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There are two main ways to tell the time in German, one more official, one more colloquial. Today, we'll learn how to use both of them and have some fun.
In this episode, we'll learn about the ideas of the German prefix "um-" and go over the most important prefix verbs together.
umgehen, umfahren, umstellen, umfallen, umziehen, umschreiben
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This core idea of this root was:
around, from both sides
It’s probably based on the root *ant, which was about the side, the end.
The original idea is still quite visible in offspring like ambiance, amphitheater or ambiguous.
But there’s way more. There are plenty of words in English where the original idea is more or less obscured, like ambitious or embassy.
And the two syllables of ambhi actually also went their own separate ways. The first one is the origin of German um, which focused on the sense of around.
And the second part is the origin of by, bei and the German and English prefix be- which in a VERY abstract way is about direct impact (from all sides).
Here’s an incomplete list of English family members with a little idea how it could tie in with the origin:
- ambiance (“all around around us”)
- ambiguous (“two meanings”)
- ambition, ambitious (“ambi” + “ire”, originally “going around”. Think of being busy.)
- embassy, ambassador (“send out and around”)
- but (“by+out”, originally introducing an exception)
- about (“overview from the outside”)
- by (“near, close to” from originally “around”)
My english brain thinks ‘at 10 degrees…’ in never occured to me to think of the cirular degrees so now um make sense in that way.
So from what you say um never means: the precise position, as the English ‘at‘ does. EG at work, at the table, at one o’clock…?
I had to roll back my database just now because I messed something up while working on a new feature. So the original comments are lost.
But no, I was not saying that “um” never means the precise position. “um den Tisch”/”around the table” is just as precise as “at the table”.
And “um 9” means “at 9 o’clock”.
The notion of approximation is ONE aspect of “um”, borne out of the core notion of “around”. But not everything the word does is an approximation. Hope that helps :)
Thanks, that helps me squeeze my little language brain a bit closer to understanding!! :)