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Erst and Related Adverbs

In German, you will see the adverb erst, along with its synonym zuerst, used to express "first" or "at first" and establish temporal order. 

 

Dazu müssen wir die Äpfel erst schälen.

For this, we first have to peel the apples.

Caption 21, Apfelpfannkuchen: mit Alina und Sabine

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Zuerst möchte ich euch das Wahrzeichen der Stadt vorstellen.

First, I would like to show you the town's landmark.

Caption 9, Jenny zeigt uns: den Speyerer Dom

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Ich muss sagen, ich hatte erst richtig viel Angst da oben im Flugzeug.

I must say, I was at first really afraid up there in the airplane.

Caption 13, Abenteuer und Sport: Fallschirmspringen

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However, erst is also used as an adverb to express that something didn't occur or will not occur until a particular moment. There isn't a precise English translation for this, but usually a phrase with "only" or "not until" is used. 

 

Also werden wir uns erst nächste Woche Montag entscheiden.

So, we won't decide until Monday of next week.

Caption 67, Berufsleben: das Vorstellungsgespräch

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Ich bin gerade erst vor kurzem Veganerin geworden.

I've only just recently become a vegan.

Caption 28, Buchtipp: Aufregen für Fortgeschrittene

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Als Erstes and erstens generally are used when a series of steps is mentioned or at least implied. When erstens is used, zweitens (and possibly drittens) will generally follow, and als Erstes implies that there is a step that comes als Nächstes

 

Als Erstes suche ich mir einen Koffer aus.

First, I'm going to pick out a suitcase.

Caption 3, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub

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Wo eine Parkscheibe vorgeschrieben ist, darf man erstens nur so lange parken, wie es auf dem Zusatzschild angegeben ist, und zweitens nur, wenn man die Parkscheibe auf die nächste volle halbe Stunde nach der Ankunft einstellt.

Where a parking disk is required, you should, first of all, only park as long as indicated on the additional sign, and secondly, only if you set the parking disk for the next full half hour after arrival.

Captions 18-20, Richter Alexander Hold: Richtig parken

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The adverb erst mal can be translated as "first," "first of all," "to begin with," or even "for now." 

 

Aber jetzt gehen wir erst mal zu deiner Tante.

But first let's go to your aunt's now.

Caption 22, Nicos Weg: Ich habe kein…

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Aber ich brauche erst mal nichts.

But I don't need anything for now.

Caption 47, Die Wohngemeinschaft: Besuch

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One false friend to keep in mind is the adverb zunächst. Unlike als Nächstes, this word has nothing to do with "next" and actually also means "first" or "initially."

 

Wenn man sich sehr schlecht fühlt, geht man in der Regel zunächst einmal zum Arzt.

If you feel very badly, you generally first go to the doctor.

Caption 5, Eva erklärt: Gesundheit

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Ja, ich habe zunächst auf Werbemuster von Christina Hoffmann gewartet.

Yes, I was initially waiting for advertising samples from Christina Hoffmann.

Caption 16, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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Further Learning
You can find many examples of all of these adverbs on Yabla German. When you see one, take note of where it is positioned in the phrase and consider whether any of the other adverbs above could also be used.  

Things, Stuff, Matters, and Topics

Whether we are referring to our stuff on a nearby chair or a serious matter that needs to be discussed, there are several words in German that can be helpful. Most of them can be used in a number of contexts, but there are a few things to be aware of.

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Sachen is a very versatile word, and can be used to refer to physical items but also matters and topics. Of course, das Thema is a more common word for "the topic."

 

Und ja, ich räume meine Sachen nicht immer sofort weg.

And yes, I don't always clean up my stuff away right away.

Caption 29, Die Wohngemeinschaft - Probleme

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Hier gibt es viele verschiedene Sachen für die Familie und für die Kinder zu sehen.

Here there are many different things for the family and for the children to see.

Caption 8, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem

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Fazit: In Sachen Hamburger hat die Hauptstadt auf jeden Fall mehr zu bieten.

Conclusion: When it comes to hamburgers, the capital city definitely has more to offer.

Caption 25, Berlin - Die beste Auswahl an Hamburgern

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Der Gegenstand is used to refer to a physical object or item, but also a topic of conversation or debate. And, of course, there is also the word das Objekt. In shopping, der Artikel ("the item") and die Ware are more likely to be used.

 

Auch hier handelt es sich um einen runden Gegenstand.

Also here it is about a round object.

Caption 34, Eva zeigt uns - Formen

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Slang terms for "stuff" or "odds and ends" are der Kram and das Zeug.

 

So viele Spinnweben und so viel Kram

So many cobwebs and so much stuff

Caption 11, Silbermond - Leichtes Gepäck

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Diese Box wird für Bücher, dieser Karton wird für das Zeug aus der Küche sein.

This box will be for books, this carton will be for stuff from the kitchen.

Caption 14, Drei Leute - beim Kofferpacken

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The word das Ding is, of course, also commonly used, and not just for objects.

 

Wir testen die Dinger jetzt schon seit Monaten.

We've been testing the things for months already.

Caption 30, Die Stunde der Offiziere - Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944

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Ich habe entschieden, die Dinge selbst in die Hände [sic, Hand] zu nehmen.

I have decided to take matters into my own hands.

Caption 6, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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The plural forms die Dinger and die Dinge are both used. Generally, die Dinger refers to multiple things of the same kind, whereas die Dinge refers to multiple things of different kinds. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning
Das Thema, die Sache, das Objekt, der Artikel, die Ware, der Gegenstand, der Kram, das Zeug, and das Ding: Yabla German has many examples of all of these words, as they are commonly used. Go through them and make sure you know which are only used for non-physical ideas, topics, and matters, which are exclusively for physical objects, and which are applicable in both contexts. Making a venn diagram may be a good strategy!

Expressing the Conditional in German

In both English and German, there are tenses and there are moods. We use the indicative mood to state facts, the imperative mood to give commands, and the subjunctive mood to reflect wishes or actions in unreal situations ("I wish I were taller" or "I would travel around the world."). Take a look at this past newsletter for information on the formation of the subjunctive (Konjunktiv) in German. The subjunctive is a key part of conditional sentences that describe levels of possibility, from events that are very likely to missed opportunities in the past. 

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Type 1 conditional sentences refer to cause-and-effect links, and events that are quite certain under particular circumstances. Because German sentences often use the present tense to imply the future, the basic structure is wenn or falls (see this newsletter) followed by the present tense, like in English, but then it can be followed by either the present tense or future constructed with werden. 

 

Wenn es so weitergehtwerden bis 2050 drei Viertel aller Alpengletscher verschwunden sein... mit gewaltigen Folgen.

If it continues this way, by 2050, three quarters of all the alpine glaciers will have disappeared ... with enormous consequences.

Captions 33-34, Alpenseen - Kühle Schönheiten - Part 7

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Type 2 conditional sentences refer to events that are less possible or likely, often hypothetical. Its structure in German is Wenn + Konjunktiv II + Konjunktiv II. 

 

Wenn immer Sommer wärewürde ich jeden Tag grillen.

If it were always summer, I would grill every day.

Caption 29, Konjugation - Das Verb „grillen“

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Wenn ich viel Geld hätte, würde ich nie wieder arbeiten gehen.

If had a lot of money, I would never go to work again.

Caption 23, Konjugation - Das Verb „gehen“

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Ich denke, wenn ich weniger arbeiten würdekönnte ich mich mehr konzentrieren.

I think that if I worked less I could concentrate better.

Captions 34-35, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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Type 3 conditional sentences are used to talk about possibilities or events that never came to be. Here is where the structure gets a bit complicated. In its full form, the construction is Wenn + participle + Konjunktiv II + Konjunktiv II + participle.

 

Wenn wir eine Chance gehabt hätten, dann wären wir vorher gegangen, ja.

If we had had a chance, then we would've left before, yes.

Caption 34, Die Klasse - Berlin '61

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Ja, wenn Jannik fit gewesen wäre, dann wäre er nie runtergekracht.

Yes, if Jannik had been healthy, then he wouldn't have ever gone crashing down.

Caption 59, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

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It is worth mentioning that you may often see "mixed types" of the conditional, in which a missed opportunity in the past (expressed using the participle) is portrayed as still affecting the present. Take a look at the following sentence: 

 

Also, wenn wir den Vertrag letzte Woche unterzeichnet hättenwären wir in der Lage, mit unserer ursprünglichen Vereinbarung fortzufahren? 

So, if we had signed the contract last week, we would be in a position to proceed with our original agreement?

Captions 36-37, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning
For more information on the different types of conditional sentences, take a look at this helpful website. Whenever you see key words like hättewäre, or würde on Yabla German, note the subjunctive mood and try to identify which type of conditional sentence it might be related to.

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