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Compound Words: doppellinksdraufklicken

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welcome to the fifth post on German compount words. I try to write them on Saturdays, but I had no time at the weekend. I even lost my streak.^^

Today I want to talk about compound verbs. I think this topic is a bit complicated, because while looking them up I found that they are a bit like the fight club. First rule: you don't talk about compound verbs (in detail).

Well. The first thing: compound verbs are a form of separable verbs. I don't know if the duolingo-course talks a lot about them, but separable verbs have the property that if you look closely at them, they consist of at least two parts, the last one being a verb. If they are conjugated they fall apart and the part that is not the verb wanders at the end of the sentence:
Parts: weg (adverb meaning away) + gehen (verb meaning to go) Verb: weggehen (to go away)
In a sentence: Ich gehe jetzt nicht weg. (I am not going away right now)

If you built the Perfekt-tense of the verb, then the ge- goes between the separable parts.
Perfekt: weggegangen
In a sentence: Ich bin doch weggegangen. (I went away after all)

Did I say they fall apart when they are conjugated? Well, that's only the case when the prefix is not stressed.
Parts: hinter (behind) + gehen (to go)
Word: hintergehen (to defraud, to betray, double-cross)
In a sentence: Judas hinterging Jesus. (Judas betrayed Jesus.)
Perfekt: hintergangen (no ge-!)
(I don't know a way to tell you when this is the case. German seems to have a lot of things that don't follow rules, another one being the gender of nouns. I always feel a bit like a jerk because that must be a pain if you are leaning German.)

There is also this popular case of two separable verbs umfahren and umfahren, where the meaning depends on how you stress the prefix:
Den Fußgänger umfahren! (Drive around the pedestrian! or Run over the pedestrian!) (You could use um etw. herumfahren or jmd. überfahren to make it clear what to do with the pedestrian.)
If the verb is conjugated it becomes clear:
Ich umfahre den Fußgänger. (I drive around the pedestrian)
Ich fahre den Fußgänger um. (I run over the pedestrian)

Well, the last example brings us to why the compound nouns are only one group of the separable verbs. The rest of the separable verbs are formed by derivation, meaning they got a syllable that itself does not necessarily mean anything. um can mean 'around', but it can also be used to form new Words that have nothing in common with 'around', but something like 'harming' or 'killing'.
umfahren (to run over or to drive around)
umbringen (to kill someone)
umhauen, umklatschen (to knock out, the second one being colloquial)
umschießen (to shoot someone to death)
umgrätschen (to bring someone to fall by straddling, grätschen alone meaning to straddle)

This may be especially confusing because um can also mean around. A clear example would be un-, which is the German version of im-, in- or un-, which is used to negate adjectives.
möglich (possible) - unmöglich (impossible)
angemessen (appropriate) - unangemessen (inappropriate)
akzeptabel (acceptable) - unakzeptabel (unacceptable)

So, back to compound verbs. As always you can add nouns, adjectives, adverbs or even other verbs to a verb to alter it's meaning.
(die) Nacht (the night) + wandeln (it can mean to wander around, but today it usually means to change the form) = nachtwandeln (to sleepwalk)
bekannt (popular) + geben (to give) = bekanntgeben (to announce)
da (there) + lassen (to let or the leave) = dalassen (to leave something at a place... while going away)
gefrieren (to freeze, to turn into ice) + trocknen (to dry) = gefriertrocknen (to freeze-dry)

But be careful: They are not always written together! That's just if the meaning of the verb is altered by adding the compound part. For example:
Maybe you want to say that someone drives a car with a compound word: is it autofahren or Auto fahren? Well, because fahren means more or less 'to drive a vehicle' the meaning does not change by adding the car, because the car is merely an example for a vehicle.
So it is: Auto fahren.

In a sentence these words act like the compound-parts would be an adverb.
Ich fahre Auto. (I drive by car/a car) - here Auto is not an object, but an adverbial. But that it is a compound word becomes clear when you nounify the verb: (das) Autofahren (the car-driving)

This explains why German has no way to turn an adjective into an adverb: we instead form a compound verb - and when the verb doesn't change the meaning then the compound parts are merely adverbials.
Ich schreibe schön. (I write nicely) - (das) Schönschreiben (The writing with a nice handwriting)

Or I guess you can also interpret it like German adjectives don't change when they are used as an adverb. So decribing the verb with an adverb or building a compound verb is in the end the same action and I am just confusing you. Sorry.



is todays compound word. I once used it when I explained my grandma how she can open excel on her windows-computer. When we take it apart we get the following:

doppelt - links - drauf - klicken

Well, klicken means to click with a computer mouse (it can also mean 'making a clicking sound'). Because she always confused the ways you can click on a computer I wanted to be very clear. So I added three clues to the verb:
drauf: from darauf meaning 'on'. In compound words the first a often disappears. Clicking on a button is usually refered to as draufklicken in German.
links: means 'left' (the direction). I was refering to the left mouse button. :)
doppel: from doppelt meaning double. The t also disappears in compound words.

And what I meaned: you click - on the Excel symbol - with the left mouse button - two times. Tadah!

(By the way: this word doesn't sound like it's good German. Compound verbs are usually short, because of the connection to adverbials.)

Oh, and if you need help with your computer in German, then there is a youtube channel for that^^: SemperVideo

A task for you: Uhm... I can't think of any good examples by now, soo... just try building some compound verbs and think about if they should be written together or not.

April 16, 2018



Thanks a lot for that interesting comment!

Actually, I started duolingo to refresh my French but I love it how details of my native language are discussed here :-). You usually just don't think about such kind of things... as long as it "sounds good".


ahhhhh this made me scream at myself for choosing to learn the beautiful German language. This was excellent work, though.


Well, as a German computer scientist I do not think the word "doppellinksdraufklicken" should be considered a real German word. There is not a single google result.


That depends on how you define real words.

Option 1: Words that a speaker of the language would understand, because they follow the rules of said language.

Option 2: Words that have a certain usage.

Both definitions have their cases where they are useful. Word books cannot contain all the understandable words that a language features. The Duden wouldn't get past the Aal otherwise.

But if you need to name new things, want to get creative or just need a better, more precise word for a certain context, then it is possible to use words that are not widespread.

I didn't care about how often the words I featured are actually used, because that's what I want to show: how to understand words that are not in a wordbook but nevertheless can appear in German texts. Take for example 'Lieblingskartoffelzubereitungsmethode'. That word has less than 10 pages of results if you google it, but it appeared in this forum, because someone made up that word in an interview. And it's a real word because it follows the rules.

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