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 Euroäischen 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 fo/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”

for members :)

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berlingrabers

I remember helping staff a kids’ camp years ago and somebody asking me if I could “besorgen” some rocks for an activity. Took me a minute to figure that one out…

For “die Flat” I’d use either “flat rate” or “flat fee” – “all for one flat fee” or “at one flat rate” in the example you used.

Would “Maria sorgt für Wein” and “Maria besorgt Wein” have any different nuance of meaning?

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Thank you :)

I’m trying to get my feel for the german Passiv. In your sentence:

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.

i would have thought the sentence would be:
“Wegen Bauarbeiten WIRD die Wasserversorgung morgen von 8 bis 10 Uhr unterbrochen”

Or are both sentences fine? What is the difference? Danke!

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

ads, your sentence uses Vorgangspassiv (the “dynamic” passive), while the original sentence uses Zustandspassiv (the “static” passive).
Zustandspassiv denotes the result of some action, while Vorgangspassiv is about the action itself.
Since the water supply will be stopped at 8 o’clock, what we have from 8 to 10 o’clock is the result of this action, that is, Zustandspassiv: die Wasserversorgung *ist* unterbrochen.

Using Vorgangspassiv here would imply that someone is constantly trying to switch the whole system off for the whole 2 hours.

So:

Die Wasserversorgung wird morgen um 8 Uhr unterbrochen.
Die Wasserversorgung ist morgen von 8 bis 10 Uhr unterbrochen.

Hope it helps :)

Anonymous
Anonymous

Thanks, but please note that it’s “lots” not lot’s in the example with das Unternehmen! Also, can you always use the infinitive of a verb as a noun? So ich bin gut im Arbeit/Schwimmen/Spielen/Essen.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

An important word – Sorgfalt – care, accuracy.
Etwas mit Sorgfalt tun.

Andy
Andy

Ich muss etwas Brot besorgen, um die Gäste etwas zu versorgen. ?

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

*mit etwas
I think. Otherwise it’s double accusative, and I don’t think versorgen is one of those few verbs.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I think that “surfen, mailen, chatten, phonen mit nur einer Flat” is best translated as “web, e-mails, chat, phone for a flat rate” (or “fixed payment”).

Jae
Jae

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!

Anonymous
Anonymous

stattdessen

Jae
Jae

Danke. Das stimmt. Das war ein Tippfehler.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

stattdessen

gregturn
gregturn

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

Andrew Saul
Andrew Saul

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

>

Jeff Y
Jeff Y

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.

crawfiesue

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

James
James

“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

Sehr aufschlussreich – und wahr. Danke!

Jeff Y
Jeff Y

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.

James
James

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

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!

Julius Rix

Great website

Julius Rix

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

Julius Rix

Like my website. fastgermanbasics.weebly.com

Domenica Chen
Domenica Chen

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

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

Aleisha Kudrass

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