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Thick as a Brick

The German adjective and adverb dicht sounds a lot like the English word "thick," and while there are cases where it can be translated as "thick," it's the exception rather than the rule. Let's take a look today at the different ways that dicht can be translated in formal and informal contexts.

 

Dicht is often translated into English as "dense" or "densely," or in the case of dichter, "denser":

 

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Er sollte dehnbar sein, und je dichter, desto besser.

It should be stretchy, and the denser, the better.

Caption 79, Coronavirus - Schutzmasken zum Selbermachen

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Die Kaimauer des Südhafens ist dicht mit Seescheiden besiedelt.

The quay wall of the south harbor is densely populated with sea squirts.

Caption 13, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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It's also common to see dicht translated as the adjective "close" or the adverb "closely":

 

Die kommen ganz dicht dran.

They come very close.

Sie beachtet die Leute überhaupt nicht, die Besucher.

She doesn't pay attention to the people, the visitors at all.

Caption 43, Für Tierfreunde - Geparden

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Darin warten etwa 3.600 kleine Zähne,

Inside await roughly 3600 little teeth

die in mehr als 300 dicht zusammenstehenden Reihen angeordnet sind.

that are arranged in more than 300 closely set rows.

Captions 66-67, Evolution - Meeresbewohner

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In slang usage, dicht machen can mean "to close": 

 

Komm, wir machen hier dicht.

Come on, let's close up here.

Caption 15, Die Pfefferkörner - Alles auf Anfang

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Frau Korff kann dicht machen, ich verliere meinen Job,

Ms. Korff will have to close the business, I'll lose my job,

Caption 2, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

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A rather unexpected formal usage of dicht conveys that something is sealed, in the sense of "not leaking": 

 

Das Boot ist dicht.
The boat is sealed.

 

Das Fass hält nicht mehr dicht.
The barrel is no longer sealed.

 

Probably related to dicht halten as “to keep sealed,” dichthalten is a slang way of referring to keeping a secret, in a similar sense to "my lips are sealed":

 

Bitte halte dicht, psst...

Please keep it a secret, shhh...

Caption 7, JoNaLu - Wo ist Rosalie?

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When you rather rudely call somebody "thick" in English, you're saying that they are slightly crazy or stupid. But in German slang, you'd say nicht ganz dicht, the suggestion being that thoughts are "leaking" out of someone's head:

 

Johannes ist nicht ganz dicht.
Johannes is a crazy.

 

Last but not least, dicht may be formally translated in certain contexts as "thick": 

 

Das Wetter heute: Vormittags dichter Nebel, nachmittags sonnig.
Today's weather: morning thick fog, afternoon sunny.

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for dicht to see the many different ways it is used in a variety of real-world contexts. 

Sentences with je... desto... and je... umso...

In English, we would say "the more you practice, the better you will speak German." In German, these types of parallel comparatives are called Proportionalsätze, and are constructed as follows:

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Je + comparative adjective (phrase)desto or umso + comparative adjective (phrase).

 

Take a look at the examples below, paying special attention to the positions of the adjectives (or the words mehr or weniger) and the verbs in both clauses. 

 

Und je positiver das ausfällt, desto motivierender.

And the more positive that is, the more motivational.

Caption 65, Gamification - Wie Spielen den Alltag interessanter macht

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Je niedriger die Regionalklasse, desto günstiger wirkt sich das auf den Versicherungsbeitrag aus.

The lower the regional classification, the cheaper it makes the insurance payment.

Captions 10-11, Kfz-Versicherung - Was ist die Regionalklasse?

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Denn je kälter es wird, desto weniger Zeit dürfen sie draußen sein.

Because the colder it gets, the less time they're allowed to be outside.

Caption 4, Im Zoo - Tiere im Winter

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Je mehr Energie ich spare, desto weniger muss ich auch jagen. So einfach ist das.

The more energy I save, the less I have to hunt. It's that simple.

Caption 17, Für Tierfreunde - Geparden

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Ja, und je braver wir zum Hund sind, desto mehr macht er, was er will.

Yes, and the nicer we are to the dog, the more he does just what he wants.

Caption 25, Haustiere als Geschenk? - Vier Pfoten unterm Weihnachtsbaum

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Often, you will see the word umso rather than desto

 

Aber je mehr uns davon gelingt, umso besser.

But the more it succeeds for us, the better.

Caption 31, Angela Merkel - beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat

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Je eleganter man wirkt, umso mehr wird man auch anerkannt... gesellschaftlich, beruflich...

The more elegant one appears, the more one is also accepted... socially, professionally...

Caption 42, Auf dem Laufsteg - Modelcollege in Wiesbaden

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Further Learning
Based on the structures you see above, make up your own sentences with je and desto umso. If you need some comparative adjectives to get you started, you can find a few helpful tables on this page. You can also visit Yabla German and look for further examples.

The Verb ausschließen and the Adjective ausgeschlossen

If you examine the root word and prefix of the separable verb ausschließen and the adjective ausgeschlossen, you find the verb schließen ("to shut") and the prefix aus ("out"). These words may, in some contexts, be translated respectively as "to shut out" to "shut out," but they are more commonly used in a figurative sense. 

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Dafür kommen die Zoobesucher aber ganz schön nah an die Geparden ran, direkter Blickkontakt nicht ausgeschlossen.

In return, the zoo visitors come pretty close to the cheetahs, direct eye contact not being ruled out.

Captions 37-38, Für Tierfreunde - Geparden

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BHF ist angezählt, ein Verkauf nicht ausgeschlossen.

BHF is down for the count, a sale has not been ruled out.

Caption 49, Journal Wirtschaft - Business News

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Väter sind nicht grundsätzlich vom Training ausgeschlossen.

Fathers aren't necessarily excluded from the training [sessions].

Caption 39, Neuer Fitness-Trend - Kinderwagen-Workout

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Weitere Windparks in der Ostsee sind nicht ausgeschlossen.

Additional wind parks in the Baltic Sea haven't been ruled out.

Caption 18, Windenergie - Ostsee-Windpark Baltic 2 speist Strom ins Netz

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Thus, the adjective ausgeschlossen is generally translated, depending on the context, as "excluded" or "ruled out." As a simple interjection, however, an exclamatory Ausgeschlossen! means "impossible." 

 

The verb ausschließen has a similar meaning: 

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Wir schließen aber nicht aus, dass wir irgendwann mal wieder eine Show machen.

But we won't rule out that we'll do a show again some day.

Caption 28, rheinmain Szene - Michael "Bully" Herbig

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Some other possible translations of ausschließen, depending on the context, can be "to exclude," "to preclude," "to expel," "to eliminate," and "to disqualify."

 

Note that the verb ausschließen always has the last syllable written with an ß rather than ss. Just to make it slightly complicated, however, the simple past tense (Indikativ) and subjective mood (Konjunktiv II) of ausschließen are written with ss instead of ß: ich schloss aus ("I ruled out") and ich schlösse aus ("Were I to rule out"). You can easily remember this in that long vowel sounds like ie always take the ß afterwards, and short vowels like o the letters ss.

Letztens vs. Letztlich

In our last lesson, we talked about temporal adverbs for events that have occurred in the recent past or "just now." This week, let's take a look at one of those adverbs that might cause you problems. But first, a little background: the German adjective letzt is usually translated as the English adjective "last, " as in das letzte Mal ("the last time") or in letzter Minute ("at the last minute"). However, the adverb letztens, which might easily be mistaken for "lastly," in fact means "recently," — quite a different meaning indeed. Here are a some examples of letztens from Yabla:

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Ich war letztens mal bei Rammstein.

I was recently at Rammstein.

Caption 32, rheinmain Szene - Unheilig - „Der Graf“

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Wir haben letztens auf einer Veranstaltung gespielt, wo jede Band einen Song covern musste.

We recently played at an event where every band had to cover a song.

Caption 15, Sons of Sounds - Interview - Part 2

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You can see how some misunderstandings might arise if you misunderstand letztens to mean "last of all" or something similar. But what German words can you use if you actually want to say "lastly," "in the end," or "ultimately?" The easiest German word to remember for native English speakers is probably letztlich

 

Letztlich ist so ein Gepard also auch nur ein Mensch.

Lastly, such a cheetah is also just [like] a human.

Caption 14, Für Tierfreunde - Geparden

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Letztlich scheitert der Gastgeber schon im Viertelfinale.

In the end, the host team already lost in the quarter finals.

Caption 33, Frauenfußball - 11 Freundinnen

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Habe ich letztlich besser gemacht gesehen.

I have ultimately seen it done better.

Caption 99, Free Birds - Interview mit Nora Tschirner & Rick Kavanian

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The adverb schließlich can have a similar meaning: 

 

Schließlich kamen sie an ein großes Wasser.

Finally they came to a great [body of] water.

Caption 27, Piggeldy und Frederick - Der Himmel

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As can the adverb zuletzt:

 

Mein Wahlspruch heißt: „Die Dummheit stirbt zuletzt“.

My campaign slogan is: "Stupidity is last to die."

Caption 43, Tom Gerhardt - Die Superbullen

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Further Learning
It's important to remember that letztlich, which is structurally very close to "lastly," also means just that, whereas letztens means "recently." Go to Yabla German and find different examples of letztens, letztlich, schließlich, and zuletzt to learn the different ways in which these words are used by native German speakers in a real-world context.

Halt oder ich schieße! The many ways to say “stop” in German

Many of you probably know the stock line Halt oder ich schieße! (Stop or I’ll shoot!) from old American and British WWII movies, but did you know there are many other ways to say “stop” in German? The German verbs halten and stoppen are easy to remember, since they have the English equivalent verbs “halt” and “stop,” but separable verbs such as aufhören and anhalten are a bit trickier! 

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Let’s first take a look at a couple of examples using the verb halten in the imperative mood, both from the classic children’s book series Der Struwwelpeter:

 

Halt! Das ist noch gutgegangen und die Fischlein sehen's mit Bangen.

Stop! That just barely turned out ok and the little fish watch it with fear.

Caption 12, Der Struwwelpeter - Hans Guck-in-die-Luft

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Robert, halt! Dein Schirm fliegt fort.

Robert, stop! Your umbrella is flying away.

Caption 11, Der Struwwelpeter - Der fliegende Robert

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Next we see the use of the verb stoppen

 

Bislang konnte das die Ausbreitung der Läden aber nicht stoppen.

So far, however, this hasn't stopped the spread of the shops.

Caption 35, Perlentee - In allen Mündern

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And even an example using both halten and stoppen in the imperative mood: 

 

Stopp! Stopp, stopp, stopp, stopp, stopp! Halt!

Stop! Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop! Hold on!

Caption 24, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren - Der Relativsatz

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Note that Yabla purposefully translated halten as “hold on” in order to differentiate it from the translations of stoppen as “stop.”

Another very useful German word for “stop” is aufhören, which is a separable verb that is most commonly used when you want an activity to stop. Here in the conditional mood:

 

Nein, wenn wir keine Lust mehr hätten, würden wir ja aufhören.

No, if we had no more desire, yes, we would stop.

Caption 25, Die Beatles - in Deutschland

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In the imperative mood, the verb’s lexical core is separated from its particle:

 

Hör auf! -Du musst genau hinsehen.

Stop! -You must watch closely.

Caption 13, Filmtrailer - Wir sind die Nacht

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And here an example using the present perfect tense:

 

Sie hat überhaupt nicht mehr aufgehört mit Eismachen.

She just never stopped making ice cream.

Caption 6, Eis - Eiskalte Leidenschaft

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The separable verb anhalten, on the other hand, is used primarily to indicate the stopping of moving objects or vehicles: 

 

Ein Mann fährt mit seinem Auto. Dann wird er von der Polizei angehalten.

A man is driving in his car. Then he is stopped by the police.

Captions 2-3, Sabine erzählt Witze - Die Pinguine

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It is possible to confuse anhalten with the verb for “to keep” (halten) and the preposition “on” (an). Usually the context makes it obvious: 

 

Ihren Pfiffi sollten sie aber lieber an der kurzen Leine halten.

But you had better keep your Fifi on a short leash.

Caption 39, Für Tierfreunde - Geparden

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Another version of “stop” with a very specific context is stehen bleiben, alternately written as one word (stehenbleiben), which is when a person stops walking or running:

 

Das heißt, jedes Mal, wenn man ihn gefangen hat, muss man stehen bleiben.

That means, every time you catch it, you have to stop.

Caption 10, Ultimate Frisbee - Spielregeln

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How would you translate the following?

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Stopphalthör auf mit dem Anhalten!

Note that in the above sentence, the verb anhalten has been nominalized into the noun Anhalten. Many of the alternate German words for "stop" may be translated, depending on the context, with other English synonyms for “stop,” such as “cease,” “discontinue,” “interrupt,” “turn off,” “shut down,” “finish,” “break off,” “close,” or “end.”

 

Learning suggestions:

When you're watching Yabla videos, see if you can spot any other German versions of “stop.” You may learn some more synonyms for “stop” here

Expressions

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