and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a lok at the meaning of:
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..
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 :)
- Mein Fahrrad ist wieder ganz.
- My bike is fixed.
And in combination with the most generic German verb machen it can mean to repair.
- Ich muss mal mein Fahrrad ganz machen.
- I have to fix/repair my bike.
But I think it is better to use reparieren… ganz machen sounds odd in a lot of situations. So … the main use case for the not broken-ganz is a phrasing like
- Mein something ist ganz.
It is the direct opposite of
- Mein something ist kaputt.
- My (couldn’t find translation) is broken.
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…
- Ich habe den ganzen Tag gearbeitet.
- I worked the whole day.
- Ich habe eine ganze Woche daran gearbeitet.
- I have worked on this an entire week.
- Hast du die ganze Pizza alleine gegessen?
- Have you eaten the entire pizza alone?
- Ich habe den ganzen Film (über) geschlafen.
- I slept almost the entire movie.
- Das Konzept als ganzes ist dämlich.
- The concept as a whole is dumb.
- Ganz Berlin is sauer auf die S-Bahn.
- The whole of Berlin is pissed at the S-Bahn (our public train service)
- “Wie war’s an der Ostsee?”
“Nicht so cool, es hat die ganze Zeit geregnet.
- “How was it at the Baltic Sea?”
“Not so nice. It was raining the whole time.”
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.
- Thomas hat gestern seine ganzen Uni-Sachen verbrannt.
- Thomas burnt all his college stuff yesterday.
- Marie war den ganzen Tag in der Bücherei.
- Marie was at the library all day.
- Mein Mitbewohner hat mein ganzes Bier ausgetrunken.
- My flatmate drank up all my beer.
- I am fed up with all this nonsense.
- Ich habe diesen ganzen Unsinn satt.
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….
- You can’t read all newspapers every day.
- Du kannst nicht jeden Tag alle Zeitungen lesen.
- You can’t read all those newspapers every day.
- Du kannst nicht jeden Tag die(se) ganzen Zeitungen lesen.
- “Wie war’s beim Campen?”
“War ganz nett aber die ganzen Mücken haben genervt.”
- “How was your camping trip?”
“Oh it was nice, al’right, but all those mosquitoes … sucked.”
(The mosquitoes sucked. Get it? Get it?… so funny)
- “Wie war der Film”
“Ach nich’ so gut. Die ganzen guten Szenen waren schon im Trailer.”
- “How was the movie?””Pfff… not so great. All the good scenes were in the trailer.”
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:
- Meine ganzen guten Hosen sind dreckig… is spoken but not really correct German
- All my good pants are dirty.
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.
- Ich wohne ganz oben.
- I live on the highest floor.
- Beim Konzert stehe immer ganz vorne.
- At a concert I am always in the front row.
- “Entschuldigung, wo ist denn hier ein Geldautomat?”
“Oh einfach gerade aus… da ganz hinten bei dem Licht.”
- “Excuse me, where can I find an ATM around here.”
“Oh just straight ahead… you see? Baaaaack there where the light is.”
- Ich bin heute schon ganz früh aufgestanden.
- I got up really really early today.
- Ich bin mir nicht ganz sicher, ob das so eine gute Idee ist.
- I am not entirely sure whether this is such a good idea.
Now.. does this works too?
- Mein Auto ist ganz kaputt.
- My car is completely broken.
Sure does… and even this… I mean, kind of
- Mein Auto ist wieder ganz ganz.
- My car is completely fixed.
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.
- Ich bin noch nicht ganz fertig.
- I am not completely done yet (lit.)
- I am almost done.
- Meine Haare sind noch nicht ganz trocken.
- My hair isn’t completely dry yet (lit.)
- My hair is almost dry.
- “Rate mal, was ich heute früh gemacht hab'”
“Hmmm…. du warst joggen.”
“Nicht ganz… Ich war schwimmen.”
- “Guess what I did this morning.”
“Hmmm… you went running.”
“Almost… I went swimming.”
- Ich verdiene nicht ganz 1000 Euro im Monat.
- I earn almost 1000 per month.
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.
- Der neue Film von M. Bay ist ganz furchtbar.
- The new movie of M. Bay is really horrible.
- Die Suppe schmeckt ganz wunderbar.
- The soup is really amazing.
- “Wie war es im Cirque de Soleil?”
“Boah das war ganz ganz toll.”
- “How was the Circe du Soleil?”
“Man, that was really really great.”
- Pass auf, das Paket ist ganz schwer.
- Careful, the parcel is very heavy.
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.
- Das Ballet war ganz langweilig… sounds weird
- The ballet was really boring.
- Das Ballet war super, extrem, voll, echt, richtig, total langweilig… all sound 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.
- Der Film war ganz gut.
- The movie was good, all right. The movie was ok.
- “Wie findest du Marie?”
“Och die is’ ganz nett.”
- “How do you like Marie.”
“Hmm… she is nice, all right. /She is nice, I guess.”
- Mein Urlaub war ganz schön.
- My vacation was all right.
- Ich geh’ ganz gern mal im Regen raus.
- I kinda like going outside in the rain every once in a while.
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.
- Thomas ist ganz sympatisch.
- Thomas ist ganz nett.
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:
- Der Film war ganz lustig.
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.
- Das Buch ist ganz schön teuer.
- The book is quite expensive.
- Du fährst ganz schön schnell.
- You are driving pretty fast.
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.
- Du warst ganz schön lange im Bad
- You have been in the bathroom quite a long time.
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…
- Die Frau ist ganz schön schön.
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”…
- Jim ist ganz und gar wahnsinnig.
- Jim is completely and utterly insane.
- Ich kann morgen ganz und gar nicht.
- I have absolutely no time tomorrow.
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.
- Im Großen und Ganzen bin ich mit meinem Job ganz zufrieden.
- All in all, I am satisfied with my job.
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.