German Lessons


How bitte and bitten differ from “please” and “to please”

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.

Caption 8, Barbara Schöneberger: Bambi-Verleihung Backstage

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

Learning suggestions:

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!


Doch, the German super-word!

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

And “however”:

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

And “indeed”:

Doch das scheint sich nun geändert zu haben.

Indeed, now this seems to have changed.

Caption 7, Apple-Trojaner: Wie man ihn beseitigt - Part 1

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!

Learning suggestions:

Get some great explanations and examples of doch here and (as a PDF) here

More advanced learners will enjoy this explanation in German, from Wiktionary.


Machen or Tun?

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.

Caption 89, Bürger Lars Dietrich: Schlecht Englisch kann ich gut - Part 2

Learning tip:

On the Yabla video page, do searches with machen and tun in any or all of their conjugations, and see where they are used. Then go to the video itself to see the context and the translation. 

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.


Eben: Exactly just even!

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.

Caption 5, Glamping: Camping mit Stil

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

Further Learning

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!)


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Fun with Idioms

Although languages are always changing due to influences of society, forms of government, and historical events, some elements of language, such as idiomatic phrases, have been preserved in languages for centuries. They come in handy in every context, for example, in the lyrics of Berlin hip hop/reggae band Culcha Candela.

Alles im Eimer...
Everything's down the drain [in the bucket]...
Caption 2, Culcha Candela: Schöne Neue Welt

Let's look at something else that can be im Eimer (ruined; done for; broken).

Nachdem er das Auto gegen die Wand gefahren hatte, war es im Eimer.
After he had driven the car against the wall, it was broken.

You are probably familiar with the sensation of having a dry mouth. Well, Thomas Raudnitzky was experiencing just that while being awarded the Metropolitan Prize for hosting the trendy magazine RheinMain Szene.

... mir blieb auch irgendwie die Spucke weg.
... somehow the spit stayed away from me [idiom: at a loss for words].
Caption 4, Preisverleihung: Bestes Magazin

Now take a look at Lucas' "dry mouth" experience while test-riding a crazy new roller coaster in our video about Lucas' not so run-of-the-mill hobbies.

Da bleibt einem wirklich kurz die Spucke im Hals stecken.
For a moment, the spit really gets stuck in your throat [it's really jaw-dropping].
Caption 24, Lucas' Hobbys: Achterbahn und Bungee

Figuratively, this expression means to be utterly surprised, stunned or at a loss for words. In biblical times already, it was observed that someone salivates less when afraid. This was interpreted as a sign of God that the accused was guilty, who, out of fear, was unable to say anything that could have saved him.

Use these sites to find more examples of idiomatic phrases:, German proverbs

Learning Tip
A great way to improve your listening skills is watching the clips first once without captions. This will help you to focus more on the audio. Then watch them again, this time with captions. Repeat these two steps a couple of times. Do you notice an improvement? Keep practicing!


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Ich Liebe Dich (In Other Words)

Perhaps you are interested in German because you fell in love, or maybe there is that "special someone" in German class you have a bit of a crush on. We all know the basic Ich liebe dich — the Beatles even did a version of “She Loves You” in German (“Sie liebt dich”) — but how about some other ways to express your attraction for somebody?

It might not be a great idea to say you love somebody too soon, so to play it safe, let’s just say you like him or her, in which case the verb mögen is perfect:

Oh nein, niemand mag mich!
Oh no, no one likes me!
Caption 44, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das hässliche Entlein

Another way of expressing that you like someone is to say you “have them gladly” (gern haben) or care for them (lieb haben):

Wenn man jemanden richtig gern und lieb hat…     
If you really love and care for someone…
Caption 42, Valentinstag: In Karlsruhe

Another possibility is du gefällst mir, or if you want to make it even stronger, du gefällst mir sehr. Then the next step is falling in love, sich verlieben:

Der Prinz hatte sich verliebt.
The Prince had fallen in love.
Caption 69, Sagenhaft, Märchen: Aschenputtel

When you are ready to make the leap, however, there is always the classic standby:

John, ich liebe dich. Adrianne, ich liebe dich!
John, I love you. Adrianne, I love you!
Captions 13–14, Alexander Hauff: Showreel

Followed ideally by the grand finale:

Ich möchte dich heiraten.
I want to marry you.
Caption 86, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der Froschkönig

Further Learning:

How do I love thee? Rather than getting into counting the ways and all the mathematics involved, why not try getting a taste of German love poems from the 16th to the 20th centuries, including an exclusive set from German women poets? Make a vocabulary list of words you are unfamiliar with, and then search on Yabla to find the ways the words are used in other contexts.


Common German Mistakes: Wie or Als?

German speakers sometimes make the mistake of using wie (as, like, how) instead of als (than), an error that is a bit puzzling for native English speakers. It is hard for us to imagine saying, for example: "I am taller as you" instead of "I am taller than you," but in German this is a fairly common error. The following Yabla English translations reflect the corrections to als:

Also wir geben hier mehr her, wie [sic, als] die Lufthansa da in der... in der Businessclass.
So we deliver more here than Lufthansa there in the… in the business class.
Captions 45-16, Fluglinien: Niki Air

wie [sic, als] wenn man einfach sagt: „Ich hab' dir 'nen ganz gesunden Salat gemacht“.
than if you simply say, “I’ve made ​​you a very healthy salad.”
Captions 32-33, Kochhaus Berlin: Kochen mit Kindern

The German als should be used like the English "than" when showing contrast, as a function word to indicate an inequality between two things:

Ich sage immer, eher mehr Selbstvertrauen als Talent.
I always say, rather more confidence than talent.
Caption 19, Cassandra Steen: Interview

Wobei man hier eher vom Fallen als vom Fliegen sprechen muss.     
Although in this case it would be more accurate to speak of falling rather than of flying.
Caption 5, Abenteuer und Sport: Fallschirmspringen

Whereas wie is used to relate things that are similar in some way, or to give an example:

Wir haben ein Programm mit Ikonen der Musikgeschichte wie Foreigner oder den Simple Minds.
We have a program with icons of music history like Foreigner or Simple Minds.
Captions 7-8, Das Tollwood-Festival: Bap und Clueso in der Musik-Arena

Da sind die besten Firmen der Welt dabei wie Siemens und andere.
The best companies in the world are there, like Siemens and others.
Caption 40, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister: Pläne für 2014

Further Learning:

Search on Yabla German for the words als and wie to find more of the ways these expressions are used in context.


Classic German Aphorisms for the New Year

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

Learning Suggestions:

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.


All You Need Is Liebe

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…

Caption 54, Frauenfußball-WM: Der Bundespräsident am Ball - Part 1

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…

Caption 3, Andreas Bourani: Alles nur in meinem Kopf - Part 1

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. 


Von großer Bedeutung

If you take a German class, you likely know the verb bedeuten from the question Was bedeutet X? This can be translated as "What does X mean?" The noun die Bedeutung, often translated as "the meaning," is used in two different contexts that you will come across on Yabla German.


Die Bedeutung often can be translated as "the meaning," as in "the definition."


Versteht ihr die Bedeutung?
Do you understand the meaning
Caption 74, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Weil oder obwohl


Die richtige Bedeutung werde ich euch natürlich im Anschluss verraten.
I will, of course, reveal the correct meaning to you afterwards.
Caption 16, Eva erklärt: Sprichwörter


However, it also just as often can be translated as "the meaning," as in "the importance" or "the significance."


Von internationaler Bedeutung war und ist das Wiener Musikleben.
Viennese musical life was and is of international importance.
Caption 15, Reisebericht: Wien


Die Biodiversität ist etwas, was in ihrer [sic, seiner] Bedeutung unglaublich unterschätzt wird.
Biodiversity is something which is being unbelievably underestimated in its importance.
Caption 14, Angela Merkel: beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat


Hat der Tag eine besondere Bedeutung für Sie?
Does the day have a special meaning for you?
Caption 40, Valentinstag: in Karlsruhe


Further Learning
Look at other examples of die Bedeutung used on Yabla German. Identify the context in which they are being used  and notice how the word is structurally integrated into each sentence. 

Some German Slang Expressions

Many Germans use slang in their everyday speech. Some slang may be rude or inappropriate, so it's best to avoid that. But there are lots of other kinds of slang expressions that are considered "normal" and perfectly polite in everyday speech. 


Diese Frau ist einfach ein Dauerbrenner.
This woman is simply a long burning oven.
Caption 1: Angelique Kerber: Fotoshooting mit dem neuen Porsche 718 Boxster S


Calling somebody a "long burning oven" in English sounds a bit odd, to say the least, and possibly even insulting, but the slang German expression merely means that somebody is perennially popular


Sophie, bist du immer noch sauer?
Sophie, are you still sour?
Caption 6, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


Of course, the person doesn't really want to know if Sophie is literally sour, but if she is still angry!


Weil du natürlich ihr Bärenführer wirst.
Because you will, of course, become her bear trainer.
Caption 36, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern


Nor does der Bärenführer have anything to do with real bears, what it means is a job trainer for new employees. 


Frühlingszeit ist Fahrradzeit, also raus mit dem Drahtesel.
Springtime is bike time, so get out the wire donkey.
Caption 1, Fahrrad: Frühjahrs-Check


Naturally there are no donkeys, mules, burros or other pack animals involved, der Drahtesel is a slang word for bicycle


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for "slang" to find examples of slang German words used in videos. Then test the knowledge of other students in your German class by using the newly-learned German slang word in an appropriate context. For those who don't understand, it could sound pretty funny: imagine telling the class you rode your "wire donkey" to school that day! 

Bring the Noise!

In this week's new video Mama arbeitet wieder, a construction company boss tells his foreman: 

Aber bevor wir hier abziehen, lassen wir's noch mal richtig krachen, was?
But before we pull out here, we'll make a really big noise [celebrate], right?
Caption 4, Spielfilm: Mama arbeitet wieder

The verb krachen is defined by the Duden dictionary as primarily "einen Krach verursachen, auslösen" or "causing a loud noise." Its slang meanings are "to have a fight with somebody" (Krach haben) or "to suffer a bankruptcy" (Krach erleiden), the latter similar to the "crash" of the stock market in English. The verb combination krachen lassen, however, usually means "to celebrate."

Da wünsche ich euch viel Spaß! Lasst es krachen!
Then I hope you have a lot of fun! Make some noise [celebrate]!
Caption 70, Silvester und Vorsätze für das Neue Jahr

A variation to the translation "to celebrate" is made in the case where a car really "makes some noise":

Und die lassen es in der brandneuen, über zweihundert PS starken A-Klasse so richtig krachen.
And they'll really, in the brand new over two hundred horsepower strong A-Class, make some noise [idiom: "cut loose"].
Captions 16-17, Mercedes Benz: Michael Schumacher und Nico Rosberg bei der Nationalmannschaft 

So the slang term "krachen lassen" is usually used in connection with some kind of celebration, such as a birthday party or New Year's celebration. 2016 is still some months away, but that gives you a chance to get some practice celebrations going in the meantime. Lass es krachen! 

Further Learning
Search for more videos on German Yabla that use the verb krachen and watch the entire video to improve your party vocabulary!

Laufen: Extrapolations on a Useful Verb

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!

Learning tip

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.


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Versatile Verbs

aufheben: to suspend; to pick up

Have you ever longed to put the pedal to the metal? Car enthusiasts throughout the world dream of hitting the Autobahn in their favorite gas guzzler. In a recent move that has environmentalists upset and speed demons ecstatic, Germany has removed more barriers to high-velocity travel:

Das Verkehrsministerium hat einige Tempolimits aufgehoben.
The Ministry of Transport has lifted some of the speed limits.
Caption 2, Deutsche Autobahnen: Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen

The infinitive of the verb in boldface is aufheben. As with many other German verbs, it has numerous meanings in different contexts. In this case it means to "suspend something", to "declare something as invalid."

Die Geldstrafe wurde aufgehoben.
The fine was cancelled.

Mit dem Ende der Apartheid wurde das Handelsembargo gegen Südafrika aufgehoben.
With the end of apartheid, the trade embargo against South Africa was lifted.

In our video about Karlsruhe's phenomenal ultimate frisbee team, we encounter another meaning of aufheben, "to pick up":

... du würdest ihn einfach aufheben.
... you'd simply pick it up.
Caption 19, Ultimate Frisbee: Oli erklärt das Spiel - Part 1

Have you heard the expression Viel Aufhebens um etwas machen? In the figurative sense, the expression means to "make a fuss about something." It originated from the language of fencers, who, prior to fighting, picked up their swords from the ground, accompanied by elaborate ceremonies and boastful words.

Keep an eye out for these and other uses of aufheben, an extremely versatile German verb!



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Separable or not separable... that is the question!

Separable Verbs: verbs with a stressed prefix, that are separated when used in a sentence
i.e. mitkommen, mitfeiern, einladen

In each and every episode, we've all come to almost know by heart Frederick's blustery invitation to his younger brother, spoken as our beloved porcine brothers embark upon another stroll in the country. Let's all chime in with Frederick…

Komm mit."

"Come with [me]."

Caption 5, Piggeldy und Frederick: Langeweil

Mitkommen means "to come" or "to come along." The prefix mit- is stressed which indicates that it is a separable prefix verb. Notice in this present tense construction: the verb is in the second position and the separable prefix is at the end. Here the German appears benignly analogous to our English. However, Vorsicht! Don't be lulled to sleep.

In this next clip that reports the celebration of World Pi Day, notice what happens when additional information is included in the predicate.

Da feierst du jetz' auch nich' mit beim Welt-Pi-Tag, oder?

Now you also don't celebrate along on World Pi Day or [do you]?

Caption 67, Welt-Pi-Tag: Unser Leben mit der Kreiszah

Where does the additional information, (namely... jetzt, auch, nicht) appear? Richtig! It is sandwiched between the conjugated verb and the prefix.

This is also the case for einladen (to invite):

Heute lade ich alle meine Freunde zu mir nach Hause ein.
Today I will invite all of my friends to my home.


The prefixes of separable verbs are, by and large, prepositions or adverbs, but sometimes even verbs or nouns, all meaning that they are independent words. And, since no one is born a master, you can learn more about separable verbs here and here.

Learning Tip

To practise recognizing separable verbs, select 3 clips. Watch each with both captions on. Pause and analyze the sentences which you think might contain a separable verb. Pay close attention to the correct pronunciation of the verb. Use the loop function of the Yabla Player to listen to it repeatedly and say the infinitive out loud, stressing the prefix, until you get it right. Do this exercise for all 3 clips (add more if necessary)! This will help you differentiate between stressed and unstressed prefixes and any remaining "separation anxiety" will end in smoke.


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Modal Particles: schon, ja, halt

Modal or "flavoring" particles: words used in colloquial speech indicating a certain attitude of the speaker

schon, ja, halt

Although Germans have a fondness for foreign cuisine, they will always stay faithful to their Currywurst (curried sausage). There are an estimated 2,000 sausage stands in Berlin and even a museum solely dedicated to this popular German snack. Berliner Frank Spieß, owner of the unique sausage stand "Curry and Chili," offers 12! levels of spiciness, emphatically ensuring that some, indeed, like it hot!

Also, die Leute haben schon, äh, Spaß daran,
So, the people indeed have, uh, fun with it,
Caption 48, Currywurst: Berlins schärfstes Stück

As a modal particle the word schon (in bold) means "indeed" as opposed to the literal meaning "already" when used as an adverb.

Ich bin schon ein Fußballfan, aber kein eingefleischter.
I am indeed a soccer fan but not a die-hard one.

By adding a ja to her sentence, Eva, who takes us on a tour through Berlin's Viktoriapark, implies that it's well-known that the Kreuzberg ("cross hill") isn't really that high with its modest 66 meters.

Das ist ja nicht besonders groß

That isn't particularly tall

Caption 14, Berlin: Eva im Viktoriapark

Halt is another very commonly used modal particle which can be translated as "just", "simply" or "as a matter of fact." Drummer Thomas Holtgreve of German band Frida Gold uses it to add accent, attitude and emphasis.

Ein bisschen auf die Spitze getrieben halt, so.

Just pushed it a little bit to the extreme, so.

Caption 19, Frida Gold: Making of "Zeig mir wie du tanzt" - Part 1

For a list and more example sentences of German modal particles you can go here and here.

In conclusion, modal particles are uninflected parts of speech used to convey impatience, surprise, disbelief, or urgency along with the statement. Try them out and give your next conversation "auf Deutsch" an authentic, casual feel.

Learning Tip

If you want to fine tune your understanding of modal particles go to the Videos tab on and enter the modal particle you want to practice into the search box. All videos containing said particle will appear. Focus only on watching those clips and your understanding of informal German along with the selected modal particles is sure to improve.


Von wegen: more than just "no way!"

A caption in this weeks' latest installment of the Pfefferkörner kid detectives series uses the slang phrase von wegen. Directly translated ("from because of"?), this phrase makes very little sense. Used on its own (Von wegen!), it is a negation to a statement made by somebody else, and means "that is wrong," "not at all," "just the opposite," or just simply "no way!" The Duden dictionary defines von wegen! as auf keinen Fall! Despite some rather crude translations of the phrase on some less than dependable crowd-sourced translation sites, the phrase itself is not vulgar at all, and will only cause offense if the contradiction of a statement is inherently offensive to the person who made it. It's all about context.


It's a bit trickier to translate von wegen when it is used in a sentence and references something specific. Here too, we have to look at the context in which the phrase is used.


Von wegen Kunstunterricht.
It's not true about art class.
Caption 44, Die Pfefferkörner: Cybermobbing


In the above scenario, a girl's parents just found out she was lying when she said that her brother was with friends in an art class. Her father confronts her about her lie using von wegen.


But von wegen can also be used in a dismissive sense: 


Von wegen körperloser Sport, hätte ich meinen Helm doch gebraucht. 
So much for non-contact sports, I still could've made use of my helmet after all.
Caption 46, Ultimate Frisbee: Oli erklärt das Spiel 


The speaker above is talking about the fact that frisbee is generally considered to be a non-contact sport, so he is dismissing this belief as being untrue. And here again as an expression casting doubt on a supposition:


Von wegen Öl geht aus. Die lügen doch, die Ölstaaten.    
As if the oil will run out. But they're lying, the oil states.
Caption 29, Culcha Candela: Schöne neue Welt


There is also, of course, a standard, non-slang use of the phrase von wegen in a sentence: von [genitive noun] wegen means "for [noun] reasons" or "for reasons of [noun]." Some examples: von Amts wegen (for official reasons), von Rechts wegen (for legal reasons), or von Berufs wegen (for professional reasons). 


Further Learning
Read this lively StackExchange article about von wegen and keep your eyes out for examples used in a real world scenario on Yabla German.

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Inseparable Prefixes

Inseparable Verbs: verbs with an unstressed prefix that are not separated when used in a sentence, e.g. beschreiben, erfinden, entspannen.

As Piggeldy and Frederick stroll down country roads in Das Fernweh (the yen for faraway places) Piggeldy gushes at the way his brother Frederick has aptly described this unknown concept.

So schön kann nur mein lieber Bruder Frederick 'Fernweh' beschreiben.

So beautifully can only my dear brother Frederick describe "fernweh".

Caption 36, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Fernweh

Beschreiben (to describe) is the inseparable verb in our example and if we subtract the prefix be- it becomes schreiben (to write).

Different prefixes alter or change the meaning of their respective unadorned infinitives or root words, which may even be other parts of speech. See this list:

Be-: often makes a transitive verb from an intransitive verb, e.g. siegen (to win) vs. besiegen (to defeat)

Er-: tends to relate to creative processes, e.g. erfinden (to invent), erörtern (to discuss)

Ent-: usually describes processes of removing, e.g. entfernen (to remove), entführen (to kidnap)

Zer-: is used for destructive actions, e.g. zerstören (to destroy), zerdrücken (to crush, to mash)

To put this rough rubric into practice, let's look at another inseparable verb in one of our clips. Reporter Raudy, from the trendy magazine RheinMain Szene, tells recording artist "Der Graf" (the Count) to relax, when the Count admits that at times he still experiences stage fright.

Echt? Entspann dich doch! Ich bitt' dich!

Really? Hey, relax! I'm asking you!

Caption 7, RheinMain Szene: Unheilig - "Der Graf" - Part 3

As we can see from the list above, the inseparable prefix ent- reverses a process in place. In this last example, it "loosens the strings" of the Count’s tightly strung psyche, hence entspannen means “to relax.

Further practice

Review the lesson Separable or not separable... that is the question!, and then test yourself with this exercise on separable and inseparable verbs.

Learning Tip

Pick out a troublesome German phoneme, like the pesky R-sound. Create a word set by selecting only words that have this phoneme, whether in the initial or intermediate position. Then go back to the newly created word set and practice those words. Don’t be discouraged if you find progress slow in coming. It takes time, effort, continuous monitoring, and even trial and error, before you get it all right. When you meet a German who can no longer immediately peg your land of origin you’ll be glad you made the effort!


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Hier liegt der Hund begraben: That is exactly the point!

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!



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If Wishes Were Horses and When Pigs Fly - Wenn

English speakers learning the word wenn for the first time often find the parallels to “when” helpful at first. But wenn can also mean "if." For example, a German child pleading for something and promising to be good in return can expect to hear:

Wenn das Wörtchen wenn nicht wär, wär mein Vater Millionär.

If the word "if" did not exist, my father would be a millionaire.

This is comparable to the English expression "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride" and can be translated more idiomatically as "When pigs fly."

While the uses of wenn in German are varied, it is most commonly used in such simple cases as:

Ich habe kein Geld, wenn ich Dinge einkaufe.

I have no money when I buy things.

Caption 40, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Die Konjunktion "wenn"

The German use of wenn... dann is also parallel to the English “if... then.” We see this in the following example.

aber auch wenn die Zeit noch 'n bisschen schwierig ist,  

dann nimmt man sich gern zu Hause 'n bisschen Ablenkung davon...

but even if times are still a bit tough, 

then it is nice to have a bit of distraction from that at home...

Captions 7 and 8, Auftrumpfen: Mit Kitsch und Protz

Sometimes wenn really does mean "when": 

und der, wenn er wild wird, uns Sand in die Augen weht 

and the one that, when it becomes wild, blows sand into our eyes

Caption 17, Piggeldy und Frederick: Der Wind

So now you see that that Wenn das Wörtchen wenn nicht wär, there would be quite a few things you'd have trouble expressing!

Learning Tip

When going through your videos, pay particular attention to a specific aspect of the language, such as a tense, a part of speech (such as the wenn above) or a tricky bit of vocabulary. And then reward yourself by watching one of the fun episodes to allow your mind to process.


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