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
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.Read full lesson
Making a photo
Even if you translate each individual word in a sentence correctly, the resulting translation can still be off.Read full lesson
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.Read full lesson
You can spot Germans by the fact that they use “or” to ask questions. Unfortunately, the word doesn’t work that way in English.Read full lesson
This mistranslation gave this course its name. “Together” refers to doing something with others. Here’s how to greet a group of people instead.Read full lesson
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.Read full lesson
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.Read full lesson
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.Read full lesson
False friends are everywhere. Eventually is very similar to the German “eventuell”, but it means something completely different.Read full lesson
Why isn’t it “Whom let the dogs out”? The extra letter does not turn a regular “who” into a fancy version of itself.Read full lesson
When coming from a language that doesn’t normally use them, where to put apostrophes can seem confusing.Read full lesson
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.Read full lesson
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.Read full lesson
When you’re excited about something, tell others what that thing is. On its own, you’re only saying half an expression otherwise.Read full lesson
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.Read full lesson
We have been taught to always say please and thank you. Whether they are right for a situation depends on the context.Read full lesson
Some actions happen to multiple people at once, like running into someone. In these situations, we need to use reciprocal pronouns.Read full lesson
Other languages don’t always use the auxillary “do” as much as the English language does, so it’s often lost in translation.Read full lesson