Advent Calendar 9 – “Freeze!”




Hallo Leute,

door number 9 of our Advent Calendar and behind it’s freezing.
Because today we’ll look at the German translation of to freeze.
Nah, kidding. Of course I mean translations :).
Because, you know, German just doesn’t know when it’s had enough.
“Wordtender, I’ll have another version, please! With ice.”
“Don’t you think you’re good for tonight?”
“Aw, c’me on browwww, I’m jus’ like tipsy. Just one more, okay. I promise I won’t vomit this time.”

So, the direct German relative of to freeze is frieren. And frieren does mean to freeze BUT ….  at least  in daily German it is used ONLY in the sense of  you feeling cold.

For the actual freezing, the change from liquid to ice, we’ll use one of several prefix versions. Hooray.
The most generic one, the one that water does at below zero, is gefrieren. Because, in case you didn’t know…  the ge- is not limited to that spoken past stuff. It’s a regular prefix, too, just like ver- or be-.  What does it express? Well, let’s just say completion for now and hope that a certain Emanuel character finally completes his freaking book on the stuff.
Anyway, examples.

If you payed close attention you might have noticed frieren and gefrieren actually have the same ge-form. But one uses haben, the other one sein for the spoken past, so we can tell them apart. Phew… I know you were worried.

So confusing :).
The other prefix versions are basically all specific kinds of freezing. And I think you can kind of guess their gist from the prefix.  Zufrieren, literally to freeze closed, is what lakes and rivers do. Einfrieren is kind of freezing for things. The main context is us freezing food but also a screen freezing is einfrieren.

Then, there’s erfrieren which is to freeze to death and last but not least abfrieren which is pretty much the same as to freeze off and it’s mostly used in colloquial German for feeling really cold.

And that’s it. Now you have an overview over how to say to freeze in German. And it wasn’t actually that bad. The main thing to take away is that frieren alone ONLY means to freeze in sense of being cold.

This sounds like the poor beer is shivering because it is dressed too lightly. Probably a Bud.
*Badumm Tish.
Leave a comment if you have any questions or if you want to try out some examples. Hope you enjoyed it and see you tomorrow.


for members :)

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I have trapped in the bus almost 2 hours because of the snow…
and reading this i was like…
na. Ok… ich weiß
So much fun indeed.
Thanks for sharing!!


Danke vielmals! Jetzt fällt der Schnee und ich friere. Zehr zeitnah… And for becoming motionless, we use freeze. Not in German?


You mean the way the police calls out: “Freeze!”? That would be: “Keine Bewegung!” (lit.: “No movement!”) in German.
Or to freeze because of emotional stress. “I was so preplexed/stunned, that I just froze.” = “Ich war so perplex/verplüfft, dass ich einfach erstarrte.”
There is a proverb for that: “starr vor Angst/Freude/Überraschung…”. You could translate “starr” here as “benumbed”, “petrified” or maybe “frozen” if you prefer.
“starr” seems like a good word for Emaluel to elaborate on. It has many facets, including prefix verbs, different meanings and interesting adjective constructions like: “starrköpfig” = “headstrong”.
When moving pictures freeze, or other visual media, as Emanuel already mentioned: “einfrieren” is used. “Look how long he can hold that weight up.” – “No, it’s only the screen that froze.” = “Schau mal, wie lang er das Gewicht hochhalten kann.” – “Nein, das ist nur der Bildschirm, der eingefroren ist.”
In the same context, you could for example also use “(Bild-/Ton-)Aussetzer haben” or “stocken” (which originates I think from milk or blood getting solid, “to clot” – is that the word? So, very similar to “to freeze” but for emulsions instead of fluids).


Thanks a lot! I think “erstarren” is what I was thinking of.


Having watched far too many Krimis on German TV the past year I can state with confidence that German Polizei shout out “Stehen bleiben!” (lit. stand stay) for ‘freeze’.


“Frozen over” is more idiomatic for bodies of water. “The lake is frozen” sounds like it might be frozen all the way through, although for that we would probably say “frozen solid”. A frozen waterfall beloved of mountaineers could be described as “frozen solid”.I wonder if one day you might give us a little lesson on the subjunctive, which I really still don’t have a feel for. In one of the examples above you’ve got a climber almost freezing to death. In English that’s not counterfactual – he did almost freeze to death. German seems to come at from the angle that he didn’t freeze to death, never mind the “almost”, let’s use the subjunctive. That right?


Person243: Thanks for the info om “starr” and all the ways to use it – look forward to more of your comments.


Emanual: Well, now I know how little I understand the Subjunctive and how much help I need with it.


Ich glaube wir sagen: The lake froze over, or, the lake is frozen. Maybe even, the lake froze!
However, I have never lived near a frozen lake. Maybe people who do live there would say this differently.


Good as always, I see in one of your examples you use nur for just, not Gerade. When do you use nur and when gerade? in fact a post about gerade would be lovely.