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The verb gelingen

You probably came across the verbs gehören and gefallen quite quickly when you began learning German. They both belong to a group of verbs in German that require a dative object. They are both a bit perplexing at first because most past participles in German begin with ge- (and gehört is indeed the past participle of hören), and also because they follow a particular structure when used in a sentence that doesn't necessarily match the structure in English.

 

Also, mir gehört er auf jeden Fall nicht.

Well, it definitely doesn't belong to me.

Caption 49, Das Urban-Art-Projekt - Polnischer Militärhubschrauber

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Das gefällt mir richtig, richtig gut.

I really, really like it.

Caption 5, Auto-Bild-TV - Tops & Flops der IAA

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Notice that in the case of gehören we use the same structure in English, whereas with gefallen the sentence doesn't translate directly. The closest we could come in English is "It pleases me," but this is rarely used nowadays.

 

Now let's look at gelingen. We notice right away that, like gehören and gefallen, it begins with ge-, which can cause some confusion since it resembles a past participle. Gelingen is indeed the infinitive, and gelungen is the participle. 

 

Gelingen means "to succeed," "to work out," or "to manage to do something." When we express this in English, the structure is very different. You could almost say that the subject and object are switched. Whereas Das gehört mir is easily translatable as "That belongs to me," there is no such easy direct translation for phrases like Es gelingt ihnen or Es ist mir gelungen in English.

 

Den Tauchern gelingen die ersten Filmaufnahmen dieses Verhaltens.

The divers manage to get the first film footage of this behavior.

Caption 35, Alpenseen - Kühle Schönheiten - Part 3

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Zusammen mit seiner Freundin gelingt ihm dann beim dritten Versuch endlich die Flucht.

Together with his girlfriend, he finally manages to escape on the third attempt.

Caption 20, 25 Jahre Mauerfall - Radtour durch die Geschichte

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In the sentences above, the subjects are die ersten Filmaufnahmen and die Flucht and the objects are den Tauchern and ihm. In English, this is essentially reversed, or the adjective "successful" is employed. Here are a few more examples: 

 

Dem treuen Charlie gelingt zur Halbzeit, was er in sechshundertundzwei Bundesligaspielen nicht geschafft hat.

Faithful Charlie achieves at halftime what he hasn't managed in six hundred and two national league games.

Captions 28-29, Fußball - Prominente beim Benefizspiel

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Das ist uns nicht gelungen und... jetzt gilt es natürlich die nächsten Spiele hochkonzentriert anzugehen und dann die möglichen Punkte zu holen.

We were unsuccessful and... Now it's necessary of course to approach the next matches highly concentrated and then to get all points possible.

Captions 50-51, Fußball - U21-Nationalmannschaft - Part 3

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Further Learning
Some verbs that follow similar structures in German (but not always in English!) include: fehlengehorchenpassenschmecken, and wehtun. Look these up, and then go to Yabla German to see them used in a real-world context.

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