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More German Verbs for "Assume"

In a previous lesson, we saw examples of the verb annehmen and the verb / preposition combination davon ausgehen translated as "to assume." These are among the most common words for "assume," but let's take a look today at some more German verbs that can also be translated as "assume."


Ja, vorausgesetzt, Sie unterschreiben dieses Schuldbekenntnis.

Yes, assuming you sign this confession.

Caption 24, Marga Engel schlägt zurück; Der Engel von Leipzig

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The separable verb voraussetzen is also commonly translated as "to provide," in the sense of fulfilling a condition.


Es wird allerdings auch behauptet oder vermutet.

However, it is also claimed or assumed.

Caption 8, Es war einmal... der Mensch: Der Neandertaler

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The verb vermuten is also often translated as "to suspect," "to presume," or "to expect."


Trifft ein Goalgetter mal nicht das Tor, wird ihm sehr schnell eine Formkrise unterstellt.

If a goal-getter doesn't make a goal, a lack of form is very quickly assumed.

Caption 7, Fußball und die Frauenwelt: Der Goalgetter

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The verb unterstellen may also be translated as "to imply," depending upon the context.


All of the verbs above deal with the definition of "to assume" as "to take for granted or as true." But there are also definitions of "to assume" that mean "to place oneself in," or "to feign," or "to take over" something such as a debt or responsibility.


Deshalb bin ich der Ansicht, dass Kapitän Dickie, der sehr erfahren ist, das Kommando übernehmen soll.

Therefore, I am of the opinion that Captain Dickie, who is very experienced, should assume command.

Captions 26-27, Es war einmal... der Weltraum: Die Saurier

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Du sollst hier auch mal ein bisschen Verantwortung übernehmen.

You should also for once assume a little responsibility.

Caption 21, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

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The verb übernehmen may also be translated as "to take over."


Tourismus spielt hier und in vielen anderen Ländern eine immer wichtigere Rolle.

Here and in many other countries, tourism is assuming an increasingly important role.

Caption 5, WissensWerte: Tourismus und Nachhaltigkeit

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The verb spielen is often translated in this context as "playing" a role, however "assuming" a role may be an equally valid option.


The verbs anmaßen and mutmaßen are occasionally translated as "to assume," but often anmaßen is more accurately translated as "to presume," and mutmaßen as "to conjecture" or "to speculate."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for the verbs above to see the various German translations in a real-world context.

All the Pretty Horses

The title above is from a novel by one of the great American writers, Cormac McCarthy, and its German title is translated precisely as All die schönen Pferde. This isn't always the case with book and film titles in German. For instance, the Spaghetti Western classic Once Upon a Time in the West by Sergio Leone is titled Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod  in German—"Play Me the Song of Death"—not a bad alternate title. But this lesson is about horses, not noir Westerns, so let's hop back in the saddle!


A number of German idioms use horses as their subjects:


Wohl aufs falsche Pferd gesetzt, hm?

Probably bet on the wrong horse, hm?

Caption 19, Marga Engel schlägt zurück: Der Engel von Leipzig

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The idiom above happens to have the same meaning as its English translation, which is not always the case.


Die Griechen hatten ein riesiges hölzernes Pferd auf Rädern gebaut, zwanzigmal größer als ein richtiges Pferd.

The Greeks had built a giant wooden horse on wheels, twenty times larger than a real horse.

Captions 42-43, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Das Trojanische Pferd

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The idiomatic usage of "Trojan horse," which means to accept a gift (or story, etc.) that turns out to have negative effects, is used in both English and German. This is the opposite of the English idiom "don't look a gift horse in the mouth," which means you shouldn't be unappreciative or critical of a gift. If the Trojans had only looked that gift horse in the mouth, they might have won the war.


Solange wir keine Gewissheit haben, sollten wir die Pferde nicht scheu machen.

As long as we aren't certain, we shouldn't make the horses shy.

Caption 11, Großstadtrevier: Schatten der Vergangenheit

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This idiom sounds a bit odd in English, but die Pferde scheu machen means to cause unnecessary alarm. In this case, the police didn't want to tip off the suspects that they were on to their game.


Hans Schmidt ist das beste Pferd im Stall.
Hans Schmidt is the best horse in the stable.


There may be a horse somewhere named Hans Schmidt, but in the context of a person, the phrase das beste Pferd im Stall sein means that somebody is the best coworker or the best person in a group of people.


Wir kommen vom Pferd auf den Esel.
We’re coming from the horse onto the donkey.


The literal English translation of the German idiom above makes little sense, whereas a literary translation would be "We're falling on hard times" or "Things are going badly." But to conclude:


Ein Pferd bleibt immer Pferd.

A horse always remains a horse.

Caption 37, Monsters of Liedermaching: Ein Pferd

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As we have seen in the idioms above, when using the word "horse" metaphorically, it can mean everything but a horse!


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for "horse" or Pferd to see the different usages of the noun in context. You can also read about other idioms relating to das Pferd on the German language website Redensarten-Index. Meanwhile, we at Yabla wish you all a happy ride into the sunset...

German Animal Expressions, Part I

German, like many languages, uses a lot of idioms referring to animals. You've probably heard the English expression "I'm hungry as a horse" or the term "snail mail." What these expressions have in common in all languages is that they refer to some quality that is associated in that culture with a specific animal: Horses eat a lot of food and snails move very slowly—always compared to humans, of course. Let's take a look today at some German animal expressions.


Wohl aufs falsche Pferd gesetzt, hm?

Probably bet on the wrong horse, hm?

Caption 19, Marga Engel schlägt zurück Der Engel von Leipzig

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This one is easy, because English has the same saying with the same meaning: "to make a wrong decision," or "to support something that failed." It comes from racetrack betting or investing in a racehorse.


Wisst ihr, was ich der blöden Kuh gesagt habe?

Do you know what I said to the stupid cow?

Caption 28, Weihnachtsfilm Ein Sack voll Geld

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Cows are always being accused of being stupid, but since it's usually male humans who call women "stupid cows," perhaps it's really such men who are stupidly sexist. Thankfully, this awful expression in English is mostly confined to Britain, an island just outside of Europe. Sadly, the Germans seem to have adopted it—though perhaps it was the Germanic Saxons who first introduced it to Britain after all!


Sind die dummen Esel die Menschen und die richtigen Esel die Tiere?

Are the dumb donkeys the people and the real donkeys the animals?

Caption 15, Piggeldy und Frederick Der Esel

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If you call somebody an Esel in German, it means you think they are stupid or stubborn, similar to the English phrase "as stubborn as a mule." Mules are half donkey and half horse, of course. Piggeldy is making the point that perhaps it's humans who are dumb, and not donkeys. But of course Piggeldy is only a cartoon pig. Speaking of which...


„Wir haben ganz schön Schwein gehabt", sagte Frederick,

"We were very lucky," said Frederick,

Caption 33, Piggeldy und Frederick Reise nach Schweinebrück

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The literal translation of Schwein haben is "to have a swine" (or "pig"), but it means "to be very lucky." The saying apparently comes from old German festivals of marksmanship, where the worst shot was given a piglet as a consolation prize. So despite Schwein being a common German insult, the pig was considered a valuable possession in earlier times and thus meant business income and luck.


„Gibt es viele arme Schweine?“, fragte Piggeldy.

"Are there lots of poor swine?" Piggeldy asked.

Caption 21, Piggeldy und Frederick Arm

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Piggeldy, a cartoon pig, is literally asking if there are a lot of "poor swine" in the world. The joke intended here is that armes Schwein, figuratively spoken, means a person who is worthy of sympathy, as something bad has happened to them. Thus, Piggeldy is also asking if there are a lot of unfortunate people. It's similar to the English expressions "poor bastard," "poor wretch," or "poor devil."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the above videos to get a better idea of the contexts in which they have been used. And remember, it's rude to call somebody a blöde Kuh, but it can show sympathy if you call somebody an armes Schwein. Funny isn’t it, how in German, calling somebody a pig can be a nice thing!