German Lessons


Werden, Wurden & Würden

It's quite easy to get the similar-looking werdenwurden and würden confused, so we're taking a look today at the differences between them and the different contexts in which they are used. 


To start with, wurden and würden are different grammatical moods of the verb werden


Heute in unserer ersten Lektion werden wir die Buchstaben des deutschen Alphabets lernen.

Today in our first lesson, we will learn the letters of the German alphabet.

Caption 2, Deutsch mit Donna Blitz - Das Alphabet

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Es soll bis über zwanzig Grad warm werden.

It should get warm, up to more than twenty degrees.

Caption 16, München - 180. Oktoberfest eröffnet

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Schön, du musst mich nur küssen und dann werde ich eine wunderschöne Prinzessin.

Fine, you only have to kiss me and I will turn into a beautiful princess.

Caption 11, CHoE Rocker - Hunde-Prinzessin

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Die Tage werden immer kürzer und immer kälter.

The days steadily become shorter and colder.

Caption 9, Alpenseen - Kühle Schönheiten

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Oh, es wird sehr schwierig werden, meinen Titel zu verteidigen.

Oh, it is going to be very difficult to defend my title.

Caption 23, Wintersport - 7. Austrian Freeski Open

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As you can see, werden can be used in a wide variety of contexts and can be translated variously as "will," "get," "will turn into," and "become." The last example uses the future tense of the verb, wird werden, which is translated as "going to be." 


In contrast, wurden is the Indikativ mood (similar to the indicative or realis mood in English) of werden. This just means that the verb is used to express a known state of affairs.


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

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Here, wurden gesehen is the passive voice of the German Präteritum, as is common with the combination of werden and a past participle.


Wahrscheinlich wurden sie im hohen Norden auf dem Eis für die Jagd verwendet.

They were probably used for hunting on the ice in the far north.

Caption 17, Unterwegs mit Cettina - Schlittschuhlaufen

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Thus, wurden is usually translated as "were," but it is also sometimes used in the same sense that the present tense werden is sometimes translated as "become." The sentence Aus Bauern wurden Arbeiter could be translated as "Farmers became workers," which has a very different verb structure but a similar meaning in the end.


Ähm, was würden Sie denn als ihre Stärken und Schwächen, ähm, beschreiben?

Um, what would you then, um, describe as your strengths and weaknesses?

Caption 34, Eva erklärt - Bewerbungen

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Genau. -Würden Sie uns vielleicht 'n bisschen Ihren Stand vorstellen?

Exactly. -Would you maybe present your stand to us a little bit?

Caption 47, Unterwegs mit Cettina - auf dem Bruchsaler Weihnachtsmarkt

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Thus, würden is in most contexts translated to English as "would."


Further Learning
Watch the Yabla video about the verb werden, which goes into detail about the verb's conjugation, moods, and tenses, and go to Yabla German and see many other examples of werden, wurden, and würden used in a wide variety of contexts.

The Verb Schätzen

The verb schätzen has two different meanings, and the only way to know which you are looking at is to examine the context.


In the lyrics of the first example below, the verb schätzen means "to value," or "to treasure." As you can see, in some cases the translation "to appreciate" is more appropriate. The noun der Schatz refers to a treasured object, and it can also be used as a term of endearment, similar to "dear," "darling," or "treasure" in English.


Ich schätze Wegbegleiter, auch wenn alles seine Zeit hat.

I treasure companions, even if everything happens in its own time.

Caption 22, Mark Forster - Sowieso

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Das wird vor allem von den jüngeren Gästen geschätzt.

This is especially appreciated by the younger guests.

Caption 41, Reiseland Deutschland - Vielfalt im Herzen Europas

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Als es Frühling wurde, erklärte der Bär, er müsse jetzt gehen, um seine Schätze zu hüten.

When it was spring, the Bear explained that he had to go now to tend to his treasures.

Caption 29, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Schneeweißchen und Rosenrot

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Nacht, Papa. -Nacht, mein Schatz.

Night, Papa. -Night, my treasure.

Caption 43, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche

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However, the other meaning of schätzen, which is equally common, is "to guess" or "to estimate."


Ich schätze mal, dass wir dann nächstes Jahr irgendwann ernsthaft anfangen.

I estimate then that we'll seriously start sometime next year.

Caption 67, Madsen - auf dem Hessentag

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Was schätzt du denn? -Ich schätze neununddreißig.

What do you guess then? -I guess thirty-nine.

Captions 10-11, rheinmain Szene - Unheilig - „Der Graf“

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Man schätzt, dass Schlittschuhe schon seit dreitausend Jahren verwendet werden.

It is estimated that ice skates have been used for over three thousand years.

Caption 15, Unterwegs mit Cettina - Schlittschuhlaufen

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Further Learning
There are many examples of this verb used in both contexts on Yabla German. See if you can use it one way or another (or both!) in the next conversation you have in German, or at your next German class. 

Nichts , nix , and nüscht

The alternate title to this week's lesson could be taken from Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing, in that we'll be kept busy discussing the ways that Germans pronounce the word nichts, which means—well there you have it—"nothing":


„Frederick, was ist eine Wiese?“ „Nichts leichter als das“, antwortete Frederick.

"Frederick, what is a meadow ?" "Nothing's easier than that," Frederick answered.

Captions 4-5, Piggeldy und Frederick - Wiese

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Aber du hast hier einfach nichts zu suchen, versteh das doch endlich.

But you have nothing to look for [expression, there is nothing for you] here, you have to finally understand that.

Caption 4, Lilly unter den Linden - Kapitel 7: Vergangenheit und Zukunft - Part 1

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The word nichts is sometimes mispronounced by non-native German speakers as "nix," whereas the proper pronunciation requires that difficult soft back-of-the-mouth "ch" sound that lies somewhere between "k" and "sh." Click here (courtesy of Duden) to hear nichts pronounced correctly. 


But while some non-Germans may not get the proper register for the word, you'll find many native Germans regularly pronouncing nichts as nix! That's because nix is common as a slang pronunciation of nichts. Unlike the soft -ch sound in nichts, this is pronounced as it is written with the X, and rhymes with the English words "ticks" and "bricks":


Man sagt: „Nix hält für immer“, doch ey, warum denn nicht?

People say, "Nothing lasts forever," but hey, why not actually?

Caption 6, Mark Forster - Wir sind groß

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Aber heute ist's total sicher, kann nix passieren.

But today it's totally safe here, nothing can happen.

Caption 70, Unterwegs mit Cettina - Schlittschuhlaufen - Part 1

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This leaves us, of course, with nüscht, which also means "nothing," but does so with a distinctly Berliner accent. The Duden dictionary classifies nüscht as Berlin and Northeast German slang. 


A good example of nüscht—or in this case, the variant nüschts—is found in a German-overdubbed version of  the 1993 comedy film Loaded Weapon. Two cops, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Emilio Estevez, enter a hotel room occupied by a criminal, played by Jon Lovitz, who has just emptied a machine gun at them through the hotel door: 


Jon Lovitz: Hey.... ich weiß nüschts. Ich habe nüschts gesehen und ich sage auch nüschts

Samuel L. Jackson: Nichts. Das Wort heißt „nichts“ und nicht „nüschts“. Da ist kein Ü und kein -sch, es heißt „nichts“. 

Jon Lovitz: Na gut, OK. „Nichts, nichts, nichts“! OK? Jetzt zufrieden? 

Samuel L. Jackson: Schon besser. 


The German script was adapted from the American, which had Jon Lovitz saying "nothin'" and getting a grammar lecture from Samuel L. Jackson about the word "nothing" having a G on the end.


Further Learning
Read the Wikipedia article on Berlin dialect, it could prove useful the next time you visit Berlin to help get your head around some of the different pronunciations found here.  You can also read up more on the topic here. As an ending note, the German title of the Shakespeare play is Viel Lärm um nichts. How would you translate that directly?

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