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Words with -mal and -malig

When talking about time in German, one word that is often found alone or as a root is das Mal. Not to be confused with das Mahl, which means "the meal," das Mal without an "h" means "the time" in the sense of "the instance." You've certainly seen sentences like this on Yabla German:


Bis zum nächsten Mal.

Till next time.

Caption 53, Abendessen: mit Marko

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There are a number of words that employ this word as a root to express a more specific relation to time. For example, einmal means "once," and so einmalig is an adjective that describes something that happens only once, or is exceptionally unique. 


Diese Ansprache, die gibt es ja normalerweise nur einmal im Jahr.

This address is usually only given once a year.

Caption 3, Coronavirus: Kommentar zu Angela Merkels Rede

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Wir haben heute eine einmalige Aktion vor uns ...

We have a one-time special ahead of us today...

Caption 6, Coronavirus: Drei Musiker geben Ballonkonzert über Cloppenburg

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Ja, also wir bauen einen Baum auf, der ist drei Meter fünfzig hoch, das ist so... so einmalig.

Yes, well, we put up a tree there which is three meters fifty tall, that's so... so unique.

Captions 11-12, Weihnachten geht baden: Tannenbaum unter Wasser

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You may have also seen erstmal, which means "first," temporally speaking. If something is erstmalig, it is happening for the first time (zum ersten Mal).


Und dieser Boden ist hier in Darmstadt in der Centralstation ja erstmalig in Deutschland im Einsatz.

And this floor is here in Darmstadt in the Centralstation  is in use for the first time in Germany.

Captions 1-2, Organic Disco: Tanzen gegen den Klimawandel

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Now let's look at ehemals/ehemalig and damals/damalig, which both refer to the past. You'll see these words translated in different ways on Yabla, but often with "back then," "at the time," and "former," depending on whether an adverb or adjective/adjectival phrase is required. 


Es war damals irgendwie total uncool, ein Auto zu haben.

It was somehow totally uncool to have a car back then.

Caption 33, Deutsch mit Eylin: Menschen beschreiben

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Und die damalige Geschäftsführerin hat den Sender hier rübergebracht ... 

And the former managing director brought the station over here... 

Caption 52, Rhein-Main-TV: Interview mit Edmund Stössel

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In Pforzheim steht nach Angaben des Betreibers das einzige DDR-Museum auf ehemals westdeutschem Boden...

In Pforzheim, according to accounts of the operator, stands the only GDR museum on former West German soil...

Captions 7-8, DDR zum Anfassen Ganz tief im Westen

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Rund viertausend Besucher kommen jährlich nach Pforzheim, um etwas über die ehemalige DDR zu lernen.

Around four thousand visitors come yearly to Pforzheim to learn something about the former GDR.

Captions 39-40, DDR zum Anfassen Ganz tief im Westen

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Further Learning
Build some sentences with einmal, zweimal, dreimal, and viermal that describe how often you have been to certain places or how often you do certain tasks during the week. Then look for examples of damals, ehemals, damalig, and ehemalig translated on Yabla German to get a sense of the nuances. 

Before, Part II: bis, bisher, ehe, früher, vorhin, & zuvor

A few weeks ago in Part I, we looked at the most common ways to say "before": vor, vorher, and bevor. Let's take a look today at some more German words that are commonly translated into English as "before."


Warum hatte man bis vergangene Woche denn so wenig von ihr gehört?

Why had we heard so little from her before this past week?

Caption 65, Coronavirus - Kommentar zu Angela Merkels Rede

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The preposition bis, usually requiring the accusative case, is also often translated as "until."


Ist natürlich ein besonderer Umstand, nur mit Leuten, die man bisher nicht kannte...

Of course, it's a particular circumstance to only be with people you didn't know before...

Caption 11, Anja Polzer - Interview

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The adverb bisher is sometimes translated to English as "previously."


Ehe du einschläfst, wollte ich dir schnell bloß sagen,

Before you fall asleep, I just wanted to quickly say to you,

Caption 51, Janoschs Traumstunde - Post für den Tiger

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Not to be mixed up with the noun die Ehe ("the marriage"), the conjunction ehe is sometimes spoken in a shortened form as eh


Alles das, was früher war

All that was before

wischst du einfach weg

you just wipe away

Captions 20-21, Adel Tawil - 1000 gute Gründe

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The adverb früher (which is also seen as an adjective) is sometimes translated as "previously" or "earlier," depending upon the context.


Die hatte ich vorhin an, zum Beispiel beim Umzug

I had it on before, for example during the parade

oder als wir noch 'nen Auftritt hatten.

or when we had an appearance.

Captions 14-15, Bretten - Das Peter-und-Paul-Fest

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The adverb vorhin sounds similar to vorher, which we read about in Part I, but expresses something that happened in the very recent past—just seconds, minutes, or perhaps a few hours previously.


All das wird auf die Probe gestellt wie nie zuvor.

All of this is being put to the test like never before.

Caption 5, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel

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The adverb zuvor is often translated as "previously" or "beforehand," depending upon the context.


So voll Energie, so hoch wie noch nie

So full of energy, as high as never before

Caption 4, Beatrice Egli - Wir leben laut

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The German phrase noch nie would translate literally as "yet never," but that doesn't make any sense in English and it is usually translated as "never before."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for some of the words above that are commonly translated as "before" to get a better feel for the contexts in which they are used in a real-world context.