Becoming a car

You recently received your driver’s license and are ready to explore the open roads. You do not own a car, but know someone will give you one as a gift. All excited, you announce:

“For my birthday, I am becoming a car!”

Outside of Rick & Morty, this is completely impossible. For this sentence to be true, you would have to turn into a car on your birthday. While looking similar, the German “bekommen” does not translate to “become”. “Become” translates to the German “werden”.

The correct translation of “bekommen” is very context-dependent. For example, use “get” when you want to talk about receiving something.

  • “Kann ich ein Bier bekommen?” translates to “can I get a beer?” Becoming a beer would turn you into a drink.
  • “Ein Kind bekommen” translates to “having a child”, because becoming a child is the plot of Benjamin Button.
  • “Eine Erkältung bekommen” translates to “catching a cold”. Becoming a cold means you are going to continue your life as a disease.
  • “Ein Auto bekommen” translates to “getting a car”, because you will never be a car.

Translations from English to German also need to take the context into account. While “get” translates to “bekommen” in some sentences, this is not its only translation. “It is getting hot in here” does not translate to “es bekommt warm hier drin”.

Translating “bekommen” is more difficult than always using the same word. In any case, translating it with “become” is as wrong as it is hilarious.

All lessons in this course

1

An actual video

Two words can look like translations of each other even if they aren’t. The word “actual” is our first venture into this category of false friends.

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2

Making a photo

Even if you translate each individual word in a sentence correctly, the resulting translation can still be off.

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3

What for a picture

Not every word in a sentence needs to appear in its translation. Languages don’t map to each other one-to-one.

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4

Or?

You can spot Germans by the fact that they use “or” to ask questions. Unfortunately, the word doesn’t work that way in English.

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5

Hello together

This mistranslation gave this course its name. “Together” refers to doing something with others. Here’s how to greet a group of people instead.

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6

Handy

What do you call a phone you can hold in your hand? Well, it’s not this. If you call it a handy, you’re in for some awkward looks.

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Becoming a car

“Bekommen” and “to become” are another pair of false friends. If you want something, make sure you’re not accidentally turning yourself into that thing.

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8

Less vs fewer

Is it “less mistakes” or “fewer mistakes”? They both seem to say that something is not as much as it was before, but only one is grammatically correct.

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9

Eventually

False friends are everywhere. Eventually is very similar to the German “eventuell”, but it means something completely different.

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10

Whom

Why isn’t it “Whom let the dogs out”? The extra letter does not turn a regular “who” into a fancy version of itself.

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11

Apostrophes

When coming from a language that doesn’t normally use them, where to put apostrophes can seem confusing.

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12

I vs me

Was an event organized by “Nina and I” or “Nina and me”? To find which one applies, take the other person out of the sentence for a second.

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13

Good vs well

You’re doing well, Superman is doing good. This lesson looks at the rules behind which of these two is correct in a given situation.

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14

Looking forward

When you’re excited about something, tell others what that thing is. On its own, you’re only saying half an expression otherwise.

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15

Gender-neutral pronouns

When you don’t know someone’s preferred pronouns, you can use they/them even when speaking about an individual person and not a group.

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16

Please

We have been taught to always say please and thank you. Whether they are right for a situation depends on the context.

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17

Each other

Some actions happen to multiple people at once, like running into someone. In these situations, we need to use reciprocal pronouns.

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18

Do

Other languages don’t always use the auxillary “do” as much as the English language does, so it’s often lost in translation.

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