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. But this list is based on written German and I think in spoken ganz is even  more common.
So let’s break it down, shall we.

  • z, g, a, n

Now it’s broken. Like those guys here.
I know what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking that I have had beers, and I’m just messing around.
But far from it (well… the messing around).
Let’s reassamble the broken ganz and see what happens…

  • ganz

Awesome, now we fixed it. Now it is not broken. Or in German… ganz.

  • “ganz” ist ganz.

Looks like one of those wise, deep quotes you can find on Instagram, but it’ not. Because ganz actually means (and this explains my weid intro)… whole, not broken :).

The phrasing …

It is the direct opposite of

It does sound a bit technical or mechanical. So it’s kind of out of place for a broken bone or a broken heart. There, you’d use geheilt (healed).
But yeah…  this sense of not broken is the original meaning of ganz, and it be traced back to the 8th century.
It’s not the only meaning though.
The word has broadened quite a bit. Just like me, during this quarantene.
I really sit too much. Hold on, let me lay down…. ah… much better.
Let’s continue.

Ganz – the whole

The most important meaning of ganz today is probably: whole.
And that makes perfect sense. The word whole actually belongs to the same family as heal and its German brother heilen. The original core idea of that family was something like not injured or not broken and while words like heal and heilen shifted toward the idea of… well… health, and holy (heilig) went the spiritual route, the word  whole slowly drifted toward the notion of all, entire.
And that’s pretty much the same that happened with ganz. From not broken to a entire or all.
Time for examples…

And more example

Now this is pretty straight forward so far.
Basically, any entire or whole will translate to  ganze/m/n/r/s/ö/ü/8/xxx.
But ganz can also be a translation for all, and that’s a little bit tricky, because it doesn’t always work.
Here are some examples where it does 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.

Could you notice a pattern?
The key is to check if all is an element of its own or not. In the second group of examples, the all makes up an element of its own, while in the first group, it’s just a part of an element. For a quick check, you can try and replace it with everything or everyone. If that works, it’s probably not going to be ganz in German.
But there are definitely exceptions to this, like for instance if you have a number involved.

  • 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.

But don’t stress out about this. Just think of ganze/r/n/m/s as whole or entire for a start and let the other uses slowly grow with your sprachgeful, your feel for the language.
And speaking of sprachgefuhl… that brings us right over to the next use of ganz. A very very common colloquial use, that would make perfect sense – if it weren’t for a little twist.

ganz – the intensifier … kind of

We’ve learned that the core idea of ganz is  whole, entire. And so it makes perfect sense, that ganz is also used in the sense of entirely or completely.

And this is especially in the negative with nicht ganz meaning not completely or simply almost.

But that’s not all. You see, the idea of completely is, in an abstract way, about an extreme. Like… if you’re completely out of toilet paper then you have reached one of extreme end of the scale of toilet paper possession. I’m almost there, by the way. One roll to go and nothing to be found in the shelves. So if you have tips on how to get a proper congestion, please share them in the comments. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going in the bathroom, for sure.
Anyways… erm… how did we get here?
Ah, yeah… what I was getting at is that ganz is commonly used to shift something toward an extreme.  Here are some examples…

Can you see, how it shifts the statement toward an extreme?
Now, in these examples, it doesn’t have a direct translation, so let’s look at some where it translates to normal intensifier like  really or very, to make it more obvious.

Generally though, I think for you it’s better to use other intensifiers like sehr, total, voll or echt!
Why?
Well, for one thing,  ganz can sound a bit clumsy, or even odd in some contexts and I can’t really give you a guideline for it.

But the more important reason why you shouldn’t start throwing ganz around as very or really is … the twist.

ganz – the twist

And that twist is that for some adjectives, ganz actually MODERATES them.
So instead of really or extremely,  it expresses the idea of average or fairly.
And it does that for some of the most common adjectives, particularly good ones, that we usually like to intensify.
Let’s look at some examples.

All these adjectives that we use daily for stuff that we “like”  – gut, gern, ok, nett, interessant, lustig or schön – especially ok, nett and gut. Ganz does NOT express the idea of really or very for them. It doesn’t necessarily make them weaker either, but if you want to say that something was really good or really interesting… ganz will NOT express your inner enthusiasm.
I mean, it’s not a huge misunderstanding if you say a movie was “ganz gut” and you mean that it was really good while the other person understands it was “pretty decent”. But that’s also tricky because you can walk around for years and misunderstand and misuse ganz without ever noticing.
So yeah… for the basic positive adjectives, ganz is NOT the way to make them stronger.
The big question many of you now have, is of course why.
But I don’t have an answer to it :). Seriously… I have NO IDEA. It’s just an oddness of German.
So let’s instead spend the rest of this article to look at a few common phrasings and expressions with ganz.

Some expressions with ganz

And the first one is ganz schön [something], which is a quite common way to say pretty or quite with a bit of personal astonishment in it.

  • Du fährst ganz schön schnell.
  • You are driving pretty fast.

     

 

This personal tone is pretty much the difference between ganz schön and ziemlich. Ziemlich can be an “objective” word while “ganz schön” always implies that you think that and you’re maybe surprised or stunned or skeptical.

Cool.
Next up, there’s ganz und gar is a pretty strong  intensifier and it works in both directions.

Then, there is the pretty common phrase im Großen und Ganzen which translates to overall, all in all.

And of course there are some related words like ganzheitlich (holistically) or the very fashionable Ganzkörperschlafanzug.

And I think that’s pretty much it. Hooray.
This was our look at the meaning and usage of ganz.
If you want to recap and check how much you remember, I suggest you take the little quiz I have prepared.
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.

for members :)

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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

Sara
Sara

I love you. This was such a good read. Hahahaha