and welcome to our German Word of the Day. Today, I checked the date. 18th of December, the day numbering app said. And I was like “Holy crap… I had a dentist appointment two days ag… ” okay it is about to be Christmas and that means presents. Yeay. A present is ein Geschenk in German but we’ve already talked about that last year. So this year will talk about what the under payed, over monitored temporary elves of Jeff Bezos do… uhm… I mean … Santa Clause. He does it. Today, we’ll look at the meaning of
Uh… I mean bringen of course. Seriously… bringen doesn’t seem to be all that interesting. It is the twin brother of the English to bring.
- Bring mir einen Kaffee!
- Bring me a coffee!
The origin of the word isn’t really known but my personal theory is that the word goes back to the old Indo-European root brrrrrrrrrinnnnng which it is an onomonote… homeopath… uh… omapotato… uhm… an imitation of the sound of the door bell… like… the mail man brrrrinnnnngs a packa… what? Oh… no door bells? Ohhhh… well, it’s just a theory. Oh by the way… have you ever wished your inbox could say “You’ve got femail”… just freaking once?!
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So… the verb bringen seems to be boring but it is full of surprises. For one thing, German speakers much more fond of it than English speakers. In German, you sure make a lot, but you also bring a lot. And then, there are the prefix versions of bringen and some really have WTF-potential. I mean… umbringen means to kill… really? But let’s look at the bare bringen first.
The basic meaning is the same as in English.
- Ich habe dir ein Buch gebracht.
- I’ve brought you a book.
- Dieser Cent hat mir Glück gebracht.
- This cent brought be luck.
But the German one is also used in contexts where English prefers to take… like for example if you accompany someone.
- Thomas bringt Maria zum Bahnhof.
- Thomas takes/accompanies Maria to the train station.
Bringen is really the standard word for that. And it is not limited to real locations … just as you can bringen someone to a bus stop you can bringen someone somewhere on a mental or abstract level.
- Ich bringe dich zum Lachen.
- I bring you to the laughing (lit.)
- I make you laugh.
- Ich bringe dich dazu, meine Hausaufgaben zu machen.
- I bring you to doing my homework (lit.)
- I’ll get you to/ I’ll make you do my homework.
- Dadurch, dass er (mal wieder) Marias Geburtstag vergessen hat, hat sich Thomas in eine schwierige Lage gebracht. Maria ist stinksauer.
- By forgetting Maria’s birthday (aGAIN), Thomas has maneuvered himself into a difficult situation. Maria is furious.
And it is not limited to people.
- Ich bringe das Auto wieder zum Laufen.
- I get the car working again.
As we see, English uses to get and to make for that. Now, those verbs have in them a notion of achieving or accomplishing something. Like… making it on time or getting things done. And this is part of bringen, too.
- Thomas der alte Scrabble-Fuchs hat es mal auf 900 Punkte in einer Runde gebracht.
- Thomas, the wily fox of scrabble, once made 900 points in one game.
- Sie wird es weit bringen.
- She will bring it very far.(lit.)
- She’ll have quite a career/She’ll get very far in life.
And before you ask… it is a dummy es in the last two examples… it doesn’t mean anything. It is just there because grammar says “You have to bringen something, you shall not just bringen.”And since there isn’t anything particular, the dummy es fills in so German grammar is content. Better not to piss it off lest it get out the exceptions.
Anyway… a variation of this accomplishment idea is the verb vollbringen which is a rather positive term for getting something done.
- Es ist vollbracht. Das Bad ist sauber.
- The deed is done. The bathroom is clean.
All right. Now… achieving something usually implies some sort of gain or benefit. And that leads us right to the next use of bringen…an important one.
- Das bringt nichts.
- There’s no use.
This use is hyper-mega-triple-platinum-afterburner-common. Es or das brings something. There is not exactly the ONE translation for this but the idea is always the same.
- Es bringt nichts, ihn immer anzurufen. Damit nervst du ihn nur.
- There is no use in calling him all the time. You’ll only get on his nerves.
- Thomas will abnehmen. Deshalb steht er jetzt jeden Tag auf dem Stepper. Aber bisher hat das wenig gebracht.
- Thomas wants to loose weight. That’s why he’s on the stepper every day. But so far it didn’t do much.
- “Ich trinke jetzt jeden morgen ein Glas wasserstofffreies Wasser.”
“Und was soll das bringen?”
- “I drink a glass of hydrogen-free water every morning now.”
“And what’s that supposed to do?”
I feel like this bringen also kind of exists in English too, but in German it is really incredibly common.
All right. Now, are that all of the meanings of bringen? No, there is one more we should mention and that is bringen as in to have the guts. Or actually it is a general to have what it takes since it works not only for fear but also for moral hesitation or qualms.
- “Ach, der neue Kollege ist soooo heiß.”
“Na dann sprich ihn an. Frag ihn, ob ihr mal was trinken gehen wollt.”
“Nee… das bring’ ich nicht.”
- “*sigh*… the new colleague is soooo hot.”
“Well, then make a move. Ask him if you guys should go for a drink some time.”
“Naaaah… I don’t dare.”
- “Die Katze rasieren? Die arme Katze. Das bring ich nicht!”
- “Shaving the cat? The poor cat. I can’t do that!”
So, clearly we have a wide variety of us… oh… and I see we have a call, here. Ekatharina from Novosibirsk in Russia, welcome to the show
“Hi Emanuel thanks for taking my call…. I have a question.”
Sure, go right ahead.
“So… you mentioned all those different meanings like the standard bringing and the abstract mental bringing and the … uhm… the… “
“Yeah, the achieving one and the benefit one and last one. But I was thinking that they all kind of share the idea of delivery… “
“Well, I mean… take for instance this super common one …. the ‘Das bringt nichts’. Can’t we just think of it as if this ‘es’ doesn’t deliver? Like…Grandfather Frost brings me a book about dogs and the book in turn brings me nothing?”
Hmmm…. yeah… that actually makes a lot of sense… it’s even better than the benefit-idea since it is the basic meaning of the verb…
“Yeah… and it works for the others too. For example… Thomas delivered 900 points in scrabble or I don’t ‘deliver’ making a move on the new guy…. I don’t know… to me it makes sense”
Oh wow… you’re totally right. It works. I did not really see the connection but all the meanings are more or less abstract facets of the basic bringing. That’s a really cool view … thank you so much for bringing that up.
“Haha. I was worried you’d say it’s nonsense”
Oh don’t think that. When it comes to those kind of things there is no right or wrong. Whatever makes sense for you and helps you remember… that’s perfect no matter how weird or abstract it is… and yours wasn’t.
“Can I ask another question?”
“Okay, so .. is bringen the best word for all of those meanings? Like… can I just use it all the time or is it more complicated?”
Hmm… let me think… so, the ones that are safe are the standard bringen, the abstract bringen is very common too and you definitely need the benefit-bringen… the one with “Es bringt nichts” or “Es bringt viel“. As for the others… I’d say it is enough to be aware of them. Using them correctly is not as easy. For instance the daring-one has a very specific tone to it that doesn’t fit in all situations. Same for the achievement one. But I can’t really tell when it’ll work and when it won’t. Does that help?
“Yeah it does… thanks a lot.”
Well thank you. Are you ready for the prefixes now?
“Oh… I’m afraid not… I have to get all those presents you know… I’ll catch up online once this Chrismadness is over.”
Haha.. that’s cool.You won’t miss much anyway. So have fun searching for presents and have a great holiday.
“You too.. bye.”
All right. So… in the remainder of the show we’ll look at the prefix versions of bringen and we’ll start with….
This is probably the first one that comes to mind and the difference to bringen is that for mitbringen, the bringing is just kind of a side effect of something else you’re doing.
- Ich bringe dir das Buch.
Here, I am bringing the book to you. That is my goal and the purpose of my coming to you.
- Ich bringe dir das Buch mit.
This sentence implies that I am going to you anyway and I could just bring along the book. In English you would probably say bring with me or just bring but German just uses mitbringen and it is kind of strict. Like… you’re having a party and I am invited and I already said I’d come. Then you call me and ask
- Kannst du mir mein Buch bringen?
I would be quite confused. Why do I need to bring you your book? Can’t I just bring it with (me) when I come, later? I mean, people would understand it but the mit is not really optional. There is a difference between mitbringen and bringen and people feel it. So try getting used to the mit.
Verbringen means to spend as in to spend time. WHAT? But if you’ve read th.. I mean listened to the show about the prefix ver- you already know how it works. Ver adds the meaning of away here.
- Ich verbringe den Sommer in Schweden.
- I bring away/by the summer in Sweden.(lit.)
- I spend the summer in Sweden.
A variation of that is (he)rumbringen which is used if passing the time is kind of a chore.
- Ich habe nichts zu tun, aber ich muss noch 3 Stunden rumbringen bevor ich Feierabend machen kann.
- I have nothing to do but I have 3 more hours to pass before I can go off work.
This is kind of the idea of to bring in. The ein basically adds a direction to the standard bringing. A common use is with money.
- Dieser Job bringt mir viel Geld ein.
- This job earns me a lot of money.
And then there is a reflexive use of it… you einbringen yourself. And that means to take part… for instance in a project or in a discussion.
- Maria muss sich im Meeting mehr einbringen.
- Maria has to play a more active role/partake more actively in the meetings.
Should you add that word to you active vocabulary… hmmm… maybe not. I think I use it once a month so “filing” it on the passive pile ought to be enough.
This one has two meanings too. The first one is again the literal bringing something with the notion of approach added. You can anbringen an argument in a meeting for instance. But this isn’t all that common. So I won’t give an example. A variation of that is vorbringen which is kind of presenting aurally. Vorbringen is often done by lawyers in court when they make accusations or something.
The other anbringen means to fix something on something… usually on a vertical surface. And that kind of ties in with the whole achievement idea we had earlier.
- Ich bringe meine Regale an der Wand an.
- I fix my shelves on the wall.
Theoretically you can also anbringen a sticker on a bumper but to me that would sound overly technical and more complicated than it actually is.
So bottom line… anbringen is not used that much and it is definitely a candidate for the passive pile.
Ab is often the opposite of an so abbringen could very well mean to unfix something. But it doesn’t.
- Thomas will Maria davon abbringen zu kündigen.
- Thomas wants to talk Maria out of quitting her job.
That’s it. Talk someone out of something. It obviously connects to the whole getting people to do stuff idea of bringen. Is it useful? Yes. Is it a must have? Definitely not. Put in on your passive pile :)
Now this is a bit surprising and even more so if you know that überbringen means to deliver as in delivering a message. Unterbringen means… to accommodate, or to place.
- Wir waren in dem Hotel sehr gut untergebracht.
- We were well brought under in the hotel.(lit)
- The accommodation was really good.
- Ich weiß nicht, wo ich meine Sachen unterbringen soll, während ich im Ausland bin.
- I don’t know where to put all my stuff while I’m abroad.
It works for people and for things but the people-use is the more common one, I think. Especially the noun Unterbringung is something you’ll find a lot in context of vacation and travel.
Now, why does this verb mean that anyway? Well, I think it is simply the idea of getting under a roof.
And is it useful? Well kind of. You’ll definitely see it but there are alternatives for it so once more I’d say… store it on the passive pile. That’s the really big one over there :).
Now, finally this is actually a USEFUL word. Beibringen has bei in it which is related to by. To bring by. Hmmm. And to what weird, twisted, absurd meaning could German possibly have bent this?
German, you are full of shit.
Beibringen means to teach or to show and it does make sense when you think of it as kind of delivering knowledge or skill to someone.
And there is actually a side meaning of it where it is about passing on information.
- Ich weiß nicht, wie ich meiner Freundin beibringen soll, dass ich ihren Laptop kaputt gemacht habe.
- I don’t know how to tell my girlfriend that I broke her laptop.
You bring by the information. And this is really close to teaching….
- Ich bringe dir Jonglieren bei.
- I’ll show/teach you how to juggle.
Now, I think many of you don’t realize but German doesn’t really have a good word for to teach. A teacher is ein Lehrer and there is the verb lehren but this is actually quite heavy sounding. I wouldn’t want my elementary school teacher lehren me stuff. Erklären (explain) is okay,mich unterrichten in (teach me in) is okay or beibringen mir (teach me) is okay but lehren… brrr.. so serious. I’m a kid. I want fun. Same for middle school, high school, college and university. I am a kid. I want fu…okay I guess at university lehren has its place. That’s what professors do at university. Beibringen is the best choice for small things with a limited complexity that involve actively doing something. You can’t really beibringen someone math because that would take decades and it is just fictio… I mean theory. And for REALLY small things, like how to boil pasta… the better choice is probably zeigen (to show) but for stuff like riding a bike, juggling, multiply on paper and so on, beibringen is the best choice.
All right. Now… those weren’t all the prefix verbs. There is wegbringen (bring away), erbringen (rare: deliver in context of performance), umbringen ( to kill… from bringing someone around a corner to rob him), ausbringen (some farm stuff I think), durchbringen (get someone through… for instance a hard winter), and aufbringen (to upset people, to stop and frisk a ship)… hmmm… I guess the last one deserves an example
- Maria ist sehr aufgebracht, als sie erfährt, dass Thomas mit Freunden golfen ist, und nicht, wie er gesagt hat, auf Arbeit.
- Maria is very upset after she found out that Thomas is golfing with friends, instead of being at work as he had claimed.
But I think that’s enough for today. That was our German Word of the Day bringen. It means to bring but German really uses all the facets of delivery that you can imagine… like getting people somewhere mentally, achieving or accomplishing something, daring something… it’s all kind of in there. But the meanings you really need are the standard bringen, the getting people somewhere on a mental level and the bringen of “Das bringt nichts” as in “There’s no use/it is pointless.” Those are the ones you should incopr..innorcepa… uhm… add to your active vocabulary. As for the rest. Let it
rot ripe on the passive pile.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.