Word of the Day – “sorgen – prefixed”

sorgen-besorgen-versorgen-mHello everyone,

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

sorgen

 

And of course that means that we’ll look at the prefixes, too… besorgen, versorgen… these fellows. I gotta warn you though; this one is uber tough. There are only a handful prefix-versions but the meanings of those are freaking crazy. I’m actually… ahem…  worried, we might not make it this time. Maybe we’ll just not be able to get a hold of it.
Okay, no… of course we’ll get a hold of them. They’re not so bad. I just wanted to shoehorn in the word worry. Why? Let’s find out.

Historically, sorgen is the brother of sorrow and both come from the tre-freaking-mendously ancient Indo-European root *ser that meant something along the lines of being sick and worrying. In reality, sorgen and sorrow are rarely translation for each other because. And not only because sorgen is a verb and sorrow isn’t.  There’s a difference in meaning. Take for example the title of that one Michael Bay novel…. “Transformers : the sorrows of young Optimus”. The German title uses Leiden as a translation for sorrow in German.  and leiden is also to sufferSorrow is way more serious than sorgen, and it’s usually about your feelings when something bad has already happened.
Sorgen takes place one step earlier. It’s what you do BEFORE something bad happens. And it’s something you do before something good happens that you thought was gonna be bad. And maybe it’s just something you do a lot for no reason because you’re pessimistic. Long story short: Optimus rides a T-Rex and.. oh wait, I meant to say the soul of sorgen is worrying.
Now, sorgen can be a direct translation for to worry but it’s not that common and the structure is a bit of a hassle as it needs a  self reference

  • I worry for/about you.
  • Ich sorge für dich… is not wrong but means something different (we’ll see later)
  • Ich sorge mich um dich./Ich sorge mich wegen dir.

The common phrasing for to worry is sich Sorgen machen,  which has also a self reference but this one is Dative, so it’s better… oh wait, actually probably not. But anyway, examples:

  • Mach dir wegen ein paar Fehlern keine Sorgen! Das ist normal.
  • Don’t worry about a few mistakes! That’s just normal.
  • Thomas macht sich Sorgen, dass er seinen Wecker nicht hört.
  • Thomas worries about not hearing his alarm.
  • Wo warst du denn?? Ich hab’ mir schon Sorgen gemacht.
  • Where have you been?? I started worrying.

So… Germans don’t worry, they make themselves worries. Solid, reliable, long-living, quality, “Made in Germany” worries… maybe that’s why we’re so angsty :).
But anyways… let’s look at some more examples with the worry-idea.

  • Thomas hat Geldsorgen. Vielleicht hat er deshalb jetzt Sorgenfalten.
  • Thomas has money troubles. Maybe that’s why he has worry lines now.
  • Das Rundum-Sorglos-Paket für ihr Handy – surfen, mailen, chatten, phonen mit nur einer Flat. (common marketing lingo)
  • The all-round carefree package for your cell phone – web, e-mails, chat, phone… all with one flat rate.
    (I don’t know how to translate that into marketing English)
  • Der Arbeitsmarkt ist das Sorgenkind in vielen Europäischen Staaten.
  • The job market is the problem child of many European countries.
  • “Du siehst besorgt aus”
    “Ich BIN besorgt.”
  • “You look worried.”
    “I AM worried.”

Now some of you might be like “Hey… if besorgt means worried, then besorgen should mean worry as well, right?”.
Yeah, that would make a lot of sense. But we need to be realistic here… it’s German. But before we can take care of the prefix-verbs we need to take a look at the other meaning of sorgen.
The thing is, the whole idea of worry is not very far from the idea care.

  • I know there are dishes to do but I’ll worry about that later.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll sit down later and be like “Oh those poor dishes. So dirty and plentiful. I really hope someone does them soon.”
It means that you’ll take care of them later… okay, actually it means that you hope someone else does it in the meantime, but…  you get the idea. Worrying and caring are close. If you worry about someone or something, that also means that you care. And this care-idea is at the heart of quite a few sorgen-words…

  • Die Power-Yoga-Lehrerin geht sehr fürsorglich mit den Kindern um.
  • The power-yoga-instructor is very caring with the kids.
    (lit: treats the kids very caringly. )
  • Seine sorgsam gewählten Worte verfehlten die Wirkung nicht
  • His words, chosen with care/carefully/attentively, had the desired effect.
    (lit.: ….. didn’t miss the desired effect. )
  • Das Unternehmen hat seine Quartalszahlen sehr sorgfältig frisiert.
  • The company has manipulated their quarterly figures very thoroughly/with lots of care.

So this was caring with a more emotional, or attention focus and it doesn’t end there. Sorgen also works for the more practical taking care that we had in the dish-example. And that makes sense. Let’s say you’re having a party but you’re worried that you don’t have enough beer. What are you going to do? Exactly… you’d un-invite a few guests, especially Tiffany. That little hussy. But anyway… there’s a potential problem, that problem worries you, so you take care of it. That is part of  sorgen, as well.

  • Sorge bitte dafür, dass das Büro aufgeräumt wird.
  • See to it that the office is cleaned up.

This is also where we meet the prefix verbs…

  • Der Arzt versorgt die Wunde.
  • The doctor treats (takes care of) the wound.
  • Ich wasche mein Fahrrad nicht. Ich lasse es einfach draußen stehen. Den Rest besorgt der Regen.
  • I don’t wash my bike. I just leave it outside. The rain takes care of/does the rest.

Super literally the rain “inflicts worrying, caring” on my dirty bike problem, but if you want to read about the be-prefixe in detail, I’ll add a link below.
There’s a common proverb with besorgen, too, by the way.

  • Was du heute kannst besorgen,
    das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.
  • Never put off till tomorrow
    what you can do today.

I’m at a complete loss as to what it’s trying to tell us, though. I understand the word but I don’t get the me.. what? Oh, the sentence structure with the kannst before besorgen is creeping you out? Well, that’s really just so it rhymes, so chill out. Macht euch keine Sorgen. There’s nothing to it.
Trust me.
Absolutely nothing,
Big promise.
Al right. So we had sorgen as worrying and then we had sorgen as caring or taking care of something and with the help of Captain Context we can already understand most of the sorgen-words out there.
But there’s something else. Not a completely new idea… just sort of a specialization. And the key to it are our basic needs…. namely food and water. We need to get those from somewhere … buy, harvest, hunt, gather, beg – it doesn’t matter how. But only if those are taken care of we can ask ourselves if our smartphone really fits our style. And for most humans throughout the ages  getting food and drink has been a daily task and often a source of worrying. So that might be why some sorgen-words have developed a focus in supply. For example, we’ve seen besorgen in sense of generally taking care of things. But the common meaning in day to day spoken average Joe German is getting things… not going to the fridge to get a beer but really going out there.

  • Heute Abend will ich Pizza machen, deshalb muss ich noch Käse und Tomaten besorgen.
  • I want to make pizza tonight, so I have to get cheese and tomatoes.
  • Du brauchst neue Beauty-Tipps. Dann schnell zum Kiosk und die neue Cosmopolitan besorgen!
  • Need new beauty tips? Get the new cosmopolitan today!

People do use besorgen even if they’re clearly talking about just buying. It has the notion of going somewhere built in and even a pinch of searching… just what the cavemen had to do to take care of food. Of course besorgen isn’t that old, I just hope the image helps making sense of it all.
Another word that is very much about basic needs is versorgen.  It is essentially the same as it’s be-rother (haha), only that you don’t go and get, you go and bring. Versorgen means to supply and you’ll definitely come across this word if you live in Germany because it is used in context of water, electricity and gas.

  • Mein Stromversorger ist zu teuer.
  • My electricity supplier is too expensive.
  • Der Praktikant versorgt die Leute beim Meeting mit Kaffee und Keksen.
  • The intern supplies the people at the meeting with coffee and cookies.
  • Wegen Bauarbeiten ist die Wasserversorgung morgen von 8 bis 10 Uhr unterbrochen.
  • Due to construction work the water supply will be interrupted tomorrow from 8 to 10 am.

Last but not least, there is entsorgen which means to dispose.

  • So entsorgt man Batterien richtig.
  • How to dispose batteries properly.

This isn’t all too common but it nicely shows how close all the meanings really are. We can look at  entsorgen as the exact opposite of getting the batteries (besorgen) but also as taking care of a problem…. “I make so the empty batteries are not cause for worrying anymore”
Or take vorsorgen.

  • Das Eichhörnchen sorgt für den Winter vor.
  • The squirrel provides for the winter.

The squirrel knows winter, so it’s worried, and because it’s worried, it runs around getting acorns so it’s basic need (food) is taken care of… worrying, caring, taking care of, getting things, supplying things… it’s all the same stuff. And often it is really just context that shifts the meaning here or there.

  • Maria sorgt für ihre Nichte.
  • Maria looks after/takes care of/provides for her niece.
  • Maria sorgt für Wein.
  • Maria supplies the wine.
  • Thomas ist  besorgt.
  • Thomas is worried.
  • Brot ist besorgt.
  • Bread is taken care of.
    (someone went and got bread)

And…  I think that’s it.
That was our German Word of the Day sorgen. The important takeaways are worrying, caring and basic needs… with those in mind, sorgen-words shouldn’t be a problem anymore. By the way, speaking of basic needs… besorgen also has  an adult meaning. But… I’m sure you’ll find out, if you really want to know.
As always, let me know in the comments if that was helpful or you have any questions… and of course you can try out some examples and see if you know how to handle the words.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

Further reading:

German Prefixes Explained – “be”

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Hektor
Hektor
8 days ago

Hallo Emanuel –

Interessanter Artikel – vielen Dank!

Nachdem ich diesen Satz gelesen hatte – Dachlawinen sorgen für Gefahr am Hauptbahnhof-, war ich mir nicht ganz sicher, wie ich das ” sorgen für ” übersetzen sollte. Aber nachdem ich einige der Kommentare gelesen habe, denke ich, dass das “sorgen für ” hier als “verursachen” interpretiert werden kann? Meine Frage ist wahrscheinlich überflüssig, aber ich möchte nur sicher sein. Könnte man in diesem Satz “sorgen für” durch “verursachen” ersetzen? Sind in Fällen, in denen “Verursachung” der Grund ist, ” sorgen für ” und “verursachen” ersetzbar?

Danke

Kayla-P
Kayla-P
1 year ago

Hallo! I read this article trying to understand the difference between “sorgen” and “sich kümmern”, and when one is more appropriate than the other. I kind of thought i had a handle on it – that “sorgen” refers to literal worrying about something, or I will manage/handle/take care of it, as in “I will worry about the bounced check tomorrow”.

And I thought “kümmern” referred to a literal taking care, as in “I am at home taking care of my sick child”. But I typed some sample sentences into Google Translate just for kicks to see if I was right, and I don’t think I am:

I am taking care of it. Ich kümmere mich darum.

That takes care of the problem. Das kümmert sich um das Problem.

I take care of my sick grandmother. Ich passe auf meine kranke Großmutter auf. (arrgh, a whole ‘nother verb)

I will take care of getting food. Ich werde mich um das Essen kümmern.

I will worry about my rent next week. Ich werde mir nächste Woche Sorgen um meine Miete machen.

He doesn’t take care when he crosses the street. Er kümmert sich nicht darum, wenn er die Straße überquert.

There seems to be some overlap between the two verbs. Can you clarify?

Thanks! (and thanks for always taking the time to write thoughtful answers years after you post an article!)

Kayla-P
Kayla-P
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

that clears it up a lot – thank you! Your explanations and example are very clear.

What’s up with the “aufpassen” in this Google Translate sentence? Does it overlap with sorgen/kummern also?

I take care of my sick grandmother. Ich passe auf meine kranke Großmutter auf.

Lieblingsmensch
Lieblingsmensch
2 years ago

Der Apfel versorge meine Energie durch die Nacht

The Appel sustains my energy through the night

Kannst du mit dem Lärm im dritte stock besorgen?

Can you deal with the noise in the third floor outside?

Are these examples ok and natural. I got a suggestion to replace besorgen with “umgehen”

Danke

Anon
Anon
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ich wasche mein Fahrrad nicht. Ich lasse es einfach draussen stehen. Den Rest besorgt der Regen.

In your example above which I quoted here, the rain does it passively. What I meant in my use of besorgen is for the receiver of the question to go and deal with the sound.

As for versorgen, here is a version of the example I saw using meaning of sustain.
Der Leiter schlaft nicht , um seine Gruppe
zu versorgen . This is similar to dudens example –> er hat eine Familie zu versorgen ( I think dudens can be rewritten like this ( Er versorgt Seine Familie ). Dankeschön

Another one
Another one
2 years ago
Reply to  Anon

Additional info : dudens example for besorgen
ein Geschäft besorge
Another stuff I don’t understand

Anon
Anon
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Dankeschön
As for the the name, I am not Menchkind ;)

Djeed
Djeed
5 years ago

Oh besten Dank! Ich freue mich so, wenn ich meine Erfindungen richtig treffe, denn es ist aussergewöhnlich. Dass du mit weiteren Möglichkeiten und Details über die Bedeutungen dazu versorgst ist für mich auch noch sehr hilfreich :D Dank dir glaube ich nun, die Sorgenverben richtig verwenden zu können.

Djeed
Djeed
5 years ago

Hello! Thanks for this very hellful explanations! I have a question: how do you say “she is well taken care of”?

• Ist Maria krank? Ja, aber macht dir keine Sorge, für sie wird richtig gesorgt / sie wird gut versorgt ???

person243
person243
6 years ago

Hi, thanks for another cool breakdown.

I would like to add one word though. “aussorgen”. The translation is not so easy. My normal souces seem unable to cope with the word. I’ll try to explain the “duden.de” explanation: “to make sure by appropriate measures that one doesn’t need to care about providing for your living later anymore”. I think it is most commonly used in the “ge-form”. “Er hat ausgesorgt.” = “He is good for live./He has made his living.” I am not sure how to translate that best. It means that you are out of (money) worries.

How would you translate the word?

Aleisha Kudrass
6 years ago

After that final comment, I’m too scared to use the word besorgen!

Domenica Chen
Domenica Chen
6 years ago

Ja, verstehe. Thank you! You just make the answer that i need simple and clear. :D

Domenica Chen
Domenica Chen
6 years ago

Hallo!!
Danke für diese klare Erklärung von “sorgen”!!
Außerdem habe ich aber eine Frage:
“Jetzt sorgt der hohe Krankstand von Mitarbeitern dafür, dass Flüchtlinge seit Tagen kein Geld mehr für Lebensmittel bekommen, das ihnen gesetzlich zusteht.”

I learned from what you’ve explained, but I just can’t find any suitable meaning of “sorgen” in the sentence.
“sorgen” in this sentence should not be either “supply” or “take care of.” Both sounds a little bit weird. :(

Domenica Chen
Domenica Chen
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Also! Das ist hilfreich!

So, can i just say that people mostly use this word with “leads to” or “causes” meaning in writing (or some official work, news, report..), less in oral and the other meanings given above are not limited, no matter casually or officially?

Danke sehr!

Julius Rix
7 years ago

Like my website. fastgermanbasics.weebly.com

Julius Rix
7 years ago

I could really imagine that this could help people learn the language.

Julius Rix
7 years ago

Great website

James
James
7 years ago

Super, vielen Dank für die Tipps, sowohl mit kümmern als auch mit den Autoren.

PS “Die kümmern-version heißt einfach “to take care of” und kann auch heißen, dass die Person ein Problem ist.” Also, “to take care of” im Tony Soprano Sinn, klingt das!

James
James
7 years ago

Emmanuel kannst du vielleicht etwas zu der Beziehung zwischen “sorgen” und “kümmern” sagen?

Und eine zweite Frage: wenn nicht Thomas Mann, kannst du uns (arme leidende deutschlernende Leute!) andere, einfacher schreibende Schrifftsteller bzw. geschriebene Romane empfehlen?

Danke für diese Post, toll wie immer!

James
James
7 years ago

“German philosphy has a lot to answer for” – sehr lustige Gedanken zu dem Thema unklarer Sprache, von dem amerikanishen analytischen Philosophen John Searle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvwhEIhv3N0

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago
Reply to  James

Sehr aufschlussreich – und wahr. Danke!

Jeff Y
Jeff Y
7 years ago
Reply to  James

Searle is great. He was my one of my first philosophy teachers. I remember auditing a seminar where he assigned Bordieu’s Logic of Practice, maybe it’s the one he mentions in the video. He would sometimes say “The problem with those Germans whose name starts with the letter ‘H’ [presumably Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger] is that they never wrote second drafts. They wrote first drafts and turned them in.” There’s a small literature on the “Husserl in Searle”. Searle has responded to this, and also further expounded on his view of German philosophy and clarity in philosophy here: http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~jsearle/PhenomenologicalIllusion.pdf.

crawfiesue
7 years ago

Just discovered your blog. Heroic effort! Recently started with German , and I can see this will be both fun and helpful.

Jeff Y
Jeff Y
7 years ago

Great site! FWIW, Ch. 6 of Heidegger’s Being and Time, in a way the centerpiece of the book, is called “Die Sorge als Sein des Daseins”. It’s usally translated as “care” or “concern” by philosophers. Reading this has helped me understand the concept much better.

Jeff Y
Jeff Y
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yeah Heidegger is notoriously hard. There is a story that German students would read the English translations because the translators had to make everything consistent and so it was easier to read in translation. I’ve heard that about Kant too, maybe it’s apocryphal. Anyway, the super simple summary is that Dasein means human being, and the claim that the “Care is the being the Dasein” is the claim that what’s dominant for people in their daily lives is the things that matter to them, their cares and concerns. That sounds obvious, and it is, but Heidegger was reacting in part to his predecessors, like Husserl, who emphasized perception. Heidegger’s point is that humans don’t walk around focused on perception: it’s not like I get up in the morning and think “oh, there is the closet, there is the shower, there is the kitchen sink”. What dominates my daily life is the stuff that matters to me, “Oh, I have to clean those dishes; I’ve got a meeting at 10am, and then I need to make sure we have asparagus for dinner so i better stop by the store.” Your squirrel example gets at the point pretty nicely! The squirrels care about providing for their needs, getting the nuts properly hidden, etc. That’s the idea (though I believe for Heidegger squirrels arent’ Dasein :) I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes that serious Heidegger scholars would rebuke me for, but I think that gets the gist. Incidentally Heidegger makes a big deal about language and the roots of terms. Your blog entries kind of remind me of some passages in Heidegger. Sorge is part of a cluster that also includes Besorge, which you helpfully discuss, and also “Fürsorge”. Some info is here. http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/tocnode?id=g9780631190950_chunk_g97806311909506_ss1-1

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Y

Philosophie muss immer klar und präzise sein. Je dunkler und undursichtiger ein philosophisches Werk ist, desto klarer ist es, dass es wirklich nicht zu Nutze gemacht werden kann. Ein markantes Beispiel dafür wäre Hegel, der wahrscheinlich mit Absicht seine Prosa verdunkelte. Heidegger ist in jeder Hinsicht nicht weit von Hegel gekommen. Ja, man sieht schon, dass die beiden über einen enormen Intellekt verfügten, der es ihnen ermöglichte, so was Verwickeltes zu verfassen, womit sich viele Gelehrte immer noch befassen (ohne wirklich alles von ihnen Geschriebene zu verstehen), aber das ist doch keine Talentshow. Es gibt glücklicherweise ein Gegengift, nämlich, die analytische Philosophie.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago

Ich gebe ja nicht vor, ein klares Denken aufzuweisen ;) Und um mein Gehirn nicht weiter zu “vermüllen”, will ich auch keine Zeit verlieren, um mich entweder mit halt unausgereiften oder mit absichtlich undurchsichtig geschriebenen philosophischen Texten zu befassen. Klares Denken entspricht klarer Sprache und umgekehrt, weshalb ich in Heideggers Werk nichts zu suchen habe. Wenn, dann lese ich eher Peter van Inwagen oder einen anderen Analytiker.

Darüber hinaus bin ich kein Muttersprachler, weswegen ich es nicht oft schaffe, mich am klarsten auszudrücken. Das geschieht, weil ich keine abgestumpften Sätze schreiben möchte, und wenn ich versuche, etwas Längeres zu schreiben (eben wie jetzt), ist es umso wahrscheinlicher, dass ich entweder einen “idiomatischen” Fehler mache oder dass ich in Langwierigkeit gerate (<- das jetzt war ein Idiomatikfehler, nicht wahr?). Mein aktiver idiomatischer Wortschatz ist leider nicht allzu groß. Ich muss deswegen viele Dinge umschreiben, was dir als unnötige Komplexitätssteigerung vorkommt (siehst du, ich kenne kein passendes Wort für "complexification", deswegen habe ich mein eigenes ausgedacht; vllt hätte es "Komplexifizierung" sein sollen, oder "Kompliziertmachen", oder durchaus etwas viel einfacheres – mir fehlt es gerade an Fantasie). Einfacher gesagt, fallen mir nicht die einfachsten Ausdruckweisen ein (wie sie einem Deutschen einfallen würden).

Ich gebe auch zu, weder Kleist, noch Mann gelesen zu haben, obwohl das mit Mann ich vorhabe, in der Zukunft zu beheben.

Danke dir für die Korrekturen :)

Jeff Y
Jeff Y
7 years ago

Man I’m jealous. I wish I could carry on the conversation in German like you two (and just about everyone here)… But it would take me an hour to write this and would have been rife with errors. Well maybe next time when I have less to say. So, in English… I’ll just add that I certainly agree that clarity is important. As Wittgenstein said, “what can be said at all, can be said clearly”! (Googling a bit I find the original is “Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen.”). Husserl–who I focus on–is sometimes considered a founder of both analytic and continental philosophy, and I am part of a tradition that reads phenomenology “analytically”. Husserl is a not a great writer, even in English Translation, kind of plodding and long-winded, but he at least tried to be clear. And I think much of the contemporary literature in phenomenology is moving in that direction, trying to say things clearly and plainly. I also agree that the obfuscation begins with Hegel. I just finished the phenomenology of spirit… whoa! It’s hard going. A friend of mine calls it “celery literature”: more work to digest than the nutrients you get out. Could have been said more clearly. As for Heidegger, he at least recognizes what he’s doing. At the end of section 7 of being and time he says “Look, I know this is painful, but look at what Aristotle did in the metaphysics. That was painful too, but he had no choice. He was not just recounting events like Thucydides, so it was necessarily more difficult”. At first I did not buy it. I thought, come on, Heidegger could have written this more clearly. But as the years have gone on and I’ve taught the text over and over, I have become more sympathetic. Maybe I just got used to it. Maybe I’d get used to the Hegel too if I spent more time on it. So for me the jury’s out. Though in general I tend to agree that it’s better to be more clear.

Andrew Saul
Andrew Saul
7 years ago

Hallo Manny, Kannst du um das Wort “setzen” schreiben. Wenn du das machst dann spende ich a bissel Geld dafuer.

Gruesse Andrew

Sent from my iPad

>

gregturn
gregturn
7 years ago

I’m starting to add cards to my anki deck using your articles. Super! Und viele danke!

Jae
Jae
7 years ago

Danke für die Erklärungen für diese Verben. Leider habe ich noch eine Frage. Sie haben gesagt, dass besorgen “to get” bedeutet. Aber kann ich dessenstatt besorgen ‘bekommen’ benutzen? Zum Beispiel ‘ich muss den Apfel bekommen (statt die Verb besorgen)’. Es scheint, dass für mich beide Verben im Sinne von Bedeutung gleich sind. Danke!

Jae
Jae
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Das war sehr hilfreich. Danke schön.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago
Reply to  Jae

stattdessen

Jae
Jae
7 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Danke. Das stimmt. Das war ein Tippfehler.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago
Reply to  Jae

stattdessen