and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll have a look at the meaning of:
Voll is of course the German version of full, but it actually has two meanings in German and both more important than one another. And while this just made no sense, actually, the following German sentence does:
- Die Bahn war voll voll.
Yep… we really do say that.
So let’s jump right in and find out what’s up with voll.
And we’ll start with a few example for the “classic” meaning: full.
- Mein Glas ist voll.
- My glass is full.
- 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.
As you can see in the last example, voll goes with the preposition mit but it’s also skipped at times.
Anyway, just like English full, you can also use voll to indicate saturation with food or alcohol…
- Ich bin voll.
- I am full.
- Thomas war gestern total voll.
- Thomas was totally wasted yesterday.
And there are actually quite a bunch of other contexts for voll. The translation is not full, but the basic idea is always that something has reached some sort of saturation. Here are some examples.
- Der Bus ist extrem voll.
- The bus is extremely crowded.
- Mein Akku is voll.
- My battery is fully charged / full. (please English natives, help me… is that how you say it???)
- 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.
Just like full, voll can also be used as an ending. Or a suffix as it is called in jargon. But those don’t line up very well. So, in German it’s -voll, in English it’s something else; or the other way around. That doesn’t make it easier, of course, but we must never forget one of the fundamental truths of language…. it is what it is.
Yeah, I know… very helpful :)
- 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.
There are examples where it works … machtvoll – powerful or angstvoll – fearful. I would say, just give it a try and use -voll if you want to translate a -ful word to German. I think you will be understood. But there is a more than 50% chance that the word is not a German word.
So … although there are minor differences, voll and full are the same thing for the most part. Now what about fully. Most of you may know that German does not make a grammatical distinction between adjective and adverb. Simple and simply, quick and quickly… there is no such dichotim… uh dichomot… uh… dichoym.. uh … no such couples in German. So fully should be voll too, right? Technically yes, but in reality I think many of the fullys would be translated to other words such as ganz, total or komplett… 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.
So, what’s with the voll und ganz? I had that in 2 examples… well it is a fixed expression that is used pretty frequently… it doesn’t really mean much… fully and wholy… but it sure sounds right in the examples above. Wow… what a helpful advice ;).
Cool. Now let’s get to the second meaning.
The second meaning of “voll”
Voll is a very common colloquial intensifier… like so or really.
- 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.”
You can intensify almost everything using voll… even voll itself.
- Der Bus war heute voll voll.
- The bus was really packed today.
Or how about this:
- “Wie war die Party.”
- “How was the party?”
“Really /sooo empty.”
- Thomas war gestern voll voll.
- Thomas was really wasted yesterday.
Of course you need context here.
As odd as these examples may seem, this is how people talk in Germany in informal speech… quite informal at that. Using voll as an intensifier is certainly not appropriate when you talk to your professor.
- Die Prüfung war ziemlich schwer, Herr Professor. Besonders mit der dritten Frage hatte ich grosse Problem.
- The test was quite difficult, Mr. Professor. I especially had big problems with the 3rd question.
The same said to your pals:
- Die Prüfung war voll schwer. Besonders mit der dritten Frage hatte ich voll die Probleme.
Alright, so far we have always put it in front of an adjective. But it is not limited to this. You can 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.
Some teenagers use voll so much… it’s not even an intensifier anymore… more like kinda like a filler… sorta’. Together with so it can make up 50 % of a sentence.
- Maria is voll so die Kuh so, 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 mind you, don’t underestimate that talk. 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. It is like a ballet. The words mean nothing… but only if placed correctly. Misplaced words will mean nonsense which is something other than nothing. So when you are able to choreograph the fascinating ballet of filler you are really on your way to master… oh what am I saying here :). Don’t talk like that. And don’t use voll too often.
If you use it correctly you will sounds really native. If you don’t … well have you heard of the uncanny valley? Getting too close without getting quite there gets you nowhere.
But be aware that German, especially young Germans, use voll all the time as an intensifier.
Alright… I think we’re almost done for today but to wrap this up here is an idiomatic expressions with voll. The first one is nicht für voll nehmen.
- Maria nimmt Thomas nicht für voll.
- Maria does not take Thomas for full. (lit.)
- Maria doesn’t take Thomas seriously.
You may hear it in daily life but I would recommend not to try to use it as the occasions are kind of restricted … so go with ernst nehmen instead for your active vocabulary.
- Maria nimmt Thomas nicht ernst.
There are also a lot of words with voll like vollends, völlig, vollständig, vollstens, vollkommen and they all kind of mean the same… complete(ly) but it would take ages and a day to explain this and frankly… I am WAY too lazy for that :).
So we’ll just call t a day here. If you 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.