German is Easy – QAS 2

Written By: Emanuel Updated: February 21, 2018

qas-2Hello everyone,

and welcome to the second episode of our little Q and A and S section, where we look at some nice questions you guys have asked and whatever else matters.
And first of all I need to say:

danke, danke, danke, danke, danke, danke, danke,
danke, danke, danke, danke, danke, danke, danke,
danke, danke, danke, danke, danke, danke, danke,
danke… und nochmals danke

to the people who have made a donation. And I did not just copy and paste the “dankes”… I typed them  and I mean them. Seriously… it is sooooo motivating and definitely made my days. You’re the best!!!
And yes, I do like Jay-Z (I don’t like Kanye though :), alles gute with your studies. And yes, whenever the book is finished, it’ll be in available in Canada too, and I’ll make sure you get a free copy. All of you.
Oh and while we’re at it…. all the others, you guys who read and comment and ask questions… you’re definitely the second best… uhm, which uhm…. which is still very very  good.
Damn. That doesn’t sound nice at all  ;)… but seriously, if it wasn’t for you, I would have probably stopped this already… you’re all awesome!
And so were some of the questions you have asked over the last couple of weeks. So without any further ado, let’s get right to it, shall we?

“Neither do I” or … how to agree to stuff

This question comes from Grateful Reader who is one of the most active people and who speaks … or at least writes German amazingly well. So … the question is about how to agree to a negative statement about oneself… or as the title already says:

  • How to say “Neither do I.”?

And just to give you some context:

  • “I don’t find German to be very hard.”
    “Neither do I.”

So … how is it done in German? Like this:

  • Ich auch nicht.

Looks quite different. But it makes sense. You see… if you want to agree to a positive statement you’d just say “Ich auch

  • “Ich habe Hunger.”
    Ich auch.”
  • “I am hungry.”
    Me too.

And for the negative you just add a nicht.

  • “Ich habe keinen Hunger.”
    “Ich auch nicht.”

We can also put this a little more general and say the whole pattern is like this:

  • [someone] auch [nicht]

And this pattern is actually super practical because you can use it for all kinds of configurations… as long as you use the cases, right. Yeah… I know, “Whine whine whine… I wish German was like English blah blah blah” but hey…. sometimes cases do come in handy. Just check this out

  • “Maria loves me.”
    “Me too.”

What does that mean?

  • “Maria liebt mich.”
    Ich auch.”     (as do I/ I do too)
    Mich auch.” (she loves me too)

Or with Dative:

  • “Maria gave him a kiss.”
    Me too.”
    “She gave one to me too.”
  • “Maria hat ihm einen Kuss gegeben.”
    Ich auch.
    Mir auch.”

Yeah… suck it, English!
And of course all this works for the negative just as well.

  • “Maria hat ihm keinen Kuss gegeben.”
    Ich auch nicht.”
    Mir auch nicht.”
  • “Maria gave him no kiss.”
    “Neither did I.”
    “She didn’t give me one either/neither did she give one to me.”

Finally, since we’re at it, let’s also have a look at how to NOT agree with a statement.

  • “Ich esse Fleisch.”
    “Ich nicht.”
  • “I eat meat.”
    “I don’t.”
  • “Ich esse kein Fleisch.”
    “Ich schon.”
  • “I don’t eat meat.”
    “I do.

Anyway, bottom line is  “Me too” is “Ich auch”, “Neither do I” is “Ich auch nicht.”
Now, let’s swiftly wisp to the next question before anyone has time about why it’s no…

Some about tenses

This question comes from Sam and it is about the use of tenses.

“My main question boils down to how to communicate actions that started in the past and continue into the present.”

English uses the present perfect continuous form…. like… “have been doing something”.
German, that doesn’t have a continuous anyway, uses the (very very) simple present for events that are still ongoing.

  • I have been learning German for 3 years.
  • I lerne seit 3 Jahren Deutsch.

If you were to use past tense, it would imply that you stopped whatever it was you were had been doing.

  • Ich habe seit 3 Jahren Deutsch gelernt.

This even sounds wrong to my ears. In fact seit in combination with past is always wro… wait… what’s that. My red exception phone is ringing. I didn’t even know it was on, let me take that real quick… hey John man, how’s it going?… … oh really? That’s sounds incredibly boring….oh, I see….  so what do you have for me?… oh, about “seit”… oh… oh daaaaaamn, that is so true…. thank you so much man, bye.
All right. So it might be one of the finer points in language but John just told me that seit doesn’t work well with past tense… unless the sentence is negative.

  • Ich habe seit 2 Tagen geschlafen…                is odd.
  • Ich habe seit 2 Tagen nicht geschlafen…. is not

How weird. But when we think about the tense a little it makes sense… a little. You see, the spoken-past is also called Perfekt in German and the core idea of it was (and still is) perfection. Not perfection as in A+, perfection in sense of completed, done…. you see, perfect comes from the Latin prefix per and the verb facere which means to make.
The German spoken-past has kept this idea, also because the ge-prefix used to express the same thing… completion.

  • Ich habe etwas gemacht.

This means that you’ve done something completely. You’re done doing it. So you can’t be still doing it, which is exactly what seit expresses. The idea of past, especially spoken past and the idea of seit collide.

  • Ich habe seit 2 Tagen geschlafen.

This says that you’ve completed sleeping… and you’ve been in that “state” for two days. Not in the state of sleeping, mind you. In the state of “having slept”.

  • I have been done sleeping for two days.

That doesn’t make too much sense … I mean, it does, but why would I phrase it that way. And that’s why the sentence sounds odd.
Now, why does it work with a nicht ? Does nicht have magical sense-making powers? Well… in a way yes.

  • Ich habe nicht geschlafen.

In y very twisted way of looking at it this says that you have not completed sleeping. Can mean that you’re still sleeping, can mean that you haven’t even started. And that is a “state” that goes on until you … well… sleep. The completion is negated. And what does seit do? Well, it says that something is ongoing, so in a way, it ALSO negates completion. Shabams. They fit well.

  • Ich habe seit 2 Tagen nicht geschlafen.
  • I haven’t slept in 2 days.

So again… if you habe/bin geverbt it means that you’re done with it. If you say that you habe/bin nicht geverbt it means that you’re NOT done with it. Not ongoing, ongoing. The former collides with seit, the latter coincides.
All right…. how did we get here, actually… uh yeah… the use of tense in stuff like

  • I have been studyingGerman for a year.

In German, as we have no progressive, you need to use the present … unless the sentence is negated.

  • Ich lerne seit einem Jahr Deutsch.
  • I haven’t been studying German for a year.
  • I habe seit einem Jahr kein Deutsch gelernt.

And since there is ABSOLUTELY NO open question here anymore let’s just move on to the next question.
“But wait… could I also u..”
Lalala… moving on,moving on, moving on.

Daraus heraus … really?!

This question is from dieg0 and it is about the verb herausreden, which means something like to talk your way out of something. This verb connects  the thing you talk your way out of using the preposition aus.


  • Ich rede mich aus etwas heraus.
  • I talk my way out of something.

Now, in the article about “die Ausrede” he has seen the following example:

  • Ich habe gesehen, wie du meinen Jogurt genommen hast. Du kannst dich da nicht herausreden.
  • I have seen you take my yogurt. You cannot talk your way out of that.

The da stands in for the thing here… the whole yogurt-gate. But the question is… where did the aus go? Why isn’t it the regular da-word daraus?
The answer has two parts.
Firstly, we have to think of the whole activity as a change of location. That is not too far fetched though, I hope.  So .. the dilemma is a “location” now, okay?
Locations are often connected using prepositions.

  • I go into the house.
  • I live in Berlin.

Now, we can replace a thing or person in our sentence with a stand-in that we put in the thing’s stead.

  • I talk with Maria.
  • I talk with her.

The special thing about locations is that, if we replace THOSE with a stand-in, the preposition often disappears. (because the stand in is an adverb, by the way, not a pronoun)

  • I live in Berlin.
  • I live there.

Boom. The “in” is gone. It would even be wrong to put it there.
And that is exactly what happens herausreden. We’ve said that the dilemma is a “location”. Now we replace that location with the generic location stand-in da and the preposition aus is just gone.
It does work the same for some other abstract verbs as well… but not always so you’ll just have to learn as you go along… or not. It’s not really that big of a deal if you say

  • Du kannst dich daraus nicht herausreden

It just sounds tautogol… taolotog.. uhm… odd.

Lernen –  with or without zu

This question comes again from Grateful Reader and it is about the use of lernen. We’ve all learned that only the modal-verbs connect with other verb directly.

  • Ich kann schreiben

For all the rest, we need at least zu.

  • Ich versuche zu schreiben.

There are exceptions to that of course. Gehen is one, and hören and sehen.
And lernen is one too.

  • Ich lerne schreiben… is correct.
  • Ich lerne zu schreiben…. ist auch korrekt.

Does that mean that lernen is a modal verb? Who cares. My cat is a modal verb for all I care. What matters is that it works.
Now, there is a slight difference in meaning. The bare, direct version works for basic, general skills, and it at least has some sub-tones of being taught.

  • Ich lerne schwimmen, laufen, sprechen, lesen, schreiben

The zu-version on the other hand is for more refined skills, maybe learned by experience.

  • Ich muss lernen zuzuhören/geduldig zu sein/zu warten.
  • I’ll have to learn to listen/to be patient/to wait.

Actually, I just realized something.

  • Ich muss warten lernen.

This sounds a bit like it is about learning “how to wait”… like… waiting 101. Like… learning how to properly wait… reading, finger-tapping, checking the time, exhaling in discontent, and so on.

  • Ich muss lernen zu warten.

This is more about that I have to learn that I can’t always have everything right away.
But this is a nuance and context has a lot to do with it.
Now, there is one more thing that always needs a zu and that is additional information. The more specific you are about what you learn, or in other words, the more words you put into your sentence the less acceptable the bare version becomes.

  • Ich lerne sprechen… is fine.
  • Ich lerne flüssig und frei sprechen… is kind of finish.
  • Ich lerne ohne Manuskript vor einer größeren Menge an Leuten sprechen… nope… this could really use a zu

The problem is that it is not clear what all this additional info refers to. And without a zu it kind of sounds like it refers to lernen… like… I learn without script and in front of a lot of people how to speak. Context makes it clear but it sounds mehh. So bottom line and rule of thumb.. for the basic skills you learn when you’re a kid… no zu needed. For all the rest, yes.

Phew, that was quite a load of info actually, so no need for more stuff. If you have any follow up questions (I REALLY wouldn’t know, what) or some general questions that you would think to be a good fit for QAS just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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