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The adverb zwar

Today we will look at a unique, but somewhat confusing German word: the conjunctive adverb zwar. Mainly confusing because it doesn’t have a single equivalent in English, it’s a word that can be used to create more expressive German sentences — a great word to know!


First of all, zwar can be used when making a clarification. Where we would use "namely," "that is," or "indeed" in English, in German you often see the phrase und zwar.


Zu seinem einhundertfünfundneunzigsten Geburtstag hat der Philosoph seine Geburtsstadt Trier erobert, und zwar gleich in fünfhundertfacher Ausführung.

For his one hundred ninety-fifth birthday, the philosopher has conquered his birth city of Trier, namely, in the form of five hundred duplicate copies.

Captions 3-5, „Mini-Marxe“: In Trier

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Wir beobachten aber auch, dass sich die Welt verändert, und zwar in rasantem Tempo.

We also observe, however, that the world is changing, and indeed at a rapid pace.

Caption 17, Angela Merkel: Gemeinsame Pressekonferenz mit Barack Obama

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Heute kochen wir ein niedersächsisches Gericht, und zwar eine Hochzeitssuppe.

Today we are cooking a Lower Saxon dish: namely, a wedding soup.

Captions 2-3, Bundesländer und ihre Rezepte: Niedersachsen

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Secondly, zwar can be used to express limitations or contradictions. In these sentences, zwar is in the limiting first statement, which is then followed by a contradictory statement beginning with an adverb like aber, allerdings, or doch. Let's have a look:


Die Raumordnung kann zwar nicht alle Konflikte lösen, aber sie kann als eine neutrale, übergeordnete Größe vieles steuern und anstoßen.

Spatial planning may not be able to resolve all conflicts, but as a neutral, superordinate variable, it can control and initiate many things.

Captions 53-54, Bundesregierung DE: Wie geht Raumordnung?

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Sie darf zwar nicht so lange draußen bleiben wie die Rentiere, aber dafür kann sie alles essen, was der Boden so hergibt.

Admittedly, she's not allowed to stay outside as long as the reindeer, but instead, she can eat everything the ground may happen to yield.

Captions 33-34, Im Zoo: Tiere im Winter

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Das Telefon klingelt zwar ab und zu, aber meistens höre ich nichts.

The phone does ring every now and then, but most of the time I don't hear anything.

Captions 32-33, Marius Müller-Westernhagen: Der Mann auf der Mauer

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Köln ist zwar die Stadt mit den meisten Einwohnern, aber die Landeshauptstadt ist Düsseldorf.

Although Cologne is the city with the most inhabitants, the state capital is Düsseldorf.

Captions 19-20, Bundesländer und ihre Rezepte: Nordrhein-Westfalen

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As you can see, there is not a single equivalent for this in English, but the meaning is essentially that of "although." Additionally, zwar adds emphasis to a statement.


Further Learning
Now that you have a sense of how zwar is used, try integrating it when you speak German. There are many more examples on Yabla German that you can look at as well. 

Das and Dies as Demonstrative Plural Pronouns

A sentence construction with das sind... followed by a plural noun is a bit confusing at first, but it's very common in spoken German. At first you might be tempted to translate it literally, but with "that are" (sic), you'll find the singular subject and the plural verb to be in disagreement. That's because the demonstrative pronouns das and dies are not inflected by the plural of the verb sein ("to be"). 


So it's more natural for a native German to say Das sind Hans und Grete. This can sound a bit strange when you're first learning German.


Nein, das hier sind keine mutierten Gartenzwerge.

No, these here are no mutated garden gnomes.

Caption 1, „Mini-Marxe“ - In Trier

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Immer dran denken: Das sind alles Verben, die einen Akkusativ brauchen.

Always remember: they are all verbs that require the accusative case.

Caption 31, Deutschkurs in Tübingen - Fragen

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Das sind nun die Zutaten für unseren Apfelkuchen.

These are now the ingredients for our apple cake.

Caption 3, Apfelkuchen - mit Eva

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Das sind oft nur wenige Pfennige und man bekommt das Geld natürlich wieder.

Often these are just a few pennies and you get the money back, of course.

Caption 34, Eva erklärt - Mülltrennung

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And here are a couple of examples using dies sind: 


Dies sind nur ganz wenige Ausschnitte aus dem zurückliegenden Jahr.

These are just a very few excerpts from the previous year.

Caption 8, Angela Merkel - Neujahrsansprache

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Dies sind Hinterlassenschaften eines Krokodils.

These are the remains of a crocodile.

Caption 10, Ausgrabungen - Auf den Spuren der Dinosaurier

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Further Learning
Look for more examples of das sind on Yabla German to see the phrase used in a real-world context.

Ordinal Numbers in German

Ordinal numbers ("first," "second," "third") differ from cardinal numbers ("one," "two," "three") in that they establish order or rank. Forming the ordinal numbers is luckily relatively easy in German. Generally, you will either add -te or -ste on the end, and make sure you have the correct declension.

For numbers below twenty, you simply add -te (zwei — zweite) with the exception of the following ordinal numbers: einsdreisieben, and acht.



Die erste Station seines Besuches im September ist Berlin.

The first stop of his visit in September is Berlin.

Caption 2, Der Papst - Hier wohnt der Papst

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Die Nashville-LP „Could Have Been Mine“ [sic, „Could've Been Mine“] ist die dritte Platte der Band.

The Nashville LP "Could Have Been Mine" [sic, "Could've Been Mine"] is the band's third disc.

Caption 43, Ann Doka & Band - New Country aus dem Rhein-Main-Gebiet

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Beim Bauern gibt es noch eine weitere Sonderregel,

With pawns there is yet another special rule,

und zwar: Wenn der Bauer von der siebten auf die achte Linie vorrückt.

and that is: if the pawn advances from the seventh to the eighth line.

Captions 56-57, Schach - mit Jenny - Part 1

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In this last example, you can see the declension based on grammatical case (dative — note the "n"— and then accusative) at work. It follows the same patterns that adjectives do. Note that you may also see "seventh" translated as siebente (in this case it would be siebenten) rather than siebte.

Starting with the cardinal number zwanzig ("twenty"), -ste is added to create the ordinal number. 


Man sagt zum Beispiel:

We say, for example:

„der erste Januar“ oder „der vierundzwanzigste Dezember“

"the first of January" or the "twenty-fourth of December"

oder „der dreißigste Februar“, den es nicht gibt.

or "the thirtieth of February," which doesn't exist.

Captions 12-15, Zahlen mit Diane - Ordinalzahlen, Vielfache und Bruchzahlen

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Zu seinem einhundertfünfundneunzigsten Geburtstag

For his one hundred ninety-fifth birthday,

hat der Philosoph seine Geburtsstadt Trier erobert.

the philosopher has conquered his birth city of Trier.

Captions 3-4, „Mini-Marxe“ - In Trier

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It is important to note that, just as "first," "thirteenth," and "twenty-third" would often be abbreviated as "1st," "13th," and "23rd" in English, a period may be used in German to denote ordinal numbers, particularly with dates. The example above would read: 

Man sagt zum Beispiel: „der 1. Januar“ oder „der 24. Dezember“ oder „der 30. Februar“, den es nicht gibt.


Further Learning
Take a look at this chart and watch Diane's video in its entirety to get a great overview of this topic. For more on adjective declension, refer to this page.

Six Ways to Say "Orange" in German

There are a lot of options for describing something as being the color orange in German, though not all of them may be quite correct in formal writing! The standard form, and easiest to remember since it is identical to English, is the German adjective orange



Ein Tiger ist... Ein Tier... das orange ist.

A tiger is... An animal... that is orange.

Captions 22-23, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren - Der Relativsatz

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Used together with the noun, you could say ein oranger Tiger or ein oranges Tier. Okay, a tiger is actually orange and black, but eventually the student in this video gets it right! 


A second and third adjective that we could use is orangefarben, or less commonly orangenfarben, meaning "orange-colored." In that case our imaginary tiger—missing its black stripes—would be ein orangefarbener or orangenfarbener Tiger. Add to that some other similar fourth and fifth "orange" adjectives and you have ein orangefarbiger or orangenfarbiger Tiger. In the latter, orangefarbig is more common than orangenfarbig.


The sixth and last way to express the color orange is very common in spoken German, but according to the Duden dictionary, orangen is actually slang usage: 


Ich glaube, am besten gefällt mir nicht die orangene Farbe.

I think I don't like the orange color best.

Caption 19, „Mini-Marxe“ - In Trier

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Der orangene PKW wird auf vierzig Kilometer pro Stunde beschleunigt.

The orange passenger car is accelerated to forty kilometers per hour [twenty-five mph].

Caption 16, Crashtest - Fahrradfahrer profitieren kaum vom Fußgängerschutz am Auto

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Further Learning
Orange, orangefarben, orangenfarben, orangefarbig, orangenfarbig, orangen: Find some more examples of "orange" and other colors on Yabla German to see how they are used in a real-world context.