Word of the Day – “achten”

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My mic crashed during (or before) recording, so what you hear is the backup. That’s why it’s so bad. I’ll redo the recording in the coming days. Sorry for that :)

**

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And this time, we’ll take a look at the wonderful world of

achten

 
Which by itself might not really be a verb you have on your radar, but it has some pretty useful siblings. Like Achtung for instance, which you might know from warning signs. Or Achtsamkeit, which is pretty central in meditation.
And of course you’ve all know acht, the number, which is the one who ate nine.
Or wait… that was actually seven.
Sieben acht neun.
And it’s not even funny in German.
Probably because nothing is funny in German.
Not even the show Friends, which in German was called Coworkers.
Anyway… there are plenty of useful German words with acht in them and today we’ll explore what they all mean, how to use them and of course how they’re even connected.
So are you ready to jump in?
Then let’s freaking go…

And let me answer one of the most obvious questions right away:

No, the number 8 and the other acht-words are NOT related.

Acht, just like its sisters in English, Spanish, Russian and so on, all come from the impeccably ancient Indo-European root *okto(u) which back then actually still meant 2. It just got 8 over time because of iNfLaTiOn.
Nah, kidding of course. There’s not much to say about the number 8 but as we’re at it let’s look at the important number words with it

  • 18 – achtzehn
  • 80 – achtzig
  • 1/8 – ein Achtel
  • 8. – der Achte, die Achte, den Achten….

And here’s a couple of side uses you might hear in daily life…

  • Mein Fahrrad hat eine Acht.
  • My bike has a wobbling wheel.
  • Niemand:
    Toningenieure: Kugel, Niere oder Acht?
  • No one:
    Audio engineers: omnidirectional, cardioid or figure of eight?

And die Acht itself is of course feminine, because it resembles a voluptuous femme fatale and when it lies down, it becomes a symbol for eternity. Or maybe because all numbers are feminine, I’m not sure.
So that’s acht, the number, and now let’s get to the acht that’s at the core of all of those useful acht-words.

The watchful “acht”

And the origin of this acht is an old Germanic root *ah-, which carried the idea of “thinking, having in mind“. Just think of stuff like ah, or äh or ach or aha German. Or uh or uhm in English. Not that they’re related but they’re also about thinking so they could be a nice bridge for your memory.
Anyway, in German the theme of the root shifted from “thinking” to “minding” in the sense of “taking into consideration” and the old noun die Acht changed from “thought” and “opinion” to this vague blend between attention and heed, that we can see today in phrasings like sich in Acht nehmen or achtgeben

  • Im Wald in der Nacht,
    Nimm dich vor der gehörnten Mähne in Acht.
  • At night , in the forest
    beware of the horned crest.
  • “Kann ich kurz deinen Stift haben?”
    “Hier. Gib gut auf ihn acht.”
    “Ich verspreche es. Gott ist mein Zeuge.”
  • “Can I have your pen for a second?”
    “Here. Watch over him carefully.”
    “I swear it. God is my witness.”

Fun fact, by the way… for a long time these phrasings were spelled with a small acht. For centuries, people had just been like “Noun? Meh… imma treat this like a prefix“. Then came the spelling reform of the late 90s and it was changed to a capital A. But a lot of people were like “WTF is this… I hate this!” and eventually, in the reform of the reform in the early 2000s, Acht geben was changed back to achtgeben while the others were kept nouns, because… rEaSoNs.
So don’t get confused if you see different spellings somewhere. It’s the same stuff.

Anyways, these phrasings are fairly common and there are also some nice compounds with acht.

  • Achtsamkeit im Alltag macht alles besser.
  • Mindfulness in everyday life makes everything better.
  • Viele Menschen werfen ihre Masken einfach achtlos in die Natur.
  • Many people throw their masks thoughtlessly, carelessly into nature.

But generally the much more common and useful word is the verb achten. By itself, it is occasionally used for the idea of having respect, regard for someone or something

  • Der weise Uhu wird von allen im Wald geachtet.
  • The wise eagle owl is respected by all in the forest.

but the use you definitely need to add to your active vocabulary is achten auf, because that’s a really common option for the idea of paying attention, watching over.

  • Thomas achtet auf seine Gesundheit.
  • Thomas takes care/pays attention to his health.
  • Im Zentrum gibt es viele Taschendiebe und man muss auf seine Wertsachen achten.
  • In the center, there are many pickpockets and you have to watch/be careful of your valuables.
  • Darauf müssen Sie achten, wenn Sie 2021 in den Urlaub fliegen wollen.
  • This is what you need to watch out for/pay attention to when you want to go on vacation by plane in 2021.
  • Seit Maria den neuen Fitnesstrainer hat, achtet sie sehr darauf, wie ihre Haare aussehen.
  • Ever since Maria has this new fitness coach, she pays a lot of attention to how her hair looks.

If you’re wondering about the difference to aufpassen aufaufpassen auf sounds more immediate and leans toward guarding, while achten auf is more toward “having an eye on” or “being attentive to“. Just remember the original sense of having in mind.
Like… suppose you’re at a cafe working on your laptop and you need to go to the bathroom, you’d ask your neighbor if they can aufpassen for a second. Using achten auf is not really wrong, but that for instance could also imply that the person should watch out for the laptop doing something.
And for paying attention to the road, achten auf is a bit better. I mean, people also use aufpassen but technically, that could also mean that you’re like road-sitting or whatever.
Bottom line… don’t overthink it :).

Besides the verb you’ll definitely also need the noun die Achtung. And just like the verb it can be about the idea of respect, but it’s more common as a warning “attention”.

  • “Ich habe große Achtung vor meinem Fitness-Trainer.”
    “Meinst du Achtung für oder Interesse an?”
    “Naja… beides.”
  • “I have huge respect for my fitness coach.”
    “Do you mean respect for or interest in?”
    “Oh well… both.”
  • Sehr geehrter Mr. McDonalds,
    dank Shiba Inu und Safemoon ist mein Crypto-Portfolio unterwegs Richtung Mond und ich muss nicht mehr arbeiten. Deshalb kündige ich.
    Hochachtungsvoll,
    Ihr Wojak.
  • Dear Mr. McDonalds,
    dank Shiba Inu und Safemoon, my crypto portfolio is on its way, moonward bound, and I don’t have to work anymore.
    Hence, I resign.
    Respectfully yours/yours faithfully,
    Wojak.
  • Achtung! In diesem Wald gibt es Einhörner. Bleiben Sie auf den Wegen und lehnen Sie Einladungen zu einem “Tee” ab.
  • Warning! There are unicorns in this forest. Stay on the paths and decline offers for a “tea”.

And of course the verb achten has what most German words have…
daddy issues!
Nah, I’m kidding. I meant prefix versions. Just wanted to make sure you’re still awake :).

prefix versions of “achten”

The first and most important prefix version is beachten.
Which looks like it can be a great way to talk about your summer vacation.

  • Wir haben den ganzen Tag Cocktails getrunken und gebeacht.
  • We drank cocktails all day and were at the beach.

That’ll only work if you’re hanging with some cool Gen Z, and even then it’s no guarantee it’ll gain you bro points.

The real beachten is of course simply the be-version of achten, and while the two do sometimes overlap, the main difference in meaning is that beachten is more about rules or requirements or plain information and it lacks the element of taking care that achten auf can have. Instead, at least in the context of rules, it leans toward the sense of obeying.

  • Was muss man beachten, wenn man einen Laptop kauft.
  • What do you have to pay attention to, when buying a laptop.
    (“Worauf muss ich achten…“… would also work.)
  • Bitte beachten Sie das Rauchverbot.
  • Please heed/mark that smoking is forbidden.
    (“achten auf” would sound out of place, because it lacks the sense of obeying.)
  • “Maria hat mich auf der Party überhaupt nicht beachtet.”
    “Naja… sie hat diesen neuen Fitnesstrainer.”
  • Maria didn’t pay me any attention/completely ignored me at the party.
    (“achten auf” would sound like she was careless, but not that she flat out ignored me)

The noun is die Beachtung and it mirrors the sense of the verb pretty closely, though it’s nowhere near as common.

  • “Wie gehst du mit Kritik um?”
    “Ich schenke ihr keine Beachtung, denn das sind alles nur Hater.”
  • “How do you deal with criticism?”
    “I ignore it/I pay it no heed, because it’s all just haters?”
    (this is pretty much a fixed phrase)

And while we’re at it let’s also mention missachten, which is kind of the opposite of beachten in the sense of obeying rules.

  • “Äh, und warum genau darf ich zwei Tage nicht mehr in die Küche?”
    “Du hast die Community Guidelines missachtet.”
    “Das hier ist eine Wohngemeinschaft, nicht Youtube. Und jetzt schließ auf.”
  • “UH… and why exactly am I not allowed to enter the kitchen for two days?”
    “You violated/didn’t heed the community guidelines.”
    “This is a flatshare, not Youtube. And now unlock the door.”

Cool.
Next up, we have beobachten. Looks a bit like beachten with an ob in there, but actually it’s a be-version of an old verb “aufachten” , which doesn’t exist anymore. We can think of this old aufachten as kind of “to watch upon” and from that it’s not all that far to the modern beobachten, which is about watching in the sense of monitoring or observing. It sounds very visual, usually, though it technically doesn’t have to be, and it has no active component…. though that’s debated in Quantum physics and psychology.

  • In den Bäumen versteckt beobachtet das Eichhörnchen die Einhorn-Versammlung.
  • Hidden in the trees, the squirrel watches/observes the assembly of the unicorns.
  • “Der Abwasch ist nicht gemacht, Thomas.”
    “Ja, und das ist deine Schuld. Weil du in die Küche geguckt hast. Der Beobachter beeinflusst die Realität. Schrödingers Abwasch … duhhh.”
    “Oh man…”
  • “The dishes are not done, Thomas.”
    “Yes, and that’s your fault. Because you looked into the kitchen. The observer influences reality. Schrödinger’s dishes… duhhh.”
    “Oh man….”

Last but not least, we have verachten, and as usual for a ver-verb the question is which of the four ideas of ver- are we looking at here: away, change, for or fault. If you see these for the first time now, then I highly recommend my article about the meaning of ver-, which I’ll link below :).
The ver- in verachten is of similar nature to the ver– in verkaufen, so it’s about “away“. Kaufen is to “trade to you“, verkaufen is “to trade away“. And similarly, if we think of achten as “to regard“, verachten used to be to disregard. You DON’T respect something or someone.
Over time, it actually got stronger, though, and today it’s pretty damn intense and essentially mean to disdain, to loath.
It’s not as visceral as hassen (to hate), but it’s equally as strong and deep.

  • “Willst du auch Weißwein?”
    “WAS?!?! Ich VERACHTE Weißwein! Wie kannst du mir das anbieten…”
    “Oh… äh… tut mir leid.”
  • “Do you also want white wine?”
    “WHAT?!?! I DISDAIN white whine! How you can offer that to me…”
    “Oh… uh… I’m sorry.”
  • Voller Verachtung guckte die Einhorn-Königin den Botschafter der Eichhörnchen an.
  • Full with disdain/contempt the unicorn queen looked at the emissary of the squirrels.

There’s also the adjective verächtlich, which means disdainfully, and this actually leads us right over to our last point of today… which is a third Acht.

the hateful Acht

Yes, you read that right. There’s actually a third Acht, and while it’s kind of out of date now, it was fairly common in the Medieval age. Back then, die Acht was actually an official decree that declared someone as an outlaw who may be hunted and killed by anyone in a realm without repercussions. Pretty much what a ban was, I think.
It’s unclear where the word comes from, but it’s definitely not related to the other two Achts that we’ve seen today.
And while the noun has fallen out of use and people generally use der Bann for bans of any kind, the verb based on this ban-Acht has survived – ächten.
I think the best match is to ostracize, though it’s not always a good match. Ächten is kind of weird to describe… it’s definitely about strongly rejecting something that you think is bad, but it’s not technically a ban. Or at least, it doesn’t have a “legal” component.

  • Schwarze Magie ist von fast allen Bewohnern des Zauberwalds geächtet.
  • WBM (weaponBlack magic is banned/outlawed by almost all inhabitants of the magical forest.
  • Bob, das Einhorn wird von den anderen Einhörnern wegen seiner Zebra-Mähne geächtet.
  • Bob, the unicorn is being ostracized by the other unicorns because of his zebra mane.

Anyway, it’s not really a word you’ll need much, but I wanted to mention it because it might be really confusing if you think of it in terms of heeding or the number 8.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of our little tour. Or should I say Achterbahnfahrt :). Well, okay, it wasn’t THAT wild, I guess. You know… Achterbahn is the German word for rollercoaster because it’s a train track that has a lot of 8 shaped curves.
But yeah, I hope you had a fun time today.
As always, if you want to check if you remember the most important points, you can take the little quizz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
Have a great week, and I’ll see you next time.

Further reading:

German Prefixes Explained – “ver-“

 

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Wilson
Wilson
10 months ago

I’m here to thank everyone who makes it possible for me to read this awesome article for free. So excited to start my journey with the Fitnesstrainer hahaha

Alan
Alan
10 months ago

Der beste Teil des Artikels ist Wojaks Brief an McDonalds, aber was um alles in der Welt ist ein Gehörnten Mähne?
Warum lässt Bob es nicht einfach färben?

Adrian
Adrian
10 months ago

Statt ‘achten auf’ kann man ‘achten über’ nutzen? Gibt es einen Unterschied? Vielleicht wenn etwas passiert in diesem Moment, statt in den Fall, dass etwas möglicherweise schaffen wird?

Adrian
Adrian
10 months ago
Reply to  Adrian

…im Falle…

Adrian
Adrian
10 months ago
Reply to  Adrian

…oder ‘falls’…. I need to read your article on ‘falls’; though not sure it mentions ‘im Falle’….

Adrian
Adrian
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Nein, aber ich habe etwas über ‘auf’ und ‘über’ gelesen – that suggested ‘auf’ when the future is involved and ‘über’ when present (I just saw your article suggests ‘goal’ rather than ‘future’)

Adrian
Adrian
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yes that was it. Another shortcut bites the dust :(

stephnie
stephnie
10 months ago

In this example:

“Ich habe große Achtung vor meinem Fitness-Trainer.”
“Meinst du Achtung für oder Interesse an?”
“Naja… beides.”

The first speaker sasys “Achtung vor “and the second says “Actung fuer”

Which is correct? Is the second speaker correcting the first?

As always, thanks very much for your blog!

Witches Pawlichies
Witches Pawlichies
10 months ago

Hallo, ich bin’s wieder, diesmal in einer noch größeren Depression als je zuvor, und ich habe ‘ne “spannende” frage an euch alle(n?) und zwar, wie geht ihr mit sprachelernenantrieblosigkeitsyndromdessterbens um? Denn mein Gehirn hat offensichtlich Spaß daran mir mein Leben zu erschweren.. Egal.. bitte nicht so ernst nehmen ( vieleicht doch) .
Tschüss.
jetzt gehe ich mein subscribe ernenuen denn wer bin ich um benachrichtigt zu werden dass ich nur zwei artikel pro woche lesen kann, excusez moi?!
Spaß und bleibt sicher. :*

Judit Brandmair
Judit Brandmair
10 months ago

Kopf hoch, lieber Pawli, du bist echt witzig und klug. Übe Achtsamkeit und sei nett zu dir selbstPass auf dich auf, LG

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
10 months ago

Denk daran, was du schon so alles gelernt hast. Irgendwann konntest du gar kein Deutsch und jetzt hast du einen ziemlich langen Kommentar komplett auf Deutsch geschrieben. Vielleicht war es anstrengend, das ist normal, aber du hast es geschafft und kannst stolz auf dich sein.

Dass dein Gehirn Spaß daran hat, dir das Leben zu erschweren – schön ausgedrückt, und das Gefühl kenne ich auch.

Vielleicht hilft es, wenn du Lernmethoden findest, die dir Spaß machen, wie z.B. Musik auf Deutsch hören und die Texte lernen, oder eins deiner Lieblingsbücher nochmal auf Deutsch lesen (mir ist es egal, wenn ich nur ein paar Sätze pro Tag schaffe, Kinderbücher sind auch eine Option), oder kurze Videos auf Youtube schauen zu Themen die dich interessieren und wo du dich gut auskennst (dann ist es leichter, ein paar neue Vokabeln zu lernen).

Es ist vollkommen normal, wenn du Dinge vergisst, nicht alles auf einmal verstehst, und mal einen schlechten Tag oder eine schlechte Woche hast. Lass dich nicht runterkriegen, mach einfach weiter, und feiere das, wenn du einen kleinen (oder größeren) Erfolg hast :)

Eric Rachut
Eric Rachut
10 months ago

“when it lays down” should be “when it lies down.” This error has become distressingly frequent in the US, particularly among the younger generation, since grammar is not taught, or only sketchily taught, it our schools these days. “To lie” is intransitive; “to lay” is transitive – it must take a direct object. “I lie down” is correct; “I lay down” is not, because you have not provided a direct object and are probably trying to say that you are lying down. It WOULD be correct, although kind of poetic in tone, to say “I lay myself down.” There is an old and pretty much forgotten children’s prayer that goes, “Now I lay me down to sleep…..” — “me” is the direct object. Note that “lay” is also the past tense for “to lie,” so you can rightly say “I lay on the bed last night.” The past tense of “to lay” is “laid,” as in “I laid the pencil down.”

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
10 months ago

I see “meines Erachtens” fairly often in online discussions. “Das ist m.E. nicht ernst gemeint / Aber es ist m.E. nur eine Frage der Zeit.”

If I’m reading this right, it looks like the “ob” in “beobachten” is the same as in “obdachlos”. So maybe “obdachlos” is something like not having a roof over your head. At least that’s a handy way for me to think of it. I sometimes have trouble remembering that word for some reason.

(Also the rhyme and rhythm worked out pretty well in the translation about the horned crest.)

Vorlaufer
Vorlaufer
10 months ago

An example of the imperative of achten could be the beer drinking song ‘Ach du liebe Augustin’.

Elizabeth Lauer
Elizabeth Lauer
10 months ago

komische Worte: Pickelhaube, Schnapsidee, Kummerspeck. Außerdem hast Du “when it lays down…” geschrieben. Das soll “lies down” sein (intransitive, irregular), or “when it lays something down” (transitive, regular).
Es gab vor viele Jahrhunderts ein Lied: Ihr Männer gibt Acht vor hübschen Frauen die haben doch etwas Gewisses. Von Marlene Dietrich (wer war das? sagst Du) gesungen.
Außerdem, sehr gute Sendung, leicht zu hören. Hast du vielleicht ein Schluck Helium geatmet für ” … community guide lines …” Komisch.

SteveBead
SteveBead
10 months ago

“Here. Watch out for him carefully.” – more idiomatic would be “be careful with it”

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It’s more the “watch out for” part that’s odd. The personification works fine, even in English, but “watch out for him” sounds way more like sich vor ihm hüten or nach ihm Ausschau halten. At least in context, it sounds like what’s meant is to be careful or keep a close eye on the pen, right?

jclaridge
jclaridge
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Maybe ‘watch over’ then, if like a baby, in place of ‘watch out for’? (Unless is an evil kind of baby..)

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
10 months ago
Reply to  jclaridge

I kind of like “watch over” – has almost a slightly epic or at least very serious vibe. “Take good care of” would be a bit more normal/everyday.

jclaridge
jclaridge
10 months ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Ha, thanks! Yes does sound bit epic I guess, kind of guardian angel vibe.

jclaridge
jclaridge
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

‘Take good care of..?’ So as in ‘Take Good care of My Baby’ – which I now think is also a song title?

jclaridge
jclaridge
10 months ago
Reply to  jclaridge

And yes I agree ‘Take Good Care of.. (my Baby) does sound v. trite compared to ‘watch over’ which is in different realm, more the kind of Power of Love: ‘I’ll protect you from the hooded claw, keep the vampire for your door’ sort of higher level. (Much higher level of protection than usually granted to a pen, but then this is an exception!)

peterlobl
10 months ago

Ein schlechtes Gutachten kann einfach nicht außer Acht lassen.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

And the phrase außer Acht lassen – I think I’ve probably heard that one more often than some of the other ones in the article.

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 months ago

Tiny minuscule typo – to take care OF :)

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 months ago

Danke danke danke, wie immer! Acht hat ein vierte Bedeutung für mich – acht! = what the!

Kris
Kris
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Vielleicht meint er “echt”

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
10 months ago

Dear Emanuel. Please don’t worry about poor sound quality etc. We engage with you because your posts are so interesting.and because you are never boring. I might have given up with German if not for you. Many thanks x

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
10 months ago

Hallo lieber Emanuell,
Ich habe endlich die Unterschied zwischen verachten /missachten und achten auf etwas / aufpassen auf etwas verstanden ! Vielen Dank.
Bis Bald

Nietzsche
Nietzsche
10 months ago

alle deiner Posten sind sehr hilfreich. danke schön.

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren
10 months ago

Boy, you found some good stuff to smoke before this lesson! Sehr lustig.

Elsa
Elsa
10 months ago

Hallo,
Emanuel, you need to acht auf your typos :)))))
the number 8 other words” (the number 8 and other words)
Here’s one in German: “Darauf müssen Sie achten, wenn sie 2021″ (Darauf müssen Sie achten, wenn Sie 2021)
“in context of rules” (in the context of rules)
would sounds out of place” (would sound out of place)
“doesn’t exist any more” (anymore)
“my article about the meaning of for” (you mean the meaning of -ver, right?)
“to contempt” (contempt is not a verb, you can say “to have contempt for”; if verachten has a disdain/contempt feel to it, do you reckon it could be translated as “to loathe” or is loathing too strong?)
“Ächten kind of weird to describe” (Ächten is kind of weird to describe)
“Or least” (Or at least)
“it’s train track” (it’s a train track)

Thanks for yet anothe great article, I’ve only now understood the difference between achten auf and aufpassen auf!

Bis bald!