Word of the Day – “weiter”

weiter-german-pictureHello everyone,

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



And weiter is actually a really inspiring fellow because it wasn’t even really a word at first. Instead, it started out as the more form of weit. But one day, weiter looked in the mirror and said to itself “Is that it? Is that who I am… just a form?! NO!”
And it started working out and eating healthy and reading books about self development. And it picked up  yoga and journaling and meditation and visualization. And every morning, it would say this one affirmation in front of the mirror… “I am more than just a form.”
And today, well, today it’s a really prefix. Not the most common one, but the one that drives things forward.
So are you ready to jump in and get inspired?
Then let’s go.

The word weit is obviously the German brother of the English wide.
And there is some common ground for instance in context of clothing and a few related words like erweitern, which is about expanding or making broader.

  • Ich trage gerne weite Hosen.
  • I like wearing wide pants.
  • McMaki – McDonalds  erweitert sein Angebot um Sushi
  • McMaki – McDonalds expands its product line with sushi.

But for the most part, the two have focused on different dimensions. Wide very much focuses on width, the measure from side to side, but German mostly uses its version of broad for that: breit.

  • Der Tisch ist 2 Meter breit.
  • The table is 2 meters wide.

Weit on the other hand focused on a different dimension, or measure: the distance.
And it works in a factual as well as in a figurative sense.

  • Wie weit ist es noch?
  • How  far is it still?
  • Ich bin heute mit meiner Arbeit nicht sehr weit gekommen.
  • I didn’t get very far with my work today.
  • Ich werfe so weit ich kann.
  • I throw as far as I can.
  • Von Berlin nach London ist es ein weiter Weg.
  • From Berlin to London it is a long way.

Oh and just to make sure… the weiter in the last example is just weit with an adjective ending. It’s not really weiter, the word.
But yeah, the core idea of weit is far and the core meaning of weiter – being the more-form of weit – is further or farther.
And it didn’t forget its humble beginnings, and is still used in that sense.

  • Die Beispiele für weit stehen weiter oben.
  • The examples for weit are further up on the page…. (is that correct English? Help please :))
  • Berlin ist weiter weg von London als von Hamburg.
  • Berlin is farther away from London than it is from Hamburg.

But as we said in the beginning, it also evolved to be a beautiful separable prefix.
The core idea is the same, and for some verbs it’s pretty obvious. Like weiterkommen for instance, which is about making progress.

  • Ich bin nicht weitergekommen.
  • I didn’t make progress.
    I have not come further (lit.)

But the bigger part of verbs with weiter have a little… ahem… twist on the idea.. muahahahahahahahahahah *evil laughter fades.

weiter – continue

Honestly… I don’t even know why I did my evil laughter just now. The twist isn’t really all that crary and it’s probably been around since way before German was even invented.
Imagine some fur clad hunters thousands of years ago. They’ve been walking for days now, because they’ve heard that somewhere, far beyond the mountains, there are new hunting grounds rife with deer and berries….

“When deer?”
“No idea.”
“We walk far.”
“We see no deer.”
“What we do?”
“We continue.”
“Uh… What?”

“We walk farfar, God damnit. Expand your vocabulary already, you freaking ape.”

Yeah, that time traveller had a hard time back then.
Anyway, I think you’ll all agree that the idea of continuation, going on really isn’t all that far from the idea of going further.
And that makes weiter a really really handy prefix because you can slap in front of pretty much any verb to express the idea of “continue verbing” or “keep on verbing”.

  • Ich will weiterschlafen.
  • I want to sleep on/keep on sleeping.
  • Das Leben geht weiter.
  • Life goes on.
  • Lass mich weiterarbeiten!
  • Let me continue working!
  • Ich lese weiter.
  • I read further.
  • I continue/keep on/go on reading.

And of course it’s also what we need to tell someone directly to continue. And there’s a slight difference between German and English there because in English you can just sayGo on!

  • Go on! /Continue!

… without having to add the actual verb.
In German, you should include that, even if it’s clear what you mean. So if someone is telling you something and you interrupt them to tell them to give you a beer and then you want them to go on, you’d say

  • Erzähl weiter!

And if you want them to continue doing the dishes while telling the story, you’d then say

  • Und wasch weiter ab!

And at that point, my girlfriend told me to keep dreaming and so she said:

  • Träum weiter.

I mean… hypothetically… she would say that if she was in that situation. And if I had a girldfriend, to begin with.
For now, I’ll keep searching for my Dishney princess…. I… I mean Disney. Oh boy, I feel like I’m digging my own hole here.
For the record, I’m actually the one doing 70% of the dishes at home. And I look very sexy doing it.
Anyway, back to learning German and the word weiter.
The idea of continuation is pretty clear I think and there’s not much to explain there. What we do need to talk about though is this:

  • Ich will weiter schlafen.

This might look like a spelling mistake to many of you. But it’s actually not.

weiter verben or weiterverben

The thing is that weiter, thanks to all its self development work, no doubt, has become quite free. So it CAN be a prefix, if it wants to, but it can also stay separate, if it so chooses. Well… technically if the speaker so chooses, but whatever.

  • Ich will weiterschlafen.

  • Ich will weiter schlafen.

As you can hear in the audio, the first sentence will have a strong emphasis on weiter… because it is a separable prefix and we need to stress them just as much as they stress us. The second sentence on the other hand has a stronger emphasis on schlafen.
But the meaning of the two is pretty much the same.

  • I want to continue sleeping.

And this is not a random glitch, it’s actually pretty handy. Because there are a lot of verb phrases where adding weiter as a prefix wouldn’t work.
Like here for example…

  • Ich will weiter zuhören.
  • Ich will weiterzuhören… is wrong.
  • I want to continue listening.

Now you might be like “Bro, German has NO problem with double prefixes.” and you’re right of course. Weiter just doesn’t like combining with other prefixes. But take the following example…

  • Ich will weiter Klavier spielen.
  • I want to continue playing the piano.

So yeah, weiter can be used as a stand alone word to the same effect as the prefix – expressing the idea of continuation. And sometimes, both options are equally valid and idiomatic.

  • Ich will weiter mein Buch lesen
  • Ich will mein Buch weiterlesen.

These two mean the same… I want to continue reading my book… and they’re both idiomatic.
Now, just to make sure… not every weiter you see in a sentence is about continuing.
Depending on the verb it can just have its original role as farther

  • Ich will weiter springen.

This can actually mean two things … it can mean that I want to continue jumping and it can mean that I want to increase the distance I jump. And we’d need context to decide which it is.
In cases like this one, though, people would probably write the continuing-weiter as a prefix, just to make it clear.

  • Ich will weiterspringen.

Now, quick little test… which of the two is a correct sentence, one, two or both?

  1. Ich kann weiter springen als Thomas.
  2. Ich kann weiterspringen als Thomas.

The answer is only number one is correct. Because here, the idea is CLEARLY about distance, so using it as a prefix does not fit.
Isn’t German fun, sometimes?
Well, this is not one of those times.
But anyway,  we’ve already come quite far already, but there’s still a little further for us to go, because the prefix weiter does have a couple of “side notions” that we also need to mention.
So are you ready to weiterlesen a little bit?

The other meaning of “weiter”

Take a look at this example:

  • Ich gebe das Buch weiter.

Based on what we’ve learned so far, this should mean that I continue giving the book.
Which makes perfect sense, if we’re living in slow motion land…

“I will give the book to you, now.”
“I’m ready, go ahead.”
“I am currently giving it.”
“I’m starting to get. Go on giving.”
“Continuing, making good progress.”
“You’re doing great. Keep going.”
“Phew… can I take a break?”
“No breaks, you’re almost there. Come on, final sprint now.”

In the real world however, giving a book is a fairly quick thing and the same goes for many other transfer verbs like schicken (to send) or even sagen (to say).
And for those, weiter is not about continuation but about the idea of passing on. Which is at its core just a different angle on further.

  • Ich gebe den Wein weiter.
  • I pass on the wine.
  • Ich sage dir ein Geheimnis aber du darfst es nicht weitererzählen.
  • I’ll tell you a secret but you mustn’t tell anyone. (“tell it on” – lit.)

And if you’ve got a good short term memory, you might remember had an example with weitererzählen already in the continuation-section.
And yes, sometimes both meanings, continuing and passing on, make sense with the verb.

  • Ich will die Geschichte weitererzählen.

This can mean two things…

  • I want to continue telling the story.
  • I want to tell the story to others.

… and we need the help of our friend and hero, Captain Context. Captain Context, help! We have an ambiguous sentence, please rescue us, we’re learners in distress.
Captain Context? Hello? Come one, man, we need you.
Hmmm,… Captain Context is such a no show sometimes.
But anyway, here’s another quick test…

  • I want to continue saying the truth.

Which of the following is the proper translation

  1. Ich will weiter die Wahrheit sagen.
  2. Ich will die Wahrheit weitersagen.

Is it version one, or version two or both?
The right answer is…. it’s version one. Because telling the truth is one chunk and the weiter has to come before it.
And what does version two express?
Exactly… the idea of passing on (telling) the truth to others.

Cool. So now I think we have a pretty good idea of what weiter can mean and how to use it.
But before we wrap this up, let’s take a really swift look at some common phrasings with weiter, because there are actually quite a few cool useful ones that are worth adding to your vocabulary.

common phrases with “weiter”

And first up, we have und so weiter or the extended version und so weiter und so fort and that’s of course the German counterpart of and so on and so forth.
The abbreviation is usw. and you’ll definitely see that in texts a lot.
Next up, we have Weiter so which is the perfect phrase to cheer someone on.

  • Weiter so!
  • Good job. Go on like that!
  • Ein “Weiter so” kann es nicht geben.
  • We can’t continue like that.

And then are a couple that are based on the adjective weiter and that are fairly common in formal speech and texts.

  • Alles weitere erfahren Sie morgen.
  • You will learn everything else/the rest tomorrow.
  • Bis auf Weiteres bleibt diese Bar geschlossen.
  • This bar will remain closed until further notice.

And I think that’s enough for today :). Hooray.
This was our look at the meaning and use of weiter and I really hope it brought your German a little bit … weiter.
Quiz for this one is coming sooner than a vaacine, so check back in a couple of weeks or so.
And as usual, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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