Kopfschmerzen haben

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by omidnice, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. omidnice Senior Member

    Turkish - Azerbaijani

    I looked up the word "Kopfschmerzen" in the dictionary, and it says that

    Kopfschmerzen haben -----------> to have a headache

    Similarly, I got the following information

    Kopfschmerzen -------> plural headaches

    and I have seen the sentence "Ich habe Kopfschmerzen" which apparently means "I have a headache". Could you please explain it why you, German native speakers, use a plural noun here?

  2. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member


    Wir verwenden beides. Wobei ich fast immer Plural benutze.

    Duden gibt Beispiele:

    I use plural by tradition, and it is usually a cluster of headaches. It start ans ends or it is at the right sight, than at the left. But this is folk etymology.I think in English.

  3. omidnice Senior Member

    Turkish - Azerbaijani
    You mean it's possible to use both singular and plural nouns interchangeably, and if you use the plural one, it means that you consider you have a variety of headaches. According to your words, I should correct the aforementioned equivalent to

    "Ich habe Kopfschmerzen" -----------> "I have headaches"


    "Ich habe ein Kopfschmerz" -----------> "I have a headache"

    Are they correct now?
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  4. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    "Ich habe einen Kopfschmerz" -----------> "I have a headache"

    The Duden gives both forms - without explaining where they are interchangeable.
    I could use "Kopfschmerz" and "Kopfschmerzen in many context interchangeable. but usually I would not do it.
    By default I'd use "Kopfschmerzen" as plural.

    I do not know exactly about the style in English, but if I understand translation, plural and singular in different languages might be different in usage.

    In German I would use "Kopfschmerz" in following cases:

    1. If the other is using it in answers.
    2. in "personification" "Mich hat ein Kopfschmerz gepackt und nicht wieder losgelassen." (metaphorically, witty)
    "Kopfschmerz, lass los!"
    (These examples work in Plural, too, but not so good.)
    3. In fixed multipart words, example: Kopfschmerztabletten

    (There might be other cases, e.g. in poetry - vers form)
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  5. omidnice Senior Member

    Turkish - Azerbaijani
    Oh, you're right. "Kopfschmerz" is accusative. Is there anyone here who uses this sentence in case they have a headache?:confused:

    In my own language, we use just the singular form without any article (Trying to express it in English leads us to something like "I have headache" which is wrong in English). We may describe the kind of headache by providing more information -- for example, "I have headache on the right side of my head". As far as I know, native English speakers use the singular form with article.
    Vielen Dank!:)
  6. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    The question is as good as asking why "information" can't be singular in English. It is something just to get used to. Knowing why might be interesting but not really help anyone having a better command of the language.
  7. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    More often than not, Schmerzen is used in the plural, except in compound nouns (e.g. Schmerztablette, Schmerztherapie), as Hutschi pointed out.

    Hast du Schmerzen?
    Ich habe (leichte/starke/ständige/schreckliche/stechende/pochende) Schmerzen im Bein/Arm etc.

  8. das brennende Gespenst Senior Member

    Berlin, Deutschland
    Australisches Englisch
    Information can only be singular in English (information), it can't be plural (informations). But yes, what you said is right.

    To the OP: Sometimes learners want to ask "why" about some aspect of a language, trying to look for a logical rationale, but very often it's simply because that's the way people say it and have done for a long time. There may originally have been a reason, or there may not have been, and it's usually rather pointless to speculate about. Almost always, when anyone gives a reason for something like this, it's a silly made up story or a folk etymolo+++Sometimes a made up story explaining something like this is useful as a mnemonic device, but unless it's historically documented, I'd take it with a grain of salt.

    Here are some random things like that from English: Why do we sometimes use "brain" in plural in English to talk about intellectual ability? She's got brains and beauty. We just do. We're not actually saying that she has more than one brain. I think I've heard some British people use say I have headache, I have toothache, I have flu with no article. For me, in my dialect (Australian English) they'd have to be I have a headache, I have a toothache and I have the flu. Again, something that probably can't be logically explained without simply speculating is why, at least in my dialect of English, people always have the flu but a cold. Accepting that idiomatic phrases in languages are sometimes just random will help you a lot - I'm not saying "don't ask", but if you can't get an answer, don't let it perplex you for too long.

    Long story short: Schmerzen is generally used in plural in German, in most contexts and usually translates to singular in English. Don't try to be too literal in translating either.
  9. ablativ Senior Member

    In English you could say, for instance, "I have headaches frequently", if you get them on a regular basis. But if you have a headache now, you would never say "I have headaches" :cross:. It's always "I have a headache".
  10. omidnice Senior Member

    Turkish - Azerbaijani
    Thank you all for your comments. I need to explain something a bit more here. The first reason I ask some questions like this is that sometimes I am not sure about the correctness of the sources which I use although I am trying to use suggested sources of this forum. The second reason is maybe they are some rules behind them which I need to know. At last but not least, although some people may say something like "I have headache" in English and it can be understood, it's not a standard English and those versions are not accepted in formal situations. I need to know these things too because I should be careful about using some words or expressions, for example, when writing a letter.

    Danke noch mal!:D
  11. das brennende Gespenst Senior Member

    Berlin, Deutschland
    Australisches Englisch
    All completely understandable. The best dictionaries give lots of examples of usage and should mark anything colloquial as such. Another thing I like to do is simply google phrases within quotation marks and find which is the most common. For example, googling "habe Kopfschmerzen", "habe einen Kopfschmerz", "habe Kopfschmerz", "hatte Kopfschmerzen", "hatte einen Kopfschmerz", "hatte Kopfschmerz" etc. should begin to show a pattern of the most common, idiomatic usage. That is not to say that the most common usage is always regarded as the correct usage (by whatever rather arbitrary prescriptive rules one uses to define correctness if not most common use), but if it's something where the most common usage is regarded as incorrect, you'll usually find pages written by and for German speakers explaining the more acceptable usage. For example, googling for "jemandem anderen or jemandem anders" gives you a lot of sites where the issue is explained in full. You can't trust everything, of course, but you can get a feel for it anyway.

    I can't remember 100%, but I think it was actually given that way in a British ESL textbook I used to teach out of. It sounds instinctively wrong to me, but I assumed it may be idiomatic British English. Actually, now I think about it, "I have toothache," was definitely something that came up in teaching materials. That's still weird to me, but not as much as "I have headache."
  12. omidnice Senior Member

    Turkish - Azerbaijani
    Vielen Dank, das brennende Gespenst. Your comments and recommendations are very useful. I know I am a bit more curious about things around. It's not always good for me to be like this, so I will try not to behave in this manner. :)
  13. cuore romano

    cuore romano Senior Member

    Doctors ask:

    Wo genau sitzt der Schmerz?

    Ist es ein stechender/dumpfer/pochender... Schmerz?
  14. das brennende Gespenst Senior Member

    Berlin, Deutschland
    Australisches Englisch
    You're welcome! Und es ist gut, neugierig zu sein, aber zerbrich dir bloß nicht den Kopf!
  15. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member


    Singular for exact localisation!
  16. omidnice Senior Member

    Turkish - Azerbaijani
    Vielen Dank! You're helpful as always.:)
    Thank you for expressing your opinion.:)
  17. omidnice Senior Member

    Turkish - Azerbaijani
    Danke noch mal!

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