Word of the Day – “voll”

vollHello everyone,

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

voll

 

Voll is of course the German version of full, and it wouldn’t even be worth talking about it, if it wasn’t for… it’s other meaning and the fact that the following is a proper, nice German sentence.

  • Die Bahn war voll voll.

Yep… we really do say that.
So are you ready to find out what’s up with that? Then let’s jump right in.

But of course the really interesting part comes at the end. First, we’ll pad… I mean… enrich the show with a look at the normal-voll.
Here are a few examples

  • Mein Glas ist voll.
  • My glass is full.
  • Ich bin voll.
  • I am full.
  • Thomas war gestern total voll.
  • Thomas was totally wasted yesterday.

Clearly, the two line up really well. But there is a slight difference if you want to add the material that fills something up. IN English you usually say full of, in German people tend to say voll mit.

  • Ich möchte ein volles Bier bitte und nicht das halbe Glas voll mit Schaum.
  • I’d like to have a full beer please and not half the glass full of foam.
  • Das Glas ist voll (mit) Wasser.
  • The glass is full of water.

And of course, the German voll, unlike its English brother, can get adjective endings.

  • Der Film ist ein voller Erfolg.
  • The movie is a total/complete success.
  • Das Keyboard hat einen vollen, warmen Klang.
  • The Keyboard has a rich, warm sound.
  • Er hat einen Vollbart und volles Haar.
  • He has a full beard and thick hair.

And while both languages can use the words as a second part to a word, like English helpful for instance, they do it for DIFFERENT words, so you can’t really translate one to one or make up your own words.

  • The book was very helpful.
  • Das Buch war sehr hilfreich (not: hilfvoll!)
  • Dein Vorschlag ist nicht sinnvoll.
  • Your proposal is not reasonable/ sensible (not: senseful)
  • Marc ist sehr humorvoll.
  • Marc has a lot of humor.

And while we’re at it, let’s also mention the adverb fully. Usually, German adverbs are no different than adjectives, so schön can be both beautiful AND beautifully.
Voll is kind of an exception though, because there is the special version völlig. But in daily life, people are actually more likely to use words like ganz, total or komplett or the fixed phrase voll und ganz… especially when the sentence has a not in it.

  • I fully agree.
  • Ich stimme voll und ganz/komplett zu.

  • I don’t fully understand that.
  • Ich verstehe das nicht ganz/komplett.
  • This video fully explains it.
  • Dieses Video erklärt es komplett/ voll und ganz.

Now that I think about it, there are actually a bunch words with voll in them like vollends, vollständig or vollkommen that all kind of mean complete(ly). But I don’t want to dig into that too much.
Let’s instead now get to the thing that’s everyone is actually interested in… the special meaning of voll.

The second meaning of “voll”

Here’s the sentence from the beginning again:

  • Die Bahn war voll voll.

Sure, you probably wouldn’t say fully full in English. But you would say completely full, which is not too far away.
And from there it is but a small step to the more general very full. Which is what the sentence means.

  • The train was very full.

Because the other meaning of voll is as a intensifier, like very, so or really.
And it is REALLY REALLY common in colloquial German.

  • Der Film war voll langweilig.
  • The movie was soooo /really boring.
  • “Kommst du noch mit uns in die Bar?”
    “Boah ne alter, ich bin schon voll müde.”
  • “Do you come to the bar with us?”
    “Wow no dude, I am really/damn/freakin’ tired already.”

  • Tik Tok ist voll lame!
  • Tik Tok is super lame!

And here, for the fun of it…

  • “Wie war die Party.”
    Voll leer.
  • “How was the party?”
    Really /sooo empty.”

Now, as I said, this voll is really common. But it’s also quite colloquial and informal and it can easily sound a bit too “basic”. Like… you wouldn’t necessarily use it in a business meeting or when you talk to your professor…

  • Die Prüfung war ziemlich schwer, Herr Professor. Besonders mit der dritten Frage hatte ich große Probleme.
  • The test was quite difficult, Mr. Professor. I especially had big problems with the 3rd question.

But with your buddies, that story would probably sound like this:

  • Die Prüfung war voll schwer. Besonders mit der dritten Frage hatte ich voll die Probleme.

And this example actually showed another really cool feature of voll. Did you notice it? The example said “voll die Probleme”. Because voll can actually also intensify nouns or verbs.

  • Ich habe voll keine Ahnung von Chemie.
  • I have so no clue of chemistry.
  • Ich habe heute voll Appetit auf Fisch.
  • I really have an appetite for fish today.
  • Maria hat am Telefon voll geweint.
  • Maria really cried on the phone.

These phrasings are really common as well. And actually, some teenagers use voll so much that it borders on being a filler. Here it is in combination with one of the other big fillers: so.

  • Maria is voll so die Kuh ey, voll krass arrogant und so. Gestern ha’ich so mit ihr inna Schule so geredet so und sie so voll so voll scheisse unfreundlich so.
  • Maria is like such a freaggin bitch, like really like arrogant and shit. Like yesterday in school I like was like kinda like talking to her and she was like all like really unfriendly and stuff.

Now, please don’t try to talk like that, though. First of all, it’s cringe if you’re not a teen. And it can be double cringe because you’ll probably get it wrong.
You see, you cannot just randomly throw the filler words into your sentence. That doesn’t work. On the contrary… enriching ones utterances with a small yet powerful variety of fillers and have that sound genuine is a task that requires A LOT of feel for the language.
But if you throw in a voll here and there to intensify, that’ll raise your native-ness quite a bit. Especially voll voll and voll leer. If you pop those at the right moment, your friends will be really impressed.

And I think that’s actually it for today. This was our little look at the meanings of voll. And I am 100% sure that you’ll hear the intensifier from now on, if you’re in Germany.
As usual, if you want to check how much you remember, you can take the little quiz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if have any questions or suggestions, I would be voll happy to read a comment because my comment basket can never get voll enough.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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