Advent Calendar 12- “With you or with you.”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: December 12, 2022

“With you or with you?”

Hello ihr alle,

and welcome to day 12 of the 2022 German Advent Calendar.
Actually, this would be the day for the traditional epic half time show, but BOTH acts actually just cancelled at the last minute! Taylor Swift… Harry Styles… thanks for NOTHING!!!
You’ll hear from my lawyers, you frauds!!

But not a big problem. We had a break from German over the weekend anyway, so it’s actually nice to start the week with some actual learning.
So today, we’ll take a look at something that has pooped up in the co… sorry… something that has popped up in the comments a few times, so I decided to share it for all of you here:

The Difference between mit and bei

And I don’t mean in general. That’d be a little too much and I actually have a done a deeper dive for both of them.
So if you want to check those out, here are the links:

Now, mit and bei are definitely similar but overall they’re distinct enough not to cause much confusion.
There is one context however, where with can be translated to both of them, and it’s not always clear which one to use.
I have gotten a question about this more than once on here, and there are also multiple discussion threads in the German language Subreddit, so this clearly is an issue. Not a big one, of course… some rasping and filing and we’re good :).

The context I am talking about is:

being with a person

And here’s a couple of examples to show illustrate the issue.

  • Maria wants to stay with me.
  • Maria wants to stay with me at the bar.

And now let’s look at how we’d translate those to German.

  • Maria will bei /mit mir bleiben.
  • Maria will mit / (bei) mir in der Bar bleiben.

Yes, you read that right.
In the second one, both options are possible, but mit is more common. And in the first one, ONLY bei works.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a learner to come across something like that. I mean… looks rather arbitrary, right?

Luckily, there actually is some logic here. The key to it is understanding what the sentence is focused on:

the “where” or the “what”

The first sentence is clearly about WHERE Maria wants to stay. It’s completely unclear whether she wants to stay with me, because I have a spare bed, or because I have a panic attack. But “with me” is the “place” she wants to be.
The second sentence can also be about that.

  • Maria will bei mir in der Bar bleiben.

If we phrase it like that, the focus of the sentence is that she wants to stay with ME.
Maybe she wants to stay because I’m really hot, or maybe she wants to stay because I just got dumped and she wants to help cheer me up. But “with me” is the “place” she wants to be, and “in der Bar” is just a tag on information about where I am.

And now let’s see what happens if we put in mit.

  • Maria will mit mir in der Bar bleiben.

This means that I stay at the bar, and Maria wants to join me for that. It’s the activity of staying at the bar, that has the focus. The sentence is about WHAT she wants to do. She wants to share with me the activity of staying at the bar.
Maybe she wants to do it because I am hot, or maybe just because I am not drinking and can give her a lift.

So the first version, the version with bei is about WHERE Maria wants to be, the version with mit is about WHAT activity Maria wants to share.

And I think this way of looking at it helps with all situations where you’re talking about with a person and you’re not sure whether it is bei or mit.

Let’s do a tricky example.

  • Stay with me!
  • Come with me!

The first one will be bei, 100%. Because staying NEEDS a location, but the only one given is “with me”. So the sentence really is about WHERE you are… or should be.
The second sentence on the other hand will be with mit. And this time ONLY mit works. Because this sentence is clearly NOT about where you should be, but WHAT you do. You should join my going somewhere.

So there you have it. That’s the difference between mit or bei, bei or mit (putting this in for Google ;).

Let me know in the comments if you’ve run into this question before and if my approach actually helps clear it up, or if you have an example where it fails. Or some where it works :).
It’s always good to have examples.
Have a terrific day you all, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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