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Confusing Words in German

Falsche Freunde II

An annotated German-English Glossary of
Confusing Words and Misleading Expressions

C A T E G O R I E S
1. German > Different Genders (below)
2. German > Confusing Word Pairs
3. German > Different Meanings in English
4. English > Different Meanings in German
5. Singular/Plural > Different in German and English
6. Homophones > Homophones in German
7. German > German Words to Avoid

ALSO SEE: Falsche Freunde (False Cognates), English Index, German Idioms


1. G E R M A N - Different Genders
German nouns with more than one gender/meaning

VARIOUS MEANINGS
German nouns with more than one gender and meaning:

der Band (Bände) volume (book)
die Band (-s) (rock) band
das Band (Bänder) ribbon, tape; band, wavelength (radio)

Das, was er gerade gesagt hat, spricht Bände.
What he just said speaks volumes.
Die Band hat Live-Aufnahmen auf Tonband gemacht.
The band made live recordings on audio tape.

der Ekel (no pl.) disgust, loathing, revulsion
das Ekel (-) obnoxious person, a horror
   Er ist ein altes Ekel. He's an obnoxious old fart.

der Elf (-en) elf - Note: die Elfe female elf
die Elf (-en) team, side (soccer), (the number) eleven
  Also see: Homophones in German

der Erbe (-n) heir (die Erbin heiress)
das Erbe (no pl.) inheritance; legacy; heritage
   Papst Johannes Paul II. hinterlässt ein schwieriges Erbe.
   Pope John Paul II leaves behind a difficult legacy.

das Golf golf (game)
der Golf (-e) gulf (der Golf von Mexiko)

der Kiefer (-) jaw, jawbone
die Kiefer (-n) pine (tree, wood)

der Kunde (-n) customer; character
die Kunde (no pl.) tidings; the study of (noun suffix)
   die Erdkunde geography (study of the earth)
   die Heilkunde medicine (study of healing)
   die Sternkunde astronomy (study of the stars)

der Leiter (-) director, head, leader, manager
die Leiter (-) ladder, stepladder

das Mark marrow, consommé; medulla
   bis ins Mark to the core/bone
   kein Mark in den Knochen haben have no guts/backbone
die Mark (-) mark (DM, former German currency)
die Mark (-en) borderland, march/mark (die Mark Brandenburg)

das Messer (-) knife
der Messer (-) surveyor; gauge (der Druckmesser pressure gauge)

das Quark (-s) quark (physics)
der Quark (no pl.) curd cheese, quark (cheese); nonsense, rubbish; trifle, piddling detail
   Getretener Quark wird breit, nicht stark. (Sprichwort)
   Quality over quantity. (Proverb)

das Schild (-er) sign, name plate
der Schild (-e) shield; shell (turtle)

der See (-n) lake
die See (-n) sea, ocean

Heute fahren wir an den See.
Today we're driving to the lake.
Das Haus ist am See.
The house is at the lake.
Das Schiff war auf hoher See.
The ship was on the high seas.
Das Haus ist an der See.
The house is at the seaside.

das Steuer (-) helm, tiller; controls (aviation); steering wheel
die Steuer (-n) tax
  Also see: Homophones in German

Also see: German Noun Suffixes and Gender

das Stift (-e) foundation; seminary; church order or chapter
der Stift (-e) peg, pin; pen (felt-tip, ballpoint); crayon, pencil, marker

das Tau (-e) rope, cable
der Tau dew
  Also see: Homophones in German

der Teil (-e) part, section, stretch
das Teil (-e) component, part (of), spare part

Der größere Teil...
The greater part...
Diese Arbeit ist nur zum Teil fertig.
This job is only partly done.
Das Gegenteil von lang ist kurz.
The opposite of long is short.
Er hat den Motor in seine Teile zerlegt.
He took the motor apart.

das Tor (-e) gate, gateway, door; goal
   das Brandenburger Tor in Berlin the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
der Tor (-en) fool


TWO GENDERS: DAS/DER
Nouns that can be either das or der (der is standard/most common) but usually have the same meaning:

das/der Bonbon (-s) candy
das/der Cartoon (-s) cartoon
das/der Curry (-s) curry
das/der Gummi (-s) rubber, eraser
das/der Joghurt (-/-s) yogurt
das/der Keks (-e) cookie
das/der Liter (-) liter
das/der Meter (-) meter
  The metric unit is der (der Kilometer), but measuring devices are das (das Thermometer).
das/der Virus (-) virus


DIALECTS
Nouns that have different genders in different German-speaking regions or are words borrowed from English or French without a firmly established gender. The first gender shown is the most common. (An "A" indicates the second gender is Austrian or southern German usage; CH is Swiss):

die/das Cola/Coke (-s) cola drink, Coke®
die/der Butter butter (A)
die Ecke (-n) corner
  das Eck (-e) corner (A)
die/der Kartoffel (-) potato (A)
  In Austria, der Erdapfel is the more common word for potato.
das/der Radio (-s) radio (A)
die/das Schorle (-) spritzer, wine cooler
das/der Taxi (-s) taxi (A, CH)
der/das Teller (-) plate (dining) (A)

Also see: German Noun Suffixes and Gender


2. Confusing Word Pairs - German word sets that are frequently misused


3. Different Meanings in English - Same or similar German word with various English meanings


4. Different Meanings in German - Same or similar English word with various translations in German


5. When the Plural is Singular - Some German nouns are singular when the English is plural, or vice versa. The police is coming.


6. Homophones in German - Words that sound the same, but are spelled diiferently


7. German Words to Avoid - Learn what not to say in German!


Related Pages

Confusing Word Pairs
Examples of German word pairs that can be confusing to English-speakers.

Homophones in German
Words that sound the same but are spelled differently.

German Noun Suffixes and Gender
A glossary and guide to German gender.

English-German Cognates
Genuine cognates: words that are the same or similar in both languages.

False-Friend Flashcards
Vocabulary practice for false cognates.

German Loan Words in English
English vocabulary borrowed from German. What do words like "ersatz," "gesundheit" or "kindergarten" really mean?

German Words to Avoid
Learn what not to say in German! A special glossary of words not fit for polite society.

Doch... and Other Tricky Words
All about "particles" and their many uses in German.

When the Plural is Singular
German and English nouns don't always follow the same rules when it comes to singular and plural forms.

German for Beginners
Our free online German course.

German Grammar
All of our German grammar pages, charts and articles.

Glossaries
All of our German-English glossaries on many specific topics.


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