German Word of the Day – ” ganz”

Hello everyone,

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

ganz

 

On the top 100 German words list of the University of Leipzig ganz ranks in at number 99, just before Berlin but this is based on written German and I think in spoken it is even  more common.
So let’s break it down, shall we.

  • z, g, a, n

Cool, so now it’s broken. BRO-KEN! Like those guys here
Now, let’s reassemble it..

  • ganz

Awesome, now we fixed it. Now it is not broken. It is ganz. Now you’re like “Is he drunk?” but no, not this time. I just wanted to show you what ganz is… it means whole, not broken :)

And in combination with the most generic German verb machen it can mean to repair.

But I think it is better to use reparierenganz machen sounds odd in a lot of situations. So … the main use case for the not broken-ganz is a phrasing like

It is the direct opposite of

And something is pretty much limited to pieces of technical of mechanical equipment. Ganz  doesn’t work for a broken bone or for a  broken vase… at least not to me.
Anyway…  this is the original meaning of ganz, and it be traced back to the 8th century.  But the word has broadened since… just like me, this winter… I guess, I sit too much. Hold on, I’ll lay do…

Ganz – the whole

If we had to choose one English word  as the MAIN meaning of todays ganz and ganze and ganzen/m/r/s  that word would be: whole.
And that makes absolute sense.
You see… the word whole is related to the words health and heal and both those words are related to the German word heil which is part of other German words like heilbar (curable), Heiler (healer), Heilung (healing) and also heilig the English brother of which is holy which, despite the similar sound and spelling, is not related to hole which is something you can dig in the
sand which is something to eat …. don’t worry… I am confused too.
In short, whole is part of a big heal family and the common core of this family could be described as ... not injured or not broken…. hey… just like the original ganz.
Clearly, ganz is not related to this family and still it kind of came down the same path as whole…  (oh god, what did I just say? That sounded and awful lot like a different word)… from a meaning not broken to a meaning entire or all. .Time for examples…

And more:

Now this is pretty straight forward (except for the endings…but that is another story) and this is THE MAIN thing you should remember of this post. You can take any entire or whole pretty much…  ganze/m/n/r/s/y will be the translation.
And now it starts to get complex… with all. Here are some version that do work.

And here are some versions that don’t work:

  • I forgot all I had learned.
  • Ich habe das ganze, was ich gelernt hatte, vergessen… sounds wrong and is long and clunky
  • Ich habe alles, was ich gelernt hatte, vergessen…. is correct …  still long and clunky though :)
  • I did all I could.
  • Ich tat das ganze, was ich konnte… is wrong
  • Ich tat alles was ich konnte.
  • I payed for all of us.
  • Ich habe für uns ganze bezahlt… is terribly wrong and not even understandable.
  • Ich habe für uns alle bezahlt.
  • You need to find all 3 rings to complete the quest.
  • Du must die ganzen 3 Ringe finden um die Mission zu erfüllen…. is wrongish
  • Du musst alle 3 Ringe finden um die Mission zu erfüllen.

I have really thought a lot about this and I found it almost impossible to come up with a rule… so here is my best shot:
Whenever you can think of the all thing as an entirety of things (like the entirety of my beer or the entirety of my college stuff) then ganz probably works. If a rephrasing with every (one/thing) is natural, then ganz doesn’t work.

I know that there is an overlap and it is blurry and probably doesn’t even work for all the examples but I honestly can’t do any better than that. If you find a good source online then please please share it with us.
Oh but don’t think it has to do with singular or plural… it doesn’t. There is plural ganze too. It just means something different….

or

or

So… die ganzen followed by a plural noun means all the/those … in sense of  all but not literally all… in the movie example using ganz suggests, or better, doesn’t rule out the possibility that there might have been one or 2 good scenes that were not in the trailer. If I used “alle guten Szenen” that would really mean EVERY good scene…. Oh my, I hope this makes some sense.
Anyway… I think we have spent enough time on that.
Just think of ganze/r/n/m/s as whole or entire. Sometimes it’ll work for all too, sometimes won’t… and sometimes it works but only in colloquial speech:

I’m sorry I can’t do any better. If you have specific questions just leave me a comment and we will continue the discussion there. But for now let’s move on to the other meaning of ganz… because it is just as important.

ganz – the intensifier … kind of

If you take the idea of whole and you bend it a little then words like total or complete are not that far away.  Why am I saying this? Because ganz – this time without any ending – can take things to the extreme to the extreme… just like totally or completely.

Now.. does this works too?

Sure does… and even this… I mean, kind of

So… whenever a description has an extreme or maximum of sorts, ganz can take it there. This also implies that nicht ganz means about the same as almost and it is used that way a lot.

Now… not all adjectives have an extreme … for instance fast doesn’t.

  • The car was completely fast.

That does not make that much sense.
For those adjectives ganz can work like a “normal” intensifier.

However, I would suggest to not use it that way. If you need to take things to the extreme use ganz but if you can just intensify go with other intensifiers like sehr, total, voll or echt !
Why? Because ganz doesn’t always sound right. Often it sounds really of place while all the other words are just fine.

I can’t tell you when or why this is. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that ganz sometimes, for certain words it doesn’t intensify anything. Sometimes it does the opposite.
Oh… … … … …
Yes, I am sorry but in combination with certain adjectives, ganz actually seems to tone it them.

All this feels kind of like this:

  • The movie was very okay.

I don’t know what it does but very doesn’t intensify okay here. The sentence is not a more positive judgment than

  • The movie was okay.

So… sometimes ganz doesn’t amplify at all… mainly in combination with the following words: gut, gern, ok, nett, interessant, lustig or schön. Especially ok, nett and gut. Why those and not others? I think it is random.

Sympatisch and nett are both moderately positive and yet, reading the first version, I would perceive ganz as giving not a strong clearly a nice emphatic tone to sympatisch. In the second version I would assume that it is the toning down, skeptical one. However, it all ultimately depends on how people actually say the sentence. I can say the second sentence in a way that makes ganz a positive intensifier. I actually think that the toning down effect has not so much  to do with ganz. It is just the melody.

So… bottom line:  ganz is an “extremifier” that, for some words works as an intensifier too and when you hear someone saying:

with a voice that sounds rather unexcited or even disappointed… don’t be confused. Ganz then doesn’t mean anything pretty much.

Some expressions with ganz

Now… before we wrap up, let’s look at some fixed expressions with ganz. The first one is ganz schön something.

I think the main difference between ganz schön and ziemlich or similar words is that ganz schön has a more personal touch. Ziemlich can be an “objective” word while “ganz schön” always implies that you think that and you’re maybe surprised or stunned or skeptical.

is more of an accuse than

  • Du warst ziemlich lange im Bad.

And, since it is always fun to see what weird stupid things we can do with German…

Everyone will understand that immediately as

  • Oh my the woman is pretty beautiful.

But I don’t think anyone will ever say that.

All right. Then there are a bunch of combinations with gar.
Ganz oder gar nicht can be translated as all or nothing.
Then there is the similar looking ganz und gar which as a whole is a strong “extremefier”…

Of course there are also compound nouns … for example

I’m sure you can find out about Ganzkörperkondom yourself.
And last but not least there is the expression im großen und ganzen which can be translated as overall.

So… uh… did the second ganz intensify, tone down or do nothing? I’d say it did  nothing… maybe tone it down a little. I am sure you have “ganz viele Fragen” (a LOT of questions) so please go ahead and ask and let’s see if we can zero in on it a little better than I could do.
This was our German Word of the Day ganz. The original meaning was and still is not broken but it has broadened to THE words for whole and entire and since even that was not enough ganz is also used to intensify things… or not. It depends ganz on the context :).
If you have questions or suggestions leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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NN
NN

Great examples.
Thanks

Joe
Joe

Liar! You said schon was your next WotD!

Anyway, I thought I was pretty comfortable with ganz until I read this article haha. After your last example I almost wanted to ask “if ganz doesn’t do anything then why even have it in the sentence?” But then I realized English speakers throw in extra meaningless words all the time too. Can a good deal of the distinguishing between the intensifier and toner downer be taken from inflection and emotion when speaking it?

Also your examples always make me want a WotD on “mal” which seems, from my novice perspective, as a large task but I see it used so often and have trouble figuring out what contexts to use it in.

cmalbrecht

Keep up the good work. Wir hören zu.

Manni
Manni

Thank you for this lesson, Emanuel.
Can you please do a lesson on the word ‘zwar’ ?

Temporaneous
Temporaneous

Great as usual, except for your phonetics! ganz, to me, is more like gahnts, than gunts, which would rhyme with c…ts, or Kunst.

Henrik
Henrik

Thanks for this site. I keep referring people to it. ;)
I have been asked why

“Ich würde das voll unterstützen.” works, while

“Ich würde das ganz unterstützen.” does not. Yet,

“Ich würde das voll und ganz unterstützen.” is fine.

Jack
Jack

Hey – love the site, just found it and I am eating it all up. Figuratively :)

quick question about this point:

Meine ganzen guten Hosen sind dreckig… is spoken but not really correct German
All my good pants are dirty.

Would the correct way of saying this be:

Alle meine guten Hosen sind dreckig…?

I dunno, that “feels” correct to me, I’ve been learning German for four years now and that seems to me to be what I would say… ( I’m not so bothered about adjective endings because nooooo )

Hope you can help!
Thanks!

The Smileyman
The Smileyman

Good day.
I have a question about one of your examples.

Ganz Berlin is sauer auf die S-Bahn.
The whole of Berlin is pissed at the S-Bahn (our public train service)

Is it;
Ganz Berlin ist sauer
or
Ganz Berlin sind sauer
?

Since I’m not a native Deutschsprecher, I’m not sure which one would be correct…

The Smileyman
The Smileyman

Good day again.
I am a little confused about another example.

Wie war’s beim Campen? How was your camping?

I know you’re trying to ask how one’s camping experience went, but normally in English we would almost always say;
How was your camping trip?

People here go on camping trips and when they return they are always asked that question. In fact, I have never heard it asked in spoken form ANY other way other than that. Maybe in written form it might be, “How was your camping?”, or, “How was your camping experience?”, but spoken, not that I’ve heard of…

I hope you don’t take offense to what I wrote, I’m just letting you in on native English from a native English speaker such as myself.
Keep up das gute Arbeit! :) (I know this is incorrect, but it’s just a pun!)

John S
John S

Im gonna try and mind bend together the intensifier ganz with the tone down intensifier from what i understood of the article, please correct me if im wrong or just speaking crazy.
Ganz the intensifier works on the idea of “maximum form” of the object its “modifying”, i.e Ganz kaputt, the maximum form of broken it could possibly be (completely right?). So if you take this concept, and use it on concepts that for their own nature are not extreme, you get something extremely not extreme , if that makes sense.
Lets take “… war ganz gut”, good is just okay, is not great, is barely better than enough (to my perception), so ganz here pins its nature, this okayness, and specifies that this is what you mean. If you just say “good”, it could be interpreted, its ambiguous, someone who wishes to know specifically would ask, and i think this is common: ” but was it reaaally good, or just good” (accompanied by the corresponding emphasis on the first part and low energy on the second)
by removing the ambiguity, it appears that its “toning down” (because it is, in a way).

Julia
Julia

What about ‘ganz egal’, does it have to do anything with it?

Salvador
Salvador

Genau! Ich habe ganz schön viel gelernt!

Jason B
Jason B

Hey emmanuel! Is there a way to download your audio tracks? Thank you for your clear (and really funny) explanations! :)

Kwang
Kwang

Hi, I have a question,

In this Easy German video about Refugees, at the end the host says: “Wir möchten mehr zu dem Thema machen: Flüchtlinge, Flüchtlinge aufnehmen, Flucht in Europa, in aller Welt.” and the subtitle reads “… in Europe, in the whole world.”

Isn’t that supposed to be “in ganzer Welt” instead of “in aller Welt”?

Kwang
Kwang
Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren

“Das Buch ist ganz schön teuer.
The book is quite expansive.”
-should be ‘expensive’, not ‘expansive’

Felipe Arcaro

That helped me a lot! Thak you :)

dia
dia

Hi,

How would you translate this sentence pls. ” Du kommst EBEN GANZ nach mir ”

thank you

iijolin2
iijolin2

Hi Emanuel, in your example sentence in intensifier.
Ich bin heute schon ganz früh aufgestanden.
Can I use “sehr” in this case? Does it change the meaning?
Ich bin heute schon “sehr” früh aufgestanden.

For other examples as intensifier, using other words other than ganz just sound not right though…
Thanks a lot for your article :)))

adidell
adidell

Tbh, it’s kinda of like the English “freakin’” or “f*cking” as an extremifier lol