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fallen vs. gefallen

Let's discuss two German verbs today: fallen and gefallen

 

The verb fallen can be variously translated as "to fall," "to drop," "to decline," "to decrease" or "to sink" (as in prices decrease or sink), "to slip" (as in standards slip), and even "to score" (as when a goal is scored in football). 

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Im Herbst sind die Blätter rot und orange. Im Winter fallen sie herunter.

In autumn, the leaves are red and orange. In winter, they fall down.

Captions 44-45, Deutsch mit Eylin Pronomen

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OK, jetzt gebe ich euch andere Verben, die in diese Kategorie fallen, ja?

OK, now I'll give you other verbs that fall into this category, yes?

Caption 1, Deutschkurs in Tübingen Verben der 2. Kategorie - Part 3

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Doch wenn dann immer mehr Tore fallen...

Indeed, if then more and more goals are scored...

Caption 32, Frauenfußball-WM Der Bundespräsident am Ball

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Bevor wir fallen, fallen wir lieber auf

Before we fall, we prefer to be noticed

Caption 23, Heino Neue Volkslieder

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Note that the second instance of fallen in this last example is actually part of the separable verb auffallen, "to be noticed."

 

The verb gefallen may be translated, according to context, as "to oblige," "to delight," "to be pleasing," "to appeal" (to someone), "to be to (someone's) liking," or "to meet with (someone's) approval." 

 

Wir hoffen, euch hat dieses Video gefallen und ihr hattet Spaß beim Zuschauen. Gebt uns doch einen Daumen nach oben, wenn's euch gefallen hat.

We hope you enjoyed this video and had fun watching. Give us a thumbs up if you liked it.

Captions 75-76, Playmobil Skispringen mit Familie Hauser - Part 3

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Das gefällt mir richtig, richtig gut.

I really, really like it.

Caption 5, Auto-Bild-TV Tops & Flops der IAA

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„Der Film gefällt dem Zuschauer“. -Super.

"The viewer likes the film." -Super.

Caption 6, Deutschkurs in Tübingen Verben der 3. Kategorie - Part 4

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Note that the subject of gefallen is dative: Mir gefällt der Film or Der Film gefällt mir. It would be an easy mistake to misunderstand the last one to mean "the film likes me!" 

 

You also have to be careful not to mix up the verb gefallen — a past participle of fallen — with the noun der Gefallen ("a favor"). There is also the adjective gefallen, which is from the verb fallen and may be translated as "fell down" or in a military sense "to be killed in action," in the same euphemistic sense that a soldier "falls" in battle. 

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and read the related lessons Falling, dropping, and slipping and The verb gelingen. Then watch the Yabla video Deutschkurs in Tübingen, where the teacher and students go in-depth into the verb gefallen.

The verb gelingen

You probably came across the verbs gehören and gefallen quite quickly when you began learning German. They both belong to a group of verbs in German that require a dative object. They are both a bit perplexing at first because most past participles in German begin with ge- (and gehört is indeed the past participle of hören), and also because they follow a particular structure when used in a sentence that doesn't necessarily match the structure in English.

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Also, mir gehört er auf jeden Fall nicht.

Well, it definitely doesn't belong to me.

Caption 49, Das Urban-Art-Projekt - Polnischer Militärhubschrauber

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Das gefällt mir richtig, richtig gut.

I really, really like it.

Caption 5, Auto-Bild-TV - Tops & Flops der IAA

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Notice that in the case of gehören we use the same structure in English, whereas with gefallen the sentence doesn't translate directly. The closest we could come in English is "It pleases me," but this is rarely used nowadays.

 

Now let's look at gelingen. We notice right away that, like gehören and gefallen, it begins with ge-, which can cause some confusion since it resembles a past participle. Gelingen is indeed the infinitive, and gelungen is the participle. 

 

Gelingen means "to succeed," "to work out," or "to manage to do something." When we express this in English, the structure is very different. You could almost say that the subject and object are switched. Whereas Das gehört mir is easily translatable as "That belongs to me," there is no such easy direct translation for phrases like Es gelingt ihnen or Es ist mir gelungen in English.

 

Den Tauchern gelingen die ersten Filmaufnahmen dieses Verhaltens.

The divers manage to get the first film footage of this behavior.

Caption 35, Alpenseen - Kühle Schönheiten - Part 3

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Zusammen mit seiner Freundin gelingt ihm dann beim dritten Versuch endlich die Flucht.

Together with his girlfriend, he finally manages to escape on the third attempt.

Caption 20, 25 Jahre Mauerfall - Radtour durch die Geschichte

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In the sentences above, the subjects are die ersten Filmaufnahmen and die Flucht and the objects are den Tauchern and ihm. In English, this is essentially reversed, or the adjective "successful" is employed. Here are a few more examples: 

 

Dem treuen Charlie gelingt zur Halbzeit, was er in sechshundertundzwei Bundesligaspielen nicht geschafft hat.

Faithful Charlie achieves at halftime what he hasn't managed in six hundred and two national league games.

Captions 28-29, Fußball - Prominente beim Benefizspiel

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Das ist uns nicht gelungen und... jetzt gilt es natürlich die nächsten Spiele hochkonzentriert anzugehen und dann die möglichen Punkte zu holen.

We were unsuccessful and... Now it's necessary of course to approach the next matches highly concentrated and then to get all points possible.

Captions 50-51, Fußball - U21-Nationalmannschaft - Part 3

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Further Learning
Some verbs that follow similar structures in German (but not always in English!) include: fehlengehorchenpassenschmecken, and wehtun. Look these up, and then go to Yabla German to see them used in a real-world context.

The word scharf

In English, the word "sharp" has a few different meanings. We can use it to describe the blade of a knife, but we can also say that someone is a "sharp dresser." The German word scharf also has a range of meanings beyond "sharp-edged."

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One very common translation of scharf that you may already know is "spicy."

 

Wenn ihr es nicht ganz so scharf mögt, dann könnt ihr diese kleinen Sch'... Chilischotenkerne entfernen.

If you don't like it quite so spicy, then you can remove these little ch'... chili seeds.

Captions 52-53, Cannelloni - mit Jenny - Part 1

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Das Gemisch, das auf Stufe zehn kommt, ist die schärfste Chilisoße der Welt.

The mixture that makes it to level ten is the hottest chili sauce in the world.

Caption 21, Currywurst - Berlins schärfstes Stück

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Scharf can also be used as an adjective or adverb to mean "sleek" or "attractive." In this sentence, it's used to describe the design of a car:

 

Von der Spitze bis zum Heckspoiler ist er richtig schön scharf gezeichnet.

From the front end to the rear spoiler, it's really sharply designed.

Caption 4, Auto-Bild-TV - Tops & Flops der IAA

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Finally, scharf is also used to describe images in terms of whether they are in focus or not:

 

Und dann... die Bilder, die scharf waren, da war wieder der Ausdruck nicht so, wie ich's gerne hätte.

And then... the pictures that were in focus, there again the expression wasn't how I'd like to have it.

Caption 34, Lokalhelden - Art House - Part 3

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Further Learning
Watch the currywurst video above in its entirety on Yabla German for more examples of the word in use. Make sentences with the word scharf, integrating the correct endings based on gender (eine scharfe Suppe, ein scharfes Gewürz), and then try some sentences with the comparative and superlative form (schärfer, schärfste).

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