[What’s German?] – to schon mal or to gewesen sein?

This confused me so much, initially. I kept read it as already time or already one time and it just got nowhere. I eventually started seeing schon (ein)mal as been and with warst as have been. This is absolutely something you need to learn as I see and hear this usage a lot. It’s a lot like our have you ever been, I think.

If someone asks you, “warst du schonmal in Deutschland,” then they’re asking whether you have ever been in Germany, so what they’re essentially saying, with broken English as an example, is, “were you already one time in Germany?” I know, I said I stopped thinking of it as already one time, but it’s actually a good way of looking at it, in my opinion, but also to strongly keep in mind the to be side of it, and it’s this state of being that helped me understand it.

This usage also works with things as well as to have been to places or to have done something verby, such as swimming, running, jogging, and so on and so forth. If someone asks you, “warst du schonmal Krank,” they are asking whether you have ever been sick; whether you were, at one point, sick. “Warst du schonmal joggen?” Have you ever been jogging?

We do have this usage in English, it’s just not used often. One such example could be, “were you ever aware (at some/any point) that [something],” which works quite well in English, and sounds quite proper. I’m sure there’s a proper term for this, but for the life of me I cannot figure that out as I’m far better with German terminology [die Terminologie; pl. die Terminologien], but it’s simply referring to the past, going by the basic conjugation of you were, vs the likes of it was.

Schon mal can be written as schonmal, schon mal, or schon einmal, although I have my suspicions that grammar freaks might insist on separating the two words. I believe, but could be entirely wrong here, that schon einmal adds emphasis to the “one time” aspect of it, possibly akin to our “at some point” or “at any point.”

I wasn’t even altogether sure of how you would express this with to be as I simply never usually see it, but after checking up on my guess, it appears I was bang on the money, in that you would say something like, “bist du jemals in Deutschland gewesen?” The jemals seems to take the place of einmal and is probably a closer translation of at any point or our simpler ever. Remember, gewesen is a sein word, hence it is bist and not hast, in this example.

There is another usage for schonmal that you should heed, as have I just discovered. Here’s an example I found on Linguee, “bist du schon mal ins Ausland gereist?” Which essentially has the same sort of meaning as the usage explained above, but this is adding emphasis to traveling to somewhere and is asking whether you have gone into a country (to go abroad) rather than simply whether you have been in one—a small difference, perhaps, but a useful one to know, none-the-less. I should point out that I don’t see schon here as been, rather, I see it as already.

I hope that was useful, and I’ll be sure to make any necessary corrections should mistakes [der Fehler; pl. die Fehler] arise. If you found this helpful, please let me know in the comments below, and if you have any tips for how to remember these usages, or if you have any other usages that you know of, then please let us know!

Random tip: it’s colloquial to call a comment online, “(der) Kommi,” but keep in mind that it can also mean communist!

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[What’s German?] Let’s face it, you just want to know how to swear!

There’s a few ways to be mean in German, presumably like any language. Creativity is key to being effective at making someone feel like a freshly-squeezed turd, but obviously there are better ways to handle unpleasant individuals.

When I learned German, by which I mean, when I took it unto myself to learn German, I didn’t want to deal much with the profane side of the language, because I was gradually gathering a fair bit of respect for the language, and I felt kind of dirty at the idea of learning all these vulgar things. In retrospect, I probably should’ve learned them sooner. Why? Because it goes both ways.

To avoid leaving a blank expression on your face when someone insults you, check out these rude things to say to someone in German:

Geh weg!

The classic for when you want someone to sod off, as it fairly literally means, “go away.” Geh von mir sofort weg is a personal favorite, although I’m not 100% sure it’s bang on the monies, but it should be. There is of course a politer way of requesting (rather than demanding) that someone leave you be, such as “gehe bitte weg”, and then proceed to give a reason. If you say this, try not to pick the ugliest, most disrespectful tone of voice that you have, because it may come off as rude—jus’ sayin’.

Arschloch!

Such an oldie. This was one of the first things I learned in German, long before I ever delved into German’s innards. Essentially, it’s like our arsehole, or asshole if you’re American, old bean. You have the hole [das Loch] and the arse [der Arsch] which is probably not the most eloquent way of describing the glutius maximus. What can I say, Hinterloch just doesn’t have the same ring to it, although it does sound amusing; I think I may have to keep that in mind!

Du kotzt mich an!

You make me sick. No, not you, but that’s what this little tidbit means. It’s kind of strong, as you might have guessed. I suppose you could also use this for when something makes you sick. Das kotzt mich an, for example—should work. The verb is das Kotzen and can be translated as anything from puke to vomit, but generally means the prompt exit of disgusting bits and pieces from within.

Fick dich! / Verpiss dich!

I’m showing both of these because I think they are both important to highlight. Although fick dich is supposedly more literal and actually is rather x-rated, it’s still occasionally used, or at least, it was at one point to me years ago while playing a game online. I presume one of two things: either it was a kid who didn’t realise how inappropriate it was, or it wasn’t a German person and funnily enough had no idea how inappropriate it was.

As for verpiss dich, well, for some unusual reason, Germans enjoy telling people to go piss themselves. Sich verpissen is the syntax and essentially means anything from bugger off to piss off. This usage is the appropriate one when you don’t want to assume a closer relationship with someone.

Schwul / Schlampe

The first word means gay, and before you send the lynch mob after me, note that I’m only telling you about this word in-case someone uses it against you in a derogatory way, which is very, very likely. I had this said to me a long time ago but didn’t understand what they mean until a long time later, so hopefully now that won’t happen to you!

schwul sein essentially means to be homosexual, not to be confused with the now-dated usage of the word gay, which would probably match up to something like fröhlich or bunt. These words are all adjectives, so keep them in mind when forming a depressingly-weak insult usually conjured up by a child.

I should probably point out that the word for muggy, schwül, has a completely different, almost exaggerated difference of pronouncation, presumably to avoid confusion. You do not want to say it’s a homosexual day today, do you? Well, if you do, that’s fine! You just say, “Es ist heute schwul!” Good look fending off them boys. Oo-er!

If you happened to be curious as to what some German people might call a female in a less-than-colorful manner, then fear not! For I shall unburden you of your curiosity. Schlampe can be translated to anything from slut to bitch; not a very pleasant word.

Keep in mind that words like these probably have different connotations to a German native, so while slut is pretty horrible a word for me, it might be diddly-squat to someone else, much as it probably is with any language.

Leck mich am Arsch!

I learned this one with a tremendous amount of glee, as I finally knew how to politely request that people kindly take their tongue and lick my arse-crack—eew. So, leck comes from the verb lecken, which means to lick, as far as I know, but it seems to have a number of vulgar meanings, so I would treat it very carefully when using such a word normally. I’m sure you know by now what Arsch is.

I hope that entertained your secret desire to insult somebody helped you in the event that someone should insult you. Feel free to add your own insults below, although preferably not directed at me, because, you know, that’d be rude!

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[What’s German?] – Tools in my toolbox of language-learning tools!

In no particular order, I’m going to share with you some potentially vital websites that can teach you a tremendous amount. These websites either may be helpful to you, or have been a huge help for me over the years. Please take the time to give them all a go, as you may one day owe thanks in part to them for your fluency. Just to avoid any potential confusion: the text below refers to the link above.

http://genusly.com/

I actually stumbled across this website today. I’m not entirely sure I’d personally find it useful now, but I can see how it might’ve been handy back in the day, so it perhaps may help you. The point of that page is to show you what gender a noun is as you type it by highlighting the text a certain color associated with that particular gender. Perhaps a good tool if you are a particularly visual learner.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsYMk_FCTGBxmwKFiCynFwg

I owe a lot of my knowledge to this young woman, Katja. Not only is she aesthetically pleasing, but she’s an excellent teacher, both vibrant and engaging. I strongly recommend you go through her videos several times over as they are oozing with information.

http://german.about.com/

This is probably the first site I started using as a proper resource for my German studies. The site is full of articles that explain things in very fine detail, albeit in a bit of a dry way. One of the best things about that site that still helps me today, is that there’s IM chat software freely available for you to use.

http://www.memrise.com/home/

It’s not necessarily the site, rather a few “courses” within that are good with vocabulary and a few phrases. Unfortunately, the courses are absolutely not without problems, though. Regardless of the hiccups, such as mismatching translations and the occasional lack of article for new nouns, I still recommend this site because it still offers a lot of new words to add to your growing list of vocabulary.

http://www.dict.cc/

This is my personal go-to dictionary for German. This site also shows colloquial speach, highlights idioms and vulgarity, shows the syntax,  has plenty of phrases, gives excerpts from the ‘net, and even offers audio for just about everything so you can hear how it’s pronounced!

http://konjugator.reverso.net/konjugation-deutsch.html

One of the trickiest things with German is knowing how to conjugate a verb. This site will save you from such confusion. All you need to do is type the desired verb into the search bar and you’ll be able to find out what the Hilfsverb is and how it’s conjugated in all the great many, glorious ways. You can even see alterative ways to spell the verb in a given conjugation. My only complaint with the site is that it doesn’t clearly show the Hilfsverb, rather, I typically go to the Konjunktiv II, Futur II in order to see the Hilfsverb, which is indicated at the end as either sein or haben.

https://www.duolingo.com/

Last but by no means least, we have Duolingo—a fantastic website with a mobile application that can teach you anything from grammar to vocabulary. You won’t end up fluent by making the “tree” gold, and the site telling you you’re 100% fluent is typically complete nonsense. However, this is probably one of the biggest tools for language learning, as you can learn grammar usages, such as which preposition to use with which verbs, and a nice big list of vocabulary. Duolingo offers questionable audio, various languages alongside German, the ability to learn English from German (believe it or not, it’s educational!) and even a feature called Immersion with which you can translate documents with your fellow learners. Duolingo offers a slight gamifcation aspect in that you gain levels and earn Lingots that can be spent in a shop for language learning things; an interesting concept but has so much wasted potential.

So there you have it, boys and girls. I hope this was a help. If you know of any other awesome language-learning websites that can be used for learning German, please do share them below!

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[What’s German?] – Is it ein, eine, einer, eines, einem, or einen?

If I had a penny for every time someone asked what the score is with the articles [der Artikel; pl. die Artikel], I’d—well, actually—I wouldn’t really have a lot because a penny is sod all!

This is quite a big subject, because it’s not just which letters [der Buchstabe; pl. die Buchstaben] come after ein, rather, there’s also kein, the definite article [der bestimmte Artikel], the cases [der Fall; pl. die Fälle], and, basically, declensions [die Beugung] to deal with. It’s really quite a lot. Brace yourself for some uncensored, hardcore learning.

Disclaimer: rated S for Supervision, because you’ll need to be medically supervised while you read the following material, in the event you go into shock. You continue at your own risk. Taut with Thought takes no responsibility for any brain damage.

Now that the legal business is out of the way, we can begin, but don’t worry, you’ll probably be fine.

As you probably know, English has the definite article and the indefinite article [der unbestimmte Artikel], which is quite a normal language quality. German is no different, … kind of. In English, the definitive article is the and the indefinite article is a or an. Since we don’t have genders [das Geschlecht; pl. die Geschlechter], they just stay their same boring selves, never really grabbing any real interest from anyone, and living a life of utter mundanity. You can stop crying now.

This is quite a basic part of the topic, which I’m going through to make sure there’s an understanding from the get-go, so if you’re not that new to German, bear with me.

German has 3 genders:

  • Male [männlich] such as der Hund.
  • Female [weiblich] such as die Katze.
  • Neuter [sächlich] such as das Auto.

This trips many German learners up as they struggle to remember the right gender for the right word; I won’t go into that one as that’s a different, albeit somewhat related topic.

If a cat is die Katze, it’s eine Katze. If a dog is der Hund, it’s ein Hund. If a car is das Auto, it’s ein Auto. You might have wondered why der Hund isn’t einer Hund. Well, sometimes it is, but not in the nominative [der Nominativ] which translates to the English sentences [der Satz; pl. die Sätze] formed like this, “I am a cat.” The cat is a cat, it doesn’t have anything, it doesn’t do anything, and it doesn’t even affect anything, because it’s simply a cat. I am a person. You are a dog. This is green. It’s all nominative because nothing else really happens.

It’s the same idea with German. Ich bin ein Mensch. Du bist ein Hund. Dies ist grün. It’s all nominative. Don’t worry about the dies, that varies with gender and case too and translates to this.

Let’s bump it up a gear. You have declensions.

“Ich habe den schnellen Hund.”

Why is it den? The reason is because to simply have something [etwas haben] requests the accusative [der Akkusativ] case. I have a dog. It would have been the nominative but haben got involved, it all got flipped; turned upside down. So, you might have realised that der words [das Wort; pl. die Worte/Wörter] get turned to den when in the accusative, and you’d have assumed correctly.

So what happens if you have a dog, rather than the dog? Some of you will have already guessed, but it does in-fact get changed to einen. Here are the indefinite article usages in the accusative, with the 3 genders, including the plural [die Mehrzahl/der Plural], to which, by the way, is almost always referred as die:

  • Male: “Ich habe einen Hund.”
  • Female: “Ich habe eine Katze.”
  • Neuter: “Ich habe ein Auto.”
  • Plural: “Ich habe Hunde.”

“Ich habe einen Hund.”

It’s still the accustive, regardless of the article, because remember, etwas haben requests the accustive.

OK, so this is probably weak-sauce simple to you and you’re right about ready to give up and eat a dictionary in hopes of gaining magical linguistic abilities. Well, first and foremost, it’s not possible—there’s not enough flavor.

The 4 cases you come across in German goes as follows:

  • Nominative [Nominativ] such as, “Ich bin ein Mann.”
  • Accusative [Akkusativ] such as, “Ich habe die Schokolade.”
  • Dative [Dativ] such as, “Ich schreibe mit meiner rechten Hand.”
  • Genitive [Genitiv] such as, “Das ist die Schokolade meines Freundes.”

I realise I may have lost you with the dative and genitive, but bear with me here. It might sound daunting but when you talk or type in German, you have to take into account the gender, the case, and the declensions.

“Ich habe eine grüne Katze.”

Do you have a green cat? If you do, you should probably stop pouring green paint over it. This is a nice, simple sentence that translates to “I have a green cat.” You already know that the cat is die Katze, and I presume you figured out that a cat is eine Katze based on the information provided. With this in mind, to have a green cat becomes eine grüne Katze haben— if you’re confused about that example, haben is written at the end because like saying “to have a cat”—and is also in the accusative. There is a declination and that’s the adjective [Adjektiv] grüne. Here is a similar sentence as above in the 4 cases:

  • Nominative: “Es ist eine grüne Katze.”
  • Accusative: “Ich habe eine grüne Katze.”
  • Dative: “Ich spiele mit der grünen Katze.”
  • Genitive: “Ich sehe die Katze meines Freundes.”

Dative and genitive is where most of the action happens, in my opinion. Genitive was the hardest case for me to get my head around, with dative being the 2nd hardest case.

So, with all of this said, as one large prefix to the title, you need to know when to use ein, eine, einer, eines, einem, or einen. So I’ll wander over to the general gist, because you’ve probably had enough of all this bush-beating.

The nominative for each gender using the indefinite article:

  • “Es ist eine Katze.”
  • “Es ist ein Auto.”
  • “Es ist ein Hund.”

The accusative for each gender using the indefinite article:

  • “Ich habe eine Katze.”
  • “Ich habe ein Auto.”
  • “Ich habe einen Hund.”

The dative for each gender using the indefinite article:

  • “Du spielst mit einer Katze.”
  • “Du spielst mit einem Hund.”
  • “Du spielst mit einem Auto.”

The genitive for each gender using the indefinite article:

  • “Die Knochen einer Katze.”
  • “Die Knochen eines Hundes.”
  • “Die Knochen eines Autos.” (don’t ask, …)

So there you have it, but what happens when you flip it around to a negative? Well, it’s basically the same, but you stick a k on the front of the indefinite article, for example “ich habe keine Autos,” “ich sehe keine Katze,””ich spiele mit keinem Hund,” and “das Auto gehört zu keiner.” OK, the last one was me cheating because I couldn’t think of a genitive example for kein, if there even is such a structure of words.

I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t you just tell me that right at the start?!” You’re probably right, but I like to add information tied to the primary bit of knowledge because, at least with me, it helps me better understand and remember something, so too will it perhaps help you.

I hope I did this topic justice. If I left something quite big out please let me know in the comments below and I’ll consider a part two to this entry.

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[What’s German?] – Würden VS Wären

Almost two o’clock in the morning is probably not the best time to begin a project, but who cares, … besides me! I’ve decided—halfway through the article, I should add!—to name this little project, “What’s German?” Don’t ask me why, or do, but don’t expect a super profound answer, because all you’ll get is zombified drivel from a very tired individual.

I’ve decided, regardless of the lack of feedback on my last entry, that I will push forward with that idea of helping people with their German. I feel almost weird saying that because I’m still learning myself, but I explained it all already, so I’ll skip that and get straight into the muck.

I had a real issue with the words würden, and wären for a long time. I very recently managed to make sense of it all, for the most part. I did a lot of digging and a lot of questioning. Some quality discussions with my fellow German-learning friend really helped keep me focused on the connundrum at hand.

“I would have died, if that car hit me.”

Have you ever wanted to express that? No, probably not, but perhaps something similar—the key words being would have. I used to always use würde for everything and was ignorant to most of the rules with this would-have business. It’s only in the past few days that I made a metric crap-ton of progress and realised where I had been going wrong for such a long time—years, in-fact.

Did you know that every verb has its own would have form? Emanuel from German is Easy briefly explained this in a post of his on a website somewhere deep within the bowels of the Internet. Essentially, all verbs can use the würden form when saying would.

“Ich würde das schon einmal gesagt haben, aber ich wollte nicht.”

A silly example, but it should be valid, none-the-less. This quote means, “I would have said that once already, but I didn’t want to.” I tried to make that as close a translation as I could. You can in-fact use würden with all verbs, provided you use the correct Hilfsverb, sein or haben. However, as some of you are likely aware, there’s also a wären form, but wären sein cannot be used as freely as würden haben can. For example:

“Wäre ich reich, würde ich die ganze Welt besessen haben.”
As far as I know, this is correct, however, …
“Würde ich reich, wäre ich die ganze Welt besessen haben.”
…is painfully wrong, from what I’ve gleaned from my recent discovery.

If you’re like me, you’re probably sat there shouting at the screen. “But why?!” You scream. “I don’t bloody know!” I retort. Well, actually, I do, or at least I think I do. If I were rich, I would have possessed the entire world, which just so happens to be to what the first sentence translates. While I’m on this besitzen word, do note that it’s very irregular, as I’ve just discovered. The past tense of besitzen is besessen. I like to check, check, and check again to be sure—as much I can be—that I’m teaching the right thing to somebody, or at least damn close. I’m not even going to attempt a translation of the second, because I consider it a jumbled mess, and I now see why. All these years, I’ve made countless mistakes like this which will have been painful for a German person to read.

If you look at any site dedicated to listing German verb conjugations, you’ll notice that besitzen is a haben word, by which I mean, the Hilfsverb, or supporting verb, so to speak, is haben. It’s super important than whenever you learn a new verb, you find out and remember the Hilfsverb for it, and if you don’t, you’ll pay for it dearly. I’ll even send the boys over and you’ll get a right good seeing to; wait, that sounds all kinds of wrong. It turns out, just as a tip that I got from the aforementioned studdy buddy, that most motion verbs use the sein HIlfsverb.

You’ll also notice that for every verb in the German dictionary, at least as far as I know—I haven’t actually checked every single word—there’s a Konjunktiv (subjunctive; try not to get these two confused, like I did today!) that shows the würden form, but you’ll also notice that it varies slightly depending on the verb’s Hilfsverb. This means that every verb can be written as würden haben or würden sein, respective of the Hilfsverb. Here are a few examples of a typical usages:

“Ich würde in die Schule gegangen sein, aber ich hatte keine Lust und wollte im Bett zu bleiben!”
“Ich würde einen Apfel gegessen haben, aber ich hasse Obst.”
“Wäre ich ein Engel, würde ich zum Himmel geflogen sein.”

I hope that shined some light on those two annoying words. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below, and I hope you enjoy this article so much that you share it with your German-learning friends!

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