German Lessons


An Extra False Friend

The German adjectival prefix Extra- can often be translated as the English adjective "extra." If you wish to use "extra" as an adjective in German, it is not usually a freestanding word (excepting certain anglicisms such as extra dry) but is instead added to whatever noun is being modified. Let's first take a look at examples of the German adjectival prefix Extra-:


Niemand hat einen Extrapullover für Catherine?
Nobody has an extra pullover for Catherine?
Caption 49, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Die Konjunktion "dass"


Ein Extrapaar Schuhe ist auch immer praktisch.
An extra pair of shoes is also always practical.
Caption 21, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub


Note that it would not be correct to write extra Pullover or extra Paar, instead the adjectival prefix Extra- is placed together with the noun: Extrapullover and Extrapaar. In some cases where extra is required to modify another adjective, it is still written in lower case, such as in extragroß ("extra large") and extrastark ("extra strong").


The German adverb extra, however, is usually a false friend, meaning it is written the same way in both languages but has a different meaning:


Die habe ich dir jetzt extra geholt, jetzt komm schon.
I got it especially for you, now come on.
Caption 58, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor


Ach so, stimmt! Extra hergeflogen aus Saudi-Arabien.
Oh, that's right! Especially flown here from Saudi Arabia.
Caption 30, Fasching: mit Cettina


As you see in the above examples, the German adverb extra is usually translated into English as "especially." However, sometimes the word "especially" is a bit too simplistic for the context, and it is better to use a more tailored translation such as "for the occasion" or "for that reason": 


Manfred Schoof hat extra eine einfache Melodie komponiert.
Manfred Schoof composed a simple melody for the occasion.
Caption 5, Bibliothek der Sachgeschichten: Müllmännerlied


Die Hölzer kommen dort meist nicht von extra angelegten Plantagen.
The wood there does not usually come from plantations cultivated for that reason.
Caption 27, Umweltschutz: WWF zur Rettung des Regenwaldes


Further Learning
Come up with a good phrase that you can use as a mnemonic device for remembering the difference between the adjectival prefix Extra- and the adverb extra. Here's such an example that works for me — as do most things chocolate:


Ich habe einen Extrariegel Schokolade extra für dich mitgenommen.
I've taken an extra bar of chocolate along especially for you.


Look for other examples of the German adjectival prefix Extra- and adverb extra in use in a real-world context on Yabla German and learn some other ways in which the word can be used.

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part I

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

Many words in German look like words in English, but can be tricky because they actually have different meanings. These paired words are called false friends or false cognates and can be the source of many difficulties when starting to learn a new language. Here are a few examples from Yabla, all starting with the letter A:

absolvieren: to finish a course of study or exam
False friend: absolve: to declare (someone) free from guilt, obligation, or punishment (German: entlasten)

Auch wenn man ein Studium absolviert hat...
Even after finishing a study...
Caption 63, Lokalhelden: Art House

aktuell: current, latest
False friend: actual: existing in fact; real. (German: eigentlich, wirklich)

Neunundsechzig ist die aktuelle Diskussion. 
Sixty-nine is the current debate. 
Caption 46, Kurzfilm-Festival: Shorts at Moonlight 

die Argumentation: the reasoning, process of reasoning
False friend: argument: an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one (German: der Streit)

Das hessische Ministerium hat kein Verständnis für diese Argumentation.    
The Hessian Ministry has no understanding for this reasoning.
Captions 28-29, Deutsche Autobahnen: Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen

Further Learning:
Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a very funny commentary in German containing false friends, read this dialog on Grimm GrammarBis bald! (No, this is not about hair loss…)


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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

In our last lesson on false friends, we discussed a few false cognates that begin with the letter A. Today, we're moving one stop further down the alphabet to learn about some falsche Freunde starting with B:

das Bad: the bath or bathroom (room with a bath, not the toilet!)
False friend: bad: of low quality or poor standard (German: schlecht)

Jetzt packe ich die Sachen vom Bad in den Koffer.
Now I'll pack the things from the bathroom into the suitcase.
Caption 18, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub

bekommen: to get or receive
False friend: become: to begin to be, to develop into (German: werden)

Ich hab' noch nie einen Preis bekommen in Deutschland.    
I've never received an award in Germany.
Caption 17, DIVA-Verleihung: Schauspieler des Jahres

brav: good, well-behaved

False friend: brave: possessing or exhibiting courage (German: tapfer, mutig)

Und wer nicht brav war, der soll auch noch darum bitten.    
And those who were not good, they should even beg for it.
Caption 14, Jan Wittmer: Weihnachtslied

Further Learning:

Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a thorough list of German false friends, take a look at this extensive chart.


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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

In our last lesson on false friends, we discussed a few false cognates that begin with the letter B. Today, we're moving one stop further down the alphabet to learn about some falsche Freunde starting with C and D:

der Chef / die Chefin: the boss or departmental head
False English friend: chef, the head cook (German: der Chefkoch / die Chefköchin, der Küchenchef / die Küchenchefin)

Ich werde morgen mit meinem Chef reden.
I will talk with my boss tomorrow.
Caption 53, Lektionen: Morgen

dezent: discreet, discreetly, low-key, unobtrusive
False English friend: decent, appropriate, fitting (German: anständig, ordentlich)

Normalerweise sind die Tuaregs ja auch eher dezent gekleidet.
Normally the Tuaregs are indeed dressed rather discreetly.
Caption 46, Rat für nachhaltige Entwicklung: Mode gegen Armut

Dose: can, tin
False English friend: dose, a quantity of medicine (German: die Dosis)

… denn über den Schaumwein in Dosen geht ihr nichts.
… because for her, there's nothing like the sparkling wine in cans.
Caption 17, Paris Hilton: in Frankfurt

Further Learning:

Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a thorough list of German false friends, take a look at this extensive chart and then search Yabla videos to find the words used in context!


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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

In our last lesson on false friends, we discussed a few false cognates that begin with the letters C and D. Today, we're moving yet another step down the alphabet to learn about some falsche Freunde starting with E and F:

eventuell: maybe, possibly, perhaps
False English friend: eventually, finally, ultimately, at some later time (German: endlich, schließlich)

Ich rieche daran, ob die wirklich auch nach einer Erdbeere riecht, und eventuell könnte ich noch oben schauen.
I smell it to see if it also really smells like a strawberry, and maybe I could look on top.
Captions 23-24, Kochhaus Berlin: Frische Zutaten erkennen

die Fabrik: factory
False English friend: fabric, cloth (German: der Stoff, das Gewebe)

Bald waren sie bei einer Fabrik, bei einer Farbenfabrik.
Soon they were at a factory, at a paint factory.
Caption 6, Piggeldy und Frederick: Malen

der Fotograf: photographer
False English friend: photograph, an image taken by a camera (German: das Foto)

Also so richtig dunkelkammermäßig so, wie Fotografen das früher gemacht haben.
Well, really like a darkroom, like photographers used to do it.
Caption 51, Lokalhelden: Art House

Further Learning:

Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a thorough list of German false friends, take a look at this extensive chart and then search Yabla videos to find the words used in context!


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False Friends

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: actuallyeigentlich, 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: baldkahl

…die olympischen Winterspiele, die bald in Vancouver stattfinden werden.

…the Winter Olympic Games that will soon take place in Vancouver.

Caption 3, Deutsche Sporthilfe: Ball des Sports - Part 2

Watch what you give someone on their birthday! 

German: das Gift – poison, venom

English: giftdas Geschenk 

Sein Gift ist vergleichbar mit einem Bienenstich.

His poison is comparable to a bee sting.

Caption 9, Summer Cheergirl 2010: Fotoshooting mit Skorpionen 

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 engagedsich 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: eventuallyschließlich, 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: bravemutig, 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!


False Friends in Big Numbers

It's easy to get confused by the names of large numbers in German, as many of them are false friends — number names that are the same as in English but represent different numbers entirely. Let's start relatively small with a mere million: 


Rund eine Million Menschen wird in der Stadt erwartet.
Around one million people are expected in the city.
Captions 23-24, Rhein-Main-TV: Feier zur deutschen Einheit in Frankfurt wird gigantisch 


Thus "million" in English is the same as die Million in German: a 1 followed by 6 zeros, 1,000,000. But when we ramp it up to an English billion, we find our first false friend:


Drei Milliarden Jahre lang war kein Lebewesen auf der Erde mit bloßem Auge zu erkennen.
For three billion years no living thing on earth was visible to the naked eye.
Captions 19-20, Zeit: Die Vergangenheit und Zukunft von allem


An English billion is die Milliarde in German (plural Milliarden). That's a 1 followed by 9 zeros, 1,000,000,000. Let's get even bigger with our next false friend: 


Ich bin eine aus sechs Billionen.
I am one of six trillion.
Caption 7, Frida Gold: 6 Billionen 


An English trillion is die Billion (plural Billionen) in German. That's a 1 followed by 12 zeros, 1,000,000,000,000. I'm not sure what Frida Gold is referring to, since the population of planet Earth is 7.4 billion (in English, 7,4 Milliarden in German), so even if she means the English "billion," the count should be 7 billion, not 6 billion! Maybe it just sounded better in the song...


So let's recap what we've learned and go a bit further (false friends are highlighted in bold): 


English / German 
Million / die Million (1 plus 6 zeros)
Billion / die Milliarde (1 plus 9 zeros)
Trillion / die Billion (1 plus 12 zeros)
Quadrillion / die Billiarde (1 plus 15 zeros)
Quintillion / die Trillion (1 plus 18 zeros)
Sextillion / die Trilliarde (1 plus 21 zeros)
Septillion / die Quadrillion (1 plus 24 zeros)
Octillion / die Quadrilliarde (1 plus 27 zeros)
Nonillion / die Quintillion (or: die Quinquillion) (1 plus 30 zeros)


Note that all plurals of these high-count words in German end with -en.


Further Learning
Take a look here at the complete list of names of large German numbers and do a search for some big numbers on Yabla German and see some more examples of how they are used in German in a real world context! 

French Words Used in German, Part 3

German has many French loan words or Gallicisms. Since an estimated 45% of English comes from French or Latin language sources, if you can learn to recognize words in your native English as having a French origin, there is a fair chance that these words are used in German. 


In a previous lesson, we took a look at some more French-derived words in German that have the same or similar words in English. This week, let's discuss some German words that originated from the French but have different meanings than their similar English equivalents.


Die Frau bekommt ein Kind und ihr Chef weiß das.
The woman is going to have a child and her boss knows it.
Caption 9, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


In this case, the German der Chef and French chef can be a bit of a false friend of the English word "chef," since in English it means "the head cook" and not the more general term "the boss."


Bald waren sie bei einer Fabrik, bei einer Farbenfabrik.
Soon they were at a factory, at a paint factory.
Caption 6, Piggeldy und Frederick: Malen


The German die Fabrik comes from the French fabrique, the -que ending having been Germanized to -ik. The pronunciation is nearly the same in both languages, with the emphasis on the second syllable.


Ich denke, er ist einfach eine komplexe Figur.    
I think he is simply a complex character.
Caption 9, Dreharbeiten: zum Film „Playoff“


The German die Figur comes from the French figure—like the English "figure"—and has similar meanings, but in most contexts the German is translated to "character" in English, making this a sort of false friend in most cases. Die Figur could, however, be translated to the English "figure" if you were discussing a geometric figure.


Bevor ihr einen Weihnachtsbaum aufstellt, geht am besten mal zum Friseur.
Before you set up a Christmas tree it's best that you go to the hairdresser.
Captions 17-18, Frohe Weihnachten: der Christbaum


The German der Friseur / die Friseurin, from the French friseur, is rarely used in English anymore, and even the French tend to prefer to use the term coiffeur insteadThe German also uses the term die Friseuse, but it is a pejorative. There is a secondary German spelling Frisör, but the German Duden dictionary recommends the -eur spelling!


Hast du die Gage?
Do you have the fee?
Caption 48, Verstehen Sie Spaß?: Sascha Grammel


The German die Gage and the French gage both pronounce the first G as a hard G and the second as a soft G. It might be incorrectly confused with the English "gauge."


Wenn du so viel Engagement in Mathematik aufbringst wie im Lösen von Kriminalfällen…
If you put as much effort into mathematics as into solving criminal cases…
Caption 36, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


Das Engagement, from the French engagement, has nothing to do with the English "engagement," which in German is usually translated as die Verlobung


Further Learning
As a general rule, French words found in German are spelled the same, or nearly the same, as the French words found in English, but are pronounced in a German manner and written according to German grammatical rules—with nouns capitalized, for example. Take a look at this list of Gallicisms in German and go to Yabla German to find other real-world examples of the words used in videos. 

Irritated or Just Confused?

If you've followed our lessons, you have likely already heard about "false friends." These are words that sound similar in German and English, but do not have the same meaning. One example of verb that is a false friend is irritieren, which despite sounding very similar to the verb "to irritate," actually means "to confuse." The German adjective irritiert therefore is translated as "confused."


Deine Eltern waren irritiert, dass Fußball dich so interessiert.
Your parents were confused that football interests you so much.
Caption 5-6, Olli Schulz: Spielerfrau


Wenn ich das erste Mal in dieser Figur auftrete, ist das Publikum immer erst mal so 'n bisschen irritiert.
When I appear for the first time in the role of this character, the audience is always a little confused at first.
Caption 26-27, Theater: Rain Man


For "to irritate" or "to annoy," the verb ärgern is a common choice. 


Bleib höflich und sag nichts, das ärgert sie am meisten.
Remain polite and don't say anything, that irritates them the most.
Caption 39, Die Ärzte: Lasse redn


Another similar case is with the verb sich wundern. This means "to marvel" at something and is often used to express surprise, however, it does not share the other meaning of "to wonder." "To wonder" in the sense of contemplating or wondering about a topic is simply sich fragen.


Es wundert mich überhaupt nicht, dass dein Kind so richtig einen an der Waffel hat.
I'm not at all surprised that your child really has one on his waffle [idiom: is crazy].
Captions 26-27, Filmtrailer: Frau Müller muss weg


Und ich frage mich, wann werde ich berühmt sein?
And I wonder when will I be famous?
Captions 21-22, Adel Tawil: Lieder


Further Learning
Take a look at these examples in context on Yabla German and practice conjugating irritieren, ärgern, sich wundern, and sich fragen taking into account the reflexive verbs. Or take at this list of false friends and find other verbs to look out for. 

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Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei

In English, one way of saying that an event is finished or done with is to say that it's "over." In German, the word über, though usually meaning "about,"  is sometimes translated as "over" when it is referring to the physical placement of something: 


Ganz zum Schluss verteile ich meinen Zuckerguss über den Kuchen.
Right at the end, I spread my sugar frosting over the cake.
Caption 36, Apfelkuchen: mit Eva


But in German, if you want to say that an event is over, the word über turns out to be a kind of false friend: the correct term here is vorbei


Doch diese Zeiten sind vorbei.
But those times are over.
Caption 12, Christina Stürmer: Wir leben den Moment 


Meine Stunden bei der Gepäckverladung der Bodenverkehrsdienste sind vorbei.    
My hours at the baggage loading area of the ground traffic services are over.
Caption 45, Selbst versucht: Gepäckabfertigung bei Fraport


Es ist jetzt vorbei, ich starte neu.
It's over now, I'm starting anew.
Caption 7, Beatrice Egli: Irgendwann


Depending upon the context, vorbei can also be translated as "passed," or "gone," or "past," to name a few possibilities:


Vier Jahre sind vorbei und unser Team ist mit dabei.
Four years have passed and our team is in.
Caption 9, Die gestiefelten Zwerge: Am Kap der Hoffnung steht der Cup


... denn dann ist der Zauber vorbei.
... because then the magic is gone.
Caption 57, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Aschenputtel


Der Winter ist vorbei.
The winter is past.
Caption 2, Jahreszeiten: Der Frühling


Another possibility for expressing that something is over or has passed by is the adverb vorüber


So, jetzt ist der Haxen fertig, die drei Stunden sind vorüber.
So now the knuckle is finished, the three hours have passed by.
Caption 45, Kochen mit Cettina: Schweinshaxe


Ein Jahr weht vorüber...
A year flies past...
Caption 24, rheinmain Szene: Selig


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and see the many other examples of vorbei and vorüber in a real world context. See too if you can correctly translate the title of this week's lesson: Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei. Hint: the direct translation "fat years" isn't quite right! 

Funny as in “Ha Ha Funny” or Funny as in Weird?

When something is funny in the sense of humorous and you can laugh about it, the usual adjective in German is lustig, which is nearly always translated as “funny.”


Ja, das ist ganz lustig.
Yes, that is pretty funny.
Caption 27, Wissenschaft, Neues Element: das Copernicium


The English “making fun” of something or somebody, meaning to mock them, has a direct parallel in German that also uses the word lustig, as in sich lustig machen:


Sie lachten über seine großen Füße und machten sich über seinen plumpen, grauen Körper lustig.
They laughed about his big feet and made fun of his plump, gray body.
Captions 36-37, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das hässliche Entlein


Beware, however, as there is a partial false friend to be found in the German adjective (and adverb) komisch. This is occasionally used for the similar English word “comic” or “comical,” as in the Komische Oper (or “Comic Opera”) in Berlin, but usually it is meant in a more derogatory sense:


Die entstehen immer komischer.
They form more and more oddly.
Caption 57, Wissenschaft, Neues Element: das Copernicium


Es war schon ein bisschen komisch.
It was indeed a little bit weird.
Caption 35, 25 Jahre Mauerfall: Bürger Lars Dietrich erinnert sich


Of course, sometimes even English “funny” is also meant somewhat derogatorily rather than in a humorous sense: 


Aber das ist ein komisches Beispiel.
But that is a funny example.
Caption 18, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Konjunktionen


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and find more examples of the adjectives lustig and komisch in a real world context to get a better feel for which is the appropriate word. 

Listen up!

Have you noticed that there is not only the verb hören in German, but also anhören and zuhören? Unfortunately, the difference between these three can’t exactly be equated with the difference between “to listen” and “to hear” in English. Let’s try to get to the bottom of how each one is used.  

Hören without any prefixes can actually be translated as both “to hear” and “to listen,” depending on the context. 


Hört ihr es? Mein Wasser fängt gerade an zu kochen.
Do you hear it? My water is just starting to boil.
Caption 35, Cannelloni: mit Jenny


Das haben wohl schon so einige Kinder von ihren Eltern zu hören bekommen.
Quite a few children have gotten to hear that from their parents.
Caption 2, Kochhaus Berlin: Kochen mit Kindern

OK, ich höre. Wer beginnt?
OK, I am listening. Who will begin?
Caption 26, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz


Zuhören is used to describe listening intently or paying attention. 


Du musst genau zuhören, was gesprochen wird.
You have to listen carefully to what is said.
Caption 39, Yabla-Intro: Cettina


Und nun hör zu: Der Sommer ist warm und kurz.
And now listen up. Summer is warm and short.
Caption 29-30, Piggeldy und Frederick: Sommer


Sich etwas anhören describes listening to something specific that requires some time, for example, a song or an album. This is a bit confusing as hören is also used to talk about listening to music. If you understand the difference between sehen and sich etwas ansehen, this may help you with the distinction between hören and sich etwas anhören. Perhaps it is not unlike "to have a good look" or "to have a listen."


Wir möchten uns ein bisschen von seiner Lebensgeschichte anhören.
We would like to hear a bit about his life story.
Caption 4, Dieter Kränzlein: Bildhauer


Und was erwartet uns, wenn wir uns das Album anhören?
And what awaits us [can we expect] when we listen to the album?
Caption 13, Sons of Sounds: Open-Air in Karlsruhe


At the same time, sich anhören is also used to talk about something (for example, an idea or suggestion) that “sounds good” or “sounds bad.” Take a look at the structures below: 


OK, das hört sich gut an. Ich komme gerne mit.
OK, that sounds good. I'll gladly come along.
Caption 44, Diane erklärt: Fragewörter


Im Präteritum würde sich das ungefähr so anhören.
In the preterite, it would sound like this.
Caption 31, Konjugation: Das Verb „mögen“


Now for a false friend alert: The verb überhören does not mean "to overhear" in the English sense. It actually means to ignore or miss something one has heard. 


Further Learning
Search Yabla German for more examples of these verbs to develop your understanding of how they are used. Next week, we’ll look at a few words that contain the word hören, but have little to do with listening or hearing.  

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