A light verb (Funktionsverb, also called vector verb or empty verb) is a verb that has very little intrinsic meaning on its own and requires an additional expression, usually a noun, to give it meaning. Some light verb expressions in German are similar to English, and therefore easy to understand, such as Einfluss ausüben (to exert infuence), zu Ende sein (to be at an end, to be over) or in Sicht bleiben (to remain in view). But many other German light verbs do not have direct parallels in English and are somewhat more difficult to understand. Let's look to some Yabla videos for some examples!
in Angriff nehmen (to attack, to tackle, to proceed with):
Und dann mal schauen, ob wir eventuell irgendwas Live-Mäßiges in Angriff nehmen.
And then see if we perhaps take on something live.
Caption 16, RheinMain Szene: Selig
unter Druck stehen (to be under pressure):
Ich denke, dass die Russen natürlich genauso unter Druck stehen.
I think that the Russians are certainly under an equal amount of pressure.
Caption 13, Fußball: Die deutsche Nationalmannschaft
auf etwas Rücksicht nehmen (to show consideration for):
Wenn die Menschen doch nur mehr Rücksicht aufeinander nehmen würden.
If only people would show more consideration for one another.
Caption 10, Rücksicht im Verkehr: Christophorus, Die Mission
See if you can find out the proper English meanings for the following German expressions containing light verbs: eine Anwendung finden, in Verlegenheit geraten, eine Mitteilung machen, eine Wahl treffen, unter Beobachtung stehen, zu Ansehen gelangen, in Druck geben, sich in Abhängigkeit befinden, in Erfahrung bringen, in Auftrag geben, in Frage stellen. If you would like to go deeper into the finer distinctions between active and passive light verbs, look here!
Are you bored with the same old clichés every year about the upcoming year? Let's go "back to the future" and take a look at some original aphorisms from classic German authors, followed up with a word from the aphorism used in another context in a Yabla video:
Wird's besser? Wird’s schlimmer? fragt man alljährlich.
Seien wir ehrlich: Leben ist immer lebensgefährlich!
Will it get better? Will it get worse? You ask every year.
Let's be honest: Life is always life-threatening!
Erich Kästner (1899–1974)
Ein paar Jahre zuvor wäre das noch lebensgefährlich gewesen.
A few years prior, this would still have been life-threatening.
Caption 14, Curly Horses: Pferdeglück auch für Allergiker
Ich kann freilich nicht sagen, ob es besser wird, wenn es anders wird,
Aber soviel kann ich sagen: Es muss anders werden, wenn es gut werden soll.
I cannot say, of course, if it will be better when it is different,
But this much I can say: It must be different, if it is going to get better.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799)
Ja, freilich! So machen wir das, jedes Jahr aufs Neue.
Yes, of course! We do it like this every year again and again.
Caption 17, München: Krampuslauf auf dem Christkindlmarkt
Gut ist der Vorsatz, aber die Erfüllung ist schwer.
Good is the resolution, but the fulfillment is difficult.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
Die Arbeit mit den Tieren ist die Erfüllung eines Lebenstraums.
The work with the animals is the fulfillment of a life's dream.
Caption 62, Für Tierfreunde: Falknerei Feldber
The "Happy New Year!" greeting is different in different parts of Germany: Frohes neues Jahr (Northern Hesse); Frohes neues (Middle Rhein and Hesse); Gesundes neues Jahr (Eastern Germany); Gesundes neues (Dresden region); Gutes neues Jahr (Austria); Gutes neues (Baden-Württemberg, Switzerland and parts of Bavaria); Prosit Neujahr (Eastern Austria, Vienna); and Prost Neujahr (parts of Western Germany). But are you familiar with the German New Year's greeting "Ich wünsche dir einen guten Rutsch"? See last year's Yabla German Lesson "Rutsch and rutschen: A good “slide” into the New Year!" to find out more! ou can also read something by the authors quoted above. For beginners, Erich Kästner's Emil und die Detektive makes for a fun read. Readers of all levels can enjoy the many clever sayings of physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who is known as the father of the German aphorism. For the very advanced, there is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, which is considered the most important work in all of German literature.
In keeping with the holiday spirit, let's take a look at a few German words that can be formed using Weihnachts- (Christmas-) as a root. Many of today's standard Christmas traditions originated in Germany, but as you can see from the "Krampuslauf" video, Germany still has a few Christmas traditions that remain very unique!
If you haven't done your Christmas shopping yet, you only have a couple of days left! Better head down to the Weihnachtsmarkt, which, although traditionally Southern German, can also be found in other parts of Germany:
Hier am Berliner Gendarmenmarkt gibt es auch einen kleinen tollen Weihnachtsmarkt.
Here at the Berlin Gendarmenmarkt, there is also a great little Christmas market.
Caption 7, Weihnachtsmärkte: mit Eva
And while you are there, you'd better pick up something delicious at the Weihnachtsbäckerei, because:
In der Weihnachtsbäckerei gibt es manche Leckerei.
In the Christmas bakery there is many a treat.
Caption 23, Der Sternschnuppenmarkt: in Wiesbaden
Of course, your main purpose there is not to snack on pastries, but to pick up some Weihnachtsgeschenke:
Hier kann man schöne Weihnachtsgeschenke kaufen.
You can buy beautiful Christmas presents here.
Caption 14, Diane: am Weihnachtsmarkt
When you get home, it may be time to decorate the Weihnachtsbaum!
Also der Weihnachtsbaum wird bei uns am Vierundzwanzigsten aufgestellt.
Well, the Christmas tree will be set up at our place on the twenty-fourth.
Caption 27, Weihnachtsinterviews: Cettina in Linkenheim
Can you figure out what some of these other words based on Weihnachts- (Christmas-) mean?
Weihnachtssachen, Weihnachtsbaumständer, Weihnachtsspenden, Weihnachtstrubel, Weihnachtsferien, Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtsessen
Search for videos on Yabla that use these words to better understand their meaning and context!
Let’s take a look today at adjectives that define quantitative amounts without actually resorting to the specifics of numbers. The most common of them, viele (“much” or “many”) and wenige (“little” or “not many”), are used irregularly, however, so let’s check them out first. When viele and wenige occur as a definite article or after a definite article, they are conjugated as normal adjectives:
Für die vielen amerikanischen Soldaten im amerikanischen Sektor…
For the many American soldiers in the American Sector...
Caption 9, Berlin: der alte amerikanische Sektor
But when viele or wenige occur without an article before a singular noun, they are usually left unconjugated:
Aber dafür bleibt wohl wenig Zeit.
But there seems to be too little time for that.
Caption 25, Fußball: Torwandschießen
As you can see above, a normal adjective for the feminine word die Zeit would, in the nominative case as here, end with an “e.” Wenig is a little different!
Here are some examples of more typical indefinite quantity adjectives, which are conjugated as normal adjectives. We can start will alle (“everything”):
Natürlich stehe ich hinter allen Songs.
Of course I'm behind all of the songs.
Caption 62, Deutsche Bands: Luxuslärm
And then wind up with keine (“none” or “no”):
Bisher allerdings ist noch keine Schildkröte in Sicht.
Up to now though there's still no turtle in sight.
Caption 43, Ausgrabungen: Auf den Spuren der Dinosaurier
Some other common indefinite quantity adjectives to look out for are: beide (both), einige (some), einzelne (single, individual), ganze (whole), gesamte (entire), manche (some), sonstige (other, further), übrige (the rest), weitere (further), zahllose (innumerable), and zahlreiche (numerous).
Keep your eyes out in every Yabla video for the many ways that indefinite quantity adjectives are used, and pay particular attention to the way that viele and wenige are conjugated, because the irregular usage will take some training and getting a feel for! For a further foray into the world of indefinite quantity adjectives written in German, take a look here and here. Ich wünsche euch viel Spaß beim Lernen!
The adverb bitte is probably used much more often in German than “please” is in English. This is because it has many different meanings, from “you’re welcome,” “pardon,” “may I help you” and “here you go” all the way back to simple “please.” On the other hand, the verb “to please” has a number of German equivalents, but the German verb bitten does not mean “to please,” but rather “to ask,” “to request,” “to beg” or “to plead.” So be aware that while these aren’t exactly false friends, they’re not completely equivalent.
The adverb, please!
Let’s first check out the different ways bitte is used: Bitte is very commonly meant as “you’re welcome,” the standard response after somebody has thanked you for something:
Also, vielen herzlichen Dank, dass ich heute mit dabei sein durfte! -Bitte, bitte!
So, many heartfelt thanks that I was allowed to be here today! -You're welcome, you're welcome!
Captions 56-57, Selbst versucht: Gepäckabfertigung bei Fraport
When you go into a restaurant or shop, often the first thing the waiter or salesperson will ask you is bitte schön or sometimes merely bitte, which in this case means “may I help you?” The second bitte is “please” again!
Ja, bitte schön. -Ich möchte zwei Brotchen und ein Dinkelbrot, bitte.
Yes, may I help you? -I would like two rolls and a spelt bread, please.
Next up, a Yabla example of bitte in the sense of “here you are,” a commonplace usage when, for instance, a waiter hands you a menu in a restaurant. Note that the first use of bitte in this example is the standard meaning “please.”
Genau. -Speisekarten bitte! -So, bitte sehr.
Exactly. -Menus please! -So, here you are.
Captions 6-7, Melanie und Thomas: Im Restaurant
Lastly, the adverb bitte can also be used in the sense of “pardon”:
Ich heiße Angela Merkel. -Wie bitte? -Ich sagte, „Ich heiße Angela Merkel”.
My name is Angela Merkel. -Pardon me? -I said, “My name is Angela Merkel.”
Although at first it may seem a bit confusing with so many possible meanings for bitte, the contexts will give you a very good indication of meaning!
The verb “to please”
As we discussed, the German verb bitten means “to ask,” “to plead,” “to entreat,” or even “to beg.” So how do we “please” someone in German? The German sich freuen, zufrieden sein, and zufriedenstellen are all used in various ways “to please.” Here someone is pleased to greet another person:
Ich bedanke mich und würde mich freuen, Sie mal persönlich hier bei uns begrüßen.
I thank you and would be pleased to greet you personally here with us.
Captions 54-55, Melanie und Thomas: Im Restaurant
And here someone is pleased with the city:
Ich bin extrem zufrieden mit Offenburg, wirklich.
I am extremely pleased with Offenburg, really.
And here a person is pleased with a film:
Die abwechslungsreichen Kurzfilme werden an Orten gezeigt, die auch Besucher mit ästhetischem Anspruch äußerst zufriedenstellen.
The varied short films are being shown at places that please visitors supremely with an aesthetic claim.
Captions 3-4, Kurzfilm-Festival: Shorts at moonlight
Some other words meaning “to please,” which have varied shades of meaning such as “to make happy” and “to like,” are beglücken, behagen, and zu Gefallen sein. See if you can find a variety of these usages on Yabla and also check out Linguee, a great language resource site that takes published translations and posts them side by side with the original language so that you can see some real-world examples of words in different contexts. Ich denke, es wird euch gefallen!
Many of you probably know the stock line Halt oder ich schieße! (Stop or I’ll shoot!) from old American and British WWII movies, but did you know there are many other ways to say “stop” in German? The German verbs halten and stoppen are easy to remember, since they have the English equivalent verbs “halt” and “stop,” but separable verbs such as aufhören and anhalten are a bit trickier!
Halt! Das ist noch gutgegangen und die Fischlein sehen's mit Bangen.
Stop! That still went well and the little fish watch it with fear.
Caption 12, Der Struwwelpeter: Hans Guck-in-die-Luft
Robert, halt! Dein Schirm fliegt fort.
Robert, stop! Your umbrella is flying away.
Caption 9, Der Struwwelpeter: Der fliegende Robert
Next we see the use of the verb stoppen:
Bislang konnte das die Ausbreitung der Läden aber nicht stoppen.
So far, however, this hasn't stopped the spread of the shops.
Caption 35, Perlentee: In allen Mündern
And even an example using both halten and stoppen in the imperative mood:
Stopp! Stopp, stopp, stopp, stopp, stopp! Halt!
Stop! Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop! Hold on!
Note that Yabla purposefully translated halten as “hold on” in order to differentiate it from the translations of stoppen as “stop.”
Another very useful German word for “stop” is aufhören, which is a separable verb that is most commonly used when you want an activity to stop. Here in the conditional mood:
Nein, wenn wir keine Lust mehr hätten, würden wir ja aufhören.
No, if we had no more desire, yes, we would stop.
Caption 25, Die Beatles: in Deutschland
In the imperative mood, the verb’s lexical core is separated from its particle:
Hör auf! -Du musst genau hinsehen.
Stop! -You must watch closely.
Caption 13, Filmtrailer: Wir sind die Nacht
And here an example using the present perfect tense:
Sie hat überhaupt nicht mehr aufgehört mit Eismachen.
She just never stopped making ice cream.
Caption 6, Eis: Eiskalte Leidenschaft
The separable verb anhalten, on the other hand, is used primarily to indicate the stopping of moving objects or vehicles:
Ein Mann fährt mit seinem Auto. Dann wird er von der Polizei angehalten.
A man is driving in his car. Then he is stopped by the police.
Captions 2-3, Sabine erzählt Witze: Die Pinguine
It is possible to confuse anhalten with the verb for “to keep” (halten) and the preposition “on” (an). Usually the context makes it obvious:
Ihren Pfiffi sollten sie aber lieber an der kurzen Leine halten.
But you had better keep your Fifi on a short leash.
Caption 39, Für Tierfreunde: Geparden
Another version of “stop” with a very specific context is stehen bleiben, alternately written as one word (stehenbleiben), which is when a person stops walking or running:
Das heißt, jedes Mal, wenn man gefangen hat, muss man stehen bleiben.
That means, every time you catch it, you have to stop.
Caption 9, Ultimate Frisbee: Spielregeln
How would you translate the following?
Stopp, halt, hör auf mit dem Anhalten!
Note that in the above sentence, the verb anhalten has been nominalized into the noun Anhalten. Many of the alternate German words for "stop" may be translated, depending on the context, with other English synonyms for “stop,” such as “cease,” “discontinue,” “interrupt,” “turn off,” “shut down,” “finish,” “break off,” “close,” or “end.”
When you're watching Yabla videos, see if you can spot any other German versions of “stop.” You may learn some more synonyms for “stop” here.
Faster than a short sentence, more powerful than a rebuttal, and able to refute strong statements in a single syllable... DOCH
The multi-functional word doch, in some cases fulfilling the role of “but” (or “still” or “nevertheless”) in English, has the capability to do with one word what in English requires an entire phrase: to negate a preceding negative statement with an affirmative. In German, English phrases such as “On the contrary” and “Yes, I do” can be replaced with the monosyllabic doch.
Before you attempt to prematurely launch a speedy doch at an angry policeman or boss, however, let us first examine the simpler usages of doch translated as “but”:
Doch jeder weiß hier, das ist die Luft, die brennt
But everyone here knows, that's the air that's burning
Caption 45, 2raumwohnung: 36 Grad
Doch am Ende dieses Weges wird Europa stärker aus der Krise hervorgehen.
However, at the end of this path Europe will go forth from the crisis stronger.
Caption 38, Angela Merkel: Neujahrsansprache - Part 1
Doch das scheint sich nun geändert zu haben.
Indeed, now this seems to have changed.
And as an affirmative:
Aber wir hatten 'nen guten Start in Braunschweig und machen eigentlich ganz gut weiter, doch.
But we had a good start in Braunschweig and have actually continued quite well, really.
Caption 8, Cassandra Steen: Interview - Part 1
Here are some examples showing the full power of doch as a negation:
Der Eierkumpel von nebenan, der wusste nämlich nicht, was Pi ist! -Doch!
The egg pal [egg seller] next to you, he didn't know what pi is! -Yes, he did!
Captions 22-23, Welt-Pi-Tag: Unser Leben mit der Kreiszahl - Part 1
Ich weiß nicht, ob man als Frankfurter mal nach Mainz fährt. -Doch, war ich auch schon...
I don't know if you'd go to Mainz as someone from Frankfurt. -Yes, you would. I've been there too...
Captions 19-20, Museumsuferfest: Jazzmusiker Daniel Stelter - Part 1
Here we see doch first in the affirmative sense, then in the more sophisticated negation sense, all in a single caption:
Männer kommen doch nicht hierher, oder? -Doch, natürlich.
Men don't really come here, or? -Yes they do, of course.
Caption 24, Waxhouse: Brasilianische Haarentfernung - Part 1
So remember the the two main uses of doch:
1. As a simple affirmative (“really”), negating adverb (“however”), or transitional word (“but”):
Er hat es doch nicht getan.
He did not really do it.
Doch wissen wir, was es bedeutet.
But we know what it means.
2. As an all-powerful negation to a previous negative statement:
Er hat es nicht getan. -Doch.
He did not do it. -Yes, he did do it.
Sie waren nicht dort. -Doch.
They were not there. -Yes, they were there.
By learning the use of the powerful doch, you will be able to negate, with a minimum of syllables, any negative statements with which you disagree!
Hast du nicht verstanden? -Doch!
More advanced learners will enjoy this explanation in German, from Wiktionary.
In English we are pretty casual about the word “same,” but German makes some important distinctions. Let’s see how.
Earth has only one moon, so when we say we see the “same” moon, there’s no question. We're talking about one and the same. That’s when, in German, we use the demonstrative pronoun, derselbe (or any of its declensions, which you can see here). In this particular case we have a masculine noun, der Mond in the accusative case, so derselbe becomes denselben:
Wir sehen denselben Mond, und wir sind größer, denn die Sterne bleiben stehen
We see the same moon, and we are bigger, because the stars stand still
Captions 13-14, Kolkhorst: Der Mond
In the next example, we can see that Charlie and Raymond have discovered they are brothers. They have the self-same parents. Once again, we want derselbe. Der Vater is masculine and is in the accusative case, so it gets denselben. Die Mutter is feminine so it gets dieselbe.
...als Charlie erfährt, dass Raymond und er denselben Vater und dieselbe Mutter haben.
...when Charlie learns that Raymond and he have the same father and the same mother.
Caption 23, Theater: Rainman - Part 1
But sometimes we say things are the same when they only appear to be. They may be very similar, or one a copy of the other. That’s when we use gleich or der gleiche. It’s a normal adjective, so it changes depending on gender and case. Below, the speaker describes a recurring event:
Es ist leider noch immer jedes Jahr das Gleiche.
Unfortunately it is still the same every year.
Caption 1, Für Tierfreunde: Tierheim Nied
Singer-songwriter Cassandra Steen talks about making mistakes: two separate ones, but of the same kind. You guessed it. It has to be der gleiche!
Wenn Aussagen ignoriert werden. Wenn der gleiche Fehler zweimal passiert.
When statements are ignored. When the same mistake happens twice.
Caption 4, Cassandra Steen: Interview - Part 4 of 4
Note that when we use der gleiche, the article is separate from the word. But when we use derselbe, dieselbe, or dasselbe, the article is connected to the word. In either case, the article to use and the ending of "gleich" or "selb" depend on the gender and case of the noun being modified.
Hopefully you’ve gained some insight on the German way of talking about things that are “the same.” You may never think about the word “same” in the same way again!
Get some great explanations and examples of derselbe and der gleiche here.
More advanced learners will enjoy this explanation, in German, from Spiegel Online Kultur.
Summer has arrived, which in Germany means that life moves outside. The Biergärten are open, the Freibäder (open-air swimming pools) are busy with swimmers and sunbathers alike, and the smell of Bratwurst and barbecues fills the summer air.
Not everyone has the luxury of having a garden attached to their house, which is why many Germans like to have a Schrebergarten (garden plot or allotment), often with a small hut or house built on it, which they visit for the day or for a vacation.
Ich hab' ja auch so 'nen kleinen Schrebergarten.
I also have such a little garden plot.
Caption 3, Ausbilder Schmidt: Klimabotschafter
If you have neither a garden nor a Schrebergarten, there are many beautiful Seen (lakes) in Germany. Nothing beats a hot summer’s day of lazing by the water, swimming, and riding a pedal boat. Peter Fox sings all about the fun to be had at a German lake:
Und der Mond scheint hell auf mein Haus am See
And the moon shines brightly onto my house on the lake
Caption 18, Peter Fox: Haus am See
When dinnertime comes around, Grillen (barbecuing) is the way to go. Since the laws are more relaxed in Germany, people barbecue in parks and on beaches without any trouble from the authorities, just as long as the litter gets disposed of!
Wir grillen, die Mamas kochen und wir saufen Schnaps
We barbecue, the mamas cook and we guzzle schnapps
Caption 29, Peter Fox: Haus am See
See not only means "lake" but also “sea,” as in der Ostsee (the Baltic Sea). However, the most common word for sea is das Meer:
Du wirst bestimmt irgendwo am Strand sein. -Ja, genau. Am Meer.
You will surely be somewhere at the beach. -Yes, exactly. At the sea.
Caption 50, Konjugation: Das Verb „sein“
If you do go to the See or the Meer, you should know that there are two words for “swimming” in German, schwimmen and baden gehen, which literally translates as “to go bathing.” While schwimmen is something you would likely do in a Schwimmbecken (pool), baden gehen is mostly used for swimming in lakes or the sea:
Man kann baden gehen, man kann Freunde treffen draußen.
You can go swimming, you can meet friends outside.
Captions 15-16, Jahreszeiten: Der Sommer
Of course summer isn’t all fun and games. If you are stuck in the city, it can get hot and sticky. Rappers Culcha Candela, while singing about how unbearable it can get, offer a solution.
Feuchtes Tuch auf 'm Kopf
Wet cloth on the head
Ich werd' sonst noch bekloppt vom Hitzeschock
Otherwise I'll just go nuts from heat shock
Captions 29-30, Culcha Candela: Sommer im Kiez
Extremely popular all over Germany, Eisdielen or Eiscafé (ice cream parlors) are hives of activity during the summer months.
Kaum scheint die Sonne, zieht es die Schleckermäuler an die Eisdielen.
The sun is scarcely shining and it draws [those with a] sweet tooth to the ice-cream parlors.
Caption 1, Eis: Eiskalte Leidenschaft
And of course, summer is the time to think about vacation, den Sommerurlaub or die Sommerferien. Der Urlaub is a vacation where you go away somewhere, but die Ferien means a break from school, college, or work. Both can bring good memories:
Ich ging früher im Urlaub immer reiten.
I used to always go horseback riding during vacation.
Wir gingen immer in den Sommerferien.
We always went during summer holidays.
Captions 16 and 19, Konjugation: Das Verb „gehen“
In English there is only one word for “when,” but in German there are three words: wann, wenn, and als. In German, it’s very important to use the correct word, otherwise the whole meaning of the sentence can change.
Wann is a question word used to ask “at what time” directly as a question, as Diane demonstrates:
Und wann läuft der?
And when does it run [start]?
Caption 40, Diane erklärt: Fragewörter
When you ask a question about the past, you also need to use wann:
Wann hast du Wiener Kurti zuletzt gesehen?
When did you last see "Wiener Kurti" [a nickname]?
Caption 67, Alexander Hauff: Showreel - Part 2
Or when you ask indirectly, as Piggeldy does to Frederick when talking about the arrival of summer:
Dann wollen wir mal den Frühling fragen, wann der Sommer kommt.
Then we want to ask spring when summer is coming.
Caption 17, Piggeldy und Frederick: Sommer
Wenn is the most common form of “when,” referring to time in the following examples:
Wenn er hinter der Bar steht, gibt er alles, wie viele seiner Kollegen.
When he is standing behind the bar, he gives it everything, like many of his colleagues.
Caption 34, Cocktails mixen: So „shaken“ die Besten
When planning a journey, you would use wenn as shown here:
OK, und wenn ich im Europapark bin, wo kann ich dann übernachten?
OK, and when I arrive at Europapark, where can I spend the night?
Caption 21, Reiseplanung: Gespräch mit einer Reiseberaterin
Wenn doesn’t just mean “when”; in German it is also used to express “if”:
Wir würden uns freuen, wenn alle Menschen auf PETA de [www.peta.de] unsere Onlinepetition unterstützen.
We would be happy, if all people would support our online petition on PETA de [www.peta.de].
Caption 13, PETA-Aktion: Gegen das Wal-Massaker
And the third word for “when” is als, which is always used to describe an event that has already happened or a single point in time. Wann or wenn just wouldn’t be correct here. Remember this and you’re halfway there!
Und haben Sie schon mal gedacht irgendwann, als Sie Ihre Fotos gesehen haben...
And did you ever think, at some point, when you saw your photos...
Caption 30, Bambi-Verleihung: No-Gos auf dem roten Teppich
It's also shown here as Angela Merkel talks about a past atrocity:
als im Herbst eine rechtsextremistische Terror- und Mörderbande aufgedeckt wurde.
when in the fall a right-wing extremist terrorist [organization] was uncovered.
Caption 58 Angela Merkel: Neujahrsansprache - Part 1
So as you see, distinguishing between wann, wenn, and als is not so difficult if you remember the basics outlined above!
One of the challenges in learning a language is making the right choice among words with similar meanings. Tun means “to do.” Simple enough, but another word means “to do” too. Machen basically means “to make,” and is very often used just like in English (see explanations and examples here), but it also means “to do.” So which one do we use, and when? Usage changes from area to area and sometimes from generation to generation, but as a very general guide, if there is no particular object, machen and tun are usually interchangeable.
Piggeldy and Frederick happen to be talking about a sheep.
Es hat eben gesagt, was es den ganzen Tag tut.
It just said what it does the whole day.
Caption 33, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Schaf
Piggeldy could have said:
Es hat eben gesagt, was es den ganzen Tag macht.
It just said what it does the whole day.
And here, someone is suspected of cheating at German Monopoly:
Was machst du da an der Kasse?
What are you doing there at the cash register?
Caption 26, Monopoly: Geheime Tipps und Tricks
He could have said:
Was tust du da an der Kasse?
What are you doing there at the cash register?
We've seen how machen and tun can be interchangeable. In practice, though, German speakers will use one over the other in a given situation. So pay attention. Little by little, you will start getting a feel for which one sounds more natural. The important thing is to know when machen and tun cannot replace each other.
When you are making an apology, go for tun.
Es tut mir sehr leid, dass ich dich danach gefragt habe.
I am very sorry that I asked you about it.
Caption 36, Piggeldy und Frederick: Sprichwörter
When you accept an apology, you’ll use machen.
Das macht nichts.
It doesn’t matter.
When you want to explain that you’re busy, tun is the right verb to use:
Was willst du von mir? Ich hab' zu tun.
What do you want from me? I have [things] to do.
Caption 66, Alexander Hauff: Showreel - Part 2
And pretending to do something is child’s play, as long as you remember to use tun!
Ich könnt' so tun, als ob ich dir zum Beispiel eine verpasse.
I could pretend, for example, as if I were to sock you one.
Another suggestion: Think of a sentence using one or the other, like Was tust du denn so in deiner Freizeit? and Google it to see if and how many times it comes up. If you searched tun where most of the time machen is used, you will find that Google gives results for machen—the more commonly used word.
Have a look at this blog about machen and tun.
You may have come across the phrase “false friends” or “false cognates” (as they are more accurately known) during your language training. So what does it mean? It has nothing to do with disloyal friends, although linguistic false friends can also be treacherous. They are words that sound similar or are spelled identically but have different meanings in their respective language.
Here are some common German phrases with their English “false friend” below them.
Be careful what aktuell actually means:
German: aktuell – topical, current, up-to-date
English: actually – eigentlich, tatsächlich, wirklich
Eigentlich stammt es aus dem aktuellen Album der Rocksängerin.
Actually, it comes from the rock singer’s current album.
Caption 9, Liza: ein Lied für Opel
When Germans talk about the imminent future, you may think they're talking about someone's lack of hair:
German: bald – soon
English: bald – kahl
…die olympischen Winterspiele, die bald in Vancouver stattfinden werden.
…the Winter Olympic Games that will soon take place in Vancouver.
Watch what you give someone on their birthday!
German: das Gift – poison, venom
English: gift – das Geschenk
Sein Gift ist vergleichbar mit einem Bienenstich.
His poison is comparable to a bee sting.
If you want to make a marriage proposal to a German, pay attention to how you ask...
German: sich engagieren – to be committed, get involved
English: to get engaged – sich verloben
Find' ich das immer gut, sich für solche Sachen zu engagieren.
I think [it's] always good to get involved in such things.
Caption 8, Luxuslärm: rockt gegen's Saufen
The winter is dragging on and spring seems a long way off, but we all know it will come eventually. However, confusing “eventually” with the German eventuell makes spring seem far less likely:
German: eventuell – possibly, perhaps
English: eventually – schließlich, endlich, irgendwann
Eventuell habe ich in der einen oder anderen Situation emotional überreagiert.
Possibly I overreacted emotionally in one or another situation.
Caption 28, Filmtrailer: Keinohrhasen
You may describe a horse as being brav, but this has nothing to do with being brave!
German: brav – well, well-behaved, dutifully
English: brave – mutig, tapfer
Die schönste Wiesn-Erfahrung? Dass immer die Pferde brav gingen.
The best meadow experience? That the horses always went dutifully.
Caption 9, Oktoberfest München: Auf der Wiesn - Part 2
As you can see, using “false friends” in the wrong context can be embarrassing, but most of the time it is just a funny mistake. However, you should try to learn these deceitful words to avoid any faux pas!
Did you know that the Beatles, owing in part to the time they spent in Hamburg at the start of their career, released a version of "She Loves You” in German? Its title is „Sie liebt dich.
The German noun and verb for love (Liebe, lieben) are used with more variety of meaning than “love” in English. So, liebe (dear) Yabla subscribers, let’s see all of the different ways we can make love work for us in German!
As illustrated above, the adjective liebe/lieber (dear) is used as an informal form of address. We see this usage in the following Yabla video, starting at the very top: with God.
Du lieber Gott, welchen Weg müssten die denn abends zurücklegen, wenn Köln Gulu wäre?
Dear God, which way would they have to travel in the evening, if Cologne were Gulu [a city in Uganda]?
Caption 47, World Vision: Wolfgang Niedecken
Working our way down from God to tattoo exhibitions, we find:
Liebe Zuschauer, es fand eine Tattoo-Ausstellung in Frankfurt im Hotel „Roomers" statt.
Dear viewers, a tattoo exhibition took place in Frankfurt at the Hotel Roomers.
Caption 1, Tätowierungen: Tattoo-Ausstellung
If you would prefer your Liebe to mean more than merely "dear," listen to how Thomas uses a variation of the root word (lieb) to mean “rather” or “preferably”:
Aber ich glaube, ich nehm' mir lieber ein Taxi.
But I believe I'd rather take a taxi.
Caption 49, Melanie und Thomas: treffen sich
This can work to express superlative preferences as well:
Am liebsten vermutlich eine Sendung…
Most preferably, presumably, a broadcast…
If you prefer popularity to love, add the be- prefix for a refreshing change of meaning:
Orangensaft ist sehr beliebt in Deutschland.
Orange juice is very popular in Germany.
Caption 11, Jenny beim Frühstück: Teil 1 - Part 1
Add -haber to lieb to stir up some enthusiasm:
Machst du ja auch Auftragswerke für Kunden oder für Interessenten und Liebhaber.
You also do contract work for customers or for potential buyers and enthusiasts.
Caption 2, Lokalhelden: Art House - Part 2
Liebhaber can also mean “lover” in the more intimate sense:
Tristan und Isolde waren Liebhaber.
Tristan and Isolda were lovers.
And in the end, it is best to make love, even while preparing for war:
In zwei Sekunden Frieden stiften, Liebe machen, den Feind vergiften…
In two seconds make peace, make love, poison the enemy…
So you see that in German, the word for “love” (Liebe) is the basis for a number of different expressions ranging from “dear” to “preferably” to “enthusiast” to the actual object of one’s desire.
The most typical New Year’s greeting in Germany is the slang phrase Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr! or simply Guten Rutsch! These can be translated literally as “A good slide into the New Year!” or “Good slide!
Dann wünsch' ich euch schöne Weihnachten, 'nen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr und viel Spaß beim Anschauen. Tschüß!
In which case I wish you a wonderful Christmas, a good slide into [start to] the New Year and a lot of fun while watching. Bye!
Captions 83-84, Weihnachtsinterviews: Cettina in Linkenheim
The word Rutsch means a downward sliding movement, and the greetings are meant to convey a smooth transition into the New Year, though the origin of the phrase is still uncertain. Let’s have a look at the more ordinary ways Rutsch and rutschen are used.
In an interview, Germany’s top windsurf star, Bernd Flessner, is asked if he can get from Altenteil Halpen to the Lighthouse in einem Rutsch durch (in one go [literally “through in one slide”]). The answer? Yes!
In einem Rutsch durch? -In einem Rutsch.
In one go? -In one go.
Caption 9, Das "Race around Fehmarn": Neuer Surfrekord
A professor involves his talking pet bird named Dodo in demonstrating Newton's law of inertia using the “Dodomobil," (really just a shoebox). The verb rutschen (to slide or skid) is in more common usage than the noun Rutsch:
Dann... theoretisch, fährt dann das Dodomobil oder rutscht, besser gesagt... rutscht das Dodomobil unendlich weiter.
Then… theoretically, the Dodomobile then continues to drive... or slide, rather… the Dodomobile continues to slide infinitely.
Piggeldy and Frederick are playing on a Rutschbahn (a slide):
„Richtig", schrie Frederick und rutschte die Rutschbahn hinunter.
"Right," shouted Frederick and slid down the slide.
Caption 36, Piggeldy und Frederick: Spielen
Watch out, Grandma! Here rutschen takes on another meaning:
Dann rutscht die Oma auf einer Bananenschale aus.
Then the grandmother slips on a banana peel.
Caption 27: Sabine und Ivana: erzählen Witze
So whether you are sliding down a slide, sliding into the New Year, or slipping on a banana peel, understanding this versatile word can help you have a guten Rutsch ins Deutsch!
German has many colorful idioms and slang expressions, some of which closely parallel those in English but many of which have completely different meanings that are occasionally difficult to interpret. German idioms and slang expressions using the word Hund (dog) are plentiful and provide an interesting insight into the wide variety of German expressions.
Here are some examples using the word Hund which parallel the English:
Was kostet ein Hundeleben?
What does a dog’s life cost? [Idiom: What is the price of living in poverty?]
Caption 1, Queensberry: gegen Pelz
müde wie ein Hund sein (to be as tired as a dog)
treu wie ein Hund sein (to be as faithful as a dog)
jemanden wie einen Hund behandeln (to treat someone like a dog)
wie ein Hund leben / ein Hundeleben führen (to lead a dog’s life)
vor die Hunde gehen (to go to the dogs, to be faring poorly)
Ein toter Hund beißt nicht mehr. (Dead dogs don’t bite.)
Hunde, die bellen, beißen nicht. (Literally: Dogs that bark don’t bite; his bark is worse than his bite.)
Es hat keinen Sinn, schlafende Hunde zu wecken. (Literally: It makes no sense to wake sleeping dogs; let sleeping dogs lie.)
Other German slang and idiomatic usages of Hund are more difficult, since they have no direct parallel expressions in English:
Und genau hier liegt der Hund begraben.
And this is exactly where the dog is buried. [Idiom: And that is exactly the crux of the matter.]
Caption 35, Für Tierfreunde: Tierheim Nied
Here are some usages of Hund with no direct English parallels:
ein gemeiner Hund (literally: a mean dog; a mean person, a nasty piece of work)
kein Hund (nobody, no one)
armer Hund (literally: poor dog; poor devil, poor wretch)
jemanden auf den Hund bringen (literally: to bring someone to the dogs; to ruin someone’s health or nerves)
des Pudels Kern (literally: at the core of the poodle; at the crux of the matter) This phrase is from the classic German writer Goethe’s work Faust I: Mephistopheles.
Kein Hund nimmt von jemandem mehr einen Bissen Brot. (Literally: No dog takes a bite of bread from someone anymore; no one wants to know someone, no one wants anything to do with someone.)
Learning idiomatic and slang expressions is not only fun, but it also brings you closer to the culture whose language you are learning—and impresses native speakers. So don’t be a fauler Hund (lazy dog): use Yabla to improve your skills with idioms and slang!
While watching Yabla videos, especially interviews, you may well have noticed that German speakers love using the word eben. Used as an adjective, eben means “even” or “flat or level”; as an adverb it means “evenly.”
But there’s more to it. Let’s take a closer look!
Der kultivierte Camper ist eben anspruchsvoller geworden.
The cultivated camper has just become more discriminating.
Eben is used in this video to emphasize the fact that there are some people who are used to high standards and will not be satisfied spending their holidays in a simple tent made of four poles and a piece of cloth (whereas others surely will!). People are different. Das ist eben so! (That’s just the way it is!) So the example of eben in this video is used in the sense of “just"or “simply.”
In Unser Universum: Der tiefste Blick ins All, we learn that eben also means ”exactly” or "precisely":
Was wir oder unsere Teleskope sehen, ist das Licht, das von eben diesem Himmelskörper ausgeht.
What we or our telescopes are seeing is the light that radiates precisely from this heavenly body.
Captions 35-36, Unser Universum: Der tiefste Blick ins All
Eben can also describe something that has happened just now:
Marco du hast eben schon aufgelegt
Marco you just DJed
Caption 2, Big City Beats: DJ Marco Petralia
Sicher ist es nicht eben einfach (of course it’s not exactly easy) to implement eben correctly in your conversation right away, but as with everything: Übung macht eben den Meister! (practice just makes perfect!). So why not start right now and create three sentences in which eben is used as “exactly,” another three in which it is used as “just,” and three more in which it has the meaning of “just now.”
Das ist eben der Film, den wir gestern in der Vorschau gesehen haben.
That’s exactly the movie we saw yesterday in the preview.
Ich esse eben gerne mein Frühstück im Bett.
I just love having my breakfast in bed.
Ich bin eben am Flughafen angekommen.
I have just arrived at the airport.
Viel Spaß! (Have fun!)
Gehen means "to go," rennen means "to run." But what is laufen all about? Laufen can mean all of the above! It means "to walk", "to run," or simply "to go." Note that its noun form, das Laufen, is neuter (in fact, all noun forms of verb infinitives are neuter), and means "a race" or "racing."
In Jan Wittmer: Ich laufe (Tim Bendzko), we have an example where laufen has the meaning of "to run":
Und ich laufe
And I run
Ich laufe davon
I run from it
Und ich laufe
And I run
So schnell und so weit ich kann
As fast and as far as I can
Captions 6-9, Jan Wittmer: Ich laufe (Tim Bendzko)
In this video, Jan Wittmer sings over and over again the line Ich laufe davon. He is running away. He is not just walking, he is running as schnell (fast) and as weit (far) as he can.
You would say Ich laufe jeden Tag ins Büro (I walk to the office every day) if you wanted to use laufen in the sense of walking. Surely you do not run to the office every day in your suit and high heels, with your laptop tucked under your arm, unless you overslept or your profession happens to involve Marathon laufen!
On the other hand, let's say you're in a singles bar looking for the perfect partner, like Tanya and Sandra in RheinMain Szene - Singles der Woche. You might be tempted to say something along the lines of:
Also, mit ein Meter sechsundsiebzig ist es nicht so einfach. Hier laufen so viele kleine Männer rum.
Well, being one meter seventy-six is not so easy. Here there are a lot of short men walking around.
Caption 34, RheinMain Szene: Singles der Woche
So if you want to start using laufen in conversation, just pay attention to the pace you want to emphasize.
Wir drücken dir die Daumen, dass alles gut läuft beim Lernen mit Yabla!
We're crossing our fingers that everything goes well with Yabla learning!
After you’ve established a firm grip on a useful German verb, take the next step. For instance, you’re stuck in traffic. Put the time to good use by composing a simple sentence using the verb in the present tense. (One immediately comes to mind: Ich laufe davon.) Now alter the same sentence, changing its verb tense only, and see how many sentences you can come up with. It’s an ambitious goal, but getting comfortable with all 12 German tenses won’t happen overnight. So let’s get crackin’! No, seriously, think about it: when speaking your own language, notice how often and effortlessly you shift from one tense to another within a single conversation. When you get back home, check your results in Baron’s 501 German Verbs, a must-have for any aspiring German speaker, or click here for a useful website about verbs.
In the lesson on The Many Ways to say "Well" we covered one way to sound more like a German speaker. This time we'll talk about another: using slang or colloquial language. Tschüss (bye) is a good example of this. It's an informal way of saying goodbye and in many situations of even passing familiarity, it's how people part.
Let's look at some more slang you can sprinkle into your German speech.
In the following example, we learn that:
die Catwalks der Welt sind voll von schicken und vor allem nicht ganz billigen Klamotten.
the catwalks of the world are full of chic and, above all, not exactly inexpensive clothing.
Caption 2, Highend-Fashion aus dem Kloster Ein Mönch als Maßschneider
Klamotten is a very common colloquialism for "clothing." As with all such words, you might use it with a hip store clerk or a friend, but not with a complete stranger or even a less familiar coworker.
Another common slang word is blau, meaning "drunk":
Ich find' diese Aktion "bunt statt blau" total wichtig.
I think this campaign "Colorful instead of Blue [Drunk]" is totally important.
Caption 3, Luxuslärm: rockt gegen's Saufen
Slang can vary greatly according to region. The word Kiez, used in the following example, is fairly specific to Berlin, where it means a small, cohesive neighborhood. It is also used in Hamburg, and to a lesser extent in Hannover, where it is suggestive of prostitution. By contrast, it is entirely unfamiliar in most of southern Germany.
Gitarrist Jürgen Ehle wohnt seit fünfundzwanzig Jahren in dem Kiez und schwelgt in Erinnerungen.
Guitarist Jürgen Ehle has lived for twenty-five years in the area and luxuriates in memories.
Captions 3-4, Pankow: Rolling Stones des Ostens
That just about wraps things up for now. Tschüss and till next time!
Getting frustrated with the pace of your learning? Try this fun exercise. Watch a video that is a level of difficulty higher than usual and then go back to one you had to work particularly at to master. You will find that you have come a longer distance than you had thought.