Tag Archives: adjectives

Divorced, Dead or Different?

Today during introductions, someone mentioned that they had just gotten married and that started a discussion about the difference between the words geheiratet and verheiratet. Both of these are past participles, from heiraten and verheiraten respectively, however verheiratet can also be used as an adjective and it is out of this difference that our discussion arose. Thus, one can say Ich bin verheiratet – I am married – but if you are trying to describe the event, say because it just happened as in this woman’s case, you need to say Ich habe am neunzehnte Januar geheiratet – “I got married on 19 January” – and not Ich war am neunzehnte Januar verheiratet, as the latter implies that between then and now you ceased to be married – “I was married on 19 January (but now I am not).” An extra added twist is that the non-reflexive verb verheiraten means “to marry someone off;” if you want to talk about your own marriage, you need to use the reflexive form sich (mit jemandem) verheiraten Ich habe mich am 19 Januar verheiratet. (Note that sich verheiraten and verheiraten [and heiraten] both take haben in the past tense, therefore you have another clue to use when trying to decide whether verheiratet is being used as an adjective or a past participle.)

If this wasn’t enough confusion, what popped into my head was how different the relationship was between geschieden and verschieden: Ich bin geschieden – “I am divorced” – and Ich bin verschieden – “I am different.” Although verschieden is the past participle of verscheiden, it is very unlikely to be interpreted in this way as verscheiden is a polite or euphemistic form of the verb “to die.”

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Dead satisfied

Yesterday I visited Ohlsdorfer Friedhof. If you weren’t looking carefully, you might miss that this is a cemetery. It is laid out much more like a park or arboretum and is so large that there are bus lines that run through it to take you between different chapels and different sections. It lives up the Frieden part of its name in that it is a place of “peace” and “tranquility” (note that Fried, a delightful false friend if there ever was one, is not word in German as far as I can tell; but when I type the letters F-R-I-E-D, I frequently add an N, which makes sense for English but not for German).  I doubt, however, that anyone ever imagined a “yard” or “courtyard” – two of the meanings for der Hof – anything like this size (it is apparently the largest parkland cemetery in the world).

And then, suddenly, into my head came one of the possible translations of “happy” – zufrieden – that I shared in the post Happy-go-lucky. I had learned this as meaning something closer to “satisfied” or “content” than “happy” and the der Frieden connection suggest another possible rendering: “at peace.” Then, I got to wondering about that zu. I started scanning the zu section of the dictionary and before I tired of it discovered only a few adjectives with what looked like the zu– prefix (z.B., zudringlich – “pushy” (dringend – “urgent(ly)” or “strong(l)y” or “absolutely”)and rather a lot of verbs including zufriedenlassen – “to leave someone in peace” or “to stop bothering someone” and zufriedenstellen – “to satisfy, content or sate someone.”

Therefore, I got to wondering if perhaps there was a verb frieden that might have been the source for zufrieden. While I could not find a frieden (apologies to James Taylor for the very bad partial, cross language pun), canoo did offer some interesting insights on word formation via conversion! They explain two sorts of ways in which you can make an adjective from a verb.  The first is by suffixation (die Suffigierung). There are five types of suffixation options, I’ll only the simplest option for this post: drop the -en ending and add either -bar, –(e)rig, –haft, –ig, –isch, –lich and –sam. For example, ärgerlich – “annoyed” or “cross” from ärgern – “to annoy.” The second method is even more direct, conversion (die Konversion): you use the present or the past participle. For example, ein überwältigendes ‘Nein”  – “a resounding ‘No’ ” – or gefüllte Oliven – “stuffed olives.”

I hope that this leaves you both satisfied (or satt) and hungry for more Earthquake Words.

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