Lezioni Tedesco


Christmas Eve Traditions in Germany

For the last weeks, many Germans have been visiting Christmas markets, opening the windows of their advent calendars, and celebrating Nikolaus. Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve, which is called der Heiligabend or der Heilige Abend in German. Let's look at some vocabulary associated with Christmas Eve traditions. 


Many families in Germany will have gotten a Christmas tree and decorated it in time for Christmas Eve. A Christmas tree can be referred to as der Tannenbaum (which is simply "the fir tree"), der Weihnachtsbaum, or der Christbaum.


Jetzt schmücken wir den Baum noch mit ein paar goldenen Kugeln.

Now we'll decorate the tree with a few golden balls.

Caption 57, Frohe Weihnachten der Christbaum

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In Germany, it is traditional to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve rather than the next morning. The exchange of gifts is known as die Bescherung


Wie machen Sie das mit der Bescherung?

How do you do your gift exchange?

Caption 7, Weihnachtsinterviews Diane in Karlsruhe

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Families may go to mass as part of their Christmas Eve tradition:

Meistens gehen wir auch vorher... vorher noch in die Kirche

Usually we also still go beforehand... to church beforehand.

Caption 37, Weihnachtsinterviews Cettina in Linkenheim

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A traditional Christmas Eve meal in Germany is rather simple, consisting of either fish, or sausages with potato salad. The large Christmas feast is generally eaten on Christmas day. Throughout these days, there are also many sweets that are typically consumed. For more information on these, we would suggest watching the following video by Eva:


Nachdem ich euch ein typisches deutsches Weihnachtsessen gezeigt habe, kommen wir nun zum Wichtigsten, nämlich den Weihnachtsnaschereien.

After I've shown you a typical German Christmas meal, we now come to the most important [thing], namely, the Christmas goodies.

Captions 9-10, Weihnachtsessen mit Eva

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Further Learning
For more holiday vocabulary, check out our recent blog post. There are a number of individual videos on Yabla German that will certainly get you into the Christmas spirit. Listen to a traditional Christmas song, see Krampus parade around at the Christmas market in Munich, and watch some Germans decorate a Christmas tree under water. Or watch one of our feature films, such as Ein Sack voll Gold or Weihnachtsmann gesucht, starring a young Christoph Waltz!

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Indefinite pronouns in the dative case: jemandem

The words "somebody," "someone," "anybody," and "anyone" are indefinite pronouns that are usually translated as jemand in German. The indefinite pronoun jemand is similar to the definite pronouns I (ich), you (Sie or du), we (wir), or they (sie), but is referring to an indefinite rather than specific person.


Just like the definite pronouns in German, jemand is also subject to changing its form when used in the dative case after prepositions like nach, zu, mit or von. In the dative case, jemand gets an additional -em ending:


Sie suchen nach jemandem für ihre Marketingabteilung.

They're looking for someone for their marketing department.

Caption 8, Berufsleben das Vorstellungsgespräch - Part 1

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Es ist lange her, dass ich so eine Verbindung zu jemandem gespürt habe.

It's been a long time since I felt such a connection to anyone.

Caption 53, Die Wohngemeinschaft Die Verabredung - Part 1

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Habt ihr mit jemandem Probleme, sagt's ihm ins Gesicht

If you have problems with someone, tell him to his face

Caption 57, Golo Smile

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Der Vorschlag müsste von jemandem kommen,

The proposal would have to come from someone

Caption 46, Pastewka Neue Serie für Kessler

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This is also true when the sentence structure requires the dative case, such as when you give somebody something:


Jemandem einen Korb geben.

To give someone a basket.

Caption 17, Eva erklärt Sprichwörter - Part 3

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The above expression usually is an idiom that means you are rejecting something that has been offered. Another figure of speech that you may already know is:


Und wenn ich jemandem die Daumen drücke, dann wünsche ich der Person ganz viel Glück.

And if I press my thumbs for someone, then I'm wishing the person a whole lot of luck.

Captions 28-29, Eva erklärt Redewendungen

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Further Learning
Look for other examples of how jemandem is used in a real-world context on Yabla German and try devising some sentences of your own using jemandem and have a fellow student check your work! If you're feeling brave you can explore the related expressions irgendjemandem and irgendwem!



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The preposition "to" in German: Part 5 — zu

This week, we will conclude our five-part series on how to express movement from one place to another in German — in other words, translations of the preposition "to." We have looked at instances in which nach, in, an, and auf are used for this purpose, and now it's time for the preposition zu


There are a few things to know about the preposition zu. First of all, it is always followed by the dative, even when used to express movement! This means you will often see zum, which is a combination of zu + dem for when a masculine or neuter object follows, and zur, which combines zu + der for a female object (again, it is always dative). 


Kuckt mal, jetzt gehen wir mal zur Mauer und kucken uns die mal an.

Look, now let's go to the Wall and take a look at it.

Caption 7, 25 Jahre Mauerfall Bürger Lars Dietrich erinnert sich

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Am nächsten Tag geht er zur Schule.

The next day, he goes to school.

Caption 16, Sabine erzählt Witze Ein Satz

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Und wer von der Politik genug gesehen hat, kann einfach weiterflanieren, zum Beispiel zurück zum Potsdamer Platz.

And anyone who has seen enough of politics can just continue strolling, for example, back to Potsdamer Platz.

Captions 38-39, Berlin Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland

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Zu is the most widely used preposition to express "to" and it can often (but not always) substitute for in, an, and auf. We can say Ich gehe ins Fitnessstudio, but also Ich gehe zum Fitnessstudio. Both Ich gehe auf den Markt and Ich gehe zum Markt are correct. However, sometimes only zu is correct and sometimes it can't be used at all. Ich fahre ins Restaurant doesn't sound right because you aren't literally going to drive your car into the restaurant. With the verb fahren it's better to use zum Restaurant.


There is an instance in which zu is used exclusively and you have likely already come across it. You may know that zu Hause sein means "to be at home" and nach Hause gehen is "to go home." But when we talk about visiting someone at their home, we always use zu and it is actually very simple. 


Ich gehe um elf zu Lisa.

I'm going to Lisa's at eleven.

Caption 16, Nicos Weg - A2 Folge 5: Geld ist für mich…

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Aber jetzt gehen wir erst mal zu deiner Tante.

But first let's go to your aunt's now.

Caption 22, Nicos Weg - A1 Folge 23: Ich habe kein…

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Further Learning
Re-read the other parts of this series of lessons linked in the first paragraph. You can keep a running list of how you see the preposition "to" translated on Yabla German, or make a list of places and try to say "I'm going to ____" for each one in German. Here are some sentences you can translate to get started: "I'm going to the park," "I'm going to the restaurant," "I'm driving to the beach," "I'm taking the train to Munich," "I'm going to Ana's house," "I'm getting into the car," "I'm going to the market," "I'm going home." Consider: which of these can also be said in German using zu?

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The preposition "to" in German: Part 4 — auf

You may be familiar with auf as a preposition meaning "on" or "for." However, like the prepositions nach, in, and an, there are times when its meaning is "to" (accusative) and "at" (dative) and you will see it translated as such.


Viele machen sich's gemütlich zu Hause oder sie gehen auf eine Party.

Many people will make themselves comfortable at home or they will go to a party,

Caption 93, Silvester: Vorsätze für das neue Jahr - Linkenheim

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Yes, in German we say auf eine Party gehen ("to go to a party") and also auf eine Hochzeit gehen ("to go to a wedding"). 

There are certain public places for which auf is used as well. In the sentence below, der Markt refers to the consumer market, but you would also say Ich gehe auf den Markt to tell your friend that you are going to an outdoor farmer's market, and Ich bin auf dem Markt (with dative) once you have arrived there. 


Und einige der neuen Fahrzeuge, die jetzt auf den Markt kommen, werden Sie erstmals bei dieser IAA sehen.

And you will see some of the new vehicles that are now coming on to the market for the first time at this IAA.

Captions 44-45, Internationale Automobilausstellung: IAA in Frankfurt öffnet die Pforten

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As you might imagine, auf is also used when we will end up on or on top of something. If you remember our previous newsletter on the preposition in, the second example below might be quite confusing. But indeed, we say in die Berge when driving into/towards the mountains and auf den Berg when referring to climbing a single mountain.


Die Aktivisten kletterten über Kräne auf das Dach des Gebäudes.

The activists climbed via cranes onto the roof of the building.

Caption 8, Atomkraft: Streit um AKW-Laufzeiten

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Am besten steigen wir auf den Berg.

It's best if we climb the mountain.

Caption 9, JoNaLu: Ein Tag am Meer

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And finally, auf is also used with islands. 


Die Urlauber, die jetzt auf die Insel kommen, lassen sich den Wind um die Nase pusten.

The vacationers who come now to the island let the wind blow over their faces.

Caption 2, Die Insel Fehmarn: Gästeboom

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Further Learning
Other places and nouns that are commonly paired with the preposition auf when they are the destination include der Spielplatz, der Fußballplatz, der Flussdie Messe, and der Turm. Don't forget that auf is also a two-way preposition, so you will also see it used with the dative on Yabla German to describe location.

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The preposition "to" in German: Part 3 — an

After looking at the two-way preposition in last week, let's continue our series with an. This preposition is also a two-way preposition and is used in a multitude of contexts, including with the accusative case to express movement from one place to another.

We use an rather than nach or in in some contexts where we will end up next to or to the side of something rather than in or on it. 


Sarah, komm du doch mal bitte an die Tafel.

Sarah, come up to the blackboard, please.

Caption 5, Bundesländer und ihre Spezialitäten: Baden-Württemberg

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Ich gehe rüber ans Fenster.

I go over to the window.

Caption 5, Philipp Poisel: Wie soll ein Mensch das ertragen?

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An is also used when we are going to a place that forms a boundary or edge. In particular, you can memorize an die Küste and an den Strand.


Natali und Florian zieht es zunächst an die Küste Cornwalls.

Natali and Florian proceed first to the coast of Cornwall.

Caption 28, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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In dieser Nacht segelten sie zurück an den Strand von Troja.

That night they sailed back to the beach of Troy.

Caption 80, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Das Trojanische Pferd

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Eine neue Hiobsbotschaft ist die plötzliche Abberufung Tresckows an die Ostfront.

A new piece of bad news is the sudden recall of Tresckow to the Eastern Front.

Captions 80-81, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944 - Part 5

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Und man davonfliegen möchte, so leicht wie eine kleine, weiße Feder, bis ans Ende der Welt.

And you would like to fly away, as light as a little white feather to the end of the world.

Captions 32-33, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Fernweh

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Further Learning
Other places/nouns that are commonly paired with the preposition an when they are the destination include die Kreuzung (the intersection), die Wand (the wall), and die Grenze (the border). With all three of these examples, an + the accusative is only used when the barrier is NOT being crossed or traversed and it is simply a matter of going/driving/walking "up to" it. When you see an on Yabla German, you can quickly note whether it's being used with the accusative to mean "to" or with the dative to mean "at" or "on." Don't forget, however, that an also appears in contexts that have nothing to do with going or being anywhere (for example, an etwas denken).

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The preposition "to" in German: Part 2 — in

In last week's newsletter on the preposition nach, we also looked at a few instances in which in is used to express going to a place, specifically for certain countries. In is also used to talk about going into town (in die Stadt), and actually also to talk about going into the mountains (in die Berge) and into the forest (in den Wald).

Ich als Hamburger bin hier eigentlich als Flachlandtiroler bekannt und dennoch zieht es mich immer wieder in die Berge.

As a resident of Hamburg, I am actually known as a "flatland Tyrolean" and yet I am still repeatedly drawn to the mountains.

Captions 3-4, 48 h in Innsbruck: Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps

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In is a two-way preposition. With the accusative case, it is used to express movement towards a place — i.e. the English preposition "to." You wouldn't know it from the examples above, but one pattern you can note is that it is actually often used when the goal is an indoor location that you will spend time in. It is perhaps somewhat similar to how we sometimes use the preposition "into" in English.


Wir gehen total gerne ins Kino.

We really like going to the cinema.

Caption 50, Anja Polzer: Interview

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Ich erinner' mich, wie wir nach der Schule immer in den Laden gekommen sind.

I remember how we used to always come into the shop after school.

Caption 29, Malerei: Benno und Ira Treiber

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Wir sind jeden Morgen in die Schule gefahren nach West-Berlin.

We rode to West Berlin to school every morning.

Caption 44, Die Klasse: Berlin '61

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Note how in das is shortened to ins in the first example above. This is a common contraction.

When speaking about getting into a car or boarding a bus or train, you can also use the preposition in, as the implication is that you will spend time inside. 


Und ich würd jetzt sagen, wir steigen jetzt ins Auto.

And I would now say, we'll get in the car now.

Caption 27, Sallys Tortenwelt und Kochwelt: Backen mit Kindern & Auftritt bei Radio Rumms

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Other phrases with the preposition in to memorize include ins Bett gehen:


Ich lese gleich noch ein Buch für die Schule und dann geh ich ins Bett.

I'm going to read a book for school now and then I'll go to bed.

Caption 21, Nicos Weg: Am Sonntag koche ich

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The preposition "to" in German: Part 1 — nach

In German, there are a number of prepositions that can be translated as "to" to express movement from one place to another: nach, zu, in, an, and auf. Often it is difficult to know which one to use in what context and with what type of place, and you simply have to memorize certain patterns. This week, let's begin with the preposition nach


We use nach when the destination is a city, and also for most countries. However, there are some exceptions to this in which in is used with countries, for example, with die Türkei, die Schweiz, and die Vereinigten Staaten (As you may remember, some countries have genders in German). And keep in mind that the preposition in is used when the destination is die Stadt ("the city" or "the town") or das Dorf ("the village")


Ihre Nachkommen wanderten auch nach Italien und Österreich aus.

Their offspring also migrated  to Italy and Austria.

Caption 26, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

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Er will in die Schweiz reisen. Schön, was noch?

He wants to travel to Switzerland. Nice, what else?

Caption 37, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Über jemanden sprechen

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Hi, ich bin Marie. Ich bin gerade mit Julia nach Berlin gezogen.

Hi, I'm Marie. I just moved to Berlin with Julia.

Caption 3, Die Wohngemeinschaft: Besuch

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Eines Tages machte sich der Kaufmann auf den Weg in die Stadt, um Geld zu verdienen.

One day, the Merchant set out for town in order to earn some money.

Caption 9, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Schöne und das Biest

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Nach is also used for cardinal directions and with "left," "right," "up," and "down."


Es drehte sich nach links und dann nach rechts.

He turned to the left and then to the right.

Caption 18, Meine Freundin Conni: Conni schläft im Kindergarten

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Der Russe dreht mit starken Kräften westlich der Düna nach Norden ein. 

The Russians are turning west of the Daugava River towards the north with strong forces. 

Caption 25, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944

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Another rule: while we say "go/drive/come home" in English, the equivalent phrase in German has a preposition: nach Hause + verb.


Und als der Bär nach Hause kam, machten sie sich einen gemütlichen Abend,

And when the bear came home, they had a cozy evening,

Captions 37-38, Janoschs Traumstunde: Post für den Tiger

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Further Learning
We will cover the other prepositions used to express movement from one place to another in coming newsletters. Pay attention to how "to" is translated with various places and directions on Yabla German and stay tuned!

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Das and dies as demonstrative plural pronouns

A sentence construction with das sind... followed by a plural noun is a bit confusing at first, but it's very common in spoken German. At first you might be tempted to translate it literally, but with "that are" (sic), you'll find the singular subject and the plural verb to be in disagreement. That's because the demonstrative pronouns das and dies are not inflected by the plural of the verb sein ("to be"). 


So it's more natural for a native German to say Das sind Hans und Grete. This can sound a bit strange when you're first learning German.


Nein, das hier sind keine mutierten Gartenzwerge.
No, these are no mutated garden gnomes.
Caption 1, „Mini-Marxe“: In Trier


Immer dran denken: Das sind alles Verben, die einen Akkusativ brauchen.
Always remember: they are all verbs that require the accusative case.
Caption 31, Deutschkurs in Tübingen


Das sind nun die Zutaten für unseren Apfelkuchen.
These are now the ingredients for our apple cake.
Caption 3, Apfelkuchen: mit Eva


Das sind oft nur wenige Pfennige und man bekommt das Geld natürlich wieder.
Often these are just a few pennies and you get the money back, of course.
Caption 34, Eva erklärt: Mülltrennung


And here are a couple of examples using dies sind


Dies sind nur ganz wenige Ausschnitte aus dem zurückliegenden Jahr. 
These are just a very few excerpts from the previous year.
Caption 8, Angela Merkel: Neujahrsansprache


Dies sind Hinterlassenschaften eines Krokodils.
These are the remains of a crocodile.
Caption 10, Ausgrabungen: Auf den Spuren der Dinosaurier 


Further Learning
Look for more examples of das sind on Yabla German to see the phrase used in a real-world context.

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Things, stuff, matters, and topics

Whether we are referring to our stuff on a nearby chair or a serious matter that needs to be discussed, there are several words in German that can be helpful. Most of them can be used in a number of contexts, but there are a few things to be aware of.


Sachen is a very versatile word, and can be used to refer to physical items but also matters and topics. Of course, das Thema is a more common word for "the topic."


Und ja, ich räume meine Sachen nicht immer sofort weg.

And yes, I don't always clean up my stuff away right away.

Caption 29, Die Wohngemeinschaft Probleme - Part 3

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Hier gibt es viele verschiedene Sachen für die Familie und für die Kinder zu sehen.

Here there are many different things for the family and for the children to see.

Caption 8, Berlin Domäne Dahlem - Part 1

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Fazit: In Sachen Hamburger hat die Hauptstadt auf jeden Fall mehr zu bieten.

Conclusion: When it comes to hamburgers, the capital city definitely has more to offer.

Caption 25, Berlin Die beste Auswahl an Hamburgern

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Der Gegenstand is used to refer to a physical object or item, but also a topic of conversation or debate. And, of course, there is also the word das Objekt. In shopping, der Artikel ("the item") and die Ware are more likely to be used.


Auch hier handelt es sich um einen runden Gegenstand.

Also here it is about a round object.

Caption 34, Eva zeigt uns Formen

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Slang terms for "stuff" or "odds and ends" are der Kram and das Zeug.


So viele Spinnweben und so viel Kram

So many cobwebs and so much stuff

Caption 11, Silbermond Leichtes Gepäck

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Diese Box wird für Bücher, dieser Karton wird für das Zeug aus der Küche sein.

This box will be for books, this carton will be for stuff from the kitchen.

Caption 14, Drei Leute beim Kofferpacken

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The word das Ding is, of course, also commonly used, and not just for objects.


Wir testen die Dinger jetzt schon seit Monaten. 

We've been testing the things for months already. 

Caption 30, Die Stunde der Offiziere Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944 - Part 1

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Ich habe entschieden, die Dinge selbst in die Hände [sic, Hand] zu nehmen.

I have decided to take matters into my own hands.

Caption 6, Berufsleben Probleme mit Mitarbeitern - Part 2

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The plural forms die Dinger and die Dinge are both used. Generally, die Dinger refers to multiple things of the same kind, whereas die Dinge refers to multiple things of different kinds. 


Further Learning
Das Thema, die Sache, das Objekt, der Artikel, die Ware, der Gegenstand, der Kram, das Zeug, and das Ding: Yabla German has many examples of all of these words, as they are commonly used. Go through them and make sure you know which are only used for non-physical ideas, topics, and matters, which are exclusively for physical objects, and which are applicable in both contexts. Making a venn diagram may be a good strategy!

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fürchten vs. befürchten

Both fürchten and befürchten mean "to be afraid" in some sense, and although it's a bit confusing at first, have no fear! Let's first take a look at some of the differences, starting with fürchten:


Es war richtig gewesen, den Wolf zu fürchten, und richtig sich deshalb ein Steinhaus zu bauen.
It had been right to fear the Wolf, and therefore right to build a stone house.
Captions 80-81, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die drei kleinen Schweinchen


Denn ihn fürchten sie: den Adler.
For it is the one they fear: the eagle.
Caption 19, Die letzten Paradiese: Die Schönheit der Alpen 2


The verb fürchten is usually translated as "to fear" and can be used to describe the state of having real fear, of being truly afraid of something like a dangerous animal. But it can also be used to show fear of a situation: 


Viele Demonstranten fürchten, dass Minderheiten in den USA nun kein Gehör mehr finden.
Many demonstrators fear that minorities in the USA will now no longer be heard.
Captions 41-42, Tagesschau: Amtseinführung von Donald Trump 


The verb fürchten is also often used reflexively:


Ich trage mein Licht und fürchte mich nicht.
I'm carrying my light and have no fear.
Caption 3, Sankt Martin: Das Laternenlied


Therefore, ich fürchte mich is another way of saying ich habe Angst or "I am afraid," and afraid in a serious way.


The verb befürchten, on the other hand, is never used reflexively and is generally used in situations where you're not literally afraid or having serious fears, but rather in situations where you are merely worried about something.


Sie befürchtete, dass ihr Herr noch immer in Gefahr war.
She was afraid that her lord was still in danger.
Caption 71, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Ali Baba und die 40 Räuber


This could also have been translated that "she was worried" about her lord. 


Es ist, wie ich befürchtet hatte.
It is as I had feared.
Caption 10, Oskar, Gehen, wenn es am schönsten ist: Nur vier Wochen


So even though befürchten is translated here as "to fear," it could equally have been translated as "to expect" with the implied connotation of expecting a negative development. 


Unfortunately, sometimes even native German speakers use fürchten (to fear) as a way of exaggerating a circumstance where befürchten (to be worried about) would be more appropriate, and also vice versa. The German Duden dictionary, the standard for the German language, is quite clear on its definitions of the two words, however. To reiterate: fürchten should generally be used to express real, direct fears, and befürchten in milder situations to express worry.


Further Learning
Translate these Duden definitions of fürchten and befürchten, then go to Yabla German and find some more examples of videos using these verbs. 




1. vor jemandem, etwas Angst haben; Unangenehmes ahnen, befürchten


2. Furcht empfinden, Angst haben


3. sich vor der Prüfung fürchten


4. vor jemandem Ehrfurcht haben


befürchten (only one definition):


(etwas Unangenehmes, was vielleicht eintrete könnte) aufgrund bestimmter Anzeichen oder intuitiv erwarten, kommen sehen

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Across cities and continents

This week, let's review the vocabulary in German for political and geographical subdivisions. We will start from the largest subdivisions and proceed to the smallest.


Dann natürlich auch, um 'nen fremden Kontinent kennenzulernen, weil man aufm Fahrrad eigentlich so nah dran ist wie sonst nicht, wenn man reist.

Then of course also in order to get to know an unfamiliar continent, because on the bicycle you actually are so much closer to it than when you otherwise travel.

Captions 14-15, Mountainbiken Auf dem Anden-Trail

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Welches Land ist ein Nachbarland von Deutschland?

Which country is a neighboring country of Germany?

Caption 27, Bundesrepublik Deutschland Einbürgerungstest

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Die Region zwischen Amrum und Sylt wurde wegen der Meeressäuger unter Schutz gestellt.

The region between Amrum and Sylt was placed under protection because of the marine mammals.

Caption 2, Abenteuer Nordsee Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen - Part 7

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You probably already know the word die Stadt ("the city") and related words like die Hauptstadt or die Großstadt. The word der Staat is not to be confused with die Stadt. Although the United States is die Vereinigten Staaten in German, the word used for a federal state is generally das Bundesland. Der Staat is more often used when referring to something being done or provided by the federal or state government. 


Es ist sein erster Besuch in Berlin als Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika.

It is his first visit to Berlin as the president of the United States of America.

Caption 4, Angela Merkel Gemeinsame Pressekonferenz mit Barack Obama

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Der Staat muss die Gesetze einhalten.

The state has to abide by the laws.

Caption 4, Bundesrepublik Deutschland Einbürgerungstest

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In Deutschland gibt es in jedem Bundesland sogenannte Landeshauptstädte.

In Germany, there are so-called state capitals in each federal state.

Caption 15, Bundesländer und ihre Spezialitäten Baden-Württemberg

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When speaking about a district of a city, or a "quarter," the German word is der Bezirk or der Stadtteil or das Viertel. The word der Kiez is used in certain cities on an informal basis to denote a particular part of a district that may even be just a few square blocks. In these places, it is much more commonly used than die Nachbarschaft


Hallo, ich stehe hier am Eingang des Viktoriaparks im Berliner Stadtteil Kreuzberg.

Hello, I am standing here at the entrance of Viktoriapark in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg.

Caption 1, Berlin Eva im Viktoriapark

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Gitarrist Jürgen Ehle wohnt seit fünfundzwanzig Jahren in dem Kiez und schwelgt in Erinnerungen.

Guitarist Jürgen Ehle has lived for twenty-five years in the neighborhood, and luxuriates in memories.

Captions 3-4, Pankow Rolling Stones des Ostens

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In German, die Kleinstadt specifies a town rather than a city. To talk about rural life, there is das Dorf ("the village") and also die Gemeinde, which can be used for a rural community as well as an urban one. 


Further Learning
Practice these words and their correct articles by describing where you live. Begin with the smallest area unit and progress until you are at continent level! Yabla German can provide more examples using these words if you get stuck on the declensions. 

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Idiomatic uses of die Fahne

The usual German words for "flag" are die Fahne or die Flagge, and they're used in a number of idiomatic expressions, some of which parallel those in English. 


Wir mussten die Flagge streichen.
We had to strike the flag.


The phrase die Flagge streichen can be used in the literal sense of striking or taking down a flag, but is more often used figuratively to mean "to give up," as in "We had to give up." Note that the verb streichen also means "to paint," but that won't be the case here! 


Lass uns doch lieber von der Fahne gehen
But let's rather go from the flag. 


That is a literal translation, but von der Fahne gehen is usually used figuratively to mean "to give up" in the sense of leaving a project, or cause, or organization. 


Sie stemmten das eiserne Stadttor auf und schwenkten eine weiße Flagge.
They pried open the iron city gate and waved a white flag.
Caption 25, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Weiber von Weinsberg


This too is a literal translation, as the story is about an army surrendering, but as in English, "to wave a white flag" is also often used figuratively to mean "to give up."


Wir haben unsere Fahnen nach dem Wind gedreht.
We have changed according to the circumstances.


Literally translated, this would read "We've turned our flags to the wind," but is used figuratively to mean that one has followed popular opinion or adapted according to the circumstances. It's similar to the English expression "whichever way the wind blows" or "to see which way the wind is blowing." As in English, the phrase can also be used as a negative critique of somebody being opportunistic.


One of the more common idiomatic uses of die Fahne can sound very strange to English speakers:


Buah, hat er eine Fahne? -Und wie! Cognac? -Feine Thunfischstückchen.
Ew, does he have a flag? -And how! Cognac? -Fine little pieces of tuna fish.
Captions 52-53, Küss mich, Frosch: Frosch oder Mensch?


Scheiße, du hast ja eine tierische Fahne.
Crap, you have a beastly flag.
Caption 14, Pastewka: Cantz fährt betrunken Auto


Du hast ja noch eine tierische Fahne. -Ich fresse doch schon die ganze Zeit Pfefferminz.
You still have a beastly flag. -But I've been devouring peppermints the whole time.
Caption 37, Pastewka: Verkehrsrowdy Bastian Pastewka


You've probably gathered that they aren't literally talking about "having a flag." The phrase eine Fahne haben means "to have bad breath" and is usually associated with the smell of alcohol. The question Hast du eine Fahne? is a way of asking somebody if they've been drinking alcohol.


Further Learning
Look up the words die Flagge and die Fahne on Yabla German to see them used both literally and figuratively in a real-world context. 

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Ways to say "however" in German

There are several words in German that convey the essential meaning of "however," even if they are not always translated as such. The primary words to look out for are allerdingsjedoch, and hingegen.


Dirk Nowitzki weiß allerdings, wo seine Wurzeln liegen.

Dirk Nowitzki knows, however, where his roots lie.

Caption 24, Basketball-Superstar Dirk Nowitzki im Kino

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Allerdings scheiterte sein Fluchtversuch. 

However, his attempt to flee failed. 

Caption 7, 25 Jahre Mauerfall Radtour durch die Geschichte

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Das Wahrzeichen ist jedoch das mit feuervergoldeten Kupferschindeln gedeckte Goldene Dachl.

The landmark, however, is the Goldenes Dachl [Golden Roof] covered with fire-gilded copper tiles.

Caption 31, 48 h in Innsbruck Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps - Part 1

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Der Eintrittspreis ist jedoch der alte geblieben.

The entry fee, however, stayed the same.

Caption 17, Autokino Gravenbruch

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An anderen Orten und in anderen Ländern wird hingegen das Vieh geehrt.

In other places and countries, however, the cattle are honored.

Caption 21, Cettina erklärt Pfingsten

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Der Bilderrahmen hingegen ist quadratisch, weil alle vier Seiten gleich lang sind.

The picture frame, however, is square, because all four sides are equally long.

Captions 40-41, Eva zeigt uns Formen

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You may also see any of the words above translated as "at the same time," "on the other hand," or simply as "but." Similarly, aber and doch are occasionally translated as "however." Dennoch (translated as "nonetheless," "nevertheless," "however") and wiederum ("in turn," "on the other hand," "however") are two more words that have a similar function.


Further Learning
Pay attention to the various ways in which these words are translated on Yabla German and especially to the position of the word in the English sentence in comparison with the original German, as it may not be the same. 

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werden, wurdenwürden

It's quite easy to get the similar-looking werdenwurden and würden confused, so we're taking a look today at the differences between them and the different contexts in which they are used. 


To start with, wurden and würden are different grammatical moods of the verb werden


Heute in unserer ersten Lektion werden wir die Buchstaben des deutschen Alphabets lernen.
Today in our first lesson, we will learn the letters of the German alphabet.
Caption 2, Deutsch mit Donna Blitz: Das Alphabet


Es soll bis über 20 Grad warm werden.
It should get warm, up to more than 20 degrees.
Caption 16, München: 180. Oktoberfest eröffnet


Du musst mich nur küssen und dann werde ich eine wunderschöne Prinzessin.
You only have to kiss me and I will turn into a beautiful princess.
Caption 11, CHoE Rocker: Hunde-Prinzessin


Die Tage werden immer kürzer und immer kälter.
The days steadily become shorter and colder.
Caption 9, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten


Es wird sehr schwierig werden, meinen Titel zu verteidigen. 
It is going to be very difficult to defend my title.
Caption 23, Wintersport: 7. Austrian Freeski Open


As you can see, werden can be used in a wide variety of contexts and can be translated variously as "will," "get," "will turn into," and "become." The last example uses the future tense of the verb, wird werden, which is translated as "going to be." 


In contrast, wurden is the Indikativ mood (similar to the indicative or realis mood in English) of werden. This just means that the verb is used to express a known state of affairs.


Sie flohen aus dem Königreich und wurden nie wieder gesehen.
They fled from the kingdom and were never seen again.
Caption 85, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das tapfere Schneiderlein


Here, wurden gesehen is the passive voice of the German Präteritum, as is common with the combination of werden and a past participle.


Wahrscheinlich wurden sie im hohen Norden auf dem Eis für die Jagd verwendet.
They were probably used for hunting on the ice in the far north.
Caption 17, Unterwegs mit Cettina: Schlittschuhlaufen


Thus, wurden is usually translated as "were," but it is also sometimes used in the same sense that the present tense werden is sometimes translated as "become." The sentence Aus Bauern wurden Arbeiter could be translated as "Farmers became workers," which has a very different verb structure but a similar meaning in the end.


Was würden Sie denn als ihre Stärken und Schwächen beschreiben?
What would you then describe as your strengths and weaknesses?
Caption 34, Eva erklärt: Bewerbungen


Würden Sie uns vielleicht ein bisschen Ihren Stand vorstellen?
Would you maybe present your stand to us a little bit?
Caption 47, Unterwegs mit Cettina: auf dem Bruchsaler Weihnachtsmarkt


Thus, würden is in most contexts translated to English as "would."


Further Learning
Watch the Yabla video about the verb werden, which goes into detail about the verb's conjugation, moods, and tenses, and go to Yabla German and see many other examples of werden, wurden, and würden used in a wide variety of contexts.

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Von Kopf bis Fuß , Part II

This lesson is the second part of a series about the noun der Kopf used in idiomatic contexts. Be sure and read Part I if you missed it, but to reiterate the title topic:


Er war von Kopf bis Fuß grün angezogen und klopfte gerade seine Schuhe aus.
He was dressed in green from head to toe and was just knocking out his shoes.
Caption 23, Märchen, Sagenhaft; Ein Topf voll Gold


Er sah stattlich und wohlhabend aus und von Kopf bis Fuß wie ein echter Marquis.
He appeared stately and wealthy and from head to toe like a real Marquis.
Captions 61-63, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der gestiefelte Kater 


Es schüttet wie aus Eimern, klitschnass von Kopf bis Fuß.
It's raining buckets, drenched from head to toe.
Captions 16-17, Die Toten Hosen: Unter den Wolken


The standard translation of von Kopf bis Fuß is thus the English idiom "from head to toe," meaning "completely." But what does it mean if somebody is said to have some kind of substance in their head other than brains? 


Also, man muss auch einen Pfeil im Kopf haben, um so was zu essen.
Well, you must also have an arrow in your head to eat something like that.
Captions 52-54, Currywurst; Berlins schärfstes Stück


Einen Pfeil im Kopf haben is similar to the English expression "to have rocks in your head," meaning you are either stupid or there is something seriously wrong with you. Similar meaning is found in the expressions Sägemehl im Kopf habenStroh im Kopf haben, and Sülze im Kopf haben, meaning respectively to have sawdust, straw, or jellied meat in your head.


However, the phrase Motten im Kopf haben ("to have moths in your head") means to have crazy or unconventional (but not necessarily just stupid) ideas, and Rosinen im Kopf haben ("to have raisins in your head") means to be thinking overly idealistically, something like "seeing the world through rose-colored glasses."


Ich hab einen dicken Kopf, ich muss einen Saft haben.
I have a thick head, I have to drink some juice.
Caption 32, Peter Fox: Schwarz zu Blau


Einen dicken Kopf haben means to be congested, or to have a headache or a hangover. Either way it's not very nice, so let's go out today with an easy one!


„Stadtgeflüster“ trifft den Nagel auf den Kopf.
"City Whisperings" hits the nail on the head.
Caption 26, Frankfurt: Der Friedberger Platz


Nice to know that some idioms are the same in English and German!


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and see many other examples of der Kopf used in a wide variety of contexts.

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The capitalization of German nouns

One thing you may have quickly noticed when you began learning German is that all German nouns are capitalized. In English, it is only proper nouns that begin with a capital letter, with the exception of common nouns that are the very first word in a sentence. In German, nouns are always capitalized, regardless of gender, case, or position in the sentence. 


Let’s take a look. In the following sentence, notice how the first word of each sentence and the proper noun "Munich" are capitalized in both languages. In German, however, the nouns die Bahn, die Stunden, and eine Verbindung also begin with a capital letter.


Aber auch die Bahn bietet alle zwei Stunden eine Verbindung von München an.

But also the train offers a connection from Munich every two hours.

Caption 22, 48 h in Innsbruck Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps - Part 1

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Capitalization can be especially helpful with verbs that often moonlight as nouns, such as das Schwimmen, das Tanzendas Gehen, or das Schreiben. They are easy to identify as such because they then begin with a capital letter.


„Hm, das soll Wandern sein?“, wunderte sich Piggeldy. „So laufen wir doch jeden Tag umher.“

"Hm, this is supposed to be hiking?" Piggeldy asked. "We walk around like this every day, after all."

Captions 11-12, Piggeldy und Frederick Das Wandern

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Note in this next sentence that jemanden and der are not capitalized. Unlike nouns, pronouns do not begin with a capital letter (das is capitalized, of course, because it is the first word in the sentence). Both nouns in eine Tasse Kaffee are capitalized, however, as is die Lobby.


Das ist wirklich genauso, äh, für jemand [jemanden], der vielleicht nur mal auf eine Tasse Kaffee bei uns in der schönen Lobby sitzen möchte...

It's really precisely the same, uh, for each person who, perhaps, would just like to sit for a cup of coffee with us in the beautiful lobby...

Captions 16-17, Berlin Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung

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Die Lobby brings us to another point. In the next sentence, even though das Team is a noun adopted from English, it is capitalized in German. 


Das Team bereitet sich auf den gemeinsamen Tauchgang vor.

The team prepares for the joint dive.

Caption 50, Abenteuer Nordsee Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen - Part 

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Further Learning
So when did die Großschreibung develop? As early as the 14th century, capitalized nouns can be found in religious texts, but it wasn't officially implemented until the 17th century. For advanced learners, here is a text about it in German. Otherwise, you can choose any video on Yabla German and pay special attention to the nouns and their capitalization while you watch it.

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Von Kopf bis Fuß , Part I

In the classic 1930 film Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) by director Josef von Sternberg, the young actress Marlene Dietrich sings a song by Friedrich Hollaender with the lyrics: 


Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt
Denn das ist meine Welt und sonst gar nichts


This is a good example of the noun der Kopf used in an idiomatic context. Many of the idioms using der Kopf in German are identical — or nearly so — to similar sayings in English.


Die Königin gab sich größte Mühe, ihn zu trösten: „Kopf hoch!“
The Queen did her best to comfort him: "Head up!" 
Captions 33-34, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse


In English it's common to say "hold your head up" to help comfort somebody, a British English equivalent being "chin up."  


Hiroshi Kajimoto hat den traditionellen Aufbau des Schirms nun auf den Kopf gestellt.    
Hiroshi Kajimoto has now turned ​​the traditional construction of the umbrella on its head.
Captions 6-7, Erfindung aus Japan: Der verkehrte Regenschirm


Thus the figurative meaning of "turning something on its head" is similar in German.


Ich habe doch Augen im Kopf!
I have indeed got eyes in my head!
Caption 60, Alexander Hauff: Showreel


Most of us, of course, have eyes in our head, but the figurative meaning here is the same as in English: "I can see that" or "I'm not blind."


But there are some idioms using der Kopf that would sound very odd indeed if translated literally to English:


Ach, mach dir keinen Kopf, Lothar.
Oh, don't worry, Lothar.
Caption 36, Großstadtrevier: Neben der Spur


This is similar to the predominantly British English expression "don't bother your head."


... weil da jeder Spieler schon seinen eigenen Kopf hat.
... because there every player already has their own ideas.
Caption 31, Eishockey: Erich Kühnhackl


While it's obvious that — short of some terrible disaster — everyone "has their own head," it's used here in a context similar to "headstrong" or "willful."


Further Learning
Watch Marlene sing the song "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt" in this video clip from the original 1930 film, then see if you can accurately translate the lyrics quoted at the start of this lesson. You can also go to Yabla German and find some more examples of der Kopf used in other contexts.

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German expressions of enthusiasm

Since we devoted one lesson to expressions of frustration, let's look at how enthusiasm is expressed in German as well and take a look at some positive adjectives. 


„Ich muss sagen: überwältigend!“ -„Ausgezeichnet! Ausgezeichnet, finde ich!“

"I must say, overwhelming!" -"Brilliant! Brilliant, I think!"

Caption 54, Märchen - Sagenhaft Des Kaisers neue Kleider

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Ausgezeichnet is also the participle of the verb auszeichnen, which means to award or distinguish.

Mit dem Architekturpreis Green Building wurden in Frankfurt kürzlich acht Gebäude ausgezeichnet.

Eight buildings in Frankfurt were recently awarded the Green Building architecture prize.

Caption 1, Umweltbewusstes Wohnen Architekturpreis Green Building

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Many of these adjectives don't have a fixed translation ("outstanding," "awesome"), but are instead best translated with the positive adjective that fits in the context.

Es ist wirklich großartig, von Ihnen zu hören.

It is really great to hear from you.

Caption 20, Berufsleben das Vorstellungsgespräch - Part 3

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Das ist natürlich auch toll, wenn man 'ne gemeinsame Sache hat.

Of course, it's also great when you have something in common.

Caption 8, 2raumwohnung Liebe mit Musik am Laufen halten

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Das klingt hervorragend.

That sounds amazing.

Caption 42, Berufsleben Probleme mit Mitarbeitern - Part 4

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Of course, the adjectives superfantastisch, and exzellent will sound quite familiar to anyone who speaks English. Also easy to recognize is the adjective wunderbar:

Und da ist dann der Balkon. -Ah, mit Balkon, wunderbar.

And there then is the balcony. -Ah, with a balcony, wonderful.

Caption 43, Fine sucht eine Wohnung

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Another adjective you may come across, especially with younger Germans, is geil. Yes, this does indeed also have a meaning that is not appropriate in most conversations! But it is a common, albeit slang, term for "awesome" or "fantastic" as well.

Und wie war's? -Geil, wie immer. -Was speziell?

And how was it? -Awesome, as always. -What especially?

Caption 10, Abenteuer und Sport Fallschirmspringen - Part 1

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Further Learning
All of these adjectives and more can be found on Yabla German. Pay attention to adjective declension any time they precede a noun. 

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