German Lessons

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Wann, wenn, ob, and falls

In a previous newsletter, we outlined the difference between wann, wenn, and als. This week, we'll take a look at wann and wenn in the context of the words listed above, which tend to be a bit confusing for beginners. 

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Wann is a question word, like was or wie. It is concerned with at what point in time something will happen, but not if it will happen. 

 

Wann werden Sie diesen Flughafen eröffnen können?

When will you be able to open this airport?

Caption 28, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister - Pläne für 2014

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Genau, ja, wir schauen grad, wann der perfekte Zeitpunkt ist.

Exactly, yes, we are looking right now when the perfect time would be.

Caption 40, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott - Musik sein

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The word wenn can be confusing, because it can be translated as “if,” but also as “when” or “whenever.” 

 

Wenn man die Augen schließt und an Berlin denkt, was sieht man da?

If you close your eyes and think about Berlin, what do you see there?

Caption 1, Berlin - Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung

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Wenn schon so starker Schneefall ist, dann muss man die Zeit eigentlich optimal nutzen.

When there is such heavy snowfall, then you actually have to use your time optimally.

Caption 30, 48 h in Innsbruck - Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps

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The word ob means "whether," but is also translated as "if." It is generally used in sentences that involve two options or a question that could be answered with "no" just as easily as "yes."

 

Ich bin mir aber nicht sicher, ob das Eurem Vater gefällt.

But I'm not sure if your father will like that.

Caption 12, Das Märchen von der Prinzessin - die unbedingt in einem Märchen vorkommen wollte

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Ich möchte schauen, ob ihr die Regeln verstanden habt.

I want to see whether you have understood the rules.

Caption 63, Deutschkurs in Tübingen - Trennbare Verben und Wortstellung

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Falls also means "if," but, unlike wenn, can only be used with the conditional type I and not conditional type II or III. It is also often translated as "in case." 

 

Ähm, falls Ihre Schwester trockene Haut hat, wär' des [das] ganz toll. -OK, super.

Um, if your sister has dry skin, that would be totally great. -OK, super.

Captions 35-36, Rhein-Main-TV - Eva Padberg beim Weihnachtseinkauf

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Natürlich auch einen warmen Pulli, falls es kalt wird.

Of course, also a warm pullover, in case it gets cold.

Caption 9, Christiane - fährt in den Urlaub

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Further Learning
To review the types of conditional sentences in English (mentioned above), take a look at this website. A newsletter on creating conditional sentences in German is forthcoming, so it's a good way to prepare! When you watch videos on Yabla German, note how wenn, ob, and falls are translated. Consider whether the word used could be swapped out for one of the others, and why or why not. 

Better and better

In last week's newsletter, we looked at the various ways of expressing the adverb "even" in German. We shouldn't forget that adverbs not only describe verbs, but adjectives as well. In this case, "even" is expressed with "noch":

 

Und mit ein bisschen Unterstützung der Teamkollegen klappt's vielleicht noch besser.

And with a little support from the team members it might work out even better.

Caption 11, Fußball - Torwandschießen - Part 2

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In English we say something is "even better" or that it is getting "better and better." The latter exists in German as well and is often constructed with the verb werden, the word immer, and a comparative adjective. 

 

Man wird ja immer besser durch die Übung.

One does get even [always] better through practice.

Caption 26, Singer-Songwriter - Sebastian Niklaus

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As you can see, this construction can be used with most adjectives: 

 

Sie wird im Spiegel immer kleiner

It gets smaller and smaller in the mirror

Caption 85, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott - Musik sein

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Und deshalb wird es auch immer wichtiger werden, dieses auch in Zukunft, äh, zu verstärken.

And therefore it is going to become more and more important to, uh, also emphasize this in the future.

Captions 35-36, Angela Merkel - beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat - Part 2

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Sie ist, äh, durch die Erweiterung des Flughafens natürlich immer komplexer geworden...

It has, uh, through the expansion of the airport, become more and more complex, of course...

Captions 35-36, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister - Pläne für 2014

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However, make sure to take context of the sentence and the presence or absence of werden into account. The sentence below shows that immer can be combined with an adjective and still just mean "always."

 

Wenn man gemeinsam reist, ist es immer besser.

It's always better if you travel together.

Caption 20, Traumberuf - Windsurfer

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Further Learning
Based on the tips above, how would you translate the phrase immer wieder? Do a search on Yabla German!

Common German Mistakes: Wie or Als?

German speakers sometimes make the mistake of using wie (as, like, how) instead of als (than), an error that is a bit puzzling for native English speakers. It is hard for us to imagine saying, for example: "I am taller as you" instead of "I am taller than you," but in German this is a fairly common error. The following Yabla English translations reflect the corrections to als:

 

Also wir geben hier mehr her wie [sic, als] die Lufthansa da in der... in der Businessclass.

So we deliver more here than Lufthansa there in the… in the business class.

Captions 45-46, Fluglinien - Niki Air

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... wie [sic, als] wenn man einfach sagt: „Kuck mal, ich hab' dir 'nen ganz gesunden Salat gemacht“.

... than if you simply say to them: "Look, I have made ​​you a very healthy salad".

Captions 32-33, Kochhaus Berlin - Kochen mit Kindern

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The German als should be used like the English "than" when showing contrast, as a function word to indicate an inequality between two things:

 

Ich sage immer, eher mehr Selbstvertrauen als Talent.

I always say, rather more confidence than talent.

Caption 22, Cassandra Steen - Interview

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Wobei man hier eher vom Fallen als vom Fliegen sprechen muss.

Although in this case it would be more accurate to speak of falling rather than of flying.

Caption 5, Abenteuer und Sport - Fallschirmspringen

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Whereas wie is used to relate things that are similar in some way, or to give an example:

 

Wir haben ein Programm mit Ikonen der Musikgeschichte wie Foreigner oder den Simple Minds

We have a program with icons of music history like Foreigner or the Simple Minds

Captions 7-8, Das Tollwood-Festival - BAP und Clueso in der Musik-Arena

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Da sind die besten Firmen der Welt dabei wie Siemens und andere.

The best companies in the world are there, like Siemens and others.

Caption 40, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister - Pläne für 2014

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Further Learning:

Search on Yabla German for the words als and wie to find more of the ways these expressions are used in context.
 

Grammar

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