Word of the Day – “gelingen”
In this episode:
A quick look at the meaning of "gelingen" and how it is different to "schaffen". Also, a really really weird ending.
gelingen, gelungen, misslingen,...
and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And today, we’ll take a look at the meaning of
Gelingen is one of those weird words many of you have probably missed for some reason, even though it is quite useful and common.
And it’s one of those verbs that have ge- as an actual non-separable prefix, not just a past marker.
And if you’re now like
“We DO NOT know what you’re talking about, Emanuel, this is advanced stuff….”
let me tell you that you, all of you, know at least one other example for these kinds of verbs… gefallen :).
The two actually kind of fit together, both grammatically and thematically… something that mir gelingen will probably dir gefallen.
But I’m getting ahead of myself …
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4.9 12 votes
Why is there no es in these two:
Maria hat geschafft, was Thomas….
Maria ist gelungen, was Thomas….
I thought it would be:
Maria hat es geschafft, was Thomas….
Maria ist es gelungen, was Thomas….
and es refers to the “was” sentence
For some verbs, you MUST have an “es”, for others it’s optional and for some, it’s wrong.
In these examples, “es” would sound wrong.
This is something you’ll have to learn over time, as there really is no rhyme or logic to it.
Check out my article on “es” for some more on this issue.
I refered back to the article on “schaffen”:
“This is kind of the “standard” construction with schaffen and you need to start using that (and yes, the es needs to be there).
But it’s not the ONLY possible phrasing.
You can also use the verb with a pronoun or noun directly. Just keep in mind that it has to be an ACTIVITY you’re talking about.”
I am just getting confused over this. I have also read the article over “es”, and what I took away is that “es” replaces phrases, which I thought was the case for es schaffen as well.
So with that in mind:
Maria hat es geschafft, was Thomas….: the es refers to the was sentence. But without that, Maria hat geschafft, don’t we go into the “creation” definition of schaffen
Sorry if this is annoying. I just can’t wrap my head around it.
Ahhh, now I see the issue.
That’s a great little piece of grammar actually.
So I think what’s going on is this:
a “was”-sentence is called a “free relative”, that means it (usually) has NO reference in the main sentence.
– Ich mache, was ich will.
You could put a “das” in, if you wanted to.
– Maria hat das geschafft, was Thomas blah blah blah
Now, the “was” is more of a normal relative sentence and it’s attached to “das”.
“es” cannot take a relative pronoun, so that’s why it sounds so incredibly wrong.
I think it’s the same when you connect a relative sentence to “it”.
– I’ve seen it what/which I haven’t seen before.
You could say “that, which” or just “what”, but no “it”.
Does that help?
Yes it does! Thanks Emanuel!
So basically the object of those sentences is the “was” sentence, and so we dont need an “es”. However, we also have:
Es kommt drauf an, was blablabla
But here this is same as saying:
Es kommt auf es(ihm) an, was blablabla
In this case the es refers to the was sentence. Is it because it is not really an object of kommen? its associated with “auf”.
You’re making really good points here :)!!
I think the bottom line answer is that “es” cannot take a relative clause attached to it, while other pronouns like “ihm”, ihr, das and da-words can.
This is gonna take some time to getting used to this. Man german is really hard. But its the challenge that keeps making it interesting.
I was just writing to a friend and wrote
Ich will mir es angewöhnen, blabla zu lesen
and I was getting doubtful about that “es”, then opened the website to see your answer. Removed the “es”. :DD
Anyway thank you alot, I cant imagine how far back I would have been if not for your website!
It would have been “okay” with the “es” as well, but it’s better without it. But this kind of stuff really is fine tuning :). You’re clearly quite advanced already!!
Thank you for this Emanuel. I learned this verb last week and I looked it up in 3 different dictionaries to get a feel for how it is used in different sentences but none of those examples were half as good as yours in this article. I found this article very helpful. The quiz summed up what you explained in the article very well! Thanks.
In the example “Man kann nicht erwarten, dass alles auf Anhieb gelingt.”, “auf Anhieb” is translated as “at the first attempt”.
I found “hieb” as the Präteritum of “hauen”, but even after reading your article on “hauen” I couldn’t make sense of this meaning.
Could you please elaborate a bit on this? Or is Anhieb coming from a totally different verb?
I always thought of it as being related to “heben”, but you’re actually right… it comes from “hauen”. Does “at first strike” make sense? To me it does. Think of chopping wood, maybe. Sometimes you get through right clean on the first try… “auf Anhieb”
Yes, that image will help remembering this meaning
Kann “gelangen” auch im uebertragenen Sinne verwendet werden, also im Sinne von “ein Ziel erreichen”? So in diesem Satz:
Diese konnten wiederum eigener Trojaner einschleusen, um etwa an Bankdaten zu gelangen.
Das Ziel ist es, die Bankdaten zu erreichen/zu bekommem?
Ja stimmt, das habe ich übersehen. “gelangen an” hat die Idee von “reaching, getting your hands on”, oft mit einer Note von “hustle”.
Thank you to the other members who made it possible for me to get a free membership. German is easy has been most helpful.
sein… so I was taught that gets used for the past tense when there’s a change of state or place (so going to the shops or growing old). So I guess the change here is a change of state to the state of being successful? Is that the right way to think about it?
Couldn’t have said it better!! It’s kind of a parallel to “werden” which also goes with “sein”.
Heute ist es der Einhornherde gelungen, Wanderersuppe zuzubereiten.
Hahahaha… willkommen an Bord vom Truth-Train :D
Great post, as usual! But where’s the Quiz?
That last bit about “gelangen” as in getting somewhere. Is it used just like gelingen but only in the context of getting somewhere instead of succeeding with something? Only literally, as in “Mir gelange es ins Bora Bora” / “Mir ist ins Bora Bora gelangt”?
Zu? Nach? In?
Your explanation of gelingen / schaffen being interchangeable (Heads up: dativ / akustativ switch between gelingen / schaffen) really cleared things up for me.
Helpful post but you need to raise your lovely assistant’s wages – I need that Quiz!
No, it only looks like “gelingen.” Grammatically it’s a pretty normal “motion” verb like “kommen,” so it’d be “Ich bin nach Bora Bora gelangt.” The preposition depends on what the normal “destination” preposition would be for where the subject is going – “nach Hause,” “zum Bahnhof,” “ans Ziel” (Duden’s examples).
I think a good working gloss at least in AE would be “to make it [to] somewhere” for the literal sense, or “come to / arrive at” in the figurative sense. Duden gives a couple examples:
– Der Brief ist nicht in meine Hände gelangt.
– The letter didn’t make it into my hands.
– Ich bin zu der Erkenntnis gelangt, dass du damals recht hattest.
– I’ve come to the realization that you were right back then.
One other construction is “jemandem zu Ohren gelangen,” but there the dative is the person whose ears are the destination.
Wow, perfect :). Did you know all these niche uses of “gelangen” or did you have to look them up?
I’ve heard at least a few here and there, but all the examples came from the Duden site. Really only the English explanation is my own work.
Honestly, I just wanted to take the opportunity to teach myself, since it’s a useful word that’s not really all the way in my active vocabulary, at least for those idiomatic uses, and I figure helping somebody else is a good way to try to get them into my head. I definitely opened your article thinking “I really hope he’s going to mention ‘gelangen'” – it took me a long time to stop mixing the two verbs up.
Ich lese den Satz mehrmals und denke nach-
”Ich bin zu der Erkenntnis gelangt, dass du damals recht hattest.”
Zuerst dachte ich, daß Du damals Unrecht gehabt hast.
Jetzt bin ich einer anderen Meinung und bin
zu der Erkenntnis gelangt, daß Du damals recht hättest.”
The “hättest” sounds wrong to me. The person thinks (now) that the reality of the past was a certain way. subjunctive is used to mark things you think are /or were NOT reality. So it has no place in this example.
Hope that helps :)
“where is the quiz”… that is an EXCELLENT question. Turns out the quiz was freaking empty and didn’t show after I changed ONE general quiz setting for the entire site.
I am sooooo pissed right now.
The quiz was there, and now I have to do it again. If I wasn’t so lazy I would write a complaint to the programmers. I am paying for this functionality after all.
As for “gelangen”…. that is used just like “kommen”.
– Ich bin nach Bora Bora gelangt.
– Wie gelange ich zum Markt?
The preposition depends on the location, not on the verb though. In my example Bora Bora is an island but I’m not sure if that’s actually accurate :D
Taking care of teh freaking quiz now :(!!! Thanks for the heads up!!
okay, the quizz is there now :). Viel Spaß!!
Check these sentence please
Wir müssen einen Weg finden,uns ein Jahr zu gelingen
I thought about phrasing it that way, although it does carry the same meaning ” Dieses jahr wird zu einem Erflog (zu) machen” I seen that construction being used before,although I have no idea when I have to use the second zu to complete “zu + infinitive constructions” Now, I will attempt a Schaffen –> “Wir schaffen diese Jahr,doch zuerst mussen wir einen weg finden”
Dieses Übung gelingt/misslungt mir
Ich schaffe dieses Übung
Eine gelungene Karriere hängt Mich ab
Also, what is purpose of “es” in the “aber es”?
I remember verbs where Ich (verb) es, ….
Es is just there for no reason. I remember seeing one of those on here,but cannot remember exactly what. If I remember, I will mention it in that thread
Now, for suggestions for future episodes
I cannot grasp these verbs/words and I think some others might be in the same postions
Words like “jedoch,doch”. While they aren’t hard to use. They are used unnaturally. For example, I was told Jedoch doesn’t usually start a sentence.
That’s quite a few questions at once ;).
So here we go:
1) the sentence
“Wir müssen einen Weg finden,uns ein Jahr zu gelingen”
“Dieses jahr wird zu einem Erflog (zu) machen”
These two makes little sense to me and the grammar is really weird. What were you trying to say?
“Wir schaffen diese Jahr,doch zuerst mussen wir einen weg finden”
This does make sense. It sounds like the year will be tough but we can make it if we can find a way to do whatever.
2) other sentences
The first two are okay. The one about career would be “Eine gelungene Karriere hängt von mir ab.”
3) “aber es”… can you give me the sentence this bit is from? Without context I can’t tell what “es” is doing.
4) thanks for the suggestions! Could you tell me what it is that’s confusing you about the two? They’re kind of rare, anyway
5) I do have a post about “doch”. As for “jedoch” not starting a sentence… it certainly can start a sentence and it’s also not weird to do it but “jedoch” is kind of rare in spoken German.
Hope that helps :)
0) Thank you and sorry for the Flood
1) I was trying to say this year will turn out Successful. Using
b)etwats (Akk) zu einem Erflog (zu) machen.
The second zu is used in (zu + infinitive)
2) Are they alright beacuse of context (the first 2 examples)
3) aber er schafft es einfach nicht. ( I dug too deep :)
4) with hinhören, Ik it used for listening in direction apart from the speaker. However even with dudens examples, I struggle to use it. As for zusetzen, I remember seeing it, I didn’t look too much into it yet so it might not be as horrible ( had 5 meanings – I think on duden though). If those verbs aren’t this common, are there any common verbs I should try to read about that you would recommend?
5) As for jedoch, I was told it’s better in the middle, but it can start a sentence. Thanks for clarifying it’s not wierd
6) Do you like my name ;)
7) To other learners ” Wenn Sie diesen Blog lesen, werden Sie, zweifellos, ein Profi. Nahmen Sie die Information des Blog auf”
I am sorry for imposing but can you clarify How you would structure the issue in 1?
wir müssen einen weg finden,so dass gelingen dass Fest.
Wir müssen einen weg finden,das fest zu einem Erfolg zu machen
I attempted them again.
This is much better!
A year isn’t really something that goes well with “gelingen” (in most phrasings) because noone really “makes” it.
– Wir müssen einen Weg finden, (so) dass das Fest gelingt.
– Wir müssen einen Weg finden, das Fest zu einem Erfolg zu machen.
I am honestly not sure about “dass” vs “sodass”. Both sound a little bit off to me, but I can’t put my finger on why. It’s definitely something a native speaker might say or write but it would not be printed in a newspaper. I think it has something to do with “Weg”, but don’t worry about that too much. The use of “gelingen” was good this time.
1) Making the year a success sounds a bit business-y. “gelingen” is more suitable for singular tasks that you actually do. Noone really “does” a year.
The only thing that is idiomtic is “gelungenes Jahr” which means “good year/well lived year” but apart from that using “Erfolg” is the way to go for what you had in mind.
– Wir müssen versuchen, dieses Jahr zu einem Erfolg zu machen.
4) hinhören is about “listening toward” someone or something. It’s very similar to “zuhören” but not as “long” in a temporal sense. For “zusetzen” I’d honestly say, just forget it until you actually see it in context.
As for common verbs… all those I talk about in my archive :)
6) yes, it’s unusual and sounds tasty. Have you ever made such a sandwich?
7) genau :)
Thankyou all for helping me get the membership. And special thanks to germaniseasy team for making it possible.
Doh.. even though I know the noun, I chose the wrong answer for that question! I don’t remember you mentioning the noun form?
Great post..an Interesting verb.
Ich musse zugeben, dass es mir nie vorher gelungen ist, ‘gelungen’ zu benutzen.. Ich have immer ‘schaffen’ benutzt, well es leichter ist!
Vielleicht ist es der Einhornherde gelungen, unsichtbar zu werden?
I think I would struggle to recall this in conversation as schaffen is easier but really interesting.
But your example is flawless. Homework: write down for one week what the unicorn horde has accomplished that day, using gelingen. Like
“Heute ist … ”
Then, it should be in your mind forever :D
A unicorn herd blending unnoticed into a city park is a very original idea! :)
Danke schön. Das Thema war sehr nett.
Freut mich, vielen Dank :)
Oh, I forgot I have a question:
Could you explain to me why “Maria ist gelungen, was Thomas seit Jahren vergeblich versucht” is not “Es ist Maria gelungen, was Thomas seit Jahren vergeblich versucht”, since we now have the person (Maria), instead of just the object?
Wait, Maria didn’t change regardless of whether “es” is there or not. It’s the object in either version.
The “es” in your example is NOT the subject, mind you. It is a dummy-es with the only purpose of filling position one. The subject is the free relative clause “was….”.
Hope that helps :)
Got it, thanks!
Words that aren’t gelungen:
flatmates is just one word
“in neither of these examples, we have the people actually doing the stuff” – sounds clunky! – “in neither of these examples do we have the people (who are) actually doing the stuff” – Me being picky? Yep! Me not wanting to miss the opportunity to show you an example where English is using an inversion, thus pulling a German on you? Also correct!
“it is what the PROJECT does the gelingen” (it the PROJECT that does the gelingen)
Thanks for another WotD; this time I have no questions!