German Linguistic Precision Part II — Saying where things are in German

Last week we learned that the German language has three words that are generally used for “to put”. In English once something is put somewhere it is usually there.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ChristianLangenegger, marathonsprachen. marathonsprachen said: German linguistic precsion Part 2: liegen, sitzen, stehen — […]

  2. […] change their case depending on how they are used. Remember out discussion of “to put” and “to be lying”? Exactly, we need to ask whether the object or subject is being moved or in a static […]

  3. Dr Anthony Alcock · · Reply

    German is no more or less precise than any other language.
    The past participle of ‘lay’ is ‘laid’.
    ‘Lain’ is the past participle of ‘lie’.

    1. Thank you for the correction. Sloppy mistake there. You’re right, German is not more precise, or rather English is not incapable of being as precise as German. It must be said though, that German in its everyday usage is more precise than English.

  4. Nel Fijma · · Reply

    It is not a question of German (or Dutch for that matter) being more precise in describing the position of an object. It is just a matter of a different evolution of the languages: the cup’s on the table – Die Tasse steht auf dem Tisch. In German the speaker will use stehen if an object is viewed as positioned firmly on a surface and liegen if the object could roll or slip away. In English you use a form of to be (never stand or lie: it would stress a certain specific position of an object; in German you would have to use an adverbal construction to underline this specific position)

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