the same, as the French words found in English, but are pronounced in a German manner and written according to German grammatical rules—with nouns capitalized, for example. Take a look at this list of Gallicisms in German and go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words used in videos. Next week we will discuss some more German words that originated from the French and have similar English equivalents.

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Entweder... oder... and weder... noch...

Today we'll look at a topic that is neither particularly difficult nor completely easy. This is because either you memorize it immediately or you constantly forget the necessary order. 


To create the "either... or..." construction in German, the words entweder and oder are employed, always in that particular order: 


Daniel Müller ist entweder nicht im Büro oder nicht erreichbar.
Daniel Müller is either not in the office or not available.    
Caption 20, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Das kann man entweder persönlich tun in einer Filiale oder online.
You can do that either in person at a branch or online.
Caption 14, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten


Used to reject more than one possibility or eliminate two different parties, weder... noch... is the German equivalent of "neither... nor...":


Es war weder Mensch noch Tier.
It was neither man nor animal.
Caption 33, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Schöne und das Biest


Keiner rechnet damit, dass ein Radfahrer auf dem Gehweg fährt, weder Fußgänger noch Autofahrer.
No one takes into account that a cyclist will be riding on the sidewalk, neither pedestrians nor auto drivers.    
Caption 12-13, Einsatz für Christophorus: Gehwegradler


Another construction which you might have seen and is worth mentioning here is sowohl als auch. This is a fancy way of saying "both... and..." or "as well as...", therefore serving the opposite function.


Sowohl Malerei als auch Bildhauerei.
Both paintings as well as sculptures.
Caption 15, Lokalhelden: Art House

Sowohl in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland als auch in der DDR wehen schwarz-rot-goldene Fahnen.    
Black, red, and gold flags wave in the Federal Republic of Germany as well as in the GDR.
Caption 61, Terra X, Natur und Geschichte: Woher kommen die Farben Schwarz-Rot-Gold?

Further Learning
Look for more examples of the entweder... oder... and weder... noch...  constructions on Yabla German to solidify your understanding. Also take a look at the different ways in which sowohl als auch can be translated.

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Sprechen and Other Related Verbs

As we saw a few weeks ago in the newsletter about the verb kaufen and its related verbs, prefixes are very important and can drastically change the meaning of the verb to which they are attached. You likely know the verb sprechen ("to speak"), but there are several verbs you can learn along with it that will expand your vocabulary greatly.


Besprechen means "to talk about" or "to discuss," whereas versprechen means "to promise." Widersprechen means "to contradict" or "to argue." These are all non-separable verbs


Ich glaube, das müsste man dann auch eher mit dem Management besprechen.
I think we would have to talk to the management about that.
Caption 56, Cassandra Steen: Interview


Die Zutatenliste haben wir nun besprochen.
We have now discussed the list of ingredients.
Caption 16, Cannelloni: mit Jenny


Versprechen Sie mir bitte, diesen Fehler nicht noch einmal zu begehen.
Please promise me not to make this mistake again.
Caption 56, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern


Zu verwirrt, um zu widersprechen, tat der junge Mann, was man ihm sagte. 
Too confused to argue, the young man did as he was told.
Caption 50, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Der gestiefelte Kater


Ansprechen means "to address" (or more colloquially "to bring up a matter" or "to appeal to a person") and is a separable verb. Take a look at the examples below:


Bevor ich die Sitzung unterbreche, muss ich noch folgenden Sachverhalt ansprechen.
Before I suspend this session, I have to address the following matter.
Caption 43-44, Bundesregierung: Vereidigung der Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel


Ganz hinten auch gern, Leute, ihr seid auch angesprochen.        
Also in the very back, people, you are also being addressed.
Caption 2, Wincent Weiss: Feuerwerk


Welche Leute sprecht ihr an, wer kommt hierher zum Lernen und was können die Menschen hier beigebracht bekommen?    
Which people are you addressing, who comes here to learn, and what can people be taught here?    
Caption 23-24, Lokalhelden: Art House


Further Learning
Here you can find a list of verbs that involve sprechen and information about whether they are separable or inseparable. See if you can find these on Yabla German to get an English translation. 

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