German Lessons


More sagen root words

In a previous Yabla lesson, we discussed verbs using sagen ("to say") as their root word, all of which had to do with speaking. Today let's take a look at a couple of other words using sagen as their root word that are not related to speaking—though at first glance, they may appear to be!


Doch wenn es etwas stürmischer wird, versagen viele Modelle ihren Dienst.

But if it gets somewhat stormier, many models fail to do their job.

Caption 5, Erfindung aus Japan: Der verkehrte Regenschirm

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Es besteht die Gefahr, dass im entscheidenden Moment Ihre Nerven versagen.

The danger exists that your nerves will fail at the deciding moment.

Caption 67, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944

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Es tut mir leid, dass ich versagt habe.

I am sorry that I failed.

Caption 28, Küss mich, Frosch: Für immer Frosch?

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Leider haben wir da sehr, sehr oft vorm Tor versagt.

Unfortunately, we failed many, many times before the goal line.

Caption 47, Fußball: Saisonpremiere

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Perhaps versagen originally had sagen as its root word because people "failed" to carry out something they had promised. There is also a noun form of the verb for a person who fails:


Ich bin ein Versager, weil ich mich doch nicht traue.

I'm a failure because, after all, I don't dare.

Caption 15, Cro: Bye Bye

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The next word with the root word sagen also has negative connotations:


Am liebsten würd ich ihn absagen.

I'd actually prefer to cancel it.

Caption 10, Nicos Weg: Freizeitstress

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Du kannst doch nicht einfach eine Weiterbildung absagen.

You can't just cancel a training program.

Caption 59, Großstadtrevier: Neben der Spur

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Letztes Jahr wurde ein Event abgesagt.

Last year an event was called off.

Caption 29, Traumberuf: Windsurfer

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Ich will wissen, warum du unser Treffen abgesagt hast. -Ich habe das Treffen nicht abgesagt.

I want to know why you canceled our meeting. -I didn't cancel the meeting.

Captions 15-16, Nicos Weg: Der Umzug

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There is no German noun for somebody who cancels a lot, but there is a noun derived from absagen


...die radikale Absage an Putin, an die Gasimporte.

...the radical rejection of Putin, of the gas imports.

Caption 3, Umweltbewusstes Wohnen: Zu Besuch in einem Wiener Passivhaus

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The noun die Absage can be either a cancellation or a rejection, depending upon the context.


Further Learning
Go to German Yabla and find other examples of the verbs and nouns discussed above to get a better feel for the contexts in which they can be used. 

Von Kopf bis Fuß , Part I

In the classic 1930 film Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) by director Josef von Sternberg, the young actress Marlene Dietrich sings a song by Friedrich Hollaender with the lyrics: 


Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt
Denn das ist meine Welt und sonst gar nichts


This is a good example of the noun der Kopf used in an idiomatic context. Many of the idioms using der Kopf in German are identical — or nearly so — to similar sayings in English.


Die Königin gab sich größte Mühe, ihn zu trösten: „Kopf hoch! 

The Queen did her best to comfort him: "Head up [Chin up]!"

Captions 33-34, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse

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In English it's common to say "hold your head up" to help comfort somebody, a British English equivalent being "chin up."  


Hiroshi Kajimoto hat den traditionellen Aufbau des Schirms nun auf den Kopf gestellt.

Hiroshi Kajimoto has now turned ​​the traditional construction of the umbrella on its head.

Captions 6-7, Erfindung aus Japan - Der verkehrte Regenschirm

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Thus the figurative meaning of "turning something on its head" is similar in German.


Ich habe doch Augen im Kopf!

I have indeed got eyes in my head!

Caption 60, Alexander Hauff - Showreel

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Most of us, of course, have eyes in our head, but the figurative meaning here is the same as in English: "I can see that" or "I'm not blind."


But there are some idioms using der Kopf that would sound very odd indeed if translated literally to English:


Ach, mach dir keinen Kopf [Umgangssprache], Lothar.

Oh, don't make yourself a head [slang, don't worry], Lothar.

Caption 36, Großstadtrevier - Neben der Spur

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This is similar to the predominantly British English expression "don't bother your head."


... weil da jeder Spieler schon seinen eigenen Kopf hat.

...because there every player already has their own ideas [literally: head].

Caption 31, Eishockey - Erich Kühnhackl

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While it's obvious that — short of some terrible disaster — everyone "has their own head," it's used here in a context similar to "headstrong" or "willful."



Further Learning
Watch Marlene sing the song "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt" in this video clip from the original 1930 film, then see if you can accurately translate the lyrics quoted at the start of this lesson. You can also go to Yabla German and find some more examples of der Kopf used in other contexts.

Don't Lose Your Head!

There are a number of expressions in English that involve the noun "head," among them ones like the headline above, "to give someone a heads up," or "out of their head." Most phrases like this can't be translated into German directly, and the slang or idiomatic phrases in German that use der Kopf are not directly translatable to English either.


Ach, mach dir keinen Kopf [Umgangssprache], Lothar. Du kannst ja gar nichts dafür.

Oh, don't make yourself a head [slang, don't worry], Lothar. You can't do anything about it.

Caption 36, Großstadtrevier - Neben der Spur - Part 10

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Warum machst du dir einen Kopf?

Why do you make yourself such a head [idiom, why do you worry so much?]

Caption 1, Mark Forster - Chöre

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It's a bit difficult in a literal translation to understand what is meant by sich keinen Kopf machen, but luckily the Yabla videos also clarify the meaning: The Großstadtrevier video states "slang, don't worry," and the Mark Förster video states "idiom, why do you worry so much?"


Wann finde ich endlich die Zeit, meinen Kopf freizubekommen?
When will I finally find the time to get my head free? 


This doesn't mean that your head is literally stuck in something, but rather that you want to find the time to "clear your mind." Another variation is den Kopf freimachen


Although we all know the English expression "to lose your head," it's usually a figure of speech meaning somebody is becoming irrational.


Wir machen ihn einen Kopf kürzer
We'll make him a head shorter.


This expression, like the origin of the English expression, could mean to execute somebody by lopping off their head, but einen Kopf kürzer machen is usually used figuratively to mean that you will reprimand somebody or "teach them a lesson."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for the term Kopf and see the various ways such expressions are used.


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