Anniversary Week 10

The word das Erdbeben is a compound word, putting together the word “earth” – die Erde – and das Beben (from beben – “to quake,” “to shiver” or “to shake”) – “tremor,” “quake” or “shaking.” One of the lovely things about words which were originally verbs in the infinitive and have become nouns, is that all of them take das. For example, we have das Essen, das Kochen and das Spielen: “food,” “cooking” and “playing.” When you want to create a noun that describes the outcome of the action described by the verb, then you must add the ending –ung and as a result, this new noun always takes die, for example, die Entscheidung, die Leistung and die Hoffnung: “the decision,” the performance” and “the hope.”

Both of these sorts of conversions feel relatively comfortable and clear, however there are some more confusing verb-noun conversions. For example, there are two nouns formed from arbeiten “to work,” das Arbeiten, which fits one of the above patterns, and die Arbeit which does notDas Arbeiten means “pursuit” or “works.” Die Arbeit means “work,” “labor” or “job.”  Luckily, according to canoo.net, there are only 119 of these die words to keep the language learner busy, although perhaps this is still enough to take time away from our “work” on other “pursuits.”

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