and welcome to part two of our look at the meaning of the prefix and preposition
Last time, we learned about the origin of ab and family of ab and got to see some of its surprising relatives.
Next, we got to know its two core themes, which are:
- separation, away
And then we started looking at ab- as a verb prefix and learned the idea of downward is kind of irrelevant there, because virtually all prefix verbs are based on the theme of separation, away.
And then we started looking at examples for ab-verbs and how the one core idea is used in practice. So far, we saw some obvious examples and some that had a little twist to them.
If you haven’t read part one yet, you can find it here:
German Prefixes Explained – “ab”
What’s missing still are the really abstract examples. The ones where it’s not clear at all how they relate to the core idea of away.
And by the way – guess what abstract is! It’s a combination of ab- and a Latin verb for dragging, and it literally means “pull away from”.
So yeah… that’s where we’ll pick up today, and once we’re done with that, we’ll talk how ab is used as a preposition and we’ll see if there are any fixed prefix verb combinations we need to be aware of.
And because the entire intro so far was incredibly dry, lets wrap it up with a little joke – ChatGPT, take it away:
The future is has arriv… what?… Oh, not funny?
Oh, uhm… let me think … uh…. and this?
Man, tough crowd.
I’m out of ideas.
But it’s time we jump in and learn some German anyway, so let’s go….
“Ab nächste Woche,” that’s interesting. I guess that’s kind of like “nen Bier” with one “n” too many.
Ich brauch jetzt nen Bier (ein Bier, ‘n Bier)
Ich hab nen Dach überm Kopf
I see sentences like that pretty often in online chats. So I guess it sounds OK enough for people to use it? I imagine the long form “einen Bier” would probably sound pretty wrong.
Ha, I had never noticed how little sense “nen Bier” makes.
Yes, it’s colloquial and possibly dialect, but it sounds completely fine and sound, while “einen Bier” sounds dead wrong.
One more question, since I think I’ve seen this with “seit” too. How does this sound to you?
Die gibt es doch schon seit letztes Jahr (instead of “seit letztem Jahr”)
That’s an example I found on Reddit. I’ve seen it often enough that it doesn’t seem like a typo, and I’m pretty sure it’s coming from native speakers.
Would you say that sounds better, the same, or worse than “ab nächste Woche”?
This sounds clumsy, but I would file it as native and I might even say it myself.
“ab nächste Woche” sounds very normal compared to that.
Regarding the case of “ab” (Dativ oder Akkusativ) – I once asked a native German speaking friend of mine about it, and his explanation made sense to me – he explained it should have been “ab dem nächsten Montag„ but he just omits the “dem” to make the language fluent – than you get what looks like Akkusativ…
Nice rationalization, but it doesn’t work for “Woche” though.
– Ab nächste Woche…
According to the explanation, it should be
– ab (der) nächsten Woche
But saying “ab nächsten Woche” feels incredibly wrong. So no, I don’t think this is what’s going on :)
My guess on this would be more that Akkusativ is really ingrained as the “when something happens” case in the German language-brain. So it just always feels natural to talk about “nächsten Montag” as a unit, regardless of what’s being said about it and the case that would actually be grammatically consistent.
It helps that the two cases in either masculine or feminine don’t sound all that different from each other, except neuter, which is probably why “seit letztes / ab nächstes Jahr” sounds clumsier than versions with “Tag / Woche / Monat” do.
Yup, I fully agree.
It’s best to think of these phrasings as a “thing” that stands outside the normal rule framework.
And yes, “nächstes Jahr” does sound clumsy :D.
Wonderful lesson! Very helpful, Emanuel, thanks! There are a couple of your translations that are OK, but a more idiomatic translation in American English brings up some interesting parallels to the German word with ‘ab’.
For “I’m weighing the ingredients,” we would say “I’m weighing out the ingredients.” “Weighing” by itself just means you want to know how much something weighs, and doesn’t connote measuring the ingredients purposefully for the portions in a recipe. That needs “out,” just like abmessen. But, of course, we use measuring cups instead of a
a kitchen scale, so we would say “measuring out” instead, which takes us even closer to abmessen.
The other one is sort of the opposite. “Before the marathon I walked down the track completely once” just implies spazieren. But if I get rid of “down” and say “I walked the track…” it clearly means I had a purpose in mind, like preparing for a race.
Now that you mentioned that I realized there is also “auswiegen” in German.
And I can’t think of a difference between “abwiegen” and “auswiegen”. Maybe “auswiegen” sounds like more, but I really can’t put my finger on it.
Vielen Dank for the kind people that paid extra for sponsorships! Thanks to you im able to continue learning german here :)
Vielen Dank! Ab jetzt muß ich mehr üben.
In Bezug auf Langsam steigt das Eichhörnchen in den dunklen Schacht der Mine hinab, macht hoist für mich keinen Sinn. Hoist bedeutet etwas, das Seile verwendet, um Dinge nach oben zu ziehen, wie ein Aufzug oder ein Kran. Vielleicht würde shaft besser sein.
Ah, ja, ich glaube “shaft” ist besser.
“that kind of the vibe ab adds to messen” (that‘s kind of the vibe ab adds to messen)
“You Absicht (intention) is what” (Your Absicht (intention) is what)
“that would also fits in quite nicely” (that would also fit in quite nicely)
“you can take the little I have prepared” (you can take the little quiz I have prepared)
In your example “Thomas, das Team fragt, ob es okay für dich wäre, dich ab und an zu duschen” is “ab und an” used because you’d have “zu zu” otherwise? And is this a “rule”?
But there’s absolutely no rule :). In fact, I wouldn’t even notice if it was double “zu”. I really only used “ab und an” because I wanted an example for that one, and I wasn’t consciously aware of the “zu” there.
Looks totally normal to me, but I realize now that this must be a headache for a learner :D
Ich habe hier fast nichts hinzuzufügen (*). But I loved the little aside about the case of “ab” and how those free-floating day/time determiners tend to settle on the accusative: that’s gold right there…
(*) Mehr “zu zu”s bitte, Deutsch– I love them! Hmm, I guess we’ve also got zuzunehmen to contend with, particularly with Winter just around the corner in my neck of the woods… That is: Ich finde es lächerlich einfach, im Winter zuzunehmen. And of course any other verb with the “zu” or “hinzu” prefixes can also be shoehorned into a suitable infinitive clause: zuzuhören, zuzumachen, usw)
A couple of tiny corrections:
(Firstly, a classic internet-era error! Sometimes, as per “frist pOst” and the like, it’s actually hard to tell whether or not someone’s using “looses” or “looser” ironically. I’m guessing that’s not in play here!)
“Who laughs first looses” => “Who laughs first loses”
“…it’s variation ab und an.” => “…its variation ab und an.”
I’d love to offer triple zu, but I couldn’t think of anything.
But at least tripple z is possible:
– Ich habe überlegt, einen Anwalt hinzuzuziehen.
– Thomas hat gesagt, dass er vorhat, eine Tomate dazuzuzüchten.
Noice! “zuzuzü…” will definitely keep me nourished for a while!