Word of the day

The German Word of the Day brings you useful German Words and helps you to build your vocabulary. We will look in detail at its origins, “dos and don’ts “, similar words, lots of examples and of course… the meaning. So here are the words so far…the explanations are not perfect. There are a few glitches here and there, sometimes its too and some things are not 100% on point. So, if you come across something that goes against what I’ve said… confront me. And if you don’t understand something… it’s not your fault. It’s always the explanation.

Now, before we get to the archive …let’s talk business. Dun dunn dunnnnnnnnn.

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563 responses to “Word of the day

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  1. Hey Emanuel, any chance you could a word of the day on Sachen some time?

    • I’ll look into it, just gotta wait till I “feel” it :)

    • I am seeing a german joke that shows usually 4 frames with pictures and subtitles. Schlecht fur die knocken, Schlecht furs Fahrrad.Schlecht furs die image, The last frame usually says Doch Leider Heil. I know Schlecht is bad for the subject. But at the end it seems to say Nevertheless we Heil, Kyle,Steil, or something that rhymes with it. Can you help me understand these jokes?
      Thanks,
      Linguist student

      • Hi Karl,

        so I looked it up online and it seems to be a song by the band Deichkind (which I think sucks) … the song is called “leider geil”… geil literally means horny but it is used as cool or fly quite a lot. It is on the edge between slang and common. It has made its way into the claim of a major eletronic retailer (Saturn – “Geiz is geil” -“stinginess rocks”) … so Deichkind lists lots of things that are bad for something and yet… basically fun.
        here is the link to the lyrics:

        http://www.songtextemania.com/leider_geil_songtext_deichkind.html

        I do not know whether it was them to come up with this contradiction… I doubt it actually…. but yeah… I think that’s the joke… like

        Driving an SUV, bad for global temperature. However, it’s fun.

      • Are there any that say “Leider geil?” then it would sound like this awesome Deichkind song…

        • I don’t know… I didn’t know the expression before Karl brought it up and I think I would not have understood it unless context had been string enough… anyway… Deichkind is kind of successful especially amongst young people… they won the Jägermeister Rock league once I think and they know which buttons to push to create a catchy tune/phrase that has a good chance to be picked up into “school yard talk”… so people who know the song might use it in daily life and friends of theirs will probably understand even without knowing the song… that is IF the phrase was invented by Deichkind in the first place…
          Anyway… long story short… I don’t think it’s mainstream enough yet, and people will very likely miss the joke

    • zugeben, aufgeben, angeben please :)

    • Cornilus Pumber nickel

      I guess German is hard for a 12 year old………..

  2. If you could explain the differences between deshalb/deswegen/daher that would be awesome. I asked one of my German friends yesterday, and she replied with “There are not the same…but it is difficult to explain.”

    • Good question… so deshalb and deswegen are definitely the same pretty much… if someone perceives a difference… well than that is correct too but to me they are the same and many web sources about this indicate that they are … as far as daher is concerned it is indeed a little different. Yet it can be/is used synonymously in MANY occasions. Some regions might favor daher and others won’t ever use it. I don’t really use it for example. What makes daher special is its locational undertone… it is built with the pointer da and the word her, that indicates an origin. “Woher kommst du?”, “Wo hast du deine Hose her?”… daher is appropriate whenever you want to say “from there” be it literally or abstract… so daher is maybe a bit more “from that perspective” or coming from there”. Deshalb and deswegen don’t have this undertone of location/origin, although the des is technically the da pointer too, just in a different dress. I think I’ll make daher a WotD but I hope this helps a bit… oh… apparently there is a rule that requires you to use daher in certain constructions but except for linguists I don’t think many people are aware of it and it is a new rule too so no need to know it :)

  3. I look forward to the “daher” WotD. I really dig your “molecular” explanatory approach!

  4. How about “unheimlich”? I kinda struggled when I tried to explain it to some friends in the U.S.

  5. This is probably very basic but what is the difference between auf, in and an?

    • Hi Shane, yes this is basic in that you need it basically every day… the problem with German prepositions is that they mostly have 2 to 4 possible English counterparts which might contradict one another… the general idea, the main gist of the three is this:

      in – inside
      auf – on top of, for and unfortunately also open
      an – at, on

      Note that these are not ALL possible translations… or they are if you will but in German we say “A letter at god.” instead of “to god” … so you can either say that an means to at times or you can say… whatever to means in German… I don’t need it in that situation because Germans say “an” whatever that means :)… either way… in and auf would make less sense than “at” does, so just get the notion of prepositions and when in doubt go for the least weird one… hope that helped a bit. I could add that you gotta get used to it and stuff but I think you know that :)

  6. Maybe you could do one on the particles (or adverbs, whatever you would call it) da and wo… like how they modify prepositions, like dabei, davon, wozu, etc. Do they go in the normal spot of a preposition? I understand the basic concept of these but find it hard when using them in speech!! I don’t like them.

    • Ha, that is funny… I have started writing an article about damit, davon daraus etc. a few days ago… I had lots of work but I am positive that I will get to finish within the next few days… I can see that you don’t like them, because they are a new concept (at least in one way they are used) but they save you the trouble of thinking of case and gender and once you are used to it, they can be a nice tool to put emphasis in your sentences :)

      • Ha, anything that saves you from thinking about case and gender can’t be all bad… in fact, in could be amazing!

  7. Hey Emanuel,

    Great blog! All your posts are really entertaining and educational (Wow! Who knew that was possible?) :)

    Macht’s gut!
    – Michael

  8. Hi Emmanuel, thanks so much for your cracking blog. What a great job! Funny and informative educashun for all.
    You have done doch as a wotd. What about its counterpart Eben?
    thanks, Tony

    • Hi Tony, thanks for your feedback… I really appreciate that :).
      I have been pondering “eben” for a while now and it is on my to do list. It is a hard one to grasp however. I kind of have issues to find a common denominator. But I’ll go for it soon. Anyway, it is not the counterpart of “doch”… at least not, if by counterpart you mean some sort of opposite… they are kind of on the same side (as far as the modal particle meaning is concerned)… but I don’t want to spoil it yet :)

      • Thanks Em,
        I’m basically self-taught, but learnt a while ago that whilst doch is a positive answer to a negative question, eben is a positive answer to a positive question. Does it really get more complicated?

        • oh I see… well, kind of… actually, “eben” is an affirmative re-enforcing statement if someone states or claims something that you consider correct… something like “exactly”… only less exact. It can NOT be used as a kind of “yes” and often “genau” is the better choice.
          And other than that there are the meanings: even, straight, just now, and another flavoring power that is kind of giving in into a initially unwanted compromise without having been entirely against it (that would be doch) … so I guess there is more to it :)

  9. Hi Emmanuel,
    Your posts really clarify things that learners of the language find confusing. Could you please explain the many uses of ‘werden’? Also the so called particles – doch, mal, etc. That would be real helpful.

    • Hi Geethika,

      thank for your nice feedback, which is really motivating to hear.
      Werden is a good idea and I will do it soon, I think. As for doch, I have done it already… you can find it under “small but useful”. I am definitely planning to do all particles… they are just some tough words and I… well… let’s say I have some respect for the :)… so I have to think about them thoroughly before I write something… anyway… I’ll do ’em :)

  10. Vielen Dank :-)

  11. Ankit Khandelwal

    What confuse me all the time is some words like ‘eigentlich, endlich’ . May be you can have a look on it :)

  12. Hello, Emanuel

    I’ve been following your blog for the last three months, and I would like to thank you for being so precise in your explanations.
    I would like to make a request for you, it’s about the verb bleiben. I always confuse bleiben with liegen (by the way, the explanation of liegen that you did was pretty good) and I can’t find a good place where I can find how to differenciate them.

    Therefore, I would appreciate if you get some free time to talk about “bleiben”.

    Vielen Dank :)

  13. Hello, again

    My mother tongue is Portuguese. I’ve created a thread in the wordreference forum asking for an explanation about this subject, if you would like to see it in order to understand better my problem, this is the link: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2471976
    As you can see, the people who posted just said that it was wrong, but didn’t explain me why. It’s completely clear to me that I should (must) use liegen, but I don’t understand why I can’t use bleiben too. In short, I don’t know how to use bleiben…

    Thank you :)

    • Hi Filipe, so I looked at the thread and some of the examples are not so bad I have to say.
      You are right that you can use “bleiben” as well… but it doesn’t mean the same:

      – Das Buch liegt auf dem Tisch – means that the book IS on the table (answers to the question “where is the book”)
      – Das Buch bleibt auf dem Tisch – means that the book will remain on the table so it will not/should not be taken away (answers to the question “What will happen to the book? or Can I take the book and put it on a shelf?”

      I think your confusion comes from “ficar” which can mean both “to stay” and to “be located”.
      Well stay and bleiben are more narrow in meaning than ficar.
      The “opposite” of “bleiben” is “go somewhere else/be taken somewhere else”.
      The opposite of “ficar-sein (location)” is “to be somewhere else” or simply “not to be there”.

      Das Hotel liegt (ist) am Strand – das Hotel liegt (ist) nicht am Strand sondern in den Bergen.
      Das Hotel bleibt (will be at the beach for some time) am Strand – das Hotel ist jetzt noch am Strand, aber wir machen es kaputt und bauen es woanders hin.

      Does that help??? :)

      • Hi,
        don’t want to confuse, but there is another meaning of both words used together, which I can imagine, is quite confusing for someone learning german.

        “liegen bleiben” could mean to stay in bed, or sth. broke down.

        e.g.

        “Ich werde liegen bleiben.” – I will stay laying.
        “Das Auto blieb liegen.” – The car broke down.

        Hopefully this will be some help.

  14. can you explain everything regarding adjectives !! i have been facing many problems in this particular topic.there are some subdivisions under adjectives , like , adjective ending of the nouns without articles , and then there is, adjectives as nouns !! i was doing some exercises on these topics !! but have encountered many doubts !! so could you please explain with the help of sentences on how to apply the rules especially for genetive and dative ??

  15. I would like a lesson on the various ways to say “it” in a sentence once we have established what It is. Also the several choices for the word “stop” I know them when I read them, but never seem to know which one one is best when I’m on my own.
    Thanks

    • Wow… “it”. I don’t know if I could put that into a concise and non-boring article… I mean it quite the same as in English, only it is used in some different expressions and things you call “it” in English will be “er” or “sie” in German. I know this probably doesn’t answer your questions so if you have any specific problem I’d be happy to try to explain those… but it in general … hmmmm :)
      As for “to stop” – I have written an article on aufhören which is one possible translation of to stop. In there you can find some info about the other translations and the differences between all of them, but you may want to also check this out:

      http://german.stackexchange.com/questions/4226/of-starting-and-stopping

      It is a discussion board with a rather high quality I have to say. I have written an answer for that question there which focuses a bit more on the differences between “aufhören”, “anhalten”, “einstellen” and “stoppen” and I think you will find what you want to know there :)

  16. Could you do a word of the day post about the word “denn?” I thought it just meant because/for, but I’ve been seeing it in some readings where it seems to be used more like a particle (like doch) so I’ve been having a hard time translating its exact meaning in some sentences. Your explanations have helped me quite a bit so I figured I’d throw out a request.

  17. I have alot of ideas for German words of the day :) but I will just give a small list (source- Very eager German student)
    der Arzt- The doctor
    das Kind- The child
    die Freunde- The friends
    das Volk- The people (citizens), Singular
    die Menschen- people
    die Frau- The woman
    Es geht mir schlecht- I am very bad
    Es geht mir nicht so gut- I am bad
    Sehr gut- Very well
    Ich wohne in- I live in
    Es geht mir okay- I am okay
    Woher kommen sie?- Where are you from?
    Wie Heiben sie?- What is your name?
    Danke- Thank you
    Tschau- Ciao
    Tschub- Bye
    Bis bald- See you soon
    Ich komme aus- I am from
    Auf Wiedersehen- Good-bye (formal)
    Bis spater- See you later
    Guten Morgen- Good morning
    Guten Tag- Good afternoon, Good day
    Guten abend- Good evening
    Und du?- And you?
    Ich Heibe- My name is
    Hallo- Hi (used any time of the day to say a casual “hi”)
    Es freut mich!- Nice to meet you!

  18. could you do “schon”? “ich bin schon wieder zu spät” “es ist schon 22 Uhr” “sie ist schon nett” “ich bin ganz sicher schon mal hier gewesen” “schon allein deswegen bin ich dagegen” “findest du ihn süß? -schon” “er hat den pokal schon drei mal gewonnen” “nicht den hier und schon gar nicht den dort” “was hat sie schon damit erreicht” “was kann der denn schon?” “hast du schon deine hausaufgaben gemacht?” i’m native german, but still i like your blog and i think this needs some clarification for our foreign friends :)

    • Yep, schon is definitely schon on the list. I just didn’t dare so far. But I think I’ll be ready soon. Thanks for your examples… I will have a look at them to see whether I thought of every meaning :)

  19. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE teach us how to use “tun” and “machen.” Thank you!

  20. I just have to say, I really appreciate all the work you put into this site. Your post on the “da-words” is the only reason why I no longer get into the fetal position and start crying whenever I come across them.

    I realize it’s asking a lot, but I would really love to see a post on ‘lassen’. It’s one verb that trips me up almost every time. It just seems to have too many uses.

    • Hi Tofer,

      thanks, that is great to hear, because I honestly think German is not that difficult or at least it is explainable for the most part but what to me is clear might be confusing to others. So… cool you got the da-words straight. As for lassen, it is definitely on my list (which doesn’t exist) but seriously… I have it in mind and I will do it at some point :)

  21. Hi! I’m British and just finished doing my A1.1 integration course in Hamburg, which is great! I’m now into my 2nd week of A1.2 and the grammar doesn’t seem to be too bad to understand…aside from the obvious der, die und das that we don’t have in English!

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how great I think your blog is and how incredibly helpful it is going to be to me as I continue on with my German journey to C2! I really hope you find the time to continue sharing with us your wealth of knowledge and you have such a talent of being able to make the most confusing things just click and fall into place!

    Thank you!!

  22. This is a great blog. Keep it up.

  23. Thank you for the help. I look forward to reviewing your past posts to catch up while waiting on the new ones.

  24. Great blog. I have been studying german for a few years and have really not understood the proper use of “als” as a conjunction. I wasn’t sure that I would find anything on line, but then I read your Word of the Day blog on this term and it made a great deal of sense. Thank you. I will be returning often to your site.

    • Cool I could help clear that up… it is odd. You’re definitely not the only one who had had problems with als although the rule is actually pretty simple… at least I think so… but textbooks really fail at explaining very often because they treat their readers like children that can’t comprehend logically structured info… I am beginning to rant about textbooks, must stop immediately or else this will be pages long :)

  25. Hi! Thanks Emanuel for this wonderful blog for non-German German speakers. I found this a couple of days ago and now constantly following it so that I don’t miss anything . Again Vielen Dank :)
    I recently came across these similar words for “to feel or sense” in German which are giving me hard time during uses which are : empfinden, fühlen, spüren. Online dictionaries aren’t much help, so I had to turn up to you ;) Could you please do it in your “Word Of The Day” section sometime or may be help me somehow. Thanks in advance :)

  26. Hi! Maybe you could explain the difference between strong ending for adjectives and a weak ending? Because no freaking website in the world can seem to explain it. :|

  27. This probably isn’t worth its own post so I’ll just ask it here (although things never end up being as simple as I envision them). In my lessons I’ve come to the following two sentences:

    Das Auto fährt auf das Tunnel zu.
    Die Kinder rennen auf das Meer zu.

    I’ve tried to look up what exactly is being conveyed by the auf…zu construction. It almost looks like “into” but I’m used to seeing simply “in” for that. Any help is appreciated.

    • Good question… this double preposition is confusing I bet… I never noticed it.
      So auf etwas zu means a movement of the own body directly toward something…

      Ich renne/fahre/gehe/komme auf dich zu.

      I cannot geben a plate auf dich zu because the plate is not moving itself.

      In an abstract sense it also means to approach someone in some way with a specific subject in mind… like

      Wegen der Bücher komme ich nochmal auf dich zu.
      As for the books, I will get at you at some point.

      Hope that clears it up… if not, feel free to ask more :)

  28. Hopefully the answer to this question is simple and doesn’t need its own post. In my lessons I’ve now come to the following two sentences:

    Das Auto fährt auf einen Tunnel zu.
    Die Kinder rennen auf das Meer zu.

    I can’t seem to find any rules for this auf…zu construction. It seems like its trying to convey “into” but I’m used to seeing simply “in.” Any help would be much appreciated.

  29. What is the difference between denn and weil?

  30. Can you tell me the difference between lernen and erlernen?

    • Ok so… the er prefix often gives the word a more divine feel…. so erlernen sounds a bit like more.
      Then, erlernen implies that you are done. You know it. You achieved mastery kind of. Lernen lacks that notion. You can lernen German for decades without erlernen it.
      Lernen is also the translation of to study in the context of sitting in the library or read a textbook.

      I did 2 hours of studying. would be Ich habe 2 Stunden gerlernt.

      Erlernen can’t be used that way.

      And than finally I think erlernen sounds best with nouns, whereas lernen can be used for all kinds of things.

      Ich habe gelernt, dass/wie/zu/wo etc…. all this doesn’t sound very good with erlernen.

      I think lernen is way more common and erlernen is really limited to a craft or something.

      I hope that helps :)

  31. What does allerdings mean exactly?

  32. What’s the difference between trauen and vertrauen?

    • That would probably be worth a WotD too… I just have such a long list that I don’t think I can fit it in… in short vertrauen is to trust, trauen is to have the courage, with a side meaning of to trust that is mostly used in negative phrasings with nicht (don’t trust)

  33. obgleich, obschon, obwohl what is the difference between them?

    • Oh those are exactly the same :)… obwohl is used pretty much always, obgleich sounds very educated and obschon sounds dated… I did use obschon in my masters thesis a lot but more as a little joke (I don’t think anyone got it)… I never use it in spoken

  34. What does zwar mean?

    • Zwar comes from the same root as Wahrheit (truth) but it has shifted in meaning over time… I think the best translation is a phrasing like “Conceded that …., I nevertheless….”

  35. Make your word of the day “trotzdem”!

  36. What’s the difference between mieten and vermieten?

  37. Any chance of getting a Word of the day on the reflex verb “sich”?

    • Hmmm “sich ” doesn’t really carry much meaning … I mean there is certainly a lot to say but it is all grammar… I’ll have to think about

      The core of it is that “sich” can be any SELF referential pronoun in third person so it can be:

      himself, itself, herself, oneself, themselves and in also each other or one another at times.

      • How about just a post on the consequences of adding in reflexive pronouns to verbs that don’t necessarily require them? I don’t know if there’s a general rule or if it’s just outright wrong… or if it’s a case by case basis. For example how would the meaning of something like “Verstehst du?” be changed if you say “Verstehst du dich?”

        • You can’t really say “verstehst du dich”. That doesn’t make any sense. That would be like saying “do you understand yourself”

          • Why would that not make sense? You can say that in English in a few different contexts. Like, “How much of it do you understand yourself (as opposed to with the help of a translator)?”

          • Oh that’s a different “yourself” then the one in “You wash yourself.” The one here just emphasizes that it is YOU who did it … like

            – “Nice book.”
            – “I wrote it myself.”

            I don’t know right now what the jargon term is but as far as function goes it is more like an adverb, not reflexive.

            – I wrote this quickly/alone/myself.

            English uses the reflexive forms for that but German (and I guess other languages too) doesn’t. In German you’d use “selbst”

            – Wieviel verstehst du selbst?
            – How much do YOU (yourself) understand?

            (I’ll answer the other question tomorrow :)

          • Exactly. I think I might use that when I do sound check with someone or if someone has to listen to a crackling recording of themselves.
            If you want to go for the “get along”-verstehen you’d need to whole program… so the preposition and an entity of sorts

            – verstehst du dich mit jemandem?
            – Do you get along with someone?

        • That would be more of a listing than a post… but I have done a post on “reflexive” and I think it might actually answer most of your questions (it’s kind of hidden so here’s the link)

          https://yourdailygerman.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/german-reflexive-verbs/

          Let me know if that helps.

  38. schon und eben ….. bitte!!!

  39. Could you do a word of the day on the word bloß.

    • Ohhh good word! I never would have thought of that although it is so common :)

    • I know some people will disagree, but for me, “bloss” is interchangeable with “nur”

      • I think you’re right in so far as that any “nur” can be replaced by “bloss”… but it doesn’t always work the other way around.

        – “Wollen wir Never Say Never von Justin Bieber gucken?”
        “Bloss nicht!”

        This doesn’t work with “nur”… or least to me it doesn’t. I feel like there might be a couple other of these more idiomatic uses but they don’t come to my mind right now.

  40. I’d like to throw out a suggestion to your presumably long list of WotD topics: perhaps an article on amplifiers. I find myself knowing very few ways to amplify adjectives and such in German. I know sehr, and then voll, echt and tierisch from some of your posts, but I always feel at a loss for words when I’m trying to sound passionate or incredibly frustrated about something.

  41. Can you explain mal? It seems like it gets thrown into sentences all the time but I don’t know why.

  42. How about Sonst? (hope im not repeating a suggestion) Sonst confuses the crap out of me!
    I thought at first, that it just meant “or eles”
    Gebe das Rauchen auf sonst du ungesund werden konntest.
    Does it have other meanings too. My dictionary says it means like 10 different things.

    • Yep, I will do sonst since it is one of these small functional words that one really needs. But “else” is pretty much it. I don’t know what language you are translating it to. Maybe there are in fact 10 different concepts but to me it is pretty clear cut… I mean in comparison with things like eben or doch :)

  43. i don’t understand why u all want to learn german i mean english is a way more beautiful and usefull language
    btw my mothertongue is german

  44. hello, I would like to ask, can you please explain the adverbs like : miteinander, beinander…and all the words that contain EINANDER ? thanks.

  45. hey do you know why verbs such as zahlen, antworten and zweifeln add be to the front? does it change meanings at all, because if I’m not mistaken it doesn’t drastically alter the meaning of the verb…

    • yep it does… I am actually planning to do a post on be as a prefix soon so this is just the basic asnwer:

      be kind of means something like “to inflict the verb on sth”… I’ll elaborate in the post to come :)
      Oh and then it also changes the grammar a great deal… check out the article on antworten vs. beantworten for more on that

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