A caption in this weeks' latest installment of the Pfefferkörner kid detectives series uses the slang phrase von wegen. Directly translated ("from because of"?), this phrase makes very little sense. Used on its own (Von wegen!), it is a negation to a statement made by somebody else, and means "that is wrong," "not at all," "just the opposite," or just simply "no way!" The Duden dictionary defines von wegen! as auf keinen Fall! Despite some rather crude translations of the phrase on some less than dependable crowd-sourced translation sites, the phrase itself is not vulgar at all, and will only cause offense if the contradiction of a statement is inherently offensive to the person who made it. It's all about context.
It's a bit trickier to translate von wegen when it is used in a sentence and references something specific. Here too, we have to look at the context in which the phrase is used.
Von wegen Kunstunterricht.
It's not true about art class.
Caption 44, Die Pfefferkörner: Cybermobbing
In the above scenario, a girl's parents just found out she was lying when she said that her brother was with friends in an art class. Her father confronts her about her lie using von wegen.
But von wegen can also be used in a dismissive sense:
Von wegen körperloser Sport, hätte ich meinen Helm doch gebraucht.
So much for non-contact sports, I still could've made use of my helmet after all.
Caption 46, Ultimate Frisbee: Oli erklärt das Spiel
The speaker above is talking about the fact that frisbee is generally considered to be a non-contact sport, so he is dismissing this belief as being untrue. And here again as an expression casting doubt on a supposition:
Von wegen Öl geht aus. Die lügen doch, die Ölstaaten.
As if the oil will run out. But they're lying, the oil states.
Caption 29, Culcha Candela: Schöne neue Welt
There is also, of course, a standard, non-slang use of the phrase von wegen in a sentence: von [genitive noun] wegen means "for [noun] reasons" or "for reasons of [noun]." Some examples: von Amts wegen (for official reasons), von Rechts wegen (for legal reasons), or von Berufs wegen (for professional reasons).
There is no single standard form for making German nouns plural, but most nouns follow one of ten general patterns. You will instinctively recognize many of them, but others just have to be learned. One thing, at least, is easier: the definite article for German plurals is always die, regardless of the noun's gender.
(1) Add -e:
Ich fahre nach Stuttgart, weil ich meine Freunde treffen will.
I drive to Stuttgart because I want to meet my friends.
Caption 56, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Warum, Weil - Erklärungen
Der Freund, plural die Freunde.
(2) Add -n or -en:
Und all diese Fragen…
And all these questions…
Wir sind ja schon immer als Studenten nach Frankfurt gepilgert.
We have indeed always, as students, gone to Frankfurt.
Captions 14 & 37, Museum: für moderne Kunst
Die Frage, plural die Fragen; der Student, plural die Studenten.
(3) Add -e and umlaut:
Wer würde ihren Haferbrei essen und ihre Stühle zerbrechen?
Who would eat their oat porridge and break their chairs?
Caption 55, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Goldlöckchen und die drei Bären
Der Stuhl, plural die Stühle.
(4) Add -er, or umlaut and -er:
Allein unter seiner Herrschaft waren es weit über hundert... Männer, Frauen, Kinder...
Alone under his rule, it was far above a hundred... men, women, children...
Caption 22, Geschichte: Hexenverbrennung im Odenwald
Das Kind, plural die Kinder; der Mann, plural die Männer.
(5) Change the main vowel to its umlaut equivalent, but make no change to the noun's ending:
Die drei Brüder waren entsetzt.
The three brothers were horrified.
Caption 32, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die drei Brüder
Der Bruder, plural die Brüder. This rule applies especially to family members such as der Vater, plural die Väter; die Mutter, plural die Mütter; die Tochter, plural die Töchter.
(6) Add -s:
Das sind wirklich die schlimmsten Autos, die jemals hergestellt wurden.
These are really the worst cars that were ever made.
Caption 36, Der Trabi: Das Kultauto aus dem Osten
Das Auto, plural die Autos.
(7) Nouns ending in -in, which denote that the person in question is a woman, are always pluralized with -nen:
Emmi und Johanna sind Freundinnen.
Emmi and Johanna are friends.
Caption 3, Fußball und die Frauenwelt: Der Manndecker
Die Freundin, plural die Freundinnen.
(8) Add -ien:
Man muss die Materialien kennen.
One must know the materials.
Caption 29, Trendberuf Restauratorin: Eine Lebensaufgabe
Das Material, plural die Materialien.
(9) Nouns ending in -nis are pluralized by adding -se:
Die Ergebnisse des Tages sollen natürlich auch Früchte tragen.
The results of the day should, of course, also bear fruit.
Caption 26, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Nachhaltigkeit
Das Ergebnis, plural die Erebnisse.
(10) No change at all: plurals are only distinguished by context or in the case of non-feminine nouns, the use of the definite article die:
Die Zimmer sind besondere Hingucker.
The rooms are special eye-catchers [attractions].
Caption 5, Das Ostel: Über Nacht zurück in der DDR
Das Zimmer, plural die Zimmer.
Last of all, there are the irregular plurals, which consist of nouns that each have their own unique rules for pluralization. These, of course, must be learned individually. A few examples are der Saal (plural die Säle), das Datum (plural die Daten), das Klima (plural die Klimate), der Bus (plural die Busse).
In last week's lesson, we discussed how translating animal names directly may not be wise, and the same applies to flora as well. If you were to directly translate the German word for "dandelion" into English, for example, you would wind up with "lion's tooth" (der Löwenzahn). You may be relieved, however, to recall that, as poet Gertrud Stein once famously wrote: "A rose is a rose is a rose." Or as the case may be, eine Rose.
With spring hopefully just around the corner, let's take a look at some flower names as they appear in some Yabla German videos.
Eine Kornblume mit vielen Blütengeschwistern.
A cornflower with many sibling blossoms.
Caption 30, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unkraut
Das Stoppelfeld, die Sonnenblume, schläfrig am Zaun…
The stubbled field, the sunflower, sleepy against the fence…
Captions 8-9, Sabine und Ivana: Gedichte im Bus
Er hat sich die Tulpen überallher bringen lassen.
He had tulips brought in from all over the world.
Caption 52, Karlsruher Stadtgeburtstag: die Majolika-Manufaktur
The above are quite easy examples, in that they are either coincidentally correct as direct English translations or, in the case of "tulips," are very similar words.
Take a look at this list of German flower names and see how many you can guess correctly without having to look them up. Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for the first flower of spring...
You may come across the names of some unusual animals on German Yabla, especially in some of the nature series like Abenteuer Nordsee. One problem with a lot of animal names is that the German name, if translated directly word for word, may actually be a completely different animal altogether.
Ein Butterfisch lauert auf Beute.
A rock gunnel fish lies in wait for prey.
Caption 39, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen
If you look up der Butterfisch on German Wikipedia, you see that they are part of the Pholidae fish species. If you had translated the name to the English "butterfish," however, you would have wound up mistakenly referring to a completely different fish of the Stromateidae species. A German Butterfisch is in fact a "rock gunnel fish" in English, and an English "butterfish" is a Medusenfisch in German. Looking up an animal's name on German Wikipedia and then going to the equivalent English Wikipedia page (or vice versa, of course) is a good way to be sure you are getting the animals' names right!
Ein Steinpicker sucht mit seinen Barteln nach Fressbarem.
A hooknose fish is searching with its barbels for edibles.
Caption 27, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen
The German term der Steinpicker may translate directly to something like "stone picker," but in English no such species name exists, and as you see above, it's referring to the "hooknose fish."
Taschenkrebse, die berühmten Helgoländer „Knieper“, brechen Bohrmuscheln aus dem Kalkstein.
Brown crabs, the famous Heligoland pinchers, are breaking false angel wing clams out from the limestone.
Captions 29-30, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen
The example above has two animals which might easily be misidentified, der Taschenkrebs and die Bohrmuschel, which you might be tempted to translate as "pocket crab" and "drill mussel" respectively, but you'd be wrong if you did: neither of these animal names exist in English! In fact, der Taschenkrebs is a "brown crab" or "edible crab," and die Bohrmuschel is not a mussel at all, but a "false angel wing clam."
Watch or re-watch the Abenteuer Nordsee series on Yabla German and pay special attention to the names of animals. Read more about these animals on German Wikipedia and expand your German vocabulary at the same time!
The landmark writer's guide The Elements of Style states that you should "not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready, and able." German, however, has quite a number of words that "are so long that they have a perspective," as Mark Twain once wrote. The longest word actually included in the Duden German dictionary is die Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung (auto liability insurance), with 35 letters. There are, however, many longer words that are acceptable to use although not listed in Duden, such as die Verkehrsinfrastrukturfinanzierungsgesellschaft (traffic infrastructure financing society) and das Elektrizitätswirtschaftsorganisationsgesetz (electricity economy organization law). Such "20 euro" words are not only found in written German, but also in spoken German, as evidenced by these Yabla German videos!
Auf Weltmeisterschaftsebene sind wir so Mittelfeld, unteres Mittelfeld...
At World Cup level, we are about midfield, lower midfield...
Caption 70, Frisbee: Karlsruher Weihnachtsturnier
Außerdem kann man hierzulande manche Reisestrecke auch ohne Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung erfahren.
In addition, you can, in this country, experience some travel routes also without a speed limit.
Captions 22-23, Reiseland Deutschland: Vielfalt im Herzen Europas
Wir haben die gesetzliche Verpflichtung, regelmäßig die Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkungen auf den hessischen Autobahnen zu überprüfen.
We have the legal obligation to check the speed limits on the Hessian autobahns regularly.
Captions 10-11, Deutsche Autobahnen: Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen
Ein Porsche dreihundertsechsundfünfzig B eintausendsechshundert GS Carrera GTL Coupé, Baujahr neunzehnhundertsechzig hat einen Versicherungswert von sechshundertfünfzigtausend Euro.
A Porsche three hundred fifty-six B one thousand six hundred GS Carrera GTL coupé, built in nineteen hundred sixty, has an insurance value of six hundred and fifty thousand euros.
Captions 57-59, Porsche 356: Der erste Porsche
So as you can see, in common conversation about sports and cars and numbers (or a combination thereof), it is possible to find some "mouthfuls" indeed.
Read some of these fun articles about long German words at The Week and Time, and if you are feeling brave, read this Duden article about writing words together or separately.
If the headline above sounds pretty odd, it's because it's a literal word-for-word translation of a slang expression and an idiom taken from this week's exciting installment of Großstadtrevier. This series has consistently merited a difficulty rating of 4, due in part to its heavy usage of idioms and slang. Let's take a look at some examples from this week's release.
Das macht nix.
That doesn't matter.
Caption 5, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
The usual expression das macht nichts is spoken here with the slang word nix used instead of nichts, a form you would usually only see in spoken and very casual written German.
Jannik Sternberg hat dieses Zeug die ganze Zeit geschluckt.
Jannik Sternberg was swallowing [slang, taking] this stuff the whole time.
Caption 9, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
The verb schlucken, in its standard definition, means "to swallow." Here, however, it is a slang usage referring to the consumption of medications. A corresponding English slang translation would be "to down," as in "downing drinks."
Die sind auf dieser Baustelle bis zum Anschlag mit Wachmachern vollgepumpt.
They were pumped full of "awake-makers" [slang, stimulants] to the limit at this construction site.
Caption 11, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
The slang noun der Wachmacher refers to a stimulant medication, which we translated literally as an "awake-maker." A literary English slang translation might be "pep pills."
Ich bin kein guter Bärenführer.
I’m not a good bear trainer [slang, job trainer].
Caption 45, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
Ich bin seit über vierundzwanzig Stunden auf den Beinen und überhaupt nich' müde.
I have been on my legs [idiom, busy working] for twenty-four hours and I'm not at all tired.
Caption 3, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
The noun der Bärenführer standardly means "the bear trainer," but in slang usage connotes a job trainer. To be auf den Beinen, literally "on your legs," means to be busy and active. An good English literary translation could be "on your feet." A proper translation for this week's odd headline could be "Job Trainers on their Feet" or "Busy, Active Job Trainers."
Watch some past episodes of Großstadtrevier and review your understanding of some of the many idiomatic and slang expressions to be found in this interesting crime drama.
A syllabic abbreviation is formed by taking the first syllable of several words and putting them together. It is a common practice in German that is rarely used in English. One English syllabic abbreviation you may recognize is Interpol, formed from "international police." You may not have known that the word for the Nazi secret police terror organization the Gestapo comes from a syllabic abbreviation of die Geheime Staatspolizei. Note that the gender of a German abbreviation is determined by the main noun of the word it is derived from, hence die Gestapo. Let's take a brief look at some other common German syllabic abbreviations.
Stasi-Akten aus dem Schredder...
Stasi files from the shredder...
Caption 2, DDR zum Anfassen: Ganz tief im Westen
The notorious East German secret police die Stasi also had their own syllabic abbreviation, in this case formed from die Staatssicherheit, the Ministry of State Security.
Das sind Fragen für die Kripo, nicht für uns.
Those are questions for the criminal investigation department, not for us.
Caption 14, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
In this case, die Kripo is derived from die Kriminalpolizei, the department of the police that specializes in criminal investigations. But let's get away from the police while we still can!
Du musst in die Kita.
You have to go to daycare.
Caption 14, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder
Ironic, considering its German origin, that the most common German word for a daycare center is not der Kindergarten, but rather die Kita, an abbreviation of die Kindertagesstätte.
Ich stehe hier vor dem Audimax.
I am standing here in front of the main lecture hall.
Caption 28, Universität: Karlsruhe
At the university level, the term das Audimax is standard student parlance for the largest lecture hall of a given university, and in this case is an abbreviation of the Latin term auditorium maximum.
Take a look at this German article about syllabic abbreviations and go to German Yabla to find some of the words and phrases used in context.
At Yabla, we like to write out words in their entirety (for instance, 2016 is zweitausendsechzehn) in our video captions so that you can learn them better. But you may also come across abbreviations and acronyms in German articles that you are reading, so it's not a bad idea to catch up on some of the more common ones. (An acronym is an abbreviation too, but it's used in speaking.) You won't find many actual abbreviations in Yabla videos since they aren't usually spoken, but there are plenty of examples where words or phrases would be abbreviated if they were in standard written form!
Unterschrift, Stempel und so weiter und so weiter, ne?
Signature, stamp, and so forth and so on, right?
Caption 23, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
One of the most common abbreviations of all is usw., which is short for und so weiter, and pretty much interchangeable (even in German) with "etc."
Merkel hat noch TÜV bis zweitausenddreizehn.
Merkel still has a TÜV that's valid until two thousand thirteen.
Caption 33, Der Merkelpilot: der kleine Mann, der es macht
If your car won't pass the TÜV (an acronym, with the "Ü" pronounced like the "oo" in "foot") inspection in Germany, you'd better get it fixed or get rid of it, because you can't drive it on the street without the certificate from the Technical Inspection Organization or Technischer Überwachungs-Verein. This non-profit organization (eingetragener Verein or e. V.), responsible for overseeing technical inspection procedures in Germany, even owns a registered trademark on the term. Hopefully Chancellor Merkel will get her TÜV approved this year!
Wir sind sehr zuversichtlich beziehungsweise sehr froh auch.
We are very confident, or rather, very happy too.
Caption 26, Strothoff International School: Interview mit dem Rektor
The word beziehungsweise is often shortened to bzw. in informal writing, and is one of the most commonly abbreviated German words. It's also a very effective word that has no single-word equivalent in English, meaning "and/or" all in a single word. It's a bit tricky to translate because "and/or" is just not an elegant solution, so it's often translated as "respectively" or "alternately."
The undisputed champion of German acronyms, however, must be "for example":
Hier haben wir zum Beispiel Rohkaffee aus Kolumbien.
Here we have, for example, raw coffee from Colombia.
Caption 8, Kaffee: Noch von Hand gemacht
"For example" or zum Beispiel takes the acronym z. B., and this being German, don't forget to capitalize the "B" even in its short form!
Take a look at this list of common German abbreviations and go to German Yabla to find some of the words and phrases used in context.
As always, Yabla's German videos show how the language is spoken in a real world context, offering you a lively selection of idioms and slang. Here are some examples from this week's new videos.
So, dann geht's jetzt ans Eingemachte.
So then, it's getting to the preserves [to the matter at hand].
Caption 3, Pastewka: Cantz fährt betrunken Auto
In its standard definition, the noun das Eingemachte means canned or jarred food preserves (especially fruit), but in slang usage it means "getting to the matter at hand." An English equivalent might be "getting down to brass tacks."
Frau Korff verarscht uns nach Strich und Faden.
Ms. Korff is fooling us after stitch and thread [idiom, thoroughly].
Caption 14, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern
The idiom of doing something nach Strich und Faden means to do something very thoroughly. There are no equivalents in English related to sewing, but a literary translation of this might be "to go through something with a fine-toothed comb."
Mann, jetzt halt doch einfach mal die Fresse.
Man, now simply just shut your mouth.
Caption 37, Pastewka: Cantz fährt betrunken Auto
The noun die Fresse, described by Duden dictionary as derb ("coarse" or "crude"), means the mouth or the face. It is derived from the verb fressen, which means "to devour," but is also used as the verb "to eat" when referring to animals. The phrase die Fresse halten, or literally "hold your mouth," is a definite request to stop talking!
Brush up on your German idioms on this Wikipedia page and go to German Yabla to find the phrases used in context in some Yabla videos.
A cognate is a word that has its origins in a word from another language, and there are many verbs in German that have their roots in the English language. Some of these German verbs have in common the fact that they end with -ieren, are usually weak verbs, and usually do not use the prefix ge- in the past participle.
Many English verbs that end in consonants can be turned into German verbs by adding the suffix -ieren, such as "to profit":
Davon profitieren wir jetzt natürlich.
We're profiting from this, of course.
Caption 2, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder
Sometimes you drop a "y" from an English verb and add -ieren to make it German, such as "to study":
Ab dem Wintersemester möchte ich Medizin studieren.
Starting in the winter semester I would like to study medicine.
Caption 23, Konstantin: ein Freiwilliger in Israel
Many English verbs ending in -ize can simply take the German -isieren ending, such as "to organize":
Vor jedem Event muss man alles organisieren.
Before every event one has to organize everything.
Caption 37, Traumberuf: Windsurfer
Take a few English verbs such as to alarm, to dominate, to export, to exist, to modernize, to probe, to reserve, and to ventilate, and see if you can construct German verbs from them based on the ideas above, then go to German Yabla and find the words used in a real world context.
This week marks the 100th Yabla German lesson, and in celebration we'd like to offer you some examples of the German word das Jubiläum in context.
2010 feierte der Klassiker unter den deutschen Volksfesten zweihundertjähriges Jubiläum.
In 2010, the classic among the German folk festivals celebrated its two hundred year anniversary.
Captions 26-27, Reiseland Deutschland: Vielfalt im Herzen Europas
In German, das Jubiläum can mean not only the anniversary, but the party or celebration for the anniversary as well:
Ich bin heute hier in der Rockfabrik in Bruchsal zu dem dreißigjährigen Jubiläum.
Today I am here in the Rock Factory in Bruchsal for the thirtieth anniversary celebration.
Caption 2, Rockfabrik Open-Air: Demons-Eye-Interview
Das Jubiläum can also, like many German words, be used to form a compound word.
2014 ist ja das große Jubiläumsjahr der Rapper.
2014 is, indeed, the rapper's big anniversary year.
Caption 2, Thomas D: Der Aufstieg und Fall des Tommy Blank
Brush up on your usage of typical celebration words like Prost, feiern, and Sekt on Yabla German and see if you can properly translate these compound words that are formed with das Jubiläum: die Jubiläumsausgabe, die Jubiläumsausstellung, die Jubiläumsfeier, das Jubiläumsheft, das Jubiläumsspiel, and die Jubiläumsveranstaltung.
This week's dramatic installment of the German TV series Mama arbeitet wieder has some good examples of German idioms in a context that makes them easy to understand. Let's take a quick look!
Kann sich der Grünschnabel erst mal die Hörner abstoßen.
The greenhorn can first shed his horns.
Caption 30, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder
The phrase die Hörner abstoßen translates directly as "to shed the horns" and alludes to an old German student hazing ritual, in which a newcomer has to put on horns like a goat and knock them off as a sign of maturity. In this case, it means "to gain some experience."
Wird Zeit, dass wir da runterkommen und den Laden auf Trab bringen.
It's time that we get down there and bring the shop to a trot.
Caption 31, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder
Here you'll find two idiomatic usages. The noun der Laden usually refers to a shop, but is often used in a slang way to indicate any kind of business or even a specific project. The noun der Trab, which is a nominalization of the verb traben, means "trot" as in "a horse breaks into a trot." To bring den Laden auf Trab thus refers to bringing their "business operation up to speed."
If you haven't been keeping up with Mama arbeitet wieder, now is the time to start! Go to this Yabla German video page to see the entire series.
Most nouns that are masculine and end in -e in their nominative singular form are called weak nouns, or schwache Substantive. Since most German nouns ending in -e are feminine, these exceptions are easy to recognize. There are, however, also weak nouns that don't end in -e in the nominative singular form, and these are harder to recognize. Many of these words are very similar to their English equivalents and relate to professions or politics. They can often be recognized by the fact that they end in -ant or -ist.
What sets them apart from other nouns is the fact that in all cases except for nominative, they end in -en or -n.
Here's an example of the weak noun der Präsident with the -en ending in the singular dative case:
Ich habe auch mit dem französischen Präsidenten darüber gesprochen.
I've also talked to the French President about this.
Caption 68: Angela Merkel: beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat
And the weak noun der Elefant in the singular accusative case:
Frederick, zeig mir einen Elefanten!
Frederick, show me an elephant!
Caption 3, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Elefant
And finally, der Mensch in the singular genitive case:
Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar.
The dignity of a human being is inviolable.
Caption 38, Integration von Nationalitäten: Hessen miteinander
Visit this page to see more examples of weak nouns, and visit Yabla German to find more examples of weak masculine nouns in practice.
We've gone into detail about the German phrase of "sliding" (rutschen) into the New Year in a lesson last year, so let's instead take a quick peek at two new videos that Yabla is releasing in celebration of Silvester — and I don't mean "Sylvester and Tweetie!"
Was machen wir eigentlich an Silvester?
What are we actually doing on New Year's Eve?
Caption 2, Im Zoo: Der Jahreswechsel für die Tiere
A major part of New Year celebrations in many countries is the shooting off of fireworks and firecrackers. Der Böller is a firecracker, and "to set off a firecracker" is the verb böllern. If we turn this verb into a noun or nominalize it, it becomes das Böllern:
Fester Bestandteil: meist das Anstoßen auf das neue Jahr und das Böllern.
An integral part: usually the toast to the new year and the setting off of firecrackers.
Caption 4, Im Zoo: Der Jahreswechsel für die Tiere
And of course parties are a key part of the celebration:
Der Neujahrsempfang ist aber auch die ideale Plattform, um gute Neuigkeiten bekannt zu machen.
The New Year's reception is indeed also the ideal platform for announcing some good news.
Captions 3-4, Rhein-Main-TV: FSV-Neujahrsempfang
You may also see it described as die Silvesterparty or das Neujahrsfest. Either way, have fun — but not so much that you'll regret it the next day!
Visit Yabla German to find more examples of typical New Year's terms like das Anstoßen and das Feuerwerk.
It's Christmas time again and in the spirit of the season, Yabla has three new videos with a Yuletide theme. Let's take a quick look at some highlights and expand our holiday vocabulary.
The literal translation of the German version of "Christmas Eve" is "Holy Eve": der Heilige Abend or even der Heiligabend.
Gehen Sie da direkt am Heiligen Abend zu Ihrem Sohn?
Are you going to your son's house right on Christmas Eve?
Caption 26, Weihnachtsinterviews: Diane in Karlsruhe
Another holiday eve with which you may be less familiar is Saint Nicholas' Eve: der Nikolausabend. You can read more about the European traditions associated with this holiday on Wikipedia.
Bald ist Nikolausabend da.
Soon Saint Nicholas' Eve will be here.
Caption 11, Weihnachtslieder: Lasst uns froh und munter sein
The phrase "Bitte nehmen Sie Platz" is an invitation to sit down or literally "take a place." And although das Plätzchen is indeed the diminutive of der Platz, in this case we're not talking about sitting down at all — we're talking about baked goods!
Ich will ein Plätzchen nehmen.
I want to take a cookie.
Caption 28, Weihnachtslieder Detlev Jöcker: Heute wird gebacken
Practice your German by singing a Christmas song or two for your family and friends, and find even more videos about Weihnachten on Yabla German.
German language beginners may easily get besonders, besonderes, and Besonderes confused, since they sound nearly the same and have only minor differences in spelling. Once you learn the grammar behind the different spellings, however, you should be able to easily distinguish the reasons for the spelling differences.
The adverb besonders (and remember, adverbs modify adjectives as well as verbs), usually translated as "particularly" or "especially," is spelled in lower case (except at the beginning of a sentence) and without the third "e" before the "s." It will only be used with this spelling as an adverb:
So was zum Beispiel läuft besonders gut.
Something like this, for instance, is going particularly well.
Caption 15, Auftrumpfen: Mit Kitsch und Protz
The adjective besondere (only written with "-s" in its nominative neuter form) is usually translated as "special" or "particular." It is always written in lower case except when it is the first word in a sentence. It will, like all German adjectives, have different endings depending on whether it's in the nominative, dative, accusative, or genitive case, and depending on whether the noun it modifies is feminine, masculine or neuter, and singular or plural.
Here's an example of the adjective besondere in the singular genitive (feminine) case:
Einen Wettlauf der besonderen Art liefern sich der britische Milliardär Richard Branson und Hollywood-Regisseur James Cameron.
A race of a special kind is being carried out by the British billionaire Richard Branson and Hollywood director James Cameron.
Caption 2, Expedition Marianengraben: Zum tiefsten Punkt der Erde
The word Besonderes, always written capitalized and with the extra "e" before the last "s," is a nominalized adjective, which is an adjective that has been turned into a noun. Note that nominalized adjectives in German are not necessarily so in English! In German, it is usually preceded by either etwas or was (meaning "something" in this context) or the word nichts (meaning "nothing").
In vielen Familien ist es an Weihnachten Tradition, dass es etwas Besonderes zum Essen gibt.
In many families, it is a tradition at Christmas that there is something special to eat.
Caption 3, Weihnachtsessen: mit Eva
To review: besonders is an adverb, besondere (with possible declensions ending with -r, -s, -n, -m) is an adjective, and Besonderes is a nominalized adjective. For more in-depth information on how German turns non-nouns into nouns, read this paper. Then visit Yabla German and search for examples of the above words as spoken in a real world context.
Most nouns that are masculine and end in -e in their nominative singular form are called weak nouns, or schwache Substantive. They are often nouns that refer to nationalities, animals, or professions, such as der Schwede, der Löwe or der Psychologe. Since most German nouns ending in -e are feminine, these exceptions are easy to recognize. What sets them apart from other nouns is the fact that in all cases except for nominative, they end in -en. It is obvious that nouns ending in -e will end in -en in plural cases, but this applies to the singular case too!
Here's examples of the weak noun der Junge with the -en ending in different singular cases, starting with dative:
Der Zauberer sah zu dem zitternden Jungen hinab.
The sorcerer looked down at the trembling boy.
Caption 80, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der Zauberlehrling
And again in the singular accusative case:
Schiffsverkehr... für einen Jungen aus dem Pott klingt das nur bedingt naheliegend.
Ship traffic... for a boy from the Pit that sounds only conditionally obvious.
Caption 9, Herbert Grönemeyer: stellt sein neues Album vor
And finally in the singular genitive case:
Der Fisch wurde von der Mutter des kleinen Jungen gekauft.
The fish was bought by the mother of the little boy.
Caption 65, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der standhafte Zinnsoldat
There are also some weak nouns that end in letters other than -e, but more about them later!
Go to this page to practice your weak noun endings, and visit Yabla German to find more examples of weak masculine nouns in practice.
You're not likely to mix up the meaning of wurden with würden (or konnten with könnten) when reading or having a conversation in German, as the context makes it pretty obvious what is meant. But I've noticed occasionally when writing in German that it's important to have a clear sense of the difference between the two.
The words wurden and konnten are the Präteritum / Indikativ (preterite / realis) moods of the verbs werden and können, respectively. The words würden and könnten are the Präteritum / Konjunktiv II (preterite / subjunctive) moods of the verbs werden and können, respectively.
But all grammatical complications aside, an easy way to remember the difference is that these verb forms do not use the umlaut letter when talking about the actual past, and both words do use the umlaut letter when talking about the conditional present or future.
Sie flohen aus dem Königreich und wurden nie wieder gesehen.
They fled from the kingdom and were never seen again.
Caption 85, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das tapfere Schneiderlein
Wir würden gerne auf eine kleine Clubtour gehen.
We would like to go on a small clubs tour.
Caption 17, Deutsche Bands: Die "No Angels"
Die hungrigen Kinder konnten es kaum erwarten, davon zu essen.
The hungry children could barely wait to eat from it.
Caption 61, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Hänsel und Gretel
„Wir könnten unendlich so weiterlaufen“, antwortete Frederick.
"We could continue walking endlessly like this," answered Frederick.
Caption 10, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unendlichkeit
Got it? An easy way to remember with wurden/würden and konnten/könnten is: if an umlaut letter is present, you are talking about the possible present or future!
Visit Yabla German and watch the two Yabla videos conjugating the verbs werden and können and practice writing some of your own sentences using the different tenses of the verbs.