“So fresh and so clean“
and welcome to day 7 of our epic advent calendar, and today, it is time for some house chores.
Come on, you know it needs to be done. Christmas is coming. And it’s more fun, if we do it together, so let’s get up and start cleaning.
Nah… kidding of course. I already cleaned in September, so I’m sitting pretty.
But cleaning is indeed part of the pre-Christmas routine for many people, and so today, we’ll do a little round up of
German Cleaning Words
You’ve probably heard most of them, but it’s important that you know when to use which, if you want the best cleaning results :).
Then let’s jump right in with the first one:
Waschen is simple. It is the brother of to wash and you use it for the body and for laundry, which fittingly is called die Wäsche.
- Ich wasche mir die Hände.
- I wash my hands.
- Ich muss Wäsche waschen.
- I have to do laundry.
Useful relatives are die Waschmaschine (the laundry machine) , das Waschmittel (the detergent) and the verb abwaschen, which is about doing the dishes.
If you want to know more about that – I’ve actually talked about it in one of the firstest articles ever on this site. I’ll leave a link below, for later.
Sounds really similar to waschen, but the core of this one is wiping over a surface. And by itself, it is the main word for mobbing the floor. You know… like… hey floor, you loser, having fun letting people walk all over you? I bet you don’t even have a girlfrie… what?… Oh it’s mopping the floor… ohhhh… yeah, that’s much nicer.
- Maria hat das Bad gewischt.
- Maria wet wiped/mopped the bathroom.
A useful related word is der Scheibenwischer (windshield wiper), but for most other surfaces, abwischen is the more idiomatic word.
Now, wischen actually has a couple of side meanings and a few other useful prefix versions, so if you want to dig a little deeper… I’ll leave a link to my article about wischen below.
Sometimes, there is so much dirt on the floor though, that it would be bad to mop it right away.
And that’s where the next one comes in.
Fegen is what you do with a broom, and it’s ONLY that.
- Thomas hat die Küche gefegt.
- Thomas swept the kitchen.
- Ich fege die Scherben zusammen.
- I sweep the shards together.
The word for the broom itself is der Besen and the small version is called der Handfeger.
And in religious contexts, you might also come across the word das Fegefeuer, which is the German word for the Christian purgatory. And I’m no expert on this, but I think it’s basically a “cleanse” you have to go through if you’re not “good” enough for heaven but not bad enough for hell.
Anyway, the word Fegefeuer quite literally means cleansing fire and it gives a glimpse of the older meaning of fegen, which was a more general sense of cleaning.
And that was also the original sense of the English relative of fegen, which is…. drumroll please…
the word fair. Like… fair lady or fair weather.
So, when you fegen your room, you make it fair.
But okay… let’s be honest here for a second. Most people don’t fegen their room these days, working their side abs and loosening the shoulders while doing it.
Most people today get themselves sciatica by using a vaccuum cleaning.
And that’s the next word on our list.
Staub saugen, staubsaugen
Staub means dust, and saugen means to suck. So this verb is as literal as they come, much more so than to vacuum.
“Honey, FYI, I vacuumed the living room.”
“Oh, okay I’ll put on my space suit then.”
I mean… vacuum does make sense, but Staub saugen and staubsaugen are much better.
And the big question now is of course, why there’s two versions? Are both correct? Do they mean the same?
And I have to be honest here, I had to look that up myself, and I’m not fully convinced of that yet. But it did make sense, so here it is:
If you take Staub saugen as a phrase, you have the verb saugen with Staub as a direct object (Staub). That means that you CAN’T add another direct object to it.
- I vacuum the floor.
- Ich sauge den Boden Staub… NOPE
So then, conveniently, Staub saugen turns into the inseparable prefix verb staubsaugen.
- Ich staubsauge den Boden.
Why not a separable prefix verb? Like
- Ich sauge den Boden staub?
Well… it’s just not idiomatic, is all.
Whereas if you just talk about the act of vacuuming in general, you can use the two word phrase.
- Ich sauge heute Staub.
- I vacuum today.
You could also say it using the verb
- Ich staubsauge heute.
And some people do do that, but I think overall the first version is more common, mainly because it has this nice “arc” with the second part of the verb (Staub) at the end.
And if you now feel this memorizing anxiety well up and you feel like you need to remember these confusing bits… you do NOT!
Seriously, don’t worry about it. Think of it like gossip about the Royals or Cardi B or whatever. It’s interesting to read, but it’s nothing to make an effort over.
Now, our flat is already pretty clean, but there are a few more cleaning words actually… all the more general ones.
But this was long enough already and had way too much grammar at the end, so we’ll save the rest of the verbs for some other day. In this calendar. Or another calendar. Or just randomly, when you don’t expect it.
Anyway, that’s it for today :).
Let me know in the comments, if you have any questions or suggestions.
Have a great day, and I’ll see you next time.