German Lessons


The Capitalization of German Nouns

One thing you may have quickly noticed when you began learning German is that all German nouns are capitalized. In English, it is only proper nouns that begin with a capital letter, with the exception of common nouns that are the very first word in a sentence. In German, nouns are always capitalized, regardless of gender, case, or position in the sentence. 


Let’s take a look. In the following sentence, notice how the first word of each sentence and the proper noun "Munich" are capitalized in both languages. In German, however, the nouns die Bahn, die Stunden, and eine Verbindung also begin with a capital letter.


Aber auch die Bahn bietet alle zwei Stunden eine Verbindung von München an.

But also the train offers a connection from Munich every two hours.

Caption 22, 48 h in Innsbruck - Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps

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Capitalization can be especially helpful with verbs that often moonlight as nouns, such as das Schwimmen, das Tanzendas Gehen, or das Schreiben. They are easy to identify as such because they then begin with a capital letter.


„Hm, das soll Wandern sein?“, wunderte sich Piggeldy. „So laufen wir doch jeden Tag umher.“

"Hm, this is supposed to be hiking?" Piggeldy asked. "We walk around like this every day, after all."

Captions 11-12, Piggeldy und Frederick - Das Wandern

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Note in this next sentence that jemanden and der are not capitalized. Unlike nouns, pronouns do not begin with a capital letter (das is capitalized, of course, because it is the first word in the sentence). Both nouns in eine Tasse Kaffee are capitalized, however, as is die Lobby.


Das ist wirklich genauso, äh, für jemand [jemanden], der vielleicht nur mal auf eine Tasse Kaffee bei uns in der schönen Lobby sitzen möchte...

It's really precisely the same, uh, for each person who, perhaps, would just like to sit for a cup of coffee with us in the beautiful lobby...

Captions 16-17, Berlin - Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung

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Die Lobby brings us to another point. In the next sentence, even though das Team is a noun adopted from English, it is capitalized in German. 


Das Team bereitet sich auf den gemeinsamen Tauchgang vor.

The team prepares for the joint dive.

Caption 50, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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Further Learning
So when did die Großschreibung develop? As early as the 14th century, capitalized nouns can be found in religious texts, but it wasn't officially implemented until the 17th century. For advanced learners, here is a text about it in German. Otherwise, you can choose any video on Yabla German and pay special attention to the nouns and their capitalization while you watch it.

All about dabei

Not to be confused with the capital city of the United Arab Emirates—that's written "Dubai" in German too, by the way—the German adverb dabei means generally "to be present" at some event, but can have many possible translations in English, depending upon the context. Let's take a look at some of the more commonly seen possibilities.



Ich freue mich, dass ihr heute dabei seid.

I'm happy that you are here today.

Caption 2, Eva erklärt - Sprichwörter - Part 1

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In this context, the use of dabei rather than simply hier implies "here with us."


Ich hab' meine Lupe dabei, um die Schnecken zu sehen.

I have my magnifying glass with me to see the snails.

Caption 47, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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You could possibly say bei mir in this context, although bei mir also means "at my place" or "at my house."


Warst du gestern bei der Schlacht dabei?

Were you present at the battle yesterday?

Caption 20, Bretten - Das Peter-und-Paul-Fest - Part 3

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Der Louvre ist nicht mit dabei.

The Louvre [Museum in Paris] is not participating.

Caption 8, Kunst weltweit googeln - Galerienbesuch von zu Hause aus

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The above two examples translate dabei as "to be present" at or "to be participating" in an event.


Wichtig ist dabei, immer Geld zu verdienen.

It is important to always make money thereby.

Caption 51, Fluglinien - Niki Air

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The adverb dabei, when seen in its constituent parts da + bei, literally "there" + "by," forms the English adverb "thereby." Most people don't use the word "thereby" very often in everyday speech, however, and it's more common to use other equivalents. 


Nun spring einfach hinab und flattere und schlackere dabei.

Now just jump down and flutter and flap as you do it.

Caption 26, Piggeldy und Frederick - Lernen fliegen

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Another close equivalent to "thereby," and perhaps the most common translation in this context, is "in doing so": 


Dabei passieren sie die fünf Kilometer lange Zeeland-Brücke.

In doing so, they pass through the five kilometer long Zeeland Bridge.

Caption 10, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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The above could also have been translated: "They thereby pass through the five kilometer long Zeeland Bridge." 


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German to find other examples of dabei used in a real-world context and see if you can find some other ways that it has been translated into English.


Thank you for reading this newsletter and keep up the good work! If you have any good ideas for lesson topics, please email them to us at, and you can tweet us @yabla.

Die Sorte, der Typ, and die Art

When we are trying to make a specification, we rely on phrases like "sort of," "type of," and "variety of." You may think these words each correspond with the most similar word in the title above, but things are not that simple. This is German, after all!


Die Art can be most generically employed as a translation for "the type of" or "the sort of," and also "the way of." 


Spätzle sind eine Art bayrische Nudeln.

Spaetzle are a type of Bavarian noodle.

Caption 2, Bayrische Spätzle - mit Christiane

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Es gibt verschiedene Arten von Wind:

There are various types of wind:

den säuselnden Hauch,

the murmuring breath,

die leichte, die frische und die steife Brise...

the light, the fresh and the stiff breeze...

Captions 10-12, Piggeldy und Frederick - Der Wind

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Die Art also can refer to someone's personality, as in their way of being or way of behaving, and it also can refer to a species of animal. 


Es ist überhaupt nicht ihre Art, einfach so wegzulaufen.

It's not her nature to simply run away like that.

Caption 33, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

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Einige Tierarten aber

Some animal species, however,

machten sich die gewaltige Umgestaltung der Küste zunutze.

have made use of the enormous transformation of the coast.

Caption 5, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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Die Sorte is quite similar to die Art, but will more likely be employed for things that are in some way man-made. For example, if you are talking about a variety or flavor of food, often one that is specified by a name, you generally will use die Sorte rather than die Art. 


Die Sorte „Jamaika Blue Mountain“,

The variety "Jamaica Blue Mountain,"

quasi der Champagner unter den Kaffees,

quasi the champagne of coffees,

kostet sogar über zwanzigmal so viel

even costs over twenty times as much

wie ein Kaffee aus dem Supermarktregal.

as a coffee from the supermarket shelf.

Captions 14-17, Kaffee - Noch von Hand gemacht

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Die Eissorten werden jedes Jahr exotischer.

The ice-cream flavors get more exotic every year.

Caption 2, Eis - Eiskalte Leidenschaft

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Der Typ is a bit trickier, as it is not universally used to mean "type" like in English. In fact, it is most often used as a slang expression to simply mean "the guy." But it can also mean "type of guy." Like in English, you can say Er/Sie ist nicht mein Typ, which means that the person doesn't interest you romantically. 


Ich bin ein sehr nachdenklicher Typ und Mensch.

I am a very thoughtful guy and human being.

Caption 16, Andreas Bourani - Startet durch

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Er war schon immer so ein Typ, dem alles so zufliegt.

He was always the kind of guy who always gets everything.

Captions 22-23, Joris - Er

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Further Learning
Keep an eye out for examples with these words used on Yabla German, and always look at the noun in the sentence. You will notice patterns which can help you choose the right option later on.


Hin und her

You asked a question and we are happy to respond! We will devote this lesson to the adverbs/prefixes hin and her. 


We frequently see the expression hin und her, which can be translated as "back and forth," "to and fro," or occasionally "there and back." But there often isn't a precise translation when they appear individually.


As you can see below, the prefixes hin and her create a more specific sense of direction in the meaning of a sentence. Generally, hin refers to movement away from the speaker, and her refers to movement towards the speaker


Also, wo ziehst du jetzt hin? -Nach Hamburg.

So, where are you moving to now? -To Hamburg.

Caption 2, Drei Leute - beim Kofferpacken

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Wo kommt eigentlich euer Interesse her an den Sepien?

Where does your interest in cuttlefish actually come from?

Caption 18, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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But that isn't all! Hin and her are also used to talk about time, with hin referring to the future and her to the past. 


Rainer Roth, Saisonpremiere ist auch noch bisschen hin.

Rainer Roth, it's also still a while until the season premiere.

Caption 7, Fußball - Saisonpremiere

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Drei Jahre ist es schon her, dass er sich das letzte Mal ins Studio gesetzt hat,

It's already been three years since the last time that he sat himself down in the studio,

Caption 3, Max Herre - Will kein Frauentyp sein

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Further Learning


There are, of course, many instances of hin and her used on Yabla German. For some more vocabulary, you can refer to this page for words prefixed with hin, and this for words prefixed with her. For even more information, take a look at this lesson


Frühling and Frühjahr

You may have noticed that there are two words used to talk about springtime in German: das Frühjahr and der Frühling. Sometimes these two words are used interchangeably, like "fall" and "autumn."


However, if we look at the Duden definition of each word, we see that der Frühling is specified as a season in which mild temperatures prevail and plants begin to grow, whereas das Frühjahr is more vaguely defined as the period of time between the end of winter and the end of spring. This may seem like a subtle difference, but means that we will be more likely to hear das Frühjahr used in contexts where we are more generally talking about the transitional months in the early part of the calendar year.


Also dann... [sic] wir sehen uns im Frühjahr zweitausendneun im Kino.

So, then... we'll see one another in the spring of two thousand nine at the movies.

Caption 29, Filmtrailer - Hexe Lilli

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Jedes Frühjahr wandern die großen Tintenfische durch das Wehr.

Every spring, the large coleoids travel through the dam.

Caption 8, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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Im Frühjahr zweitausendundelf

In the spring two thousand eleven,

sollen die ersten Fohlen geboren werden.

the first foals are expected to be born.

Caption 44, Für Tierfreunde - Przewalski-Wildpferde

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Unlike das Frühjahr, der Frühling clearly indicates the season (March through May in the Northern Hemisphere), along with its positive connotations of warm weather. If spring is named among other seasons, it will much more likely be referred to as der Frühling, and not das Frühjahr.


Frühling, Sommer, Herbst und Winter,

Spring, summer, autumn and winter,

so heißen die Jahreszeiten auf Deutsch.

that's what the seasons are called in German.

Captions 3-4, Herbst - mit Eva

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Winter muss eben sein, nich'? Aber, ja, Frühling ist mir lieber.

Winter has to happen, right? But yes, I prefer spring.

Caption 7, Berlin - Im Winter

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Knallige Farben sind im kommenden Frühling und Sommer ein Muss...

Loud colors for the coming spring and summer are a must...

Caption 2, Das Beauty-Einmaleins - Fingernägel

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Further Learning
Check out this previous lesson on compound words featuring Frühling. Look up the meanings of additional compound words such as die Frühjahrsmüdigkeitder Frühjahrsputz, das Frühjahrsquartal, die Frühjahrsmesse, or die Frühjahrsmode. 


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