Advent Calendar 6 – “Oftensity”


Hey ihr Deutschlerner,

today is the 6th of December and at least in Germany that is the day of discount Santa.
Okay, that’s mean actually. The 6th of December is Nikolaus’ name-day and there’s a lovely and very old tradition. The night of the 5th, all the kids shine their shoes and put them in front of the door and at night Nikolaus, sometimes also referred to as Knecht Ruprecht comes and puts in some little presents, like fruits, candy or ginger bred.
And of course I also have a little present for you: a thing that I call

intensity chart

“Wow great! … what’s an intensity chart.”
I’m glad you asked… it’s basically an overview over how to express different “intensities” in a given dimension.
Haha… that still sounds pretty complicated actually. A simple example is the dimension of temperature. You can go from freezing to seething and in between you have a bunch of words for different … ahem … degrees of temperature… get it? My pun? With degrees? Pretty high degree of funny-ness, ri… okay whatever.

Now, temperature is all well and good, but the intensity chart of today is about something much more interesting and useful: degrees of frequency. Or in simpler terms…

How to answer the question “How often”.

Here you go :).

(The image is refusing to be a link for some reason
Click here to view in full size)

Pretty cool, right?
“Uhm… yeah, but we have a few questions.”
what’s with all the curves?”

Well, it’s a reference to language being an organic thing that grows and winds.
“Okay, and … what’s with the colors? Why did you use so many? And do they stand for something?”
Uhm… no, not really. They’re a bit like leaves on a branch… but yeah, basically, I just thought it looked nice. I had a couple of Glühweins, when I made this.
“Oh I see…. and so these words in smaller letters are like modifiers, right?”
Yeah, exactly. They’ll pull the word in a direction if you put them in front.
“Okay cool. And why didn’t you add the translations?”
Uh….. I uh… reasons! Yeah, because of reasons. Didactic reasons.
“Uh… well, there’s another thing… why didn’t you just make a list. Like… a list with translations would be more efficient.”
Well, efficient, shmefficient… all this efficiency in language learning is getting on my nerves. And new studies show that above a certain level of efficiency, the efficiency is actually less efficient. So you have much efficiency but not a very efficient one. You’d want to go for the quality efficiency.  Less is more… oh man, what am I saying. Where were we… oh yeah… the list :)

  • (absolut) nie                                     :    (absolutely) never
  • (extrem, ganz, ziemlich) selten    :    (extremely, very, pretty) rarely
  • (ganz) manchmal                          :    (extremely) sometimes
  • hin und wieder, ab und zu      :    every now and then
  • öfter(s), des öfteren                   :    somewhat/fairly frequently
  • (ziemlich, ganz, extrem) oft           :    often
  • dauernd, ständig                         :    all the time, continuously
  • immer                                                :   always

So that was your little Nikolaus-present… an intensity chart for answering “How often”.
How’d you like it? What did you think of the colors?
But seriously, do you think it is helpful and do you want more of it? What would you change?
And of course, if you think I forgot something, or if you have a question go right ahead and ask. And if you want, you can also make some example sentences and I’ll correct them.
Hope you enjoyed this. Have a great day and see you tomorrow.
Man… we do see each other ziemlich oft in December ;).

for members :)

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We celebrate “St. Nick’s Day” here in Milwaukee too, and I believe in a few other midwestern US cities as well that had large amount of German immigrants once upon a time. A stocking is hung from the mantel and filled with small treats and toys and, in my family at least, always an orange in the toe of the stocking.


Häufig und gelegentlich?

Ich hätte nicht erwartet, dass “hin und wieder” und “ab und zu” öfter sind als “manchmal.” To me, an AE speaker, “sometimes” feels more frequent than “every now and then” or “now and again.”


Ich mag Ihre Glühwein inspiriert Illustration mit die Farben und Kurven. Aber, wo sind die Einhörner und die Elfen? Ich habe gehört, dass Einhörner und Elfen ganz oft Glühwein begleiten.

Es ist etwas mehr hilfreich für mich als die Liste, aber ich verwende beide Methoden. Die Illustration ist leichter zu behalten. Ich habe zu viele Listen.


In diesem kontext sind Bilder für mich immer mehr hilfreich. Die Titelbilder, die du normalerweise zu ein Artikel geben sind auch so da die Seele des Worts da drin ist.
And the prize for worst early morning german ever goes to


Viel glück beim verstanden


Oh and kleine Korrektur. You go from freezing to searing. At least to me, I haven’t used seething in the context of heat. Not saying it’s wrong but I think it sounds wrong. Nur meine Meinung.


Yeah, “searing” or “blazing” for me feels more generally applicable for temperature. “Seething” gets used metaphorically ziemlich oft to mean that somebody is just barely keeping their intense anger under control.


I second RuthE‘s motion! How ‚bout an intensity chart for liking/interest? Love drinking Glühwein to hating shopping, and everything inbetween.


“seethe …. 1.(of a liquid) boil or be turbulent as if boiling.” Nice bit of nearly rhyme, I thought, and continuity, with both verbs referring to liquids.

I like the visual approach. Am really surprised that “öfter” should be less frequent than “oft”, and would never have thought of “ganz manchmal.”



That chart is awesome! Gute Idee, die Wörte so zu illustrieren.


I was told that in Relationship English -always- means -twice-
Stop that! You are always doing it!


Seems like “fast immer” should be in there somewhere. Especially useful when discussing German Grammar rules.


I love the intensity branch!!! Können Sie bitte make MORE of them? For stuff like “how close?” or “how soon?” or “how strongly?”


“Ganz manchmal” confuses me. Can you really do something “extremely sometimes?”


I’m just here to express my gratitude for you for making my mornings funnier AND informative, the best combination there is! :-D love your humor!
small remark: ginger *bread :-P


Oh and one more thing, *ganz* manchmal sounds veeeeery fishy. Is it often used/heard? I wouldn’t use manchmal with any other adverb actually.


other words that could be added on this scale (although it would certainly clutter it) would be : Meistens, oft, häufig and for the adjectives , fast (e.g. fast nie) : nicht (e.g. nicht oft)


Does häufig come between oft and dauernd/ständig and meistens is oftener (!) than häufig?

And yes, this branch is brilliant!! – much easier to remember and visualise than a list. I think the concept could be used for other adjective scales too . . say from dark to light or bad to good/terrific . . . might have a go at some myself – with the help of some wine.


Wonderful and useful, but I’d have to say even a quick poke in the dictionary for English frequency words leaves me with more questions than answers where these would fit on your scale… :-)

Seltenst … äußerst selten… höchst selten… nur selten … selten oder nie … sporadisch… gelegentlich.. mitunter… bisweilen… zeitweise… zeitweilig… verschiedentlich… von Zeit zu Zeit … gelegentlich einmal… oftmals … vielfach … unaufhörlich…

Plus häufig and meistens, and the “fast” modifier as others have noted above.

Less pretty, I know, it occurs to me that this sort of scale might work better as a ladder rather than a branch as it’s easier to slot in new rungs as people suggest stuff! :-)