Help with German, v. off-topic

liril at gmx.net liril at gmx.net
Thu Oct 26 05:45:42 EDT 2000


Philip wrote:

>Well, I'd add that the plural of "Wo bist du" is "Wo seit ihr"  (I
think -
>that's a form I don't think I have ever used!) = when your enquiring
for a group
>of people you know well.

It's written with a "d" ( "Wo seid ihr?") "seit" is since. But it's
correct. It didn't occur to me that "Where are you?" is plural, too. The
formal version would be "Wo sind Sie?" asking for several people in the
polite form (btw the same as the singular). Geez, German *is*
complicated...

>Hmm.  It puzzled me for a bit how "Wie heisst du" could occur - whether
you
>would ever address as Du anyone whose name you didn't know!  I think
this would
>be an adult addressing a child, or two children or possibly teenagers.
Anyone
>addressing an adult in this situation would definitely use Sie.

Well, as the winter term at Freiburg University has just begun, and the
new students get to know each other, I can tell you all the halls are
full of "Wie heisst Du?" "Und Du?" And they would like to be seen as
adults... ;-)  But of course you're right, apart from university
students, it would only be used in the situations you described.

I think it's very fascinating that other languages with polite/fromal
forms (e.g. italian, french, swedish etc.) have slightly different rules
when to apply these froms. And it's intersting how the issue is treated
in translations from English. Because you have to know quite a bit about
the relationship of two people to decide when they would switch. It's
quite revealing.

>A tale of this from the world of international commerce, where English
is used a
>lot.  Germans have been observed to be on first name terms _with each
other_hen >talking English, but still to revert to surnames and Sie when
talking
>German...

Now this is so odd... (and quite stiff). Anyhow, I know from a couple of
my friends who work at modern international enterprises (but with
Germans in Germany) that they all go on a first name basis with Du from
day one. That's why I made this joke about low hierachies. I don't know,
somhow, if I don't like my boss, it's not changed by the fact I call him
Frank instead of Herr Wetzel...

Bettina
On a first name basis with all of you, and liking it :-)


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