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Ingrid Bauer

German Mistake: Nicht Wirklich

By February 20, 2013

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What is wrong with the following sentence?

Das habe ich nicht wirklich verstanden.

It is not the sentence structure, nor the spelling, but....


February 20, 2013 at 11:43 pm
(1) D.S. says:

Der Satz, richtig gesagt: Das habe ich nicht ganz verstanden, klingt gut. — The sentence correctly said: I did not quite understand, sounds good.

Aber die Bedeutung hat sich verändert. Es will sagen: Das habe ich noch nicht voll verstanden. — But the meaning has changed. It will say: I have not yet fully understood.

Das habe ich nicht wirklich verstanden, ja, das klingt nicht gut. Es klingt hölzern. — I have not really understood, yes, that does not sound good. It sounds wooden. (in German)

Man kann aber sagen: Das habe ich wirklich nicht verstanden. — You can say: I did not really understand.

Das Wort wirklich ist eine Betonung von dem Satz: Das habe ich nicht verstanden. — The word really is an emphasis of the sentence: I did not understand.

Will man den letzten Satz noch stärker betonen, dann sagt man: Das habe ich überhaupt nicht verstanden. — If you want to emphasize the last sentence even more, then you say: I have not understood at all.

Und jetzt, sogar ich selbst verstehe überhaupt nichts mehr, wohin das alles führen soll? — And now, even I myself do not understand anything anymore where all that will lead to?

February 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm
(2) Robert says:

The correct phrase for the incorrect “nicht wirklich” is “eigentlich nicht.” But it’s a hard one to get students / Anglophones to inculcate.

February 25, 2013 at 7:25 pm
(3) D.S. says:

Yes, the sentence: “das habe ich eigentlich nicht verstanden” sounds more clever than with “wirklich”. The emphasis is also less and more subtle. The best sentence is a short sentence: Das habe ich nicht verstanden.

February 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm
(4) Jerry says:

Oder…Wirklich, ich habe das nicht verstanden. Really, I havent understood that.

February 26, 2013 at 4:39 pm
(5) Michael D Byer says:

I’m not sure that I’m convinceds by the exlanation, but it illustrates the fact that you cannot learn how to speak a language as native speakers do, simply by plugging words from a dictionary into sentencers. When I was in Germany as a GI, I had not yet learned how to learn a language, and did not fully realize this fundamental truth. I have since had a career teachng for 25 years in a Spanish-speaking country, and have had the experience both of pulling boners like this myself and making people laugh, and of hearing similar foot-in-mouth phrases from people attempting to speak English to me. A particular word may seem to fit well according to all the rules of grammar, but native speakers just don’t use it that way.

I don’t really (wirklich?) have a “feeling” for the word “wirklich.” How about “Das hab’ ich nicht gut verstanden,” or if your level of confusion is greater, “Das hab’ ich gar nicht verstanden.”

February 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm
(6) toulouse aerospace industry says:

This is the perfect blog for everyone who really wants to understand
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You certainly put a new spin on a topic which has been discussed for decades.
Great stuff, just wonderful!

March 2, 2013 at 1:14 am
(7) aja says:

actually the the sentence das habe ich nicht wirklich verstanden is used in contexts where the recipient of the utterance doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand the meaning of the uttered sentence. if one doesn’t understand a word in the sentence or part of the sentence due to background noise etc. one would rather say das habe ich nicht ganz verstanden.
“nicht wirklich” can be used in more contexts like gehts dir gut? -nicht wirklich. or das sieht doch gut aus, oder? -nee, nicht wirklich.
native german speakers like myself use it all the time. i guess it is used because it’s not as strong as a simple no.
the construction might have been borrowed from English but at thie point it is widely used in spoken German

March 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm
(8) how to create a blog says:

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March 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm
(9) D.S. says:

My last sentence in comment (1), … sogar ich selbst verstehe überhaupt nichts mehr …, was meant to be a subtle English wit, and I am glad to see 6 thinking comments more, to be with you in tick.

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