and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a look at the meaning of
Gandalf, the White looked down between the
battlement into the black ocean of iron clad Orcs.
And there, for the first time since Saruman had betrayed him,
a shiver ran down his spine.
But not what he saw made his heart feel weary. It was what he heard.
For as the wooden carriage pulled ever forth by massive beasts slowly
moved toward the gates that had withstood for centuries,
hundreds, then thousands of Orcs voices joined into a guttural choir
rhythmically chanting one word:
Grund, Grund, Grund…
Gandalf turned away. He needed to warn Bella, ASAP.
This is of course a scene from the movie “Return of the Mac”, the third part of Peter Jackson’s stellar movie adaptation of one of the greatest romantic fantasy pro marriage novels ever written: “The rings of the Lord” by Stephanie Meyer… …
Okay… der Grund is of course not a huge iron clad wooden ram designed to break the gates of Gondor but it is a very massive sounding word anyway… like… imagine you have a heavy rock in your hand… and by heavy I mean heavier than metal and by rock I mean harder than… uh… Stones… …. … … … uhm … what?… oh … yeah, puns actually were on sale… in fact, they still are till Friday so if you wanne get so… anyway, so you have this massive boulder in your hands and then you drop it onto the grass and it makes this dull, deep thud-sound … “Grund“. You can feel your feet vibrate. That is how Grund sounds to me, massive, down to earth, stable…. and that makes the word super-fitting to what it originally means… ground. Like the beef.
If you’re confused now, let me tell you, I have been confused for years by the weird name ground beef… I thought of it as ground as in as in… soil beef and I couldn’t make sense of it. Like… why is it called that? Is it because the cattle feeds on stuff from the ground? Or because it is maybe not the best meat? Or because it looks like ground? Then eventually I figured out that it comes in fact from the verb to grind and it is the past pablahblabluh… and then, when I did my research for today I was quite surprised to find that this is actually to grind is actually close to the origin of the words… the Indo European root *ghren- which meant something like “to rub hard over something, to grind“. So…. ground and Grund originally were used to refer to stuff like sand or gravel and only slowly took on the meanings they have today… the foundation, soil, bottom, land… it is hard to “umschreiben” what ground is :). By the way… there is also a German word Grind. It is pronounced “grint” and it is dry bloody stuff you peel off of a small wound… the English word is scab.
Anyway… so Grund can mean the same as ground but it is used mainly in fixed phrasings or compound nouns
- Das ist mein Grund und Boden.
- This is my property/land.
- Der Grundwasserspiegel ist in den letzten Jahren gesunken.
- The groundwatermirror (the surface of it) has sunk in recent years. (literally)
- The groundwater level has fallen in recent years.
- Am Meeresgrund liegt ein altes Wrack.
- On the sea-ground there lies a wreck.
- Im Grunde genommen ist mir das egal.
- Basically/essentially it is the same to me.
Remember im Grunde genommen … it is really common :).
Now… Ground as in soil or earth under my feet is a very important thing. It supports us and if it good ground it allows things to grow. Soooo…. it makes some sense that der Grund would later take on a second meaning: reason. Because… reasons support our actions and reasons lead to things happening :).
Yep, it’s true. Der Grund is THE German word for reason. I think this is why Grund is not used that much to refer to ground anymore. Because it would be confusing.
- Wenn das kein guter Grund ist was dann?
- If that isn’t a good reason, then what is?
- Der Grund für meinen Anruf ist folgender:… blah blah bla.
- The reason for my call is as follows: …. bluh bluh bluh.
Now… in English you say for a reason. In German you need to use the preposition aus… and again, it makes sense because stuff that grows like trees or flowers quite literally comes out of the soil.
- Aus welchem Grund hast du mich nachts um 3 angerufen?
- For what reason did you call me 3 am at night?
- Ich wollte das eigentlich machen aber aus irgendeinem Grund hab’ ich es dann vergessen.
- I was wanted to do it but for some reason it then slipped my mind.
The aus irgendeinem Grund is pretty common by the way.
Strangely, there the also the word aufgrund which is kind of just a short version of aus dem Grund… and still it uses auf. But anyway… aufgrund is pretty common especially in writing.
- Aufgrund von Bauarbeiten ist die Tram bis Mittwoch unterbrochen.
- Due to construction work, there will be no tram-service until Wednesday.
All right. Now before we move on to look at some other words with Grund in them I’d like to say a few words about the usage. First off, Grund is a very good translation for reason so long as reason is not shifted too much toward common sense. This is especially important for words like to reason or reasonable. Translations for those have nothing to do with Grund as the underlying idea is not so much the foundation, the cause.
And then, what we also should mention has to do with the following phrasings:
- What is the reason for….
- That is the reason why/for…
These phrasings sure exist. If you want to do it right you might need to use da-words…
- Was ist der Grund dafür, dass du zu spät bist.
- What is the reason for your being late.
- Das ist der Grund dafür, dass ich nicht Achterbahn fahren kann.
- That is the reason why I can’t ride roller-coasters.
But if you think now “Ugh… that is SO complicated”… well, the good news is that in German these phrasings are not used as much. Grund is a very massive sounding noun, pretty stiff and I feel like German likes things moving. So unless our context is formal to which stiff phrasings fit well, we’ll avoid the heavy boulder Grund and keep it simple using some lean adverbs:
Especially deshalb is really really common and is the best choice for English phrasings like the one above or that is why… so don’t ever say: das ist warum. Say deshalb ! Sounds soooo much more German.
All right. Now let’s look at some words with Grund in them. The first one is begründen and if you’ve read my article on the prefix be- you know that this can only mean “inflict reason on something”. Now begründen has many possible translations (check them at Dict.cc) but I think the essence is best captured by a combination of to justify and to explain.
- Ich will nicht immer alles begründen, was ich mache.
- I don’t want to justify what I am doing all the time.
There is also a noun die Begründung which is not so much the reason but more the justification for something if that makes sense.
Then, there is also the verb gründen… and means to found… makes sense, I think ;)
- Thomas hat eine Firma gegründet.
- Thomas founded a company.
In some weird rare phrasing, also begründen can mean to found but that is really nothing to worry about.
There is actually a third verb with Grund … grundieren. This word is imitating real Latin based words like diskutieren or operieren but it has a rather limited range as it means to undercoat. So you want to paint your wall but first you have to put on there one layer of some chemical so your paint will stick well.
A quite common compound is the word Grundidee. This could be translated as basic idea or underlying idea.
- Die Grundidee ist super simple.
- The basic idea is extremely simple.
Another noun is der Grundsatz. Satz alone is sentence but together with Grund it becomes… well, guiding principle, policy or maxim. Based on this word is the word grundsätzlich … again, this has quite a number of possible translations but I think the idea is best captured by as a matter of principle.
- Ohne Anzug kommt man hier grundsätzlich nicht rein.
- Without a suit you can’t enter here, period. (Policy of the house)
And then finally there is a word which is kind of stereotypical for Germany… at least in my mind, it is like one of those qualities our teachers preached to us :). The word I mean is gründlich and it could be translated as thorough(ly) or in depth.
- Ich muss mal wieder gründlich saubermachen.
- I think I’ll have to do a thorough cleaning session sooner or later.
I really have to.
All right… I am sure that there are more words with Grund in them out there but I think it is enough for today. This was our German Word of the Day der Grund. It comes from ground but Germans soon used it in a metaphorical way so today it basically means reason.
If you have any questions or suggestions then you have a Grund to leave a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.