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Lightning-quick, crow-black and Co! Compound Adjectives

Compound Adjectives:

I invite you to take a journey with me back to the Middle Ages. At the Medieval Christmas market, soul-snatcher Markus lures us to abandon ourselves to the vice of gambling. Of course, there is a reward involved!

Für jeden Mitspieler gibt es einen Edelstein des immerwährenden Glückes,
For every player there is a precious stone of everlasting happiness,
Caption 9, Mittelalterlicher Markt: Mäuseroulette

What makes this precious stone so enticing? The aspect that it's immerwährend, right? Immerwährendes Glück is something everyone dreams of. When you use compound adjectives you can include additional information in a sentence and still keep it compact. They prevent you from having to write lengthy versions like ...einen Edelstein des Glückes, das immer währt. This clause is grammatically correct and has the same meaning. (There is another compound adjective hidden in the above clip. See if you can find it!)

Compare the sentence lengths of the German and English clauses below.

diesmal mit systemkonformen Kunstwerken.
this time with artworks in conformity with the system.
Caption 6, Restituierung von Raubkunst - aus der Nazi-Zeit - Part 2 of 2

The words in bold emphasize clearly that compound adjectives can shorten a German sentence without having to omit any wanted information.

Have you seen and spoken this tongue-twister before? Kohlpechrabenschwarz (coal-pitch raven-black). If you haven't, try saying it just for fun! This compound adjective emphasizes the absolute blackness of something. So compound adjectives are also used to intensify and creatively underscore a noun's attributes in ways that one of the off-the-shelf variety cannot achieve.

Note: If you're searching for the definition of an adjective and aren't getting results, it may be a compound. In this case, break it into its component parts and search their meanings individually.

For an exercise on the formation of compound adjectives go here.

Learning Tip

Set small, achievable short-term goals. While watching the videos:

  • Write down and learn 10 words or useful phrases of your choice every day. Repeat them on Saturday. Take Sunday off.
  • Make a list of your typical German errors. Do an error analysis and consciously review the grammar.

Finally, if progress is slow, keep at it. Take the long view. Recall where you started and how far you've come. Bear always in mind that learning a second language is a life-long endeavor that will enrich your life for years to come!

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