German Lessons


Apartment Buildings

This week, we'll look at vocabulary for describing German apartment buildings, which is often no easy task. Even when a building is not particularly large in comparison to what you might find in other cities, there are some essential words for describing where you are located.


The architecture of many apartment buildings involves a central courtyard, der Hinterhof. The part of the building that is immediately on the street is called das Vorderhaus, while the apartments accessed by going through the courtyard are in what is generally called either das Hinterhaus, das Quergebäude, or das Gartenhaus. The part of the building that runs along the sides of the courtyard and connects these two parts is called der Seitenflügel and is often specified with links or rechts.


So, if you have a visitor and need to describe where your apartment is located, this may be what you specify first. Next, however, you will also need to describe what floor you are on. There are three nouns for this: die Etage, das Stockwerk (der Stock), and das Obergeschoss (sometimes abbreviated OG). Do keep in mind that the ground floor (das Erdgeschoss or das Hochparterre when it's elevated from street level) is not considered the first floor in German-speaking countries! 


Unser Büro befindet sich im vierten Stock.

Our office is located on the fourth floor.

Caption 47, Berufsleben: das Vorstellungsgespräch:

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Das Zimmer ist in der vierten Etage.

The room is on the fourth floor.

Caption 13, Nicos Weg: Im Hotel

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Wir können damit ins erste OG [Obergeschoss] hoch.

We can hoist it onto our shoulders, we can go up to the first floor [US second floor] with it

Caption 43, Feuerwehr Heidelberg: Löschfahrzeug

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In order to reach these floors, a visitor will need to either take the stairs, or if they're lucky, find an elevator. There are also two different words used for "the elevator" in German.


Du, ich bin schon im Treppenhaus.

Hey, I'm already in the stairwell.

Caption 64, Die Pfefferkörner: Alles auf Anfang

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Den Aufzug finden Sie vorne rechts.

You'll find the elevator in the front on the right-hand side.

Caption 20, Nicos Weg: Im Hotel

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Ich hab grad gehört, der Fahrstuhl bleibt stecken.

I just heard that the elevator is stuck.

Caption 3, Die Pfefferkörner: Endspurt

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With any luck, they will then find the door of the apartment. Like the front door of a house, there is also a special word for this in German:


Ich stelle den vollen Müllbeutel deutlich sichtbar vor die Haustür.

I place the full trash bag clearly visible in front of the front door.

Caption 37, Deutsch mit Eylin: Putzen

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Dieser Brettschneider hat doch gesagt, dass die Typen direkt vor seiner Wohnungstür gestanden haben.

This Brettschneider guy told us that the guys were standing right in front of his apartment door.

Captions 43-44, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

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Further Learning
Practice describing where a friend or relative's apartment is in their building. You can also choose an office you've been to and describe which floor it's on. For more information about this topic, including common abbreviations, you can check out this Wikipedia page

All about fertig

The German adjective fertig is especially interesting because of its slang usages. In standard usage, fertig is usually translated as "finished," "ready," or "done":


Nun brauche ich meinen fertigen Teig nur noch in die Form füllen.

Now I just have to fill my finished batter into the mold.

Caption 27, Apfelkuchen: mit Eva

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Die Apfelpfannkuchen sind nun fertig zum Servieren.

The apple pancakes are now ready to serve.

Caption 30, Apfelpfannkuchen: mit Alina und Sabine

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So, mein Apfelkuchen ist jetzt fertig.

So, my apple cake is now done.

Caption 37, Apfelkuchen: mit Eva

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But in its slang usages, fertig takes on different meanings. The phrase fix und fertig, for example, means to be worn out or exhausted:


Wir sind fix und fertig, hä?

We are worn out, huh?

Caption 4, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz

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Simply saying fertig in certain contexts also has the same meaning:


Also, ich bin so was von fertig.

Well, I am so completely exhausted.

Caption 67, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

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The phrase fertig machen, which until the German language reform of 1996 was the freestanding verb fertigmachen, means “to get ready” or "to prepare" in its standard usage:


Ich muss noch duschen und mich fertig machen.
I still have to take a shower and get ready.


But in its slang usage, fertig machen has a range of meanings, from exhausting oneself all the way to the threat of physical violence:


Das macht mich fertig.

It's getting me down.

Caption 14, Deutsche Welle: Leben zwischen zwei Kulturen in Namibia

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Wenn er mit dem Zeug abhauen will, dann mache ich ihn fertig!

If he tries to make off with the stuff, I'll finish him off!

Caption 28, Die Pfefferkörner: Endspurt

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Further Learning
The adjective fertig is also a root word in a number of adjectives and adverbs that have very different meanings. Do you know the difference between leichtfertig and schlagfertig, for instance? If you are ready to go deeper into the topic, take a look at this extensive list of German words containing fertig—but be aware that there are a lot of them. Mach dich doch nicht fertig dabei!

Eifersüchtig vs. Neidisch

In the English language, many people confuse the words "jealous" and "envious." This occurs in German as well, which can make it even harder to distinguish between the words eifersüchtig and neidisch and know when to use which one. 


"Jealousy" occurs when the underlying emotion is a fear that someone will take away something that you have. This means that die Eifersucht often occurs in situations involving three people, like in the sentence below:


Was? Nee, nee, das war nur mein Kollege.

What? No, no, that was just my colleaugue.

Nein, das ist kein Grund, eifersüchtig zu sein.

No, it's no reason to be jealous.

Captions 49-50, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

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Zum ersten Mal in ihrem Leben verspürte sie Stiche von Wut und Eifersucht.

For the first time in her life, she felt stings of anger and jealousy.

Caption 61, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Büchse der Pandora

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"Envious" is simply wanting what someone else has or gets to do. In German, there is the noun der Neid, the adjective neidisch, and also the verb jemanden beneiden.


Wütend und neidisch zugleich

Angry and envious at the same time,

stampfte er auf dem Berg der Götter umher.

he stomped around on the Mountain of the Gods.

Caption 14, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Büchse der Pandora

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Reinhold Leinberger, den ich heiß darum beneide,

Reinhold Leinberger, whom I envy very much because of it,

der durfte nämlich mit Ihnen fliegen.

was actually permitted to fly with you.

Caption 20, Ultraleicht-Flieger - Der Gyrocopter

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Further Learning
Can you find a video on Yabla German in which eifersüchtig is used, but the speaker actually means neidisch?

Das Telefonieren

Whether you are learning German for business purposes or with the goal of traveling to German-speaking countries, you may find at some point that you are required to talk on the phone in German. This week, we'll look at a group of phrases that is used particularly for telephone conversation.


While anrufen means "to call," the verb telefonieren means "to speak on the phone." Have you ever been in the situation in which someone calls for you or tries to start a conversation with you and doesn't realize that you are talking on the phone? In German, you would tell that person Ich telefoniere gerade!


Kannst du bitte aufhören zu telefonieren?

Can you please stop talking on the phone?

Caption 51, Magie - Die Zaubershow

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"To pick up the phone" is literally den Hörer abnehmen, but for "to answer the phone" you are more likely to hear ans Telefon gehen, or simply rangehen.


Ich gehe nicht ran, ich bin nicht da.

I'm not answering it, I'm not here.

Caption 8, Caracho - Ich bin weg

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"To hang up" is auflegen:


Er hat auch erst gesagt: „Leg auf!"

He also first said: "Hang up!"

Caption 7, 3nach9 - Ehrlich Brothers - Show-Magier

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Most people in Germany answer the phone by saying their last name, or the last name of their family if receiving a call on their home landline. 


Ja, Paschke. -Ich bin's.

Yes, Paschke residence. -It's me.

Caption 12, Weihnachtsfilm - Ein Sack voll Geld

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To state who is calling, use hier ist or hier spricht.


Hallo, Frau Meier. Hier ist Melanie Schmidt.

Hello, Ms. Meier. This is Melanie Schmidt.

Caption 8, Berufsleben - das Vorstellungsgespräch

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Wer spricht denn dort?

Who's speaking there then?

-Hier spricht der Herr Bär.

-This is Mr. Bear.

Captions 45-46, Janoschs Traumstunde - Post für den Tiger

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To ask to speak to a particular person, you will need to use the verb dürfen, and don't forget that mit is a dative preposition! 


Darf ich mit dir sprechen? -Ja, klar.

May I speak with you? -Yes, of course.

Caption 29, Das Lügenbüro - Die Bewerbung

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Generally, the verb erreichen ("to reach") plays a large role in talking on the phone. 


Ich erreiche sie nicht, weder über Funk noch auf Handy.

I can't reach her, neither on the radio nor on her cell phone.

Caption 51, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

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If the person you wish to speak to is nicht erreichbar, you will have the choice of calling back (zurückrufen) or leaving a message (eine Nachricht hinterlassen)

Ey, ruf doch mal zurück

Hey, call back sometime!

Caption 27, Monsters of Liedermaching - Atomfreies Kraftwerk

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Further Learning
Use these phrases to write out a telephone dialogue from start to finish, making sure that you conjugate all verbs correctly and that the accusative and dative are also implemented correctly. If you need more context for the phrases, watch the corresponding videos on Yabla German.

More German Pseudo-Anglicisms

There are a number of English words that have been adopted by the German language but given different meanings or used in different contexts. These are called pseudo-anglicisms, and sometimes lead to German speakers re-importing what they mistakenly think are English words into their non-native English, often with unintentionally humorous or incomprehensible results. 



Wo man seinen Sound aufnehmen kann

Where you can record your sound

und den dann über den Kemper wieder abrufen kann,

and then can access it on the Kemper again,

ohne Boxen.

without speakers.

Captions 32-34, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell - Musikmesse in Frankfurt

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Die Box is short for die Lautsprecherbox, which means "speaker" or "loudspeaker." A native English speaker might be confused, however, if somebody told him his "boxes" are too loud.


Carmen Spindler leitet nicht nur ein Fitnessstudio.

Carmen Spindler doesn't just run a gym.

Caption 2, Bodybuilderinnen - Lieber zart als muskulös

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Another acceptable spelling of this word is das Fitness-Studio, which makes the English source more obvious. It's pretty clear what "fitness studio" means, but to English ears it sounds like an unnecessarily verbose word for "gym."


Ich hab' ihr schon dreimal auf die Mailbox gesprochen, aber nix [nichts].

I've already spoken to her three times [left three messages] on her voicemail, but nothing.

Caption 37, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

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If somebody told you they were "talking to your mailbox," you'd think maybe it's time they seek professional psychological help. But in German, die Mailbox is just your voicemail or answering machine. 



Further Learning
Review an earlier Yabla newsletter about pseudo-anglicisms and look for more examples on Yabla German to see how these words are used in a real-world context.

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