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Indefinite Pronouns in the Dative Case: Jemandem

The words "somebody," "someone," "anybody," and "anyone" are indefinite pronouns that are usually translated as jemand in German. The indefinite pronoun jemand is similar to the definite pronouns I (ich), you (Sie or du), we (wir), or they (sie), but is referring to an indefinite rather than specific person.


Just like the definite pronouns in German, jemand is also subject to changing its form when used in the dative case after prepositions like nach, zu, mit or von. In the dative case, jemand gets an additional -em ending:


Sie suchen nach jemandem für ihre Marketingabteilung.

They're looking for someone for their marketing department.

Caption 8, Berufsleben - das Vorstellungsgespräch

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Es ist lange her, dass ich so eine Verbindung zu jemandem gespürt habe.

It's been a long time since I felt such a connection to anyone.

Caption 53, Die Wohngemeinschaft - Die Verabredung

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Habt ihr mit jemandem Probleme, sagt's ihm ins Gesicht

If you have problems with someone, tell him to his face

Caption 57, Golo - Smile

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Der Vorschlag müsste von jemandem kommen.

The proposal would have to come from someone.

Caption 46, Pastewka - Neue Serie für Kessler

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This is also true when the sentence structure requires the dative case, such as when you give somebody something:


Jemandem einen Korb geben.

To give someone a basket.

Caption 17, Eva erklärt - Sprichwörter

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The above expression usually is an idiom that means you are rejecting something that has been offered. Another figure of speech that you may already know is:


Und wenn ich jemandem die Daumen drücke,

And if I press my thumbs for someone,

dann wünsche ich der Person ganz viel Glück.

then I'm wishing the person a whole lot of luck.

Captions 28-29, Eva erklärt - Redewendungen

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Further Learning
Look for other examples of how jemandem is used in a real-world context on Yabla German and try devising some sentences of your own using jemandem and have a fellow student check your work! If you're feeling brave you can explore the related expressions irgendjemandem and irgendwem!



German Wordplays

In a video launched last week, German comedian Bastian Pastewka — yes, the same actor who narrates the animated Märchen series — plays himself in an eponymous TV series. In one scene, another actor says:

Das ist Bastian Pastewka, einer der beleibtesten Komiker Deutschlands.


On a first reading, you might think the actor saying that Pastewka is one of the "most beloved comedians in Germany," but if you look closer, you see that word is not beliebtesten but rather beleibtesten:


Das ist Bastian Pastewka,

That is Bastian Pastewka,

einer der beleibtesten Komiker Deutschlands.

one of the most obese comedians of Germany.

Caption 12, Pastewka - Neue Serie für Kessler

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So simply switching the letters "ie" with "ei" results in the word changing from beliebt (beloved) to beleibt (obese). Rearranging the letters in a word to form a word with a different meaning is called an anagram. Such subtleties are often the basis for humorous wordplays or Wortspiele in many languages.

Other kinds of wordplays focus on associating two words in unexpected ways. In the following example from the animated Piggeldy und Frederick series, the young Piggeldy notices a sheep bleating "baa", which in German is transcribed as mäh. He then says:


Es hat eben gesagt, was es den ganzen Tag tut.

It just said what it does the whole day.

Es mäht [ein Wortspiel] das Gras.

It's mowing [a play on words] the grass.

Captions 33-34, Piggeldy und Frederick - Das Schaf

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So in German, the word for a sheep's "baa" (mäh) is similar to the German verb for mowing (mähen). Using an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound is called a malapropism.

In a video celebrating World Pi Day, (yes, the mathematical constant "pi" has its own holiday), someone asks the riddle, "Which tower has a downward lean of 3.1415 percent?" The answer is:


Der Schiefe Turm von „Pi-Tag"! 

The Leaning Tower of "Pi Day"!

Caption 59, Welt-Pi-Tag - Unser Leben mit der Kreiszahl

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The invented word Pi-Tag or "Pi Day" is a pun on the word "Pisa" from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Puns are, of course, the source of a lot of very corny jokes and wordplays. The 1996 French film Ridicule even goes so far as to call puns "the death of wit!"



Further Learning
Learn more about English types of wordplay on English Wikipedia and German wordplays on German Wikipedia and find some of your new German vocabulary words in a real world context in videos on German Yabla.