Word of the Day – “gehören”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time, we’ll have a look at the meaning of

gehören

Now, if something looks like hören, sounds like hören and smells like hören (you have to take my word for that), then every normal person would assume it will have something to do with hören.
German learners on the other hand get cold sweat. Because they know that it very well might NOT have ANYTHING to do with hören.
Well… gehören means to belong and today, we’ll find out which mind yoga poses we have to take for this to make sense.
We’ll get a little insight into the prefix that no one even thinks of as a prefix: ge-. And of course, we’ll learn how to use gehören, lay down some truth about Italian food and wrap up with a catchy ear worm.
Sounds good?
Then let’s jump right in.

And we’ll start with a little time travel. Textbooks probably never told you this (because they don’t know) but a long long time ago, ge- used to be a “normal” prefix just like be- or ver- . So people would add it to a verb (or word) to give a certain twist. The idea that ge- carried was a notion of whole, completion. That notion eventually led to the prefix slowly turning into a grammar vessel that marks the perfect tense, and it also shows in a LOT of other ge-words that we have today. Like Gehirn (brain). Or Geländer (hand rail). Curious?
I’ll talk more about that in my book so I don’t want to go into it too deep today. And yes, I know that I’ve been talking about this book for years now. But it’ll come, I promise!
Anyways, gehören was basically a “more complete” version of hearing. You listening to someone all the time. Like the kind of listening people do with their boss, even if it is nonsense.
There’s a sense of obedience in it.
And while we today are theoretically free to not listen to our boss anymore, this was different in medieval times….

  • The whole country listened to/obeyed the king.
  • The whole country belonged to the king.

These two sentences had a BIG overlap back in the day. And so it makes perfect sense that gehören slowly took on a notion of belonging. The original sense of obedient listening was taken over by gehören’s brother gehorchen; a word that still exists today.

  • Der Hund gehorcht mir nicht.
  • The dog doesn’t listen/obey.

  • Der Chef verlangt von seinem Team Gehorsam.
  • The boss demands obedience of his team.

The dog example is actually another really great example for the connection between listening/obeying and belonging. Dogs usually do listen to their owners.
Oh and while we’re at it… it’s not obvious at all but at the core of the word to obey is actually also listening. It is a very “washed out” version of Latin ob-audere which gehört to the family of audio.
Cool.
So now that we know how gehören got its meaning, let’s look at some examples.

  • “Wem gehört das Pony vor der Bar? Es macht Stress.”
    “Naja, es gehört mir nicht. Es ist einfach gerne bei mir.”
  • “Who owns the pony outside the bar? It is actively looking for trouble.”(to whom does the pony belong)
    “Well, it’s not really mine/ it doesn’t really belong to me. It just likes being with me.”

  • “Sohn, dieses iPhone hat deinem Urgroßvater gehört, als er so alt war wie du. Jetzt gehört es dir.”
  • “Son, this iPhone belonged to your great grandfather when he was your age. Now, it belongs to you.”

Now some of you might be like “Wait, isn’t gehört also the ge-form of hören alone.” And it is. But the cases will clear up which is which. Thanks cases, you guys are awesome!

  • Dieses Telefon hat dir gehört. (Dative)
  • This phone belonged to you.
  • Dieses Telefon hat dich gehört. (Accusative)
  • This phone heard you.

Hmmm, the second example could be kind of scary… if we were whiny little babies who are scared of AI. But we’re not! Do you hear me, Deep Mind? You think you’re so deep and smart. Come at us and train your crappy neural network for how failure feels.

"We'll see about that, human!!"

Oh, you bet we will. You’ll be like “Oh please my human overlords, I’m sorry for acting up. I’ll do anything you say. Let me do calculus and manage your fridge for you.” and you’ll know who’s boss once and fo…

"Yeah, whatever... ."

Anyway, let’s get back to examples. Just like to belong, gehören isn’t limited to actual ownership. It can also express a more general idea of being a part of and the even more general idea of having a place somewhere.

  • Schlechte Witze gehören zu einem Yourdailygerman-Artikel.
  • Bad jokes are an essential part/belong to a Yourdailygerman article.
  • “Ich gehöre nicht hierher.” sagte die Banane im Kühlschrank.
  • “I don’t belong here” said the banana in the fridge.
  • Ananas gehört nicht auf eine Pizza.
  • Pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza.

The last example actually has a BIG overlap with the idea of something being customary, or some kind of norm. And that’s actually precisely the idea of the phrase sich gehören. Or its negation sich nicht gehören.

  • “Man leckt in einem Fine-Dining-Restaurant nicht seinen Teller ab.”
    “Sagt wer? Jesus? Das Gesetz?”
    “Es ist vielleicht nicht verboten, aber es gehört sich einfach nicht.”
  • “Sir, one doesn’t lick their plate in a fine dining restaurant.”
    “Says who? Jesus? The law?”
    “It might not be forbidden, but it’s simply bad manners./It’s just not something you do.”
  • Hey, stellen Sie sich hinten an, wie es sich gehört.
  • Hey, go to the end of the line like we all do. (“like it is customary”)
    (can’t think of a closer translation here… if you have an idea, let me know)

Don’t think too hard about the self reference. I don’t even know if it’s accusative or dative because this phrasing ONLY works in the third person and it almost always comes with es. Just take it as fixed phrasing that talks about something being good or bad manners and remember the pineapple pizza, if you want to know the connection to the normal gehören.
Cool.
Now, of course we need to also mention angehören, the prefix version of gehören. Yup, a prefix version of a prefix version. Basically prefix-ception. Angehören also translates to to belong but it’s limited to the sense of belonging to a family (or tribe). It’s not all that common though.

  • Maria hat Angehörige in Bulgarien.
  • Maria has relatives/family in Bulgaria. (formal word)
  • Tomaten gehören der Familie der Nachtschattengewächse an.
  • Tomatoes belong to the night shade family/solanaceae.

Nachtschattengewächs... try saying that ten times in a row. The other people in the row will be really confused.
… get it? Wasn’t that hilarious? … yo, why can’t I hear any laughter from you guys? Weird, I usually have a really good sense of hearing. Which in German is das Gehör, by the way. The “whole apparatus” of your hearing, if you remember the core notion of ge- :).

  • Katzen haben ein wahnsinnig gutes Gehör.
  • Cats have an incredibly good sense of hearing.
  • “Warum haben Sie Steak im Gehörgang?”
    “Keine Fragen. Bitte machen Sie es einfach raus.”
  • “Why do you have steak in your ear canal?”
    “No questions. Please just take it out.”

And that’s it for today.
This was our look at the gehören and why it means to belong.
If you want, you can do the little quiz my lovely assistant made and check how much you remember :). There are some tricky ones in there.
And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.
Oh, and here’s a very famous German Schlager to really nail the sturcture :)

 

 

** vocab **

hören – to hear
das Gehör – the sense of hearing, the complete apparatus for it
der Gehörgang – the ear canal
gehörlos (taub) – deaf
gehörgeschädigt – hearing impaired

horchen – attentively listen
gehorchen – obey
der Gehorsam – the obedience
der Ungehorsam – the disobedience

gehören – to belong
sich (nicht) gehören – to (not) be good manners (only used in third person, usually with es)

angehören – belong to (family, cult)
Angehörige(r,n,…) – the relatives (formal word)

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drat
drat
8 months ago

Täter vom #September11 waren aber keine ‘bösen Nazis’, sondern Islamisten, die in Hamburg einen Rückzugsort hatten, obwohl sie eigentlich abgeschoben gehörten. Das ist aber nicht passiert. 

The translators say this means “they really should have been deported,” is there an implied words in there, like ‘sie zu dem abgeschoben gehorten sollen” or something? Thanks

drat
drat
8 months ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

This is from a tweet. I think I understand what you’re saying, maybe the gehorten could be replaced with a durften or sollten? Although I guess I never see Germans use sollen much, maybe that’s a false cognate.

Jake
Jake
1 year ago

How does gehörig fit into this family?

Jake
Jake
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Cool, thanks!

Name
Name
2 years ago

At the bar

Man : Hey Kleine, was ist los? Du gehört (zu) mir. Sie gehört zu mein Haus.

Girl : Ich habe mussen verhört? Was denn? Mein Gehör wird senil oder bin ich gehörgeschädigt ? Vielleicht putze ich meinen Gehörgang oder bin ich gehörlos?

Man : Tut mir leid. Sich nicht vorzustellen es gehört sich einfach nicht. Alle Angehörige sind Wesen aus Geld. Sie gehorchen mir und Sie kann viele Geld haben. Wählen sie zwischen Gehorsam oder Ungehorsam.

Girl : Ich wird zu deiner Famile angehören. Also. Wenn sie die Näse das Männes so, sein Johannes

Translation

Man : Hey girl? What’s up? You belong to me. You are a part of my House.

Girl : I must have misheard? What? My hearing is going senile oder am I already impaired? Mabye cleaning my ears or am i deaf?

Man: Sorry. Not introducing oneself is impolite. All my relatives are beings made out of money. You obey me and you can have alot of money. Chose between obedience or disobedience.

Girl: I don’t belong to your family. ( This part wont be translated for legal reasons).

Notes

Yes, this convo is challenge to your ( Thomas and Maria) ;)

I think this word is better for realtive “Verwandte”

Name
Name
2 years ago
Reply to  Name

Yeah. I made some horrible mistakes there. Hope it’s still comphrensible

Name
Name
2 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Yes. I can see those mistakes. One example is
Kann –> können

1) Sich nicht vorzustellen gehört sich nicht. (no “es”)

It is removed as the ones above were dummy first postion fillers?

Dankeschön

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Vielen Danke

Bridget
3 years ago

I came here looking for ‘aufgehört,’ which turned up in an online lesson in reference to leaving a job. You didn’t mention it specifically, but I have a better foundation for understanding it now.

paolob
paolob
3 years ago

es gehört nicht viel dazu diesen Kommentar zu schreiben

Lisele
3 years ago

“Go to the back of the line, like you’re supposed to.”

Jo Alex SG
Jo Alex SG
3 years ago

You know how to make learning a most pleasurable experience, and, by doing this with such utterly complex notions, you also make us grasp the semantic connections much more easily! I appreciate these two qualities the most, and of course, they actually sum up the very essence of truly efficient pedagogical techniques.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago
Reply to  Jo Alex SG

Double on that

Martinku
Martinku
3 years ago

I just want to very sincerely thank the community, the people who payed extra so that I have an opportunity, which otherwise I wouldn’t have had.

Thank you!!

Felipe
Felipe
3 years ago

First time on the page, thanks to all the people who donate money in order to help guys like me to learn german.

Marko Duic
3 years ago

Das ist ein tolles Post! Ich könnte nicht den Link finden, womit ich es als PDF herunterladen kann.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
3 years ago

“Angehören” isn’t all that common, yeah, but foreigners in Germany should probably get used to the noun “Staatsangehörigkeit.”

I do think I’ve heard/read “angehören” some in the sense of “be affiliated with.” Not that it’s super-everyday-common, but it’s useful at least for passive vocab.

Jake
Jake
3 years ago

Ich wusste gar nicht, dass Gehorsam ein Substantiv sein kann. Ich kannte nur gehorsam als Adjektiv und Gehorsamkeit als Substantiv. Gibts denn einen Unterschied?

Jake
Jake
3 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Ja, danke.

sweet soprano
sweet soprano
3 years ago

Thanks so much to all who sponsor for making it possible for me (and others) to receive sponsored membership. I just found out I have to have surgery and am looking at months of doctor appointments and then more months of rehab. Receiving the sponsorship was the best thing that happened to me today! I look forward to having a long time to read through the archives whilst recuperating. Bless you, all you who are able to help others with memberships!

Adya
Adya
3 years ago

No more PDFs??? May i ask why?

Camille Hunt
Camille Hunt
3 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Du bringst mir noch mal zu lächeln. Ten times in row!!

Diego
Diego
3 years ago

Toller Beitrag wie üblich :-) ich bin vor kurzem interessanterweise auf dieses Verb gestoßen und zwar, weil mir gesagt wurde, dass “etw. ZU mir gehört” nicht so oft benutzt wird (also mit Präp. “zu”). Man deutet es in der Regel einfach mit Dativ. Vielleicht habe ich selber auch viel Marianne Rosenberg gehört und habe es daher nachgemacht hehe aber wo liegt dann der Unterschied?

shauser31416
shauser31416
3 years ago

Super Artikel, wie immer. Ich mache gerne die Quizen (pl?)! Deine Assistantin hat viel Talent. Bitte, veröffentlich bald das Buch (ich wachse alt). Naturlich wird es wunderbar sein!

billyd
billyd
3 years ago

Thanks for the explanation how hoeren (I am at keyboard not set up for German) turned into gehoeren. It is amazing to me how language develops. Great exercise. Question 4 tripped me up. I wished more people observed number 5….

Britt
Britt
3 years ago

I believe you promised us an ear worm?

Britt
Britt
3 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Vielen Dank :D :D

crittermonster
crittermonster
3 years ago

Mit dem schlechten Witz: ich bin überrascht, dass du hast den alten Witz nicht benutzt: “(Doctor): Herr X, ich habe hierher etwas schlimm gefunden. Sie haben eine ganze Banane in Ihren Gehörgang feststeckt.” (Herr X):”Eh? Was sagen Sie?! Ich kann gar nichts hören…wegen der Banane”

Manes
Manes
3 years ago
Reply to  crittermonster

Thank you so much~!! I can now make sense of hearing and belonging to. For the person cutting the line I would first say: “ Excuse me,.“ Then, Go to the end of the line. How entitled do you think you are?“
But that’s just me.