Word of the Day – “weiter”

weiter-german-pictureHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a look at the meaning of

weiter

Weiter is a really important and useful word as we’ll, see but it isn’t even really a word of its own. It is just the more-form of weit which is the brother of the English wide. But as close as those may seem, they have actually evolved into different directions. I mean, sure there is some common ground.

  • Ich trage gerne weite Hosen.
  • I like wearing wide pants.
  • Das Fenster ist weit offen.
  • The window is wide open.

But this is really limited to clothing and a few other niches and phrasings. English wide very much focuses on width and, for some random reason, German uses the word breit for that…. which is related to broad.

  • Der Tisch ist 2 Meter breit.
  • The table is 2 meters wide.

Weit on the other hand has two notions. One is a general size thing. That mainly shows in words that are based on weit.. like erweitern. We could use expand as a generic translation but it is used for all kind of things like businesses, houses, responsibilities, circles of friends, one’s horizon and so there are better,more idiomatic translation for all these different cases. English and its damn precision.
But anyway the word weit itself however mainly expresses distance. It is the prime translation for far… by it in a  local or in an abstract sense.

  • Wie weit ist es noch?
  • How  far is it still?
  • Ich bin heute mit meiner Arbeit nicht sehr weit gekommen.
  • I haven’t gotten very far with my work today.
  • Ich werfe so weit ich kann.
  • I throw as far as I can.

And oh my god,and speaking of  so weit. There is also soweit and many people, learners and German native speakers alike, don’t really know what the difference is. There has been a reform of the German spelling rules a few years ago and since then, the rule is as follows: Only if soweit is used as a subordinating conjunction it is written as one word. In all other cases, it is writ… bah whatever. I don’t know what that subblahbla-thing is.  But if it wasn’t for the jargon the rule would be pretty simple. The point is that the combination so weit has been used A LOT over the centuries and so finally it has become a functional word, an intro-word, just like dass or weil. A word that introduces a side sentence…

  • Soweit ich weiß, weiß sie es.
  • As far as I know, she knows.

And ONLY that is officially written as one word. All the other are supposed to be spelled as two words. The problem with this is that it defies “feeling”. So weit is often… super often used as ready

  • “Kommst du Schatz?”
    “Ich bin gleich so weit.”

Literally, that means that far or so far but it has taken on the meaning of ready.

  • “Are you coming, honey?”
    “I’ll be ready in a second./’m almost ready.”

And this feels very much like one word that has a meaning.

  • Die Pizza ist gleich soweit.
  • The pizza is about ready.

The rule tells us differently though

  • “Ich bin gleich so weit.

To me, this is odd. It makes me feel like asking “How far are you exactly?” because the so is extra here but it is not specified in any way. Like here…

  • Ich bin gleich so weit, dass ich ein Pause machen kann.

Here, most people would agree to write it as two words because … well… because they are two words and the so is closer explained in the dass-sentence. But anyway,  in practice, many people are like “Spelling, shmelling – I’ll do as I please.”So they write so weit when it should be soweit and they write soweit when it… you get the idea. Some don’t know the new rule, others simply don’t care because the old one made morerer sense.  The rule is just a convention, anyway. It is not based one some meaning difference or something. Before the reform, we had a different rule and it worked just as poorly :). This one is very technical but it’s at least clear – only write it as one word if it is a functional word that introduces a side sentence – and by the way… that is also valid for other so-combinations like sofern and so fern, soviel and so viel,  or so oft, sooft and sooooooooft… the last one is how they spelled it on my toilet paper…
But anyway…let’s get back to weiter now. The prime meaning of weit is far. Weiter is the more-form of that so it means farther… or further.

  • Die Beispiele für weit stehen weiter oben.
  • The examples for weit are further up on the page…. (is that correct English? Help please :))
  • Berlin ist weiter weg von London als von Hamburg.
  • Berlin is farther away from London than it is from Hamburg.

Be careful though… not every weiter is really this word. Sometimes it’s just weit with an ending.

  • Von Berlin nach London ist es ein weiter Weg.
  • From Berlin to London it is a long way.

Anyway… Weiter can also be used as a prefix with this further-meaning, mainly in combination with the word kommen.

  • Ich bin nicht weitergekommen.
  • I have not come further (lit.)
  • I didn’t make progress.

But the reason why we actually talk about this word is the other meaning it has… read weiter if you want to find out :)

weiter – continue

Now, weiter is probably one of the easiest prefixes of them all. Imagine some of our ancestors… some hunter gatherers. They’ve heard that somewhere, far beyond the mountains, there are new hunting grounds rife with deer and berries. They have been walking for weeks, but still they’re in stupid steppe …

“We gone far.”
“Ay.”
“We not there.”
“Nay.”
“What we do?”
“We go more far.”
“What?”
“We go on .”

Continuing on your path… that is such an essential part of your life and it is no surprise that this phrasing is used for pretty much any form of continuation. You can go on reading or go on talking or go on Facebook… wait… I think the last one didn’t fit. Anyway… in English, if you continue verbing something you can say go on verbing it or verb it on. And in German you use the translation of further… you do it further… you verb weiter.

  • Ich will weiterschlafen.
  • I want to sleep on/keep on sleeping.
  • Das Leben geht weiter.
  • Life goes on.
  • Lass mich weiterarbeiten!
  • Let me continue working!
  • Ich lese weiter.
  • I read further.
  • I continue/keep on/go on reading.

Now, there is one key difference between the way it is done in English and the German weiter. In English, if you want someone to continue you can just say

  • Go on!

and leave out the actual verb if the context makes it clear. In German, you always have to add weiter to the specific verb. So if you want someone to continue telling a story, you’d say

  • Erzähl weiter!

If you want him or her to continue doing the dishes you’d say

  • Wasch weiter ab!

And if you want someone to continue marginalizing you’d say

  • Marginalisier weiter!

And that brings us to a very interesting question… and again it has something to spelling. Because spelling is so interesting, you know.
Weiter can be used as a prefix and as a stand alone word, much like the English further, with the exact same effect.

  • Ich will weiterschlafen.
  • Ich will weiter schlafen.

The first sentence will have a strong emphasis on weiter… because it is a separable prefix and … you know… they stress you out, you stress them right back :).
In the second sentence the stronger emphasis is on schlafen. But apart from that, those two are the same.

  • I want to continue sleeping.

I can not transfer the difference to English. I think it is really just the way it sounds.
Now, sometimes the version as a prefix doesn’t work.
First of, there are some verbs that do not work with the idea of continuing… for instance bleiben. It means to remain or to stay and that basically means to continue being. So weiterbleiben would be continue continue being. That’s nonsense.
Secondly, a verb that already has a separable prefix can’t take another.

  • Ich will weiter zuhören.
  • Ich will weiterzuhören… is wrong.
  • I want to continue listening.

And similar to that, weiter doesn’t work as a prefix either if there is a strongly connected group of words.

  • Ich will weiter Klavier spielen.
  • I want to continue playing the piano.

The point is that you don’t want to continue just playing. The piano makes all the difference here.

  • Ich will weiter Bücher lesen.
  • I want to continue reading books.

This is the same. The activity is reading books. Not just reading. It changes when we get specific.

  • Ich will weiter mein Buch lesen
  • Ich will mein Buch weiterlesen.

This example is different because the fact that it is my book is not as defining for the activity. You want to continue reading and the book is just additional info. Maybe the person you say that to can even see you with your book. But anyway, the difference between those two sentences is extremely subtle. The second puts more focus on lesen while the first has a little emphasis on the book.  But those are really nuances you need not worry about.
Now, you’re probably all a bit confused now. Don’t worry. Take as a general rule that the prefix version works if you’re talking specifics.. like… one specific point in time, one deed. The stand alone weiter on the other hand is for more general statements. And in some situations the only difference is spelling and emphasis.
All right. So we’ve talked about when you cannot use the prefix version… but there are also cases where you cannot use the stand alone version. Or…you could but the prefix version is the safer bet because the stand alone version has a clash of meanings. Which meanings clash? The local one (fartherand the continuing one. And that happens with verbs that express that some distance is covered…

  • Ich springe weiter.

This can mean two things… “I continue jumping”, that is the meaning we have been talking about the whole time. But springen also has something to do with distance… and weiter is just the more-form of weit. So the sentence can also mean “I jump farther”… maybe farther than John who jumps 3 meters. Now with that in mind… do you know the difference between the following sentences?

  • Ich will weiterspringen.
  • Ich will weiter springen.

I think you got it :). So…if there is a strictly local meaning possible, like… a meaning in sense of “covering a distance”, it matters. Weiter verben and weiterverben will not be the same then.  For activities like philosophizing it doesn’t really matter and weiter, be it a prefix or not, always implies continuation. And since we’re philosophizing… what’s happens in the following case.

  • Ich will weiterfahren
  • Ich will weiter fahren.

The first one means to continue driving, the second one means to drive farther… one implies the other. They don’t mean the same but they mean the same. Hmmm… languages can be so fascinating.
They can also break our balls.

The other meaning of “weiter”

I said, that weiter, be it as a stand alone or as a prefix, adds the idea of continuation to pretty much any verb. That wasn’t the full truth. Because for some verbs, the idea of continuing the activity doesn’t make all that much sense. You see, if you want to continue doing something that activity needs to either either take a while OR be something you can do it repeatedly. Now what about

  • I give you the book.

I wouldn’t really do that over and over. I give it once and we’re done. And it doesn’t take all that long either… unless we’re in slo-mo land of course.

“I will give the book to you, now.”
“I’m ready, go ahead.”
“I am currently giving it.”
“I’m getting it. Go on.”
“Continuing giving it to you, making good progress.”
“You’re doing great. Keep going.”
“Phew… can I take a break?”
“No breaks, you’re almost there. Come on, final sprint now.”

So… for many verbs that talk about transfer like geben or schicken or even sagen, the idea of continuation doesn’t really make sense.
But those can take weiter as a prefix too, only that it then shape-shifts into a prefix that expresses the passing on… I mean.. going on and passing on… they’re not that far after all :).

  • Ich gebe den Wein weiter.
  • I pass on the wine.
  • Ich sage dir ein Geheimnis aber du darfst es nicht weitererzählen.
  • I’ll tell you a secret but you mustn’t tell anyone. (“tell it on” – lit.)

But wait… wasn’t there an example earlier, that weitererzählen means to continue telling? There was. Oh.. what a relief. So both meanings of weiter actually do overlap. No day is complete without overlapping meanings…

  • Ich will die Geschichte weitererzählen.

This can mean two things

  • I want to continue telling the story.
  • I want to tell the story to others.

And only the context tells the full story… forgive the pun.
So… sometimes, for some verbs, in some situations when continuation doesn’t make all that much sense, weiter as a prefix can switch and talk about the passing on aspect – from one person to the next. That’s why  weitergeben translates to to pass on in the dictionary.
And if you start to find all this a little confusing… well… you might want to stop reading right here because all the neatly positioned pieces in your mind are about to be… blown around the room.
Of course we can also add continuation aspect onto verbs like
geben or sagen if we want to. If we’re talking general…

  • I want to continue giving.

So… how could we do that in German? We’d use weiter of course.But not the prefix one… the stand alone one.

  • I want to continue saying the truth.
  • Ich will weiter die Wahrheit sagen.

With sagen being one of those transfer verbs, that don’t really take all that long, the prefix version means the passing on.

  • Ich will die Wahrheit weitersagen.
  • I want to tell the truth to others

So let me recap. Weiter expresses the idea of continuing an action. We use it as a prefix or as a stand alone and if both is possible the prefix is for the specific situations while the stand alone is for the general statements UNLESS we’re dealing with verb like geben, then it’s the other way around and the prefix version is for specifics and then expresses the idea of passing on. And then we also have to factor in that there is a local meaning to weiter, but that c… und so weiter und so fort….
you know what… this isn’t really helping and I don’t want to weiter confuse you.
Have some useful bits of info instead. That last German sentence meant “and so on and so on” and the short version of und so weiter is usw.
A very common expression in German is

  • Weiter so!
  • Good job. Go on like that!
  • Ein “Weiter so” kann es nicht geben.
  • We can’t continue like that.

And there are a few other words with weiter in them that all carry the idea of more or continuation.

  • Alles weitere erfahren Sie morgen.
  • You will learn everything else/the rest tomorrow.
  • Bis auf Weiteres bleibt diese Bar geschlossen.
  • This bar will remain closed until further notice.

So that was our German Word pf the Day weiter.  It literally means further and it can express continuation or the passing on of something … depending on verb and context. I’m sure it will be clear most of the time.  The continuing idea is the most important one and whenever you want to say that you continue doing something… use it!!

  • Ich verbe weiter.
  • I continue verbing.

This is how we say it. Again… this is how we say it. You cannot say it differently without being super clunky.
And as far as the question prefix or stand alone is concerned… well, that isn’t something you should worry about too much. You know…  the whole question of  writing things as one word or separate… well… that is definitely the Achilles-Heel of German spelling. People do not know the rules, not because they’re stupid but simply because it is impossible to come up with concise and logical guidelines that feel right for all situations. Together, separate, words with benefits. The line is often blurry and it comes down to how you feel. And especially when you’re a beginner on the field of relationship, that might change on a day to day basi… I mean German language.
I’m out for today now. If you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment. Have a wonderful week all of you and I’ll see you next time.

41 responses to “Word of the Day – “weiter”

  1. LOL, ich dachte eigentlich immer, dass “soweit” als “ready” zusammengeschrieben werden muss… Die Regel sieht in der Tat nicht ganz logisch aus.

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  2. ubungmachtdenmeister

    Ich will weiterlesen :D Wann schreibst du der nächste Artikel?
    Ich hoffe, dass die Geschlecht von Artikel richtig ist.
    Diene Korrekturen sind wilkommen wie immer.

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    • Ich weiß ja nicht, welches Geschlecht du meinst… könnte ja sein, dass du “die” meinst und denkst, es ist Dativ :)…. aber ohne Quatsch. Es ist schon richtig … “der Artikel”. Allerdings brauchst du hier Akkusativ, denn “ich” schreibe und “der Artikel” ist das direkte Objekt. Also:

      Wann schreibst du den nächsten Artikel?

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  3. Sehr schoen. Danke LEO

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  4. Hello Emanuel,
    Zuerst, ich wuensche dir ein gutes neues yahr.
    Es gibt eine gleiche lage in Französich. Zum beispiel: aussi tôt und aussitôt , einer is ein adverb und andere is ein sujunctor ,
    Aber fuer weiter, man benuzt, re zum beispiel: refaire, redire,usw

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    • Hi Ahmad, dir auch ein schönes neues Jahr. Das mit “re” überrascht mich. Ich dachte, das wäre wie das deutsche “wieder”… also so wie “encore une fois”

      Je relit le livre = Je lit le livre encore une fois.

      Kann es also auch

      Je continue de lire le livre.

      heißen? Macht das dann der Kontext? Mein Französisch ist ein bisschen eingeschlafen :)

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  5. I love reading your articles even with my little bits of German. Thank you for enlightening your teachings with humour. :)

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  6. Hallo Emanuel,
    Ihre beide satze sind richtig, aber sie haben nicht gleiche bedeutungen.Wenn man sagt” je continue de lire le lire”, das bedeutet,dass es gibt une Kontiuität et une die action ist nicht am ende. Sonst dein Frzösich ist echt gut !!

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  7. Ich habe nur für 2 Monate in eine Sprachschule Deutsch gelernt. Ich will weiterlernen :) Deine Seite ist super und sehr hilfreich! Vielen Dank!

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  8. Kanst du nicht sagen, “Ich will mit dir weiterbleiben?” That’s an example of continuing to stay/be with someone…maybe it only makes sense in the context of being with someone.

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    • Grateful Reader

      Die Suche nach “weiterbleiben” bei books.google.com ergibt mehrere Ergebnisse, was bedeutet, dass das Wort existiert, obwohl es eher selten verwendet wird.

      Like

      • As I said, Germans have issues when it comes to deciding whether to write these words as one so I am not at all surprised that it is out there, even in books but… For me, “weiterbleiben” is not a word and I am pretty sure, I am in line with the rule here :).
        You can combine “weiter” and “bleiben” but only with the standalone “weiter”

        • Ich möchte weiter bei dir bleiben.

        The “weiter” can never become the most defining feature, so to speak. What you want to continue doing is staying with you…not just staying.

        • Thomas will bei der Firma weiterbleiben.

        That sounds like

        • At that company, Thomas wants to continue staying as opposed to continue working.

        Having the “weiter” so late gives it a weight that it cannot carry on a level of meaning without creating a really really weird sense.

        • Thomas will bei der Firma weiter bleiben.

        If someone said that, I would hear it as though the “weiter” has been squeezed in too late… like… the speaker forgot.
        The only word that is really is written in one word is the noun

        • Das Weiterbleiben in der NATO…

        Here, the “weiter” and the “bleiben” are super closely related and they have to be connected in writing somehow..

        Weiter-Bleiben
        weiter-Bleiben

        This is just not how nouns are formed in German… at least not usually.
        So long story short… there is no verb “weiterbleiben”… You can combine “weiter” and “bleiben” but only as stand alone words and with something that closer defines “bleiben” in between them. Not because it’s a rule, but because it wouldn’t make sense. It is possible that there is an example out there that DOES make sense but that’s gonna be one in a million uses :)

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        • “Thomas will bei der Firma weiterbleiben.
          That sounds like

          At that company, Thomas wants to continue staying as opposed to continue working.”

          Das hat doch einen bestimmten Sinn oder? ;)

          Thomas will bei der Firma “weiterbleiben”, ohne wirklich arbeiten zu müssen.

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          • Ja, vielleicht, aber selbst dann würde ich es als zwei Wörter schreiben.

            Was will Thomas bei seiner Firma machen?
            Weiterbleiben.

            Ugh… besonders als Ein-Wort-Antwort ist es extrem komisch und für mich falsch.

            Like

          • Grateful Reader

            Gut, ich merke es mir. Das ist genau eine solcher sprachlichen Kleinigkeiten, mit denen sich nur die Muttersprachler gut auskennen.

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          • Ja, das ist ja komplett eine Gefühlssache. Zwar liegen in diesem Fall schon gewisse Strukturen dahinter, aber da muss schon echt viel Wasser über den Stein laufen eh da ein Kanal entsteht … mal ganz abstrakt gesprochen :D… wenn man eine Struktur 1.000.000 mal in verschiedenen Ausformungen hört, dann weiß man irgendwann, wie sie wirklich aussieht. So wie in der Statistik… wenn man nur genug Proben macht, hat man irgendwann ein Gesamtbild.

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    • I just thought of something else…. the preposition in that context would be “bei”

      Ich will weiter bei dir bleiben.

      That is the way to go if you are focussing on the local meaning… like… “stay at your place” (but also the more personal one)
      However, if you mean “stay with you” as in “being your Partner” then the more common way to say it would be using the verb “zusammenbleiben”… then, “mit” is correct

      Ich will weiter mit dir zusammenbleiben.

      or even better

      Ich will weiter mit dir zusammen sein.

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      • Thank you both for your answers. I don’t trust my German anymore to try and write it! I understand your point about them being written sepparately. I think that with German, since all words, even compounds, are spoken individually, the difference between weiter bleiben and weiterbleiben can’t be heard. Can you use weiter bleiben?

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        • Oh nooo :)… you should continue to try and write it. You don’t need to be pitch perfect. As long as the idea gets across you’re good and your sentence was completely understandable. Had we been in class talking about something I probably even wouldn’t have corrected it so as to not interrupt your speaking. So… you shall not be discouraged ! :)
          As for “weiter bleiben”… yes that kind of works but only if there is nothing else to add to the verb.

          Der Fußballer will weiter bleiben.

          But as soon as you add something that specifies the “bleiben”, “weiter” would sound better before that.

          Sie will weiter in der Bar bleiben.

          As for pronunciation… there actually is a difference. If the “weiter ” is a prefix then it is a separable one and as such it will carry the main emphasis of the whole verb.

          Ich will WEITERlesen.

          If written as two words the verb itself gets a strong emphasis.

          Ich will weiter LESen.

          If someone were saying that sentence to me and I had to write it down I would take this clue to decide on how to spell it.

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  9. Hello Emanuel,
    Ich habe eine frage . Ich bin nicht so sicher wie ein trennebares verb in Hautsatz und in Neben Satz benutzen , ins besoderes fuer praetritum . Ich siehe in deutchen Zeitungen schriebet man trennbar oder untrennbar Zum beispiel:
    Ich anerkannte ihn oder ich kannte ihn an ???
    Voraus vielen dank

    Like

  10. Hello Emmanuel, is there a difference when placing the reflexive pronoun as in English?
    I myself did it. (It was me)
    I did it myself. (alone)

    I bid you answer please.

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  11. I LOVE your blog. I’ve been gobbling up duolingo for the past couple of months. Your blog augments my lessons in a nice, warm way. The humor is great and the back story really helps me grok more Deutsch.

    I also fun checking my reading comprehension by reading the comments. Thanks!

    Like

  12. I just love the way you pen down your contents. It’s really very helpful for the people trying to learn German. I have recommended this post to many of my friends who are interested to learn German as a secondary language.

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  13. What about “weiter” as “another” (or literally “a further”)?

    z. B. “Ich möchte eine weitere Tasse Kaffee”

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    • Good point… this is rather rare in context of ordering drinks but a very common use is:

      - Alles weitere…

      which means something like “the rest” without being “resty” :)

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  14. Dein Post hat mir tatsächlich bei meinem Englisch geholfen! Ich versteh besser den Unterschied zwischen “further” und “farther” Hob das noch ned bemerkt…
    Wie schon vielmal gesagt, lese ich ja weiter!

    Like

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