Leçons Allemand

Thèmes

German Verbs of Questioning

I've spoken German with native German speakers on a daily basis for many years, but I still think that some verbs related to the root verb fragen are confusing. The fact that they all deal with different types of "asking" just makes matters worse! Let's see if this lesson can help us all get a better overview of the verbs abfragen, anfragen, befragen, and erfragen.

 

Also gut. Dann werde ich dich abfragen, Sabine.

All right. Then I'll quiz you, Sabine.

Caption 10, Bundesländer und ihre Rezepte: Rheinland-Pfalz

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Dann werde ich euch jetzt abfragen.

Then I'll ask you now.

Caption 4, Bundesländer und ihre Rezepte: Baden-Württemberg

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The verb abfragen is used when you want to formally test or quiz somebody to find out how much they know about something. It is usually translated as "to ask," or "to quiz."

 

Bei Interesse einfach bei einem Outdoorfitness-Anbieter anfragen.

If you're interested, simply inquire at an outdoor fitness provider.

Caption 40, Neuer Fitness-Trend: Kinderwagen-Workout

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Die haben dann auch immer angefragt und wir haben oft denen Sachen hinterhergebracht.

They then always asked as well, and we often brought them things afterwards.

Captions 18-19, Die Klasse: Berlin '61

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The verb anfragen is the best choice of words if you are approaching somebody with a question or inquiry. It's usually translated as "to ask" or "to inquire." 

 

Ich mein, wir sollten sie mal intensiver befragen.

I mean, we should question her more intensively.

Caption 70, Die Pfefferkörner: Endspurt

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Der Kollege Johannes Lemke hat ihn noch einmal befragt nach der spielentscheidenden Szene.

Colleague Johannes Lemke interviewed him again after the match-winning scene.

Caption 35, Fußball: U21-Nationalmannschaft

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The verb befragen, on the other hand, usually means to get specific information from somebody in a more formal sense, for example in a survey, or even a police interview. It is often translated as "to question" or "to interrogate," or even—as in the above example—"to interview." 

 

Sie können dort sehr gerne die Ankünfte beziehungsweise Ausgänge zu den ankommenden Flügen erfragen.

There you can easily inquire about arrivals or exits for arriving flights.

Captions 24-25, Flugreisen: Was mache ich, wenn...

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... so dass wir alle nötigen Infos vorab schon einmal erfragen und die Drehtermine ausmachen können.

... so that we can request all the necessary information in advance and set up the dates for the shoot.

Captions 11-12, Rund um den Airport: Hinter den Kulissen

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Lastly, the verb erfragen means to get information by asking questions, for instance for an address, directions, the time of day, or an opinion. 

 

As you can see, there seems to be a lot of overlap in the meaning of these words, but if you can remember the following, you'll usually find the right word for the context: 

 

USE                 IF YOU
abfragen          want to find out how much someone knows about something (quizzing)

anfragen           are approaching somebody with a question (inquiring)

befragen           want specific information from somebody (questioning, interrogating)

 erfragen           want to get information by asking questions (requesting).

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and find more examples of the above verbs. See if you can guess the meaning of some other verbs that use the root word fragen, such as ausfragen, durchfragen, gegenfragen, nachfragen, and weiterfragen. You can also look up the German definitions of the words at Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache or on the Duden website.

The Preposition "to" in German: Part 3 — an

After looking at the two-way preposition in last week, let's continue our series with an. This preposition is also a two-way preposition and is used in a multitude of contexts, including with the accusative case to express movement from one place to another.

We use an rather than nach or in in some contexts where we will end up next to or to the side of something rather than in or on it. 

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Sarah, komm du doch mal bitte an die Tafel.

Sarah, come up to the blackboard, please.

Caption 5, Bundesländer und ihre Spezialitäten - Baden-Württemberg

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Ich gehe rüber ans Fenster

I go over to the window

Caption 5, Philipp Poisel - Wie soll ein Mensch das ertragen?

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An is also used when we are going to a place that forms a boundary or edge. In particular, you can memorize an die Küste and an den Strand.

 

Natali und Florian zieht es zunächst an die Küste Cornwalls.

Natali and Florian proceed first to the coast of Cornwall.

Caption 28, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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In dieser Nacht segelten sie zurück an den Strand von Troja.

That night they sailed back to the beach of Troy.

Caption 80, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Das Trojanische Pferd

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Eine neue Hiobsbotschaft

A new piece of bad news

ist die plötzliche Abberufung Tresckows an die Ostfront.

is the sudden recall of Tresckow to the Eastern Front.

Captions 80-81, Die Stunde der Offiziere - Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944

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Und man davonfliegen möchte, so leicht wie eine kleine, weiße Feder,

And you would like to fly away, as light as a little white feather

bis ans Ende der Welt.

to the end of the world.

Captions 32-33, Piggeldy und Frederick - Das Fernweh

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Further Learning
Other places/nouns that are commonly paired with the preposition an when they are the destination include die Kreuzung (the intersection), die Wand (the wall), and die Grenze (the border). With all three of these examples, an + the accusative is only used when the barrier is NOT being crossed or traversed and it is simply a matter of going/driving/walking "up to" it. When you see an on Yabla German, you can quickly note whether it's being used with the accusative to mean "to" or with the dative to mean "at" or "on." Don't forget, however, that an also appears in contexts that have nothing to do with going or being anywhere (for example, an etwas denken).

Across Cities and Continents

This week, let's review the vocabulary in German for political and geographical subdivisions. We will start from the largest subdivisions and proceed to the smallest.

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Dann natürlich auch, um 'nen fremden Kontinent kennenzulernen,

Then of course also in order to get to know an unfamiliar continent,

weil man aufm Fahrrad eigentlich so nah dran ist wie sonst nicht, wenn man reist.

because on the bicycle you actually are so much closer to it than when you otherwise travel.

Captions 14-15, Mountainbiken - Auf dem Anden-Trail

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Welches Land ist ein Nachbarland von Deutschland?

Which country is a neighboring country of Germany?

Caption 27, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest - Part 14

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Die Region zwischen Amrum und Sylt wurde wegen der Meeressäuger unter Schutz gestellt.

The region between Amrum and Sylt was placed under protection because of the marine mammals.

Caption 2, Abenteuer Nordsee - Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

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You probably already know the word die Stadt ("the city") and related words like die Hauptstadt or die Großstadt. The word der Staat is not to be confused with die Stadt. Although the United States is die Vereinigten Staaten in German, the word used for a federal state is generally das Bundesland. Der Staat is more often used when referring to something being done or provided by the federal or state government. 

 

Es ist sein erster Besuch in Berlin als Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika.

It is his first visit to Berlin as the president of the United States of America.

Caption 4, Angela Merkel - Gemeinsame Pressekonferenz mit Barack Obama

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Der Staat muss die Gesetze einhalten.

The state has to abide by the laws.

Caption 4, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest - Part 7

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In Deutschland gibt es in jedem Bundesland sogenannte Landeshauptstädte.

In Germany, there are so-called state capitals in each federal state.

Caption 15, Bundesländer und ihre Spezialitäten - Baden-Württemberg

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When speaking about a district of a city, or a "quarter," the German word is der Bezirk or der Stadtteil or das Viertel. The word der Kiez is used in certain cities on an informal basis to denote a particular part of a district that may even be just a few square blocks. In these places, it is much more commonly used than die Nachbarschaft

 

Hallo, ich stehe hier am Eingang des Viktoriaparks im Berliner Stadtteil Kreuzberg.

Hello, I am standing here at the entrance of Viktoriapark in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg.

Caption 1, Berlin - Eva im Viktoriapark

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Gitarrist Jürgen Ehle wohnt seit fünfundzwanzig Jahren

Guitarist Jürgen Ehle has lived for twenty-five years

in dem Kiez und schwelgt in Erinnerungen.

in the neighborhood, and luxuriates in memories.

Captions 3-4, Pankow - Rolling Stones des Ostens

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In German, die Kleinstadt specifies a town rather than a city. To talk about rural life, there is das Dorf ("the village") and also die Gemeinde, which can be used for a rural community as well as an urban one. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning
Practice these words and their correct articles by describing where you live. Begin with the smallest area unit and progress until you are at continent level! Yabla German can provide more examples using these words if you get stuck on the declensions. 

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