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Across cities and continents

This week, let's review the vocabulary in German for political and geographical subdivisions. We will start from the largest subdivisions and proceed to the smallest.


Dann natürlich auch, um 'nen fremden Kontinent kennenzulernen, weil man aufm Fahrrad eigentlich so nah dran ist wie sonst nicht, wenn man reist.

Then of course also in order to get to know an unfamiliar continent, because on the bicycle you actually are so much closer to it than when you otherwise travel.

Captions 14-15, Mountainbiken Auf dem Anden-Trail

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Welches Land ist ein Nachbarland von Deutschland?

Which country is a neighboring country of Germany?

Caption 27, Bundesrepublik Deutschland Einbürgerungstest

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Die Region zwischen Amrum und Sylt wurde wegen der Meeressäuger unter Schutz gestellt.

The region between Amrum and Sylt was placed under protection because of the marine mammals.

Caption 2, Abenteuer Nordsee Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen - Part 7

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You probably already know the word die Stadt ("the city") and related words like die Hauptstadt or die Großstadt. The word der Staat is not to be confused with die Stadt. Although the United States is die Vereinigten Staaten in German, the word used for a federal state is generally das Bundesland. Der Staat is more often used when referring to something being done or provided by the federal or state government. 


Es ist sein erster Besuch in Berlin als Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika.

It is his first visit to Berlin as the president of the United States of America.

Caption 4, Angela Merkel Gemeinsame Pressekonferenz mit Barack Obama

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Der Staat muss die Gesetze einhalten.

The state has to abide by the laws.

Caption 4, Bundesrepublik Deutschland Einbürgerungstest

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In Deutschland gibt es in jedem Bundesland sogenannte Landeshauptstädte.

In Germany, there are so-called state capitals in each federal state.

Caption 15, Bundesländer und ihre Spezialitäten Baden-Württemberg

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When speaking about a district of a city, or a "quarter," the German word is der Bezirk or der Stadtteil or das Viertel. The word der Kiez is used in certain cities on an informal basis to denote a particular part of a district that may even be just a few square blocks. In these places, it is much more commonly used than die Nachbarschaft


Hallo, ich stehe hier am Eingang des Viktoriaparks im Berliner Stadtteil Kreuzberg.

Hello, I am standing here at the entrance of Viktoriapark in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg.

Caption 1, Berlin Eva im Viktoriapark

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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 neighborhood, and luxuriates in memories.

Captions 3-4, Pankow Rolling Stones des Ostens

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In German, die Kleinstadt specifies a town rather than a city. To talk about rural life, there is das Dorf ("the village") and also die Gemeinde, which can be used for a rural community as well as an urban one. 


Further Learning
Practice these words and their correct articles by describing where you live. Begin with the smallest area unit and progress until you are at continent level! Yabla German can provide more examples using these words if you get stuck on the declensions. 

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Idiomatic uses of die Fahne

The usual German words for "flag" are die Fahne or die Flagge, and they're used in a number of idiomatic expressions, some of which parallel those in English. 


Wir mussten die Flagge streichen.
We had to strike the flag.


The phrase die Flagge streichen can be used in the literal sense of striking or taking down a flag, but is more often used figuratively to mean "to give up," as in "We had to give up." Note that the verb streichen also means "to paint," but that won't be the case here! 


Lass uns doch lieber von der Fahne gehen
But let's rather go from the flag. 


That is a literal translation, but von der Fahne gehen is usually used figuratively to mean "to give up" in the sense of leaving a project, or cause, or organization. 


Sie stemmten das eiserne Stadttor auf und schwenkten eine weiße Flagge.
They pried open the iron city gate and waved a white flag.
Caption 25, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Weiber von Weinsberg


This too is a literal translation, as the story is about an army surrendering, but as in English, "to wave a white flag" is also often used figuratively to mean "to give up."


Wir haben unsere Fahnen nach dem Wind gedreht.
We have changed according to the circumstances.


Literally translated, this would read "We've turned our flags to the wind," but is used figuratively to mean that one has followed popular opinion or adapted according to the circumstances. It's similar to the English expression "whichever way the wind blows" or "to see which way the wind is blowing." As in English, the phrase can also be used as a negative critique of somebody being opportunistic.


One of the more common idiomatic uses of die Fahne can sound very strange to English speakers:


Buah, hat er eine Fahne? -Und wie! Cognac? -Feine Thunfischstückchen.
Ew, does he have a flag? -And how! Cognac? -Fine little pieces of tuna fish.
Captions 52-53, Küss mich, Frosch: Frosch oder Mensch?


Scheiße, du hast ja eine tierische Fahne.
Crap, you have a beastly flag.
Caption 14, Pastewka: Cantz fährt betrunken Auto


Du hast ja noch eine tierische Fahne. -Ich fresse doch schon die ganze Zeit Pfefferminz.
You still have a beastly flag. -But I've been devouring peppermints the whole time.
Caption 37, Pastewka: Verkehrsrowdy Bastian Pastewka


You've probably gathered that they aren't literally talking about "having a flag." The phrase eine Fahne haben means "to have bad breath" and is usually associated with the smell of alcohol. The question Hast du eine Fahne? is a way of asking somebody if they've been drinking alcohol.


Further Learning
Look up the words die Flagge and die Fahne on Yabla German to see them used both literally and figuratively in a real-world context. 

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Ways to say "however" in German

There are several words in German that convey the essential meaning of "however," even if they are not always translated as such. The primary words to look out for are allerdingsjedoch, and hingegen.


Dirk Nowitzki weiß allerdings, wo seine Wurzeln liegen.

Dirk Nowitzki knows, however, where his roots lie.

Caption 24, Basketball-Superstar Dirk Nowitzki im Kino

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Allerdings scheiterte sein Fluchtversuch. 

However, his attempt to flee failed. 

Caption 7, 25 Jahre Mauerfall Radtour durch die Geschichte

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Das Wahrzeichen ist jedoch das mit feuervergoldeten Kupferschindeln gedeckte Goldene Dachl.

The landmark, however, is the Goldenes Dachl [Golden Roof] covered with fire-gilded copper tiles.

Caption 31, 48 h in Innsbruck Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps - Part 1

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Der Eintrittspreis ist jedoch der alte geblieben.

The entry fee, however, stayed the same.

Caption 17, Autokino Gravenbruch

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An anderen Orten und in anderen Ländern wird hingegen das Vieh geehrt.

In other places and countries, however, the cattle are honored.

Caption 21, Cettina erklärt Pfingsten

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Der Bilderrahmen hingegen ist quadratisch, weil alle vier Seiten gleich lang sind.

The picture frame, however, is square, because all four sides are equally long.

Captions 40-41, Eva zeigt uns Formen

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You may also see any of the words above translated as "at the same time," "on the other hand," or simply as "but." Similarly, aber and doch are occasionally translated as "however." Dennoch (translated as "nonetheless," "nevertheless," "however") and wiederum ("in turn," "on the other hand," "however") are two more words that have a similar function.


Further Learning
Pay attention to the various ways in which these words are translated on Yabla German and especially to the position of the word in the English sentence in comparison with the original German, as it may not be the same. 

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werden, wurdenwürden

It's quite easy to get the similar-looking werdenwurden and würden confused, so we're taking a look today at the differences between them and the different contexts in which they are used. 


To start with, wurden and würden are different grammatical moods of the verb werden


Heute in unserer ersten Lektion werden wir die Buchstaben des deutschen Alphabets lernen.
Today in our first lesson, we will learn the letters of the German alphabet.
Caption 2, Deutsch mit Donna Blitz: Das Alphabet


Es soll bis über 20 Grad warm werden.
It should get warm, up to more than 20 degrees.
Caption 16, München: 180. Oktoberfest eröffnet


Du musst mich nur küssen und dann werde ich eine wunderschöne Prinzessin.
You only have to kiss me and I will turn into a beautiful princess.
Caption 11, CHoE Rocker: Hunde-Prinzessin


Die Tage werden immer kürzer und immer kälter.
The days steadily become shorter and colder.
Caption 9, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten


Es wird sehr schwierig werden, meinen Titel zu verteidigen. 
It is going to be very difficult to defend my title.
Caption 23, Wintersport: 7. Austrian Freeski Open


As you can see, werden can be used in a wide variety of contexts and can be translated variously as "will," "get," "will turn into," and "become." The last example uses the future tense of the verb, wird werden, which is translated as "going to be." 


In contrast, wurden is the Indikativ mood (similar to the indicative or realis mood in English) of werden. This just means that the verb is used to express a known state of affairs.


Sie flohen aus dem Königreich und wurden nie wieder gesehen.
They fled from the kingdom and were never seen again.
Caption 85, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das tapfere Schneiderlein


Here, wurden gesehen is the passive voice of the German Präteritum, as is common with the combination of werden and a past participle.


Wahrscheinlich wurden sie im hohen Norden auf dem Eis für die Jagd verwendet.
They were probably used for hunting on the ice in the far north.
Caption 17, Unterwegs mit Cettina: Schlittschuhlaufen


Thus, wurden is usually translated as "were," but it is also sometimes used in the same sense that the present tense werden is sometimes translated as "become." The sentence Aus Bauern wurden Arbeiter could be translated as "Farmers became workers," which has a very different verb structure but a similar meaning in the end.


Was würden Sie denn als ihre Stärken und Schwächen beschreiben?
What would you then describe as your strengths and weaknesses?
Caption 34, Eva erklärt: Bewerbungen


Würden Sie uns vielleicht ein bisschen Ihren Stand vorstellen?
Would you maybe present your stand to us a little bit?
Caption 47, Unterwegs mit Cettina: auf dem Bruchsaler Weihnachtsmarkt


Thus, würden is in most contexts translated to English as "would."


Further Learning
Watch the Yabla video about the verb werden, which goes into detail about the verb's conjugation, moods, and tenses, and go to Yabla German and see many other examples of werden, wurden, and würden used in a wide variety of contexts.

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Von Kopf bis Fuß , Part II

This lesson is the second part of a series about the noun der Kopf used in idiomatic contexts. Be sure and read Part I if you missed it, but to reiterate the title topic:


Er war von Kopf bis Fuß grün angezogen und klopfte gerade seine Schuhe aus.
He was dressed in green from head to toe and was just knocking out his shoes.
Caption 23, Märchen, Sagenhaft; Ein Topf voll Gold


Er sah stattlich und wohlhabend aus und von Kopf bis Fuß wie ein echter Marquis.
He appeared stately and wealthy and from head to toe like a real Marquis.
Captions 61-63, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der gestiefelte Kater 


Es schüttet wie aus Eimern, klitschnass von Kopf bis Fuß.
It's raining buckets, drenched from head to toe.
Captions 16-17, Die Toten Hosen: Unter den Wolken


The standard translation of von Kopf bis Fuß is thus the English idiom "from head to toe," meaning "completely." But what does it mean if somebody is said to have some kind of substance in their head other than brains? 


Also, man muss auch einen Pfeil im Kopf haben, um so was zu essen.
Well, you must also have an arrow in your head to eat something like that.
Captions 52-54, Currywurst; Berlins schärfstes Stück


Einen Pfeil im Kopf haben is similar to the English expression "to have rocks in your head," meaning you are either stupid or there is something seriously wrong with you. Similar meaning is found in the expressions Sägemehl im Kopf habenStroh im Kopf haben, and Sülze im Kopf haben, meaning respectively to have sawdust, straw, or jellied meat in your head.


However, the phrase Motten im Kopf haben ("to have moths in your head") means to have crazy or unconventional (but not necessarily just stupid) ideas, and Rosinen im Kopf haben ("to have raisins in your head") means to be thinking overly idealistically, something like "seeing the world through rose-colored glasses."


Ich hab einen dicken Kopf, ich muss einen Saft haben.
I have a thick head, I have to drink some juice.
Caption 32, Peter Fox: Schwarz zu Blau


Einen dicken Kopf haben means to be congested, or to have a headache or a hangover. Either way it's not very nice, so let's go out today with an easy one!


„Stadtgeflüster“ trifft den Nagel auf den Kopf.
"City Whisperings" hits the nail on the head.
Caption 26, Frankfurt: Der Friedberger Platz


Nice to know that some idioms are the same in English and German!


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and see many other examples of der Kopf used in a wide variety of contexts.

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The capitalization of German nouns

One thing you may have quickly noticed when you began learning German is that all German nouns are capitalized. In English, it is only proper nouns that begin with a capital letter, with the exception of common nouns that are the very first word in a sentence. In German, nouns are always capitalized, regardless of gender, case, or position in the sentence. 


Let’s take a look. In the following sentence, notice how the first word of each sentence and the proper noun "Munich" are capitalized in both languages. In German, however, the nouns die Bahn, die Stunden, and eine Verbindung also begin with a capital letter.


Aber auch die Bahn bietet alle zwei Stunden eine Verbindung von München an.

But also the train offers a connection from Munich every two hours.

Caption 22, 48 h in Innsbruck Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps - Part 1

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Capitalization can be especially helpful with verbs that often moonlight as nouns, such as das Schwimmen, das Tanzendas Gehen, or das Schreiben. They are easy to identify as such because they then begin with a capital letter.


„Hm, das soll Wandern sein?“, wunderte sich Piggeldy. „So laufen wir doch jeden Tag umher.“

"Hm, this is supposed to be hiking?" Piggeldy asked. "We walk around like this every day, after all."

Captions 11-12, Piggeldy und Frederick Das Wandern

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Note in this next sentence that jemanden and der are not capitalized. Unlike nouns, pronouns do not begin with a capital letter (das is capitalized, of course, because it is the first word in the sentence). Both nouns in eine Tasse Kaffee are capitalized, however, as is die Lobby.


Das ist wirklich genauso, äh, für jemand [jemanden], der vielleicht nur mal auf eine Tasse Kaffee bei uns in der schönen Lobby sitzen möchte...

It's really precisely the same, uh, for each person who, perhaps, would just like to sit for a cup of coffee with us in the beautiful lobby...

Captions 16-17, Berlin Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung

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Die Lobby brings us to another point. In the next sentence, even though das Team is a noun adopted from English, it is capitalized in German. 


Das Team bereitet sich auf den gemeinsamen Tauchgang vor.

The team prepares for the joint dive.

Caption 50, Abenteuer Nordsee Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen - Part 

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Further Learning
So when did die Großschreibung develop? As early as the 14th century, capitalized nouns can be found in religious texts, but it wasn't officially implemented until the 17th century. For advanced learners, here is a text about it in German. Otherwise, you can choose any video on Yabla German and pay special attention to the nouns and their capitalization while you watch it.

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Von Kopf bis Fuß , Part I

In the classic 1930 film Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) by director Josef von Sternberg, the young actress Marlene Dietrich sings a song by Friedrich Hollaender with the lyrics: 


Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt
Denn das ist meine Welt und sonst gar nichts


This is a good example of the noun der Kopf used in an idiomatic context. Many of the idioms using der Kopf in German are identical — or nearly so — to similar sayings in English.


Die Königin gab sich größte Mühe, ihn zu trösten: „Kopf hoch!“
The Queen did her best to comfort him: "Head up!" 
Captions 33-34, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse


In English it's common to say "hold your head up" to help comfort somebody, a British English equivalent being "chin up."  


Hiroshi Kajimoto hat den traditionellen Aufbau des Schirms nun auf den Kopf gestellt.    
Hiroshi Kajimoto has now turned ​​the traditional construction of the umbrella on its head.
Captions 6-7, Erfindung aus Japan: Der verkehrte Regenschirm


Thus the figurative meaning of "turning something on its head" is similar in German.


Ich habe doch Augen im Kopf!
I have indeed got eyes in my head!
Caption 60, Alexander Hauff: Showreel


Most of us, of course, have eyes in our head, but the figurative meaning here is the same as in English: "I can see that" or "I'm not blind."


But there are some idioms using der Kopf that would sound very odd indeed if translated literally to English:


Ach, mach dir keinen Kopf, Lothar.
Oh, don't worry, Lothar.
Caption 36, Großstadtrevier: Neben der Spur


This is similar to the predominantly British English expression "don't bother your head."


... weil da jeder Spieler schon seinen eigenen Kopf hat.
... because there every player already has their own ideas.
Caption 31, Eishockey: Erich Kühnhackl


While it's obvious that — short of some terrible disaster — everyone "has their own head," it's used here in a context similar to "headstrong" or "willful."


Further Learning
Watch Marlene sing the song "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt" in this video clip from the original 1930 film, then see if you can accurately translate the lyrics quoted at the start of this lesson. You can also go to Yabla German and find some more examples of der Kopf used in other contexts.

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German expressions of enthusiasm

Since we devoted one lesson to expressions of frustration, let's look at how enthusiasm is expressed in German as well and take a look at some positive adjectives. 


„Ich muss sagen: überwältigend!“ -„Ausgezeichnet! Ausgezeichnet, finde ich!“

"I must say, overwhelming!" -"Brilliant! Brilliant, I think!"

Caption 54, Märchen - Sagenhaft Des Kaisers neue Kleider

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Ausgezeichnet is also the participle of the verb auszeichnen, which means to award or distinguish.

Mit dem Architekturpreis Green Building wurden in Frankfurt kürzlich acht Gebäude ausgezeichnet.

Eight buildings in Frankfurt were recently awarded the Green Building architecture prize.

Caption 1, Umweltbewusstes Wohnen Architekturpreis Green Building

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Many of these adjectives don't have a fixed translation ("outstanding," "awesome"), but are instead best translated with the positive adjective that fits in the context.

Es ist wirklich großartig, von Ihnen zu hören.

It is really great to hear from you.

Caption 20, Berufsleben das Vorstellungsgespräch - Part 3

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Das ist natürlich auch toll, wenn man 'ne gemeinsame Sache hat.

Of course, it's also great when you have something in common.

Caption 8, 2raumwohnung Liebe mit Musik am Laufen halten

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Das klingt hervorragend.

That sounds amazing.

Caption 42, Berufsleben Probleme mit Mitarbeitern - Part 4

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Of course, the adjectives superfantastisch, and exzellent will sound quite familiar to anyone who speaks English. Also easy to recognize is the adjective wunderbar:

Und da ist dann der Balkon. -Ah, mit Balkon, wunderbar.

And there then is the balcony. -Ah, with a balcony, wonderful.

Caption 43, Fine sucht eine Wohnung

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Another adjective you may come across, especially with younger Germans, is geil. Yes, this does indeed also have a meaning that is not appropriate in most conversations! But it is a common, albeit slang, term for "awesome" or "fantastic" as well.

Und wie war's? -Geil, wie immer. -Was speziell?

And how was it? -Awesome, as always. -What especially?

Caption 10, Abenteuer und Sport Fallschirmspringen - Part 1

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Further Learning
All of these adjectives and more can be found on Yabla German. Pay attention to adjective declension any time they precede a noun. 

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abheben vs. hochheben

In a previous Yabla lesson, we discussed the differences between the verbs anheben and aufheben. These separable verbs also look very similar and have meanings related to the base verb heben, which is usually translated as "to lift," or "to raise," and is the Germanic root of the English verb "to heave."


The verb abheben is usually heard in the context of taking out money from a bank machine or bank account:


Dann erhält man so eine Bankkarte. mit dieser kann man Geld abheben
Then you receive a bank card. With this, you can withdraw money.
Captions 25-26, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten


Wahrscheinlich haben Sie Ihren Kreditrahmen überzogen. -Ja, zu viel abgehoben.
You have probably exceeded your credit limit. -Yes, withdrew too much.
Captions 32-33, Weihnachtsfilm: Ein Sack voll Geld


But abheben is also sometimes heard in the context of an airplane taking off or a rocket launching: 


Und dann heben wir schon ab.
And then we take off already.
Caption 43, Ultraleicht-Flieger: Der Gyrocopter


Völlig abgehoben, keine Schwerkraft mehr.
Completely lifted off, no more gravity.
Caption 17, Helene Fischer: Achterbahn


On the other hand, hochheben is used in quite different contexts: 


Wenn jeder den Deckel hochhebt, dann verdampft doch alles.
If every person lifts the lid, then everything will evaporate, after all.
Caption 33, Marga Engel schlägt zurück: Die neue Köchin


Die Frau hob das schwere Paket mit einer Hand hoch.
The woman lifted up the heavy package with one hand.


Friedrich hob die Arme hoch.
Friedrich raised up his arms.


Both meanings of abheben are very common, as abheben is both a transitive verb (etwas abheben, which requires an object, usually meaning "to withdraw money) and an intransitive verb ("to take off," which does not allow for an object). Then there is the transitive verb hochheben, which means "to lift or raise something up."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and see the two verbs used in different contexts, and go to the Duden dictionary to read the full definitions of abheben and hochheben, noting the ways that the verbs can be conjugated.

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Pages, Paragraphs, Sentences, and Letters

Let's make sure we are all on the same page! If you are taking a German class in addition to your work on Yabla, these are some very important vocabulary words for referring to your textbook, or books and texts in general. 


First of all, you need the German word for "the page":

Wir öffnen unser Buch, Seite vierzig.

We'll open our book, page forty.

Caption 1, Deutschkurs in Tübingen - Verben der 2. Kategorie - Part 4

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You will often want to refer to a particular paragraph, which can also be done using ordinal numbers rather than cardinal numbers.


Gemäß Artikel dreiundsechzig Absatz zwei des Grundgesetzes für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland habe ich heute Frau Abgeordnete Doktor Angela Merkel zur Bundeskanzlerin ernannt.

According to article sixty-three, paragraph two of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, today I have named parliamentarian Dr. Angela Merkel as Federal Chancellor.

Captions 7-8, Bundesregierung - Vereidigung der Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel

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The word der Satz in German is a little tricky because it can mean either "sentence" or "clause" depending on the context. Take a look:

„Scribe“ ist das schwierigste Spiel, denn du musst den ganzen Satz selbst schreiben.

"Scribe" is the most difficult game, because you have to write the whole sentence yourself.

Caption 41, German Intro - Cettina

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Zweiter Satz: „Sie ist größer als Stefanie."

Second clause: "She is taller than Stefanie."

Caption 19, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren - Der Relativsatz - Part 2

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The word for a letter of the alphabet is der Buchstabe, hence the verb buchstabieren ("to spell"). Ein Zeichen is a character, which could be a letter, number, or even a space (das Leerzeichen). You may recognize this word as it also means "a sign" or "a symbol."


Das scharfe S oder Eszett ist ein Buchstabe, der ausschließlich in der deutschen Sprache vorkommt.

The sharp S or eszett is a letter that occurs exclusively in the German language.

Caption 22, Deutsch mit Donna Blitz - Das Alphabet

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Further Learning
Make sure you are also familiar with die Zeile ("the line"), das Kapitel ("the chapter"), der Band ("the volume"), die Strophe ("the stanza"), and der Abschnitt  ("the section", "the paragraph").

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Ordinal numbers in German

Ordinal numbers ("first," "second," "third") differ from cardinal numbers ("one," "two," "three") in that they establish order or rank. Forming the ordinal numbers is luckily relatively easy in German. Generally, you will either add -te or -ste on the end, and make sure you have the correct declension.

For numbers below twenty, you simply add -te (zwei — zweite) with the exception of the following ordinal numbers: einsdreisieben, and acht.


Die erste Station seines Besuches im September ist Berlin.

The first stop of his visit in September is Berlin.

Caption 2, Der Papst - Hier wohnt der Papst

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Die Nashville-LP „Could Have Been Mine“ [sic, „Could've Been Mine“] ist die dritte Platte der Band

The Nashville LP "Could Have Been Mine" [sic, "Could've Been Mine"] is the band's third disc

Caption 43, Ann Doka & Band - New Country aus dem Rhein-Main-Gebiet

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Beim Bauern gibt es noch eine weitere Sonderregel, und zwar: Wenn der Bauer von der siebten auf die achte Linie vorrückt,

With pawns there is yet another special rule, and that is: if the pawn advances from the seventh to the eighth line,

Captions 56-57, Schach - mit Jenny - Part 1

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In this last example, you can see the declension based on grammatical case (dative — note the "n"— and then accusative) at work. It follows the same patterns that adjectives do. Note that you may also see "seventh" translated as siebente (in this case it would be siebenten) rather than siebte.

Starting with the cardinal number zwanzig ("twenty"), -ste is added to create the ordinal number. 

Man sagt zum Beispiel: „der erste Januar“ oder „der vierundzwanzigste Dezember“ oder „der dreißigste Februar“, den es nicht gibt.

We say, for example: "the first of January" or the "twenty-fourth of December" or "the thirtieth of February," which doesn't exist.

Captions 12-15, Zahlen mit Diane - Ordinalzahlen, Vielfache und Bruchzahlen

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Zu seinem einhundertfünfundneunzigsten Geburtstag hat der Philosoph seine Geburtsstadt Trier erobert,

For his one hundred ninety-fifth birthday, the philosopher has conquered his birth city of Trier,

Captions 3-4, „Mini-Marxe“ - In Trier

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It is important to note that, just as "first," "thirteenth," and "twenty-third" would often be abbreviated as "1st," "13th," and "23rd" in English, a period may be used in German to denote ordinal numbers, particularly with dates. The example above would read: 

Man sagt zum Beispiel: „der 1. Januar“ oder „der 24. Dezember“ oder „der 30. Februar“, den es nicht gibt.


Further Learning
Take a look at this chart and watch Diane's video in its entirety to get a great overview of this topic. For more on adjective declension, refer to this page.

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Eifersüchtig vs. neidisch

In the English language, many people confuse the words "jealous" and "envious." This occurs in German as well, which can make it even harder to distinguish between the words eifersüchtig and neidisch and know when to use which one. 


"Jealousy" occurs when the underlying emotion is a fear that someone will take away something that you have. This means that die Eifersucht often occurs in situations involving three people, like in the sentence below:


Was? Nee, nee, das war nur mein Kollege. Nein, das ist kein Grund, eifersüchtig zu sein.

What? No, no, that was just my colleague. No, it's no reason to be jealous.

Captions 49-50, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern - Part 5

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Zum ersten Mal in ihrem Leben verspürte sie Stiche von Wut und Eifersucht.

For the first time in her life, she felt stings of anger and jealousy.

Caption 61, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Büchse der Pandora

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"Envious" is simply wanting what someone else has or gets to do. In German, there is the noun der Neid, the adjective neidisch, and also the verb jemanden beneiden.


Wütend und neidisch zugleich stampfte er auf dem Berg der Götter umher.

Angry and envious at the same time, he stomped around on the Mountain of the Gods.

Caption 14, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Büchse der Pandora

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Reinhold Leinberger, den ich heiß darum beneide, der durfte nämlich mit Ihnen fliegen.
Reinhold Leinberger, whom I envy very much because of it, was actually permitted to fly with you.
Caption 20, Ultraleicht-Flieger: Der Gyrocopter

Reinhold Leinberger, den ich heiß darum beneide, der durfte nämlich mit Ihnen fliegen.

Reinhold Leinberger, whom I envy very much because of it, was actually permitted to fly with you.

Caption 20, Ultraleicht-Flieger Der Gyrocopter

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Further Learning
Can you find a video on Yabla German in which eifersüchtig is used, but the speaker actually means neidisch?

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anheben vs. aufheben

The separable verbs anheben and aufheben look very similar and have meanings related to the base verb heben, which is usually translated as "to lift," or "to raise," and is the Germanic root of the English verb "to heave."


Let's first take a look at anheben


Heb einfach den Riegel an und komm herein!
Simply lift the latch and come inside!

Caption 48, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Rotkäppchen und der Wolf

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Die Hüfte hebt der Springer an, indem er die Hacken Richtung eigenes Kreuz drückt.
The jumper lifts his hips by pressing his heels toward his own lower back.

Captions 29-30, Olympische Spiele - Hochsprung

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Dazu hebst du ein Ski-Ende an und versetzt es auf die Seite.
For this, you'll lift the back of the ski and shift it to the side.

Caption 14, Skifahren lernen - Erste Vorübungen im flachen Gelände

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Dieses Bein anheben. Ah, ja, genau.
Lift that leg. Oh, yes, exactly.

Caption 17, TEDx - Lebenslange Fitness - Part 3

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Anheben is used when you want something to be lifted just a little or for a short amount of time, such as asking somebody to lift up the sofa so you can vacuum under it.


Let's contrast that now with aufheben:


Oma, kann ich die Münze aufheben
Grandma, can I pick up the coin?

Caption 4, Ivana erzählt Witze - Fritzle und die Oma

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Fritzle, heb mich auf.
Little Fritz, pick me up.

Caption 14, Ivana erzählt Witze - Fritzle und die Oma

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Aufheben is usually translated as "to pick up" but can also mean "to save" in the sense of aufbewahren. It is also used in an idiomatic expression that can be useful: 


Ich hebe es mir für einen anderen Tag auf.
I'll save it for another day.

Caption 12, Hausputz - mit Eva

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Further Learning
In a forthcoming lesson we'll explore the differences between abheben and hochheben, yet more variations of the root verb heben. Das hebe ich mir aber für einen späteren Newsletter auf

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German expressions of disbelief and frustration

This week, let's look at ways that disbelief and frustration are expressed in German. Some of the expressions below are similar to English expressions, while others have a much harsher meaning than their literal translations. Take a look!


Das kann nicht sein (literally "that cannot be") can be used to express disbelief. More accurate translations in this case would be "No way!" or "That's not possible." 


Aber das kann nicht sein. Wo ist Yara?

But that's not possible. Where is Yara?

Caption 14, Nicos Weg - Folge 44: Vorm Fahrradladen

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In English, we also express disbelief with "You can't be serious." This has a few different translations in German that we have covered in a previous newsletter.  


Das meinst du nicht im Ernst.

You can't be serious.

Caption 17, Mama arbeitet wieder - Kapitel 2: Kompromisse zu finden ist nicht einfach - Part 4

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The phrase Das gibt's doch gar nicht may literally translate as "that doesn't exist," but it has a similar meaning to Das kann nicht sein. Germans may use this and the expressions above when something both surprises and upsets them.


Was ist das denn? Das gibt's doch gar nicht.

What is that then? That just can't be.

Caption 27, Fußball - Prominente beim Benefizspiel

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The phrase Was soll das? is an expression that has a meaning similar to "What's the meaning of this?" 


Was soll das? Du störst uns, Pettersson.

What's the meaning of this? You are bothering us, Pettersson.

Caption 15, Pettersson und Findus: Eine Geburtstagstorte für die Katze - Part 1

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Now on to expressions of annoyance. Jemanden ärgern can be translated as "to annoy someone," as can jemanden nerven. In the sentence below with the adjectives ärgerlich and bescheuert, the words ja and doch are used for emphasis. 


Allerdings nervt es mich auch, dass ich die Einzige bin, die für das Essen bezahlt.

However, it also annoys me that I'm the only one who pays for the food.

Caption 34, Die Wohngemeinschaft - Probleme - Part 3

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Das ist ja wirklich ärgerlich!

This is really aggravating!

Caption 6, Pettersson und Findus: Eine Geburtstagstorte für die Katze - Part 3

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Ach, ist doch bescheuert.

Oh, that's stupid.

Caption 63, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor - Part 2

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Further Learning
Search for more examples of these phrases on Yabla German so that you can hear the right intonation.

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This past week, temperatures in Germany rose to 102 °F / 39 °C, even in Berlin and the northern Bundesländer. For a place where air conditioning is the exception rather than the norm, this is extreme!


In German, the noun for "heat" or "hot temperatures" is die Hitze


Ich mag zwar Wärme, aber keine Hitze.

I like the warmth indeed, but not the heat.

Caption 38, Jenny - Reiseziele

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Die Hitze war so groß, dass schon bald die Farben seiner Soldatenuniform verblassten.

The heat was so great that the colors of his soldier's uniform soon faded.

Captions 79-80, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Der standhafte Zinnsoldat

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Die Mischung aus Staub und Sonnenstrahlen ließ das gleißende Licht entstehen, das die tödliche Hitze im Film so glaubhaft macht.

The mixture of dust and sunbeams gave rise to the glistening light, that makes the deadly heat in the film so believable.

Captions 28-30, Hell - Science-Fiction-Kinotipp

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Just as we say "heat wave" in English, Germany combines die Hitze and die Welle into a compound noun:


Eine Hitzewelle rollt an.

A heatwave is coming through.

Caption 6, Unterwegs mit Cettina - Sommer am Baggersee

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Sometimes when a heat wave is too intense and no air conditioning is available (which is the case in many offices and classrooms), cancellations may even occur. There is a special phrase in German for getting the day off due to a heat wave: hitzefrei haben.


Die Müllmänner ham [haben] hitzefrei.

The garbage men have time off due to the heat.

Caption 4, Culcha Candela - Sommer im Kiez

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Further Learning
Search for more examples of the word die Hitze on Yabla German and see our past newsletter on summer living. You can also read a short text in German about the Berlin government's stance on school cancellations here.

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zwingen vs. erzwingen

The German verbs zwingen and erzwingen look very similar (especially in the past tense as gezwungen and erzwungen) and have similar meanings, but there are some fine points in distinguishing their proper usage. Let's take a look first at some examples of zwingen


Na ja, es wird sicher kein Problem sein, den Internetbetreiber zu zwingen, den Film zu löschen.

Well, it will certainly not be a problem to compel the internet provider to delete the movie.

Captions 6-7, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche - Part 3

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Und wir waren gezwungen, einige Kürzungen vorzunehmen.

And we were forced to make some cuts.

Caption 14, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern - Part 3

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Es ist aber auch keine Mutter jemals gezwungen worden im Fortuna-Kreißsaal zu entbinden.

There, indeed, has never been a mother [who was] forced to deliver in the Fortuna delivery room.

Captions 34-35, Fortuna Düsseldorf - Kreißsaal für Fußballfans

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Thus, the verb zwingen refers to the person or company etc. that is being forced or compelled to do something.


The verb erzwingen is also usually translated as "to force" or "to compel," as well as "to enforce," but with erzwingen it is not about who is being forced, but what is actually being enforced, be it a situation, arrangement, or law etc.  


Er hat die Entscheidung erzwungen
He forced the decision.


Sie erzwingt ein Versprechen.
She is forcing a promise to be made.


An easy way to remember the difference between the two verbs is that zwingen is always about who is being forced or compelled to do something, and erzwingen is always about what is being forced, compelled, or enforced upon somebody:


Die Regierung wurde gezwungen, die neuen Gesetze zu erzwingen.
The government was compelled to enforce the new laws.


Further Learning
Search for more examples of zwingen in its various conjugations on Yabla German and try writing some sentences on your own using both verbs.

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"Personally" and "in person"

Have you ever noticed that the adverb persönlich in German has three possible translations in English? Let's take a look. 


As you would expect, it can mean "personally":

Mir ist es persönlich 'ne Herzensangelegenheit,

For me personally, it's a matter that's near and dear to my heart,

Caption 12, Berlin - Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung

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Sometimes it has more or less this meaning, but is better translated as "he himself" or "she herself":

Nein, er hat tatsächlich auf meinem, äh, Telefonapparat angerufen. -Persönlich?

No, he actually called me on my, uh, telephone. -Himself?

Caption 6, 3nach9 - Ehrlich Brothers - Show-Magier - Part 1

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Reisen, vielleicht sogar mit Niki Lauda persönlich als Piloten [sic, Pilot] – ab Frankfurt ist das möglich, dreimal täglich, morgens, mittags und abends.

Traveling, perhaps even with Niki Lauda himself as pilot — it's possible from Frankfurt three times a day, in the morning, at midday and in the evening.

Captions 58-59, Fluglinien - Niki Air

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You may also sometimes see the word höchstpersönlich, which can be used to emphasize that a task or appearance won't be delegated to another person. 


However, persönlich can also mean "in person":


War ja... Wir haben... wir haben ihn zum ersten Mal auch persönlich kennenlernen dürfen.

It was indeed... We were... we were also allowed to meet him in person for the first time.

Caption 32, 3nach9 - Ehrlich Brothers - Show-Magier - Part 2

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Das kann man entweder persönlich tun in einer Filiale oder online.

You can do that either in person at a branch or online.

Caption 14, Eva erklärt - Bankkonten

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One thing to remember: persönlich does not mean "personable"! This would be sympathisch or freundlich


Further Learning
Search for more examples on Yabla German and try out a few sentences of your own in which you use persönlich to talk about your personal experiences, preferences, and opinions, or to talk about something you will do yourself or in person. 

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eröffnen vs. öffnen

There are a couple of different verbs that translate as "to open" in German, in particular the two above, which can cause some confusion. When do we use eröffnen and when do we use öffnen?


Consider this: The verb eröffnen can be translated not only as "to open," but also as "to institute,” "to establish," “to inaugurate,” or even "to commence" or "to disclose." You will see eröffnen used in connection with non-physical entities, or anything that could also be described using these other translations, such as a museum or a shop. The reading of a person's will in German is die Testamentseröffnung, and as you see in the third sentence below, the verb eröffnen is even used to describe congressional proceedings.


Zweitausendsechs hat das Museum eröffnet, inzwischen stehen hier mehr als hundertfünfzig Flipper.

The museum opened in two thousand six, meanwhile there are more than one hundred fifty pinball machines here.

Captions 6-7, Flipperautomaten - Kunstwerke für flinke Kugeln

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Hallo, ja, guten Tag. Ich möchte gern ein Bankkonto eröffnen.

Hello, yes, good day. I would like to open a bank account.

Caption 12, Eva erklärt - Bankkonten

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Sobald Sie Platz genommen haben, würde ich gerne die unterbrochene Sitzung wieder eröffnen.

As soon as you've taken your seats, I would like to re-open the suspended session.

Captions 2-3, Bundesregierung - Vereidigung der Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel

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The verb öffnen, on the other hand, is used with objects, such as a door, a letter, a bottle, or an umbrella. In everyday spoken German, öffnen is often replaced with aufmachen


Wann wurde die Mauer in Berlin für alle geöffnet?

When was the wall in Berlin opened for all?

Caption 36, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest - Part 12

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Die Polizei sagt, er solle seinen Kofferraum aufmachen.

The police [officer] says he should open his trunk.

Caption 4, Sabine erzählt Witze - Die Pinguine

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Further Learning
Browse through the many instances of eröffnen, öffnen, and aufmachen that can be found on Yabla German to get more clarity on which verb is used when. You can search not only for the infinitive, but also the conjugated verbs and the participles eröffnet, geöffnet, and aufgemacht.

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