Word of the Day – “dauern”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a look at the meaning of:




And although dauern doesn’t really have a direct one word counterpart in English, explaining it… ahem… won’t take long. Because… that’s basically what it is… to take in the sense of taking an amount of time.
But of course there’s a little more to say about it than that, so let’s jump right in :).

The origin of dauern are in Latin. There was the word durus, which meant hard, solid and there was the related verb durare.
Durare first meant to become hard, solid and then slowly shifted toward the result of being solid… the sense of lasting.And from there is finally moved toward to take an amount of time.

Now, the Germanic tribes had their own word for the concept of taking an amount of time: the ancestors of the verb währen. Which is still very much around in German. The verb itself is still around in some fixed expressions…

  • Ehrlich währtam längsten.
  • Honest lasts the longest.
  • Was lange währt wird gut.
  • What takes a long time (to finish) will turn out good.

… but what’s REALLY common is the word während, which is German for during and while.

But also the Latin durare made its way into German and English. In English, we see it words like during, endure or duration.
And just as a side note (nerd on) have you noticed that während and during are literally the same form? The present participle? Like… during the day originally meant “lasting/taking the day“.
Anyway (
nerd off)… the Germans added an a to it because they felt like it had too many “r” sounds (yeah, suuuuuure) and they liked dauern so much that left währen aside and made dauern their new number one word for to take an amount of time.
Time for examples :)

Seems like taking amount of time as a translation works pretty well, but there a really big difference.

mistakes with “dauern”

In English you can easily add a person to the whole thing by saying “it takes someone[amount of time]. Makes sense to add that information but from a grammar point of view it is kind of a strange phrasing. Or maybe it just feels strange to me.
Either way, it does NOT work in German. You have to use brauchen(to need) in these sentences.

Using dauernin the second example is so weird, there is a good chance that they won’t even be able to guess what you’re trying to say.

And there’s a variation of that pitfall, actually. Dauern also DOESN’T work for the phrasing:

“X takes [amount of time] to do.”.

Like here….

  • The cake takes 10 minutes to prepare.
  • Der Kuchen dauert 10 Minuten um gemacht zu werden…. is pretty wrong.

In German, you’d rephrase that to “It takes 10 minutes to…”

And then there’s a third mistake with using dauern that I also hear quite often. And that is about people using dauern as a translation for to last.
It CAN be translation, but the focus of to last is the idea of just being there over time, which the idea of dauernis CONSUMING time.

  • Oh god, this presentation lasted forever.
  • Oh Gott, diese Präsentation hat ewig gedauert.
  • Flex Tape – and the boat will last forever.
  • Flex Tape – und das Boot hält für immer.

In the first one, the presentation is taking up everyone’s time. The focus is consumption. So here, dauernworks perfectly. In the second example, the focus is NOT on taking up time. It’s about just being there. And using dauernhere would be really weird. Like… a building can last for centuries but it cannot dauern for centuries.
So I think the best and most precise translation for dauern is the phrase “to take up time”.

All right.
So now we have a pretty good idea what dauernis and how to use it.
But there’s not only the verb. There are also quite a few really cool related words to discover. And some of them don’t seem to fit in. So let’s take a look.

the dauern-family

First up, we have dauernd and it’s brother andauernd. Both words mean about the same and their translation, at least to me, is a slightly negative sounding casual all the time…. in sense of not literally all the time but a lot and reoccurring.

A similar word is dauerhaftbut this carries no negative overtones and the meaning is more like lasting or there to last (dict.cc has like 20 translations for it). But it’s more for the newspapers and you will understand it when you see it so we’ll skip the examples.

Another really really useful word is die Ausdauer. It can mean endurance or stamina, in a fitness context it also means cardio. But it is not limited to the physical so it can also be perseverance or similar words.

And of course, there are also prefix version.
For instance andauern and überdauern. And do you remember how dauernby itself wasn’t a translation for the idea of just being there over time? Well, these two are about that very idea.
Überdauernmeans to outlast or outlive.

Andauern can have various translations, depending on context (continue, last, hold up, stand or linger).But that makes it sound like it’s really common, which it actually isn’t. It’s enough if you keep it in your passive vocabulary, but you won’t need to use it actively. So I’ll skip the examples for this one because there’s a much much more useful one waiting for us.

I am talking about bedauern. And bedauern is the (soft) German version for to regret or to be sorry for. It often sounds slightly formal and it is not as strong and “personal” as bereuen, but still you’ll probably hear it in everyday life.

And now the big question is of course: how?
How does this meaning of bedauerntie in with the core idea of lasting?
And the answer is: it doesn’t.
is actually related to teuer (expensive) and has nothing to do with the lasting.
And making a connection between expensive and regret is not that hard. I just need to look at my new yacht for instance. So much money and it’s not even that big. I should have gotten the kebab instead. It was either the yacht, or the kebab. Well, I’ll never listen to you again, whispering unicorn of spending.
Anyway, things are getting weird fast and reading this post has gedauert long enough. Time to wrap this up :).
This was our little look at the meaning of dauern.
As always, if you want to check how much you understood you can take the little quiz we have prepared for you.
Well… we will have prepared. It’ll take a little while longer, but it’ll come.
And of course if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.


** vocab **

dauern – take [amount of time]
die Dauer – the duration
jemand braucht [amount of time] – takes someone [amount of time]

dauernd/andauernd – incessantly, continuously, all the time (often with a slightly negative tone)

überdauern – outlast

die Ausdauer – the stamina, cardio, perseverance
bedauern – to be sorry for (deed/person
das Bedauern – regret, compunction
bedauerlich – [it’s a] pity
bedauerlicherweise – unfortunately

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