German Lessons


Bist du dir sicher? German Expressions of Certainty

English adjectives for being sure or certain about something are often interchangeable, but German expressions like bestimmt, gewiss, and sicher are more specific to the particular context in which they are used. Let's take a look at all three.

Bestimmt can mean either "definitely"

Du machst Filme und die Leute sagen „Das wird bestimmt so“.
You make films and the people say, "It will definitely be like this."
Caption 34, Berlinale: Schauspieler Jürgen Vogel

or in the nominalized noun something specific or in particular:

Wenn du mal was Bestimmtes vorhaben würdest…
If you were up to something specific
Caption 12, Wahlspots: Szenen einer Ehe

Gewiss can mean "certain" in the standard sense

Die Unterstützung des Schirmherrn ist den Fußballfrauen gewiss.
The support of the patron for the women's soccer team is certain.
Captions 13-14, Frauenfußball-WM: Der Bundespräsident am Ball

or as a suggestion of vagueness or uncertainty, a "certain something":

Aber ein gewisser Druck bleibt trotzdem.
But a certain pressure remains nevertheless.
Caption 23, Cro: mit „Melodie“ an Chartspitze

Sicher can mean "certain"

Ich bin mir sicher, es wird klappen.
I am sure it will work out.
Caption 39, Yabla-Intro: Jenny

but in other contexts it means "safe":

Es ist ein sicherer Standplatz.
It is a safe location.
Caption 36, Für Tierfreunde: Falknerei Feldberg

The words bestimmt, gewiss, and sicherlich can be used interchangeably when meaning "of course" or "certainly": Sicherlich / Bestimmt / Gewiss werden wir die Deutschprüfung bestehen. (We will certainly pass the German test.)

Further Learning
Search for some uses of bestimmt, gewiss, and sicher (sicherlich too) on Yabla German to learn about the ways some of these expressions are used in context.

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The "weak masculine" or n-declination

If a German noun ends in an "e," it's usually feminine, but there are also masculine nouns that end with "e" that require special "n" or "-en" endings in all singular non-nominative cases. To complicate things further, there are also masculine nouns not ending in "e" that require the special endings too!

Basically, the n-declination only occurs with masculine nouns, never with feminine or neuter nouns, and only a small percentage of masculine nouns are weak. Besides the rule of masculine nouns ending with -e, there is no hard and fast rule to classify them — they just have to be learned! It's helpful to know that many are professions, animals, and nationalities. Here are a few examples of weak masculine nouns to remember that you will commonly encounter in everyday usage.

Der Junge is a weak masculine noun, which you know because of the masculine der and the -e ending. Note that the -e ending changes to -en:

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

However, der Nachbar is also a weak masculine noun, despite the -r ending. Note that the -r ending changes to -rn:

Du könntest einfach zum Nachbarn gehen.
You could simply go to the neighbor.
Caption 25, Fine: sucht einen Hammer

Der Student is a very common weak masculine noun that takes the -en ending in non-nominative singular:

Ich habe einen spanischen Studenten eingestellt.
I've hired a Spanish student.
Caption 22, Barbara Schöneberger: Bambi-Verleihung Backstage

Der Herr is a weak masculine noun when it's translated as "lord"

Sofort rannte er zu seinem Herrn.
Immediately, he ran to his lord.
Caption 47, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der gestiefelte Kater

and in its more common form as the honorific "Mr." or "Mister"

Das war eine Idee von Herrn Singer.
That was an idea of Mister Singer's.
Caption 35, Modedesignerin Nina Hollein: Floria Prinzessin von Hessen

Further Learning
Here are some examples of weak masculine nouns requiring the -n or -en endings in non-nominative singular (all of them have the masculine article der): Architekt, Astronaut, Bär, Bauer, Diplomat, Elefant, Emigrant, Held, Idiot, Kamerad, Kandidat, Kapitalist, Kommunist, Kunde, Löwe, Mensch, Neffe, Pilot, Präsident, Rabe, Russe, Schimpanse, Schwede, and Soziologe. See if you can find some examples of them in context with -n or -en endings on Yabla German. For more reading about this topic, check out the article Tricky Masculine Nouns in German.

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For vs. für

The English preposition "for" and the German accusative preposition für are not only similarly spelled, but are often interchangeable too — the problem arises in cases where they are not. Let's first take a look at some examples where "for" can be directly translated as für. If something is intended for someone:

Was kann ich für dich tun?
What can I do for you?
Caption 2, Berlin: Judith und die „Brezel Bar

When indicating quantity or money:

Für Geld machen Sie alles?
For money you'll do anything?
Caption 62, Klebt, schmeckt, macht dick: Die Süßigkeitenmesse

For stating a length or period of time:

Stattdessen wird sie in einen tiefen Schlaf fallen für viele Jahre.
Instead, she will fall into a deep sleep for many years.
Caption 29, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Dornröschen

Some English expressions with "for" also use für when translated to German: für nichts or für umsonst (for nothing); für immer (for always or forever); für nächstes Mal (for next time).

On the other hand, the English "for" may also be translated as aus, seit, or zu, with expressions like "for some reason" (aus irgendeinem Grund), "for a long time" (seit langem), and "for sale" (zum Verkauf):

Aber aus irgendeinem Grund wollte Pandora im Haus bleiben.
But for some reason Pandora wanted to stay in the house.
Captions 33-34, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Büchse der Pandora

Er ist Ungar und spielt schon seit langem mit uns zusammen.
He is Hungarian and plays with us for a long time already.
Captions 23-24, Deutsche Bands: Cabanossi

Fast jedes Ei, das zum Verkauf in Supermärkten gedacht ist…
Almost every egg that is intended for sale in supermarkets…
Caption 9, Bioeier: Wie funktioniert der Erzeugercode?

It's important to remember that prepositions are not always directly translatable; just because "for" is translated as zu in one case does not mean that zu is always translated into English as "for."

Further Learning:

Imagine a typical use of the word "for" in an English sentence, then translate it into German and search Yabla German for a similar expression to see how it is translated there. Did you get it right?

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Finances in the New Year

Since most of us are probably pretty broke after holiday expenses, here are some money expressions in German that are good to know!

Ich hätte zweihundert Schlösser und wär' nie mehr pleite.
I would have two hundred castles and would never again be broke.
Caption 19: Rio Reiser: König von Deutschland

The word pleite is slang, but if you are seriously pleite, you wind up thus:

Jetzt sind wir bankrott, obwohl wir zehn Jahre lang [Geld] gespart haben.
Now we are bankrupt, even though we've saved money for ten years.
Caption 2, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Weil oder obwohl

The holidays aren't getting cheaper every year, that's for sure. At some point they always start costing money (ins Geld gehen):

Sollte es länger dauern, dann geht es aber auch irgendwann mal ins Geld.
Should it take longer, then at some point, however, it will also start costing money.
Captions 28-29, Endlich glücklich: Liebe im Netz

And on this, we can all agree:

Zeit ist Geld und Geld ist gut.
Time is money and money is good.
Caption 9, Jan Wittmer: Leben für den Lebenslauf

Not forgetting, of course, that:

Geld allein ist nicht alles.
Money alone isn't everything.
Caption 62, Für Tierfreunde - Tierheim Nied

Since after all, the holidays should remind us not to forget that love is the most important thing of all!

Zeigt die Liebe allen Wesen, die da atmen.
Show the love to all beings that breathe there.
Caption 18, Cosma Shiva Hagen: So trägt man Pelz

Further Learning:

Do a search on Yabla German for financial expressions in English and see in what context they are used in German. For a bit of cheer, see what kind of expressions a search for die Liebe brings up. Happy New Year from all of us at Yabla!

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Frohe Weihnachten!

Ich hoffe, euch hat's Spaß gemacht, und wünsche euch frohe Weihnachten!
I hope it's been fun and I wish you a merry Christmas!
Captions 71-72, Frohe Weihnachten: der Christbaum

Beyond "merry Christmas" there are a number of other ways to give season's greetings as well, for instance your Christmas could be schön:

Dann wünsch' ich euch schöne Weihnachten.
In which case I wish you a wonderful Christmas.
Caption 84, Weihnachtsinterviews: Cettina in Linkenheim

Let's not neglect the period before Christmas, which in German is the same word as in English:

Der Advent, das ist die Zeit vor Weihnachten.
Advent, that is the time before Christmas.
Caption 3, Weihnachtsmärkte: mit Eva

And if we're going to make it through all the Christmas shopping, we'd better have some Stollen to see us through:

Das ist der Christstollen. Der wird auch Weihnachtsstollen genannt.
This is the Christstollen. It is also called Christmas stollen [fruit cake].
Captions 22-23, Weihnachtsessen: mit Eva

If you don't have your Christmas tree yet, you might have to go diving for one!

Nasse Weihnachten: Der Tannenbaum steht fast vier Meter tief unter Wasser.
Wet Christmas: The Christmas tree stands nearly four meters deep under water.
Caption 1, Weihnachten geht baden: Tannenbaum unter Wasser

Further Learning:

Do a search on Yabla German for typical Christmas words and get into the Christmas spirit while improving your German at the same time. Happy holidays!

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S, ss or ß?

The Swiss have it easy: they completely eliminated the ß (eszett or "sharp s") some years ago, but since we are teaching Standard German at Yabla, we should learn a few general rules about which words use s, ss, and ß.

1. Single s
There are no words in German that begin with ss or ß, so that rule is easy. A single s will usually come after the letters l, m, n and r when a vowel follows the s, with words such as: der Balsam (the balm), die Bremse (the brake), and sparsam (economical):

Das ist sehr sparsam!
This is very economical!
Caption 38, Der Trabi: Das Kultauto aus dem Osten

A single s will usually come before the letter p, with words such as raspeln (to grate), lispeln (to lisp), and die Knospe (the bud):

Knospen, Blätter oder Früchte von Platanen zum Beispiel…
Buds, leaves, or fruit from the plane trees, for example…
Caption 26, Freilebende Papageien: Überwintern in Wiesbaden

In most cases, only a single s will come before the letter t, with words such as die Liste (the list), pusten (slang: to blow), and prusten (to puff):

Dann will ich husten und will prusten und euer Haus zusammenpusten!
Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down!
Caption 50, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die drei kleinen Schweinchen

2. Double s
The double s is usually written only after a short vowel, with words such as das Schloss (the castle), ein bisschen (a little bit), and passend (fitting):

Eigentlich hätte es gar keine passendere Rolle für sie geben können.
Actually, there couldn't at all have been a more fitting role for her.
Caption 16: Christina Aguilera und Cher: in Deutschland

3. Eszett: ß
The ß is usually used after a long vowel or double-vowel combination (dipthong), in words such as die Straße (the street), der Meißel (the chisel), and stoßen (to bump, to repel):

Gut, und die stoßen sich ab.     
Good and they repel one another.
Caption 35, Das 1. Newtonsche Gesetz: erklärt am Beispiel des Dodomobils

4. Verbs that vary between ss and ß
Just to make it more complicated, there are some verbs that are written with ß in the infinitive, but switch to ss when conjugated — and vice versa too! For instance the verb vergessen (to forget) uses the letter ss in the infinitive and present tenses (ich vergesse, I forget), but switches to the ß in the past (preterite) tense:

Belle gewann das Biest so lieb, dass sie seine äußere Erscheinung darüber völlig vergaß.
Belle became so fond of the beast that she fully forgot about his outward appearance.
Captions 61-62, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Schöne und das Biest

Further Learning:

Do a search on Yabla German and see if you can find some more examples of verbs that vary between ß and ss in their infinitives and their conjugations.

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What do you need (brauchen)?

The German verb brauchen can be translated in a number of ways, including "to need," "to be required," "to make use of," "to take," and "to use," and has some additional idiomatic usages. See some of the these subtle differences in context in these Yabla videos:

Wir brauchen jetzt zwei Millionäre.
We now need two millionaires.
Caption 9, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz

Es braucht Erklärungen, um die Brutalität und Banalität des Unrechts zu verstehen.
Explanations are required to grasp the brutality and banality of this injustice.
Caption 19, DDR zum Anfassen: Ganz tief im Westen

Von wegen körperloser Sport, hätt' ich meinen Helm doch gebraucht.
As for non-contact sports, I still could have made use of my helmet.
Caption 46, Ultimate Frisbee: Oli erklärt das Spiel

Der Teig hat doch eine ganze Stunde gebraucht, um fertig zu werden.
The batter did indeed take a whole hour to be ready.
Caption 17, Weihnachtsplätzchen backen: mit Diane und vielen kleinen Helfern

Wo werden denn heute noch Katapulte gebraucht?     
Where are catapults still used today?
Caption 12, Bretten: Das Peter-und-Paul-Fest

Here are a couple of examples of idiomatic usage of brauchen too:

Du brauchst mir die nächsten zehn Tage nicht unter die Augen zu kommen.
For the next ten days, you don't need to come under my eyes [idiom: I don't want to see you].
Caption 12: Fußball und die Frauenwelt: Das Foul

Alle naslang brauchst du das.
You need that all noses long [idiom: repeatedly in short intervals].
Caption 18, Otto Waalkes: Die verflixte Rechenaufgabe

Further Learning:

For many more examples of brauchen and details of its conjugation, see the Yabla video Konjugation: das Verb „brauchen“.

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German Cooking Verbs - Part 3

German Cooking Verbs - Part 1

German Cooking Verbs - Part 2

Welcome to the third and last part of our series on on German cooking verbs. Take this opportunity to brush up on your cooking verbs with Yabla!

hinzufügen: add (to, into)

Zur Sahne werde ich den Hartkäse hinzufügen.
To the cream I'll add the hard cheese.
Captions 33-34, Cannelloni: mit Jenny

mahlen (fein, grob): grind (finely, coarsely)

„Heute mahlen sie das Getreide mit Strom“, sagte Frederick.
“Today, they grind the grain with electricity,” said Frederick.
Caption 28, Piggeldy und Frederick: Maschine

rühren: stir, mix

Ich würd' sagen, jeder darf mal rühren.
I would say, everyone gets to stir.
Caption 8, Weihnachtsplätzchen backen: mit Diane und vielen kleinen Helfern

schälen: peel

Zum Beispiel Karotten schälen, helfen, wo wir gerade gebraucht werden.
For example, peeling carrots, helping just where we are needed.
Captions 41-42, Bretten: Das Peter-und-Paul-Fest

schlagen: beat a mixture, or crack an egg (also aufschlagen)

Wir nehmen fünf Eier und schlagen diese einzeln zu der Mischung hinzu.
We take five eggs and crack them individually into the mixture.
Captions 9-10, Bayrische Spätzle: mit Christiane

Further Learning:

Find some German recipes online and try cooking them at home. You can also search Yabla and find some videos with cooking themes to see some more cooking words in context. Here is a list of some more German verbs used in cooking that start with the letter M: montieren: thicken sauce with cold butter; reduzieren: reduce, cook down; reiben: grate; schneiden: cut, chop; schwenken: stir in melted butter or fat; spicken: add lard or spice under skin of meat; streichen: spread; tranchieren: carve into slices; überbacken: gratinate; unterheben: fold in; verfeinern: refine; verquirlen: whisk, beat; wiegen, abwiegen: weigh; würzen: season; zerreiben: grate; zerschneiden: cut up; ziehen lassen: marinade or poach; ziehen: marinade, steep, simmer; zusetzen: add

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German Cooking Verbs - Part 2

German Cooking Verbs - Part 1

German Cooking Verbs - Part 3

We're back right away with the second part of our series on German cooking verbs. Take this opportunity to brush up on your cooking verbs with Yabla, and we wish you a guten Appetit!

durchrühren: stir together

Noch mal durchrühren und dann ist erst mal wieder der Spargel dran.
Stir together again and then the asparagus is up again.
Caption 42, Kochhaus Berlin: Rucola-Salat-Rezept

durchziehen: pull through

Einfach mit dem Messer durchziehen.
Simply pull through them with a knife.
Caption 54, Cannelloni: mit Jenny

erhitzen: heat

Eine kleine Pfanne bei mittelstarker Temperatur mit zwei Esslöffeln Olivenöl erhitzen.
Heat a small pan at medium-high temperature with two tablespoons of olive oil.
Caption 20-21, Das perfekte Dinner: Kochen für Gäste

grillen: grill or barbeque

Indem wir zusammen sitzen, grillen, Musik hören, lachen…
As we sit together, grilling, listening to music, laughing…
Caption 24, Trial-Meisterschaft: in Bensheim

umrühren: stir, stir up

So, jetzt kannst du noch mal umrühren.
So now you can stir it once again.
Caption 27, Weihnachtsplätzchen backen: mit Diane und vielen kleinen Helfern

Further Learning:

Find some German recipes online and try cooking them at home. You can also search Yabla and find some videos with cooking themes to see more cooking words in context. Here is a list of more German verbs used in cooking starting with the letter B: backen: bake; bestreuen: sprinkle; braten: fry or roast (occasionally: grill); dämpfen: steam; dünsten: lightly cook in butter, oil, or juice; einlegen: conserve by pickling or canning; einmachen: conserve by canning; entbeinen: debone; entfetten: skim or remove fat; flambieren: set spirits on fire, usually brandy; garen: cook; gerinnen: curdle; gratinieren or überbacken: cook in oven or broil; häuten: de-skin; hineinschieben: place in oven, bake; hobeln: grate or slice; kandieren: crystallize using sugar; karamellisieren: caramelize; klären: clarify; kneten: knead; kochen: boil, cook; legieren: bind with egg yolk or cream

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German Cooking Verbs - Part 1

German Cooking Verbs - Part 2

German Cooking Verbs - Part 3

If you are studying German, you must be somewhat curious about German foods. This is the perfect opportunity to brush up on your cooking verbs, and Yabla is just the place to start!

abgießen: decant, pour out

Dafür muss ich das Öl in dem Glas abgießen.
For that, I have to pour out the oil in the jar.
Caption 58, Cannelloni: mit Jenny

ablöschen: quench, deglaze, put out a fire

Achtung beim Spargel, nicht zu lange braten, dann mit Wasser ablöschen.
Be careful with asparagus, don't fry it too long, then deglaze it with water.
Caption 37, Kochhaus Berlin: Rucola-Salat-Rezept

abtropfen: drain

Man holt die raus und lässt die 'n bisschen abtropfen.
You take them out and let them drain a little bit.
Caption 26, Bayrische Spätzle: mit Christiane

anrichten: place in serving dish, arrange

Jetzt nur noch alles auf dem Teller schön anrichten.
Now just arrange everything nicely on the plate.
Caption 63, Kochhaus Berlin: Rucola-Salat-Rezept

ausrollen: roll out

Jetzt wollen wir den Teig ausrollen.
Now we want to roll out the batter.
Caption 24, Weihnachtsplätzchen backen: mit Diane und vielen kleinen Helfern

Further Learning:

Find some German recipes online and try cooking them at home. You can also search Yabla and find some videos with cooking themes to see some more cooking words in context. Here is a list of some more German verbs used in cooking starting with the letter A: (aus)quellen lassen: expand, rise; abbrühen: boil shortly; abdampfen: dry out over dry heat; abkühlen: cool off, cool down; abschmecken (degustieren): taste and season; abschütten: drain; abseihen: strain, sieve; abstechen: scoop, use a spoon for small portions; abziehen: skim or peel; abzupfen: pick off; anbraten: brown; anbrennen: burn; aufgehen: rise (yeast, soufflé); aufkochen: bring to boil; aufschlagen: beat, whip; aufwärmen: warm, reheat; aufziehen: rise (yeast, soufflé)

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The placement of nicht in a sentence

Nicht (not) is an adverb, and as a verb modifier will fall easily into place if you observe a few basic rules. It usually comes before another adverb or adjective, but unlike the English "not," usually comes after verbs.

Ich mag es nicht, Lebensmittel zu verschwenden.
I do not like to waste food.
Caption 50, Werbung gegen Realität: Kunstprojekt Fertigprodukte

The German sentence above states literally: "I like it not..."

Declarative sentences and questions requiring simple yes or no answers usually have nicht falling at the end of the sentence, also unlike English:

Den brauchen wir nicht.
We do not need that.
Caption 24, Cannelloni: mit Jenny

Du weißt auch nicht?
You do not know either?
Caption 6, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz

Nicht falls before the last part of a separable verb and before the infinitive in a sentence with a compound verb:

Aber die Dortmunder müssen und wollen sich nicht verstecken.
But the Dortmund team does not have or want to hide.
Caption 12, Der Pott ist da: Der DFB-Pokal

Nicht is placed after adverbs of chronological time such as früher (earlier), gestern (yesterday), heute (today), morgen (tomorrow), and später (later).

Rock 'n' Roll ist heute nicht mehr so seins.
Rock 'n' roll today is no longer really his thing.
Caption 39, Andreas Bourani: startet durch

In contrast, non-chronological adverbs are usually preceded by nicht.

Das muss nicht sofort funktionieren.
This does not have to work immediately.
Caption 11, Yoga: Sonnengruß als Aufwärmung

Further Learning:

Just remember that nicht only comes after chronological adverbs, otherwise nicht precedes all other adverbs, verb infinitives, adjectives, and prepositional phrases. See the wonderful examples of the placement of nicht at Grimm Grammar (scroll down to the bottom of the page, don't forget to hit the Play button!), then search Yabla videos to find nicht used in different contexts!

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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Learning:

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

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Some Countries Have Genders Too!

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Further Learning:

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

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Same word, different gender!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Learning:

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

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Football and Flowers

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

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

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

And on to some specific flower varieties:

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

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

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

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

Further Learning:

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

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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Learning:

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

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Springtime Activities in Germany

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

How better to get about than on a bicycle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Learning:

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

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Are you certain?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Learning:

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

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