Confusing Questions

I occasionally come across blanks that multiple words would fit with, so I thought I'd catalog them here from now on.

The first one I've seen today, and finally after realizing that I've seen multiple "contract" words yesterday, do I understand why there's about three or four seven-letter words with an "a" and a three-letter prefix that have been giving me trouble! It probably comes down to this pair in particular.



Wir werden den _______ bekommen.

The hint says "order, contract"

Well Vertrag means "contract" so that's what I put. It makes sense in context, too. "We will get the contract."

But Auftrag is the only accepted answer. So I get it wrong. And these two words have been the ones giving me absolute fits since some of my first days on the course a few months ago!

I have had the same problem, and I also think Vertrag should be added, but Auftrag is definitely a better fit in the sentence, having the sense of 'we will be awarded the contract', 'we will be contracted to do sth.', whereas 'Vertrag bekommen' would mean getting a copy of a contract, as I understand it. Can anyone confirm?

Actually, maybe it's not a better fit, but it's different, at least.

Lingvist graduate

You're going in the right direction, maksim, but the difference between "Auftrag" and "Vertrag" is a bit different :)

"Auftrag" in this context basically means "order", as in "the company received an order for this or that product". It can also refer to an order or task in general: "Mein Chef hat mir den Auftrag gegeben, den Hof zu fegen" ("My boss gave me the order/task to sweep the yard") There are further possible meanings in other contexts, but those are relatively specialized, so I won't go into those.

"Vertrag" on the other hand basically means "contract", as in "Our contract stipulates that...". But it can refer to more than just the actual contract document. "Vertrag" can mean a contract or agreement in an abstract sense: "Der Vertrag ging an Agentur XY", "the contract was awarded to agency XY".

thanks for the clarifcation, Henning

last edited by maksim

Auftrag can definitely mean contract as well as order, though:

Den mit 8.000 Mark dotierten 1. Preis und damit auch den Auftrag, die Brücke zu bauen, erhielt die Gutehoffnungshütte in Oberhausen mit der Firma R. Schneider in Berlin und dem Architekten Bruno Möhring.

It would be normal to translate this as them getting the contract to build the bridge

Made all the tougher because for a lot of word pairings, when you google something like "Auftrag Vertrag Underschied" you'll just get a thesaurus entry saying something like "Auftrag (Synonyme Vertrag . . . )"

Sometimes you find people on things like Stack Exchange asking similar questions. My perception of German is that it has a huge vocabulary of very precise words, many of which are similar but slightly different and are immediately wrong in many contexts. Contrast with English, which is more forgiving when swapping out synonyms. But since I'm like B1 in German, I can't say this is 100% correct. It's just based on what I've read people warning about.

Lingvist graduate

@maksim said in Confusing Questions:

It would be normal to translate this as them getting the contract to build the bridge

That's probably an example of what Kyle Goetz said: German is a relatively exact and precise language. In the example sentence, the companies are getting the "Auftrag". They're basically getting the task or the assignment to build the bridge. In all likelyhood, there's going to be a "Vertrag" involved, but that's not the nuance the example sentence is expressing.

You can look at the difference between "Auftrag" and "Vertrag" in this context like focussing on two different aspects that are tightly intertwined. "Auftrag" focusses on the task, the obligation, the job, the work that needs to be done. "Vertrag" is the agreement that specifies that task (and the payment, and probably other things).


Thanks for the questions and thanks a lot of the awesome answers @Henning-Kockerbeck, @maksim!

I agree that there is a fine line between Auftrag and Vertrag. I won't go into the legal details that you'll find if you google 'Auftrag Vertrag Unterschied', but Vertrag is the piece of paper, often many pages long, that you sign. In English usually contract or agreement. And Auftrag can be much broader, like Henning mentioned.

Maybe a few more examples will help:
Ich habe den Auftrag bekommen meinen Bruder anzurufen. (I received the task to give my brother a call.)
Unsere Firma hat den Autrag leider nicht bekommen. (Our company, unfortunately, did not get the order / assignment.)
Wir haben den Auftrag bekommen und müssen morgen den Vertrag unterschreiben. (We got the assignment and have to sign the contract tomorrow).

@Kyle-Goetz Vortrag then is entirely different again. As you have learned this means presentation or talk.

I looked up all the words we teach in the course that are similar with a prefix: Antrag, Beitrag, Vertrag, Auftrag, Vortrag, Betrag and Eintrag.

Now don't get discouraged! :-)
Often, I believe, the prefixes can help guide you to the meaning. Vor-trag for example can be split up into vor (in front) and trag (from tragen - to carry/hold). So you could remember Vortrag as holding a presentation in front of a crowd.
Similarly, Beitrag, is also an input but not in front of people but rather just as part of a group (bei - among) and is translated as contribution.

Let me know if that helps or if you have other questions!

last edited by Lisa-Lingvist
Lingvist graduate

@Lisa-Lingvist said in Confusing Questions:

I agree that there is a fine line between Auftrag and Vertrag. I won't go into the legal details that you'll find if you google 'Auftrag Vertrag Unterschied', but Vertrag is the piece of paper, often many pages long, that you sign. In English usually contract or agreement. And Auftrag can be much broader, like Henning mentioned.

You're basically correct :) I'd like to add, though, that "Vertrag" can go beyond the physical stack of papers and refer to the agreement in a more abstract way. For example, one could say, "Unsere Agentur hat den Vertrag gewonnen", "Our agency has won the contract".

From my experience, there's a rule of thumb: If you're talking about physical goods and/or a task that's reasonably well delimitable, you'd probably use "Auftrag". If you're talking about a service, especially one that is performed continuously, you might use "Vertrag" to refer to the agreement in an abstract way.

To give an example: If the task is to build and deliver a new conference table, you'd probably use "Auftrag". The task has intrinsic limits, its beginning and end points are definied "out of itself" - at some point, the table is finished and set up.

If the task is to supply end user support for a company's customers, you might use "Vertrag". This task probably has no intrinsic limits, no beginning and end point "out of itself". There is no "natural end" to answering customer questions ;)

In the latter case, you can of course use "Auftrag", too, but you might run into cases like this where "Vertrag" goes beyond the physical manifestation of the agreement.

Lingvist graduate

A little addendum: Maybe another way of looking at the different usage is this: If the task is concrete enough, circumscribable enough, you might focus on the task with "Auftrag". If the task isn't that well circumscribable, you might focus on the agreement with "Vertrag", even beyond the stack of paper.

I'd like to clarify that I'm not asking how the words are different. I'm trying to clarify that the card as presented in the app is confusing. The definitions need to be better.

A follow up with a new word pair: Bundesrat and Bundestag both are words that I've seen. The English translations quite honestly require a level of knowledge of German politics to effectively learn.

After months of repeatedly getting these cards wrong, I read the Wikipedia articles on these two to finally understand the difference so I can get them right from now on.

I would suggest that the hints/definitions provided for them contain "(upper house)" and "(lower house)" because those will make it much easier for foreigners to learn. I'd wager most people are familiar with upper and lower houses in a bicameral legislature (US has it, UK has it, Japan has it, apparently Germany has it, etc.) and learning these terms don't require you to additionally learn specialist English vocabulary when you're supposed to be focused on learning German vocabulary.

Yes, you can look these up on your own and learn them, but the purpose of this app is to make learning vocabulary easier, and I think these two words as explained within the app fails to do that, so I'm suggesting what I consider an improvement.

By analogy, imagine you're learning Japanese, and you see a blank with Diet provided as translation. If you don't know the specialist English term for the Japanese government is Diet, you'll assume it's about a technique for losing weight. A better hint would be Diet (Japanese national assembly). Without that, you'll have to not only remember 国会 is the Japanese national assembly, but you'll also have to devote mental effort to learning the specialist English terminology as well. It's not high effort, but it does slow down the acquisition of the Japanese term.

last edited by Kyle Goetz

Welche Stellung hat Frau Fürst in der Firma?
Shouldn't "Position" also be accepted here?

I think so. Duden has as the first definition of Position "(gehobene) berufliche Stellung; Posten"

Unless Lingvist also expects you to detect that this sentence is not in an upper register and thus Position is too fancy pants :)

last edited by Kyle Goetz

Wir werden das sicherlich schaffen.
bestimmt auch?

last edited by dev_temp

I don't know the answer, but I want to +1 the idea that a response that you should count the number of letters and know from there is a copout, before someone suggests that as a response. This is a language-learning course, not a crossword puzzle! Personally I think it's a weak point of Lingvist that you can cheat and figure out how many letters and then start thinking of words you've recently learned even if you don't remember what they mean.

Yeah, right, stupid me, forgot to count the letters. Sorry for disturbance.

Die medizinische Versorgung hier ist von bestmöglicher Qualität.

It seems to me that Behandlung could replace Versorgung.

Also, relatedly, what is the difference between the two? Same number of letters, same meaning AFAIK.

last edited by Kyle Goetz

Ich habe euch mehrmals gesagt, dass ihr das lassen soll

Should mehrfach also be accepted instead of mehrmals? Even Duden lists them as synonyms. Same number of letters, and both were introduced to me in Lingvist about the same time, so I have trouble remembering which one goes there.

@Kyle-Goetz "mehrfach" is indeed the same as "mehrmals".

"Behandlung" is "treatment" in the sense that you act on someone mostly in a medical context.
Der Arzt behandelt die Krankheit des Patienten. (The doctor treats the sickness of the patient.)
Die Behandlung lief gut. (The treatment went well.)
Sie behandelt mich ungerecht. (She treats me unfairly.)

"Versorgung" is mostly used as "supply" but can also mean "care".
Die Versorgung traf im Militärstützpunkt ein. (The supply arrived in the military base.)
Arbeitslose werden vom deutschen Staat versorgt. (Unemployed people are cared for by the german state.)

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