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:

dauern (dao-un)

And although it doesn’t really have a direct one to one translation in English it won’t take long... … and yes, the color is on purpose. Because this is kind of like the meaning of dauern.
That’s right. Dauern is to take an amount of time. Its origins are Latin. The word durus meant hard, solid and related verb durare first meant to become hard, solid, lasting and then it took on the meaning of to last or  to take an amount of time.
Quite a useful verb so even after the Roman empire had stopped … well… lasting , all Roman based languages kept a version of it. Now, the German tribes already had a word for this… the ancestor of todays währen, but when they saw the Roman one they were like “Hmmmm…. pretty cool word… we should have that too.”  
So they imported it from French and in medieval  German as well as in Old English and other Germanic languages there was a verb dūren.  The Germans then made some adjustments to it… added an a and changed the order of letters a bit to dauern… because they figured that with aue it would be 10 % more fuel efficient,  and even longer lasting. A huge success. Währen lost a large part of its market-share. It still exists as a verb but it’s kind of rare and its true legacy is certainly the IMPORTANT word während… which means while and during.

  • Während meiner Präsentation sind die Leute eingeschlafen.
  • During my presentation people fell asleep.
  • Ich bin sauer, weil du, während ich den Abwasch gemacht habe, nur dumm rumgesessen hast.
    I am mad because while I was doing the dishes you did but sit around like an idiot.

But not only währen had a hard time with the competition of dauern. The  old English dūren was outshone too, sales plummeted, factories had to close and Eventually the English decided that rather than copying the Germans they would have to come up with a completely whole new approach… and they did. In 1743 they presented the Ford 2 Take which was a huge success. And duren was soon forgotten. Only the verb, that is. There are a bunch of words based on this root. The most obvious one is duration which would be die Dauer in German. Then, there is the verb to endure which still has the whole lasting idea in it. But the most fascinating word is… during. Think about it.

  • During the day,….

Sounds like an everyday phrase. But it is nothing but a regular -ing-form with a weird sentence structure… a poetic one… or at least it seems poetic to me. Let me embarrass myself real quick:

  • And as I entered the God-forsaken borough, 
    I tell you,
    I saw plenty I didn’t expect to see

    drinking, the men; drinking, the women; drinking, even the children; 
     drinking from barrels, from bottles, from puddles
    and even from a goat’s teat.

So… during actually used to be a verb and during the day was something like “the day was lasting/during”, if that makes sense.
But let’s actually get to dauern. Now, I said the best translation would be to take an amount of time.

  • Es hat eine Weile gedauert, sich an die Deutsche Satzstruktur zu gewöhnen.
  • It took a while to get used to the German sentence structure.
  • Dauert das lange?”
    “Nee, nur 5 Minuten.”
  • “Is it gonna take long?”
    “Nah, just 5 minutes.”
  • Da bist du ja endlich… das hat ja ewig gedauert.
  • There you are, at loooong last… that sure took forever.

It even works without any indication of time… then it will often be accompanied by coloring words and it implies that something takes or took long.

  • Irgendwann will ich perfekt Spanisch sprechen, aber das dauert noch.
  • I want to be able to speak Spanish fluently at some point, but it’ll take a while (still).
  • Das hat ganz schön gedauert.
  • That sure took a while.

Now, dauern is used regularly in German, however, it is not always the word to use.  First of all, it is not a translation for it takes me (or someone)…

  • Writing this sentences takes me 30 seconds.

In those cases, the best German phrasing is this:

  • Ich brauche 30 Sekunden, um diesen Satz zu schreiben.
  • Es dauert mich 30 Sekunden,… is wrong

The second one is wrong and makes no sense at all… there is a good chance that they won’t even be able to guess what you’re trying to say. Why? We’ll see in a bit. So … here’s a direct comparison:

  • That takes 5 minutes.
  • Das dauert 5 Minuten.
  • That takes me 5 minutes.
  • Dafür brauche ich 5 Minuten.

Dauern also doesn’t sound right when you have a concrete object that takes some time.

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

In German people would rephrase the content such that we have this weird impersonal es/it being the subject while cake will be the direct object of a zu-construction.

  • Es dauert 10 Minuten, den Kuchen zu backen.
  • It takes 10 minutes to bake the cake.

The last thing has nothing to do with to take but I think it is worth mentioning anyway because it could be a trap too. So… Dauern is also not used to indicate a running time of sorts… that would be gehen.

  • Der Film geht 120 Minuten.
  • The movie is 120 minutes long.
  • Das Rennen geht bis um 12.
  • Das Rennen dauert bis um 12 … some people might say this but to me gehen sounds better.
  • The race runs till 12. (thanks to all for the many options… couldn’t resist the pun)

All right… Now… looks like we’ve got quite some limitations here. But still dauern is part of German daily vocabulary and you should definitely know it.
Basically, dauern is at home in constructions that have the following pattern:

  • Es dauert [insert time], …. zu tun.
  • It takes [insert time], to do …


  • Es dauert [insert time], bis/ehe….
  • It takes [insert time], until/before

or, if the stuff that is done has been said already:

  • Das/es dauert [insert time].
  • That/it takes [insert coin].

And remember… it does not work for it takes me
Now before we wrap up let’s look at some words that are based on dauern.
The first one is 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.

  • Es hat (an)dauernd geregnet.
  • It was raining all the time.
  • Mein Computer stürzt (an)dauernd ab.
  • My PC keeps freezing like every 10 minutes.
  • Ich kann nicht arbeiten, wenn ich (an)dauernd E-Mails kriege.
  • I can’t work when I get E-Mails all the time.
  • Dauert’s noch lange bis das Essen fertig ist?”
    “Wenn du dauernd fragst, dann ja.”
  • Is it going to be a while longer until the food’s ready?”
    “If you keep asking all the time, then yes.”

A similar word is dauerhaft but 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 word with dauern in it 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.

  • What’s an MC if he doesn’t have stamina
  • Was ist ein MC wenn er keine Ausdauer hat/ohne Ausdauer
  • Ich mache Ausdauertraining.
  • I’m doing cardio.
  • Es braucht einiges an Ausdauer um Deutsch zu lernen.
  • Quite some patience/persistence is needed to learn German.

There are also 2 verbs with dauern in it… andauern and überdauern. Überdauern means to outlast or outlive.

  • Die alten Kathedralen haben viele Jahrhunderte überdauert.
  • The old cathedrals (out)lasted many centuries (and are lasting still).

Andauern is harder to translate… Leo.org suggests a bunch of words, among them: continue, last, hold up, stand, linger and продолжиться. The last one is by far the best match.However, it is Russian. As for the English ones… each one might at some point be a valid translation of andauern. But andauern will almost never be a good translation for any of those words. The idea of andauern is that something is still going on (like a meeting or a conflict). So I’d say… just interpret it that way when you see it and don’t bother using it.

All right … so… I think that’s it for today. This was our German word of the Day dauern. It comes from Latin, is closely related to the English word during, and it is used for constructions like this:

  • It takes 20 minutes to count to 1200 at a pace of 1 number per second.
  • Bei einer Zählgeschwindigkeit von 1 Zahl pro Sekunde dauert es 20 Minuten bis 1200 zu zählen.

Great way to get started when hitting on someone . Oh… the number is accurate. I’ve tried it.
I am quite sick at the moment and my bar job consumes me, devours me, wolves me down.  So I am more than glad that there isn’t a second meaning of dauern which has NOTHING to do with the first one but which, when given a be-prefix is so important that I can’t omit it. …
That sure would suck.
So… if you have any questions or suggestions leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.