Category Word Usage

Germans can’t “make” friends — Freundschaften entstehen

One of my first posts was on the verbs machen and fahren. In that post I stated that German speakers are makers and drivers and that when in doubt, travel is done by driving and other things that are normally “done” in English are “made” in German. While Germans can make many things, one of […]

Death in German — So sicher wie das Amen in der Kirche

Anyone who has studied German literature in the past 50 years will know the novella Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice) by Thomas Mann. For most of us, death is an uncomfortable topic because it causes reflection on our own mortality and often means loss. However, next to taxes, it’s one of the two inevitable […]

dauernd vs. dauerhaft and the German suffix -haft

At our Stammtisch last week, one of our attendees, Edvin from Slovenia, asked me if I could quickly clarify the difference between some words. Thinking it would only be a few words, I said sure. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a page long list of words he wanted to know how […]

Actually, there is a difference — eigentlich vs. tatsächlich

During one of my lessons the other day a student used the word eigentlich, which I was very happy to hear, as many beginners don’t use this word; however, I also had to correct him and tell him that the word he was looking for was tatsächlich. Now some might think that this is just […]

What are they asking after I buy my groceries? — German shopping vocabulary

Working with the expat community in Zurich there is a question I hear again and again and a short story that gets recounted. It goes something like this: “I was in the Migros the other day and I bought my groceries. I didn’t understand how much the cashier asked for, but I saw what I […]

Where you’re from — Using the German prepositions von and aus

During last week’s Stammtisch here in Zurich, many people were speaking about where they were from and where they had recently traveled to. It’s always great to hear about people’s background and see the plurality of different cultures that are moving to Switzerland and diversifying the city. Of course there is plenty of opportunity to […]

Talking about the past in German: seit vs. vor

Dealing with the past in German often leads to long and deep conversations. Fortunately, this blog is not meant to be political or historical, so I will keep me post short. I want to look at the prepositions vor and seit, when used in time expressions. German and English speakers don’t talk about the past […]

Bodies of Water in German and their Prepositions

Today I went stand up paddling for my first time on Lake Zurich. The experience was a perfect balance to the Limmatschwimmen from yesterday, where some 4200 people swam and floated down the Limmat. What does this all have to do with German? It’s a great vocabulary and preposition learning opportunity. First vocabulary related to […]

Fernseher oder Fernsehen? Auf dem Internet or Im Internet?

It’s Olympics (Olympiade, die) time again and many of you are watching your country’s best athletes give it there all in London. Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to get a ticket (Ticket, das) to one of the many events in London, you’re probably watching the competition (Wettkampf, der) on your television (Fernsehgerät, das) or online […]

im Urlaub oder auf Urlaub? Urlaub vs. Ferien — Vacation and Holidays in German

It’s that time of year again in Switzerland and Europe in general. The cities are quieter than usual and offices can appear as if they were abandoned, but without air conditioning in them, they may as well be when the mercury climbs to 30 degrees. It’s summer and summer means vacation time. Most employed people […]