Monthly Archives: April 2016

Were I to be abducted by grammar aliens

Each Friday in Dialog in Deutsch we discuss words that we’ve encountered that we failed to understand. This week one of the words was entfahren. I’d not heard this before, but I did know the word entführen and so wondered if they were related. Turning to PONS for help, I found this example: ihm ist ein Schimpfwort entfahren – “he let a swear word slip” or “a swear word escaped his lips” (the Spanish translation is se le ha escapado un taco and so now I know that el taco is a word with many different meanings!). So far, so good. Then I go to the entry for entführen – “to abduct” or “to kidnap” – and it also gives entfahren. Why? here’s my supposition with the help of the word form tables from Canoo. The simple indicative past of entfahren is entfuhren, but the past subjunctive form is entführen. Here is the way that one English grammar website describes the past subjunctive “The past subjunctive is used in subordinate clauses and refers to unreal or improbable present or future situations.” A German grammar site offers this pearl: ”[D]ie reale Welt sieht wirklich sehr trist aus. Die Wunschwelt im Konjunktiv II dagegen ist rosig.“ If a swear word were to escape her lips…it might because she was studying grammar in the none-too-rosy real world.

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