war gewesen

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casebook

Senior Member
English (UK)
Has anybody else noticed that on German TV people are frequently saying "war gewesen" and not "ist gewesen". My wife thinks that this has come from former East Germany. Is this so?
 
  • Hutschi

    Senior Member
    I do not know where it comes from, but I come from East Germany, and I know this form.

    Duden (Bd. 9, 2007) says, that the form "gewesen" together with verbs is colloquial and often used in the southern regions. It is not correct in standard German.

    So it does not seem to be a question of east and west.

    In my case, I was born in East Germany in Thuringia (in the south, with a Frankish dialect) and used this phrase, and a friend of mine, born in Saxony, told me that it is wrong. He was astonished, that I used such things as "Ich war damals bei Steinach Pilze suchen gewesen." I was not aware that it is wrong in the standard language.

    In the context "Ich war in Steinach Pilze suchen gewesen" it seems to be wrong. (The main verb is "suchen".)
    In the context "Ich war in Steinach gewesen" it seems to be correct. (The main verb is "sein". It is just "Plusquamperfekt" of "sein".)

    My problem: I do not have the feeling that anything is not ok in such phrases.
     

    MadelineLynn

    Member
    Germany, German
    I'm from a southern Bundesland and we use "war gewesen" in our dialect as the "correct" grammatical form. This leads to people making mistakes when speaking "Hochdeutsch".
     

    jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    Has anybody else noticed that on German TV people are frequently saying "war gewesen" and not "ist gewesen". My wife thinks that this has come from former East Germany. Is this so?
    Isn't he/she talking about Perfekt (have been) and Plusquamperfekt (had been)? I thought it was easy as that.
     

    grosmax

    Senior Member
    français de Paris
    A friend of mine, born and raised in (the Western part of) Berlin, constantly uses this form: "Wir waren gestern in der Kneipe gewesen" instead of "Wir waren gestern in der Kneipe" or "Wir sind gestern in der Kneipe gewesen", and even "letztes Jahr waren wir Ski fahren gewesen". She is not aware of anything wrong about that, and it is definitely not common usage in Berlin. I suppose she got that from her parents (both from West Germany).

    And I do find it awful :eek:
     
    Has anybody else noticed that on German TV people are frequently saying "war gewesen" and not "ist gewesen". My wife thinks that this has come from former East Germany. Is this so?
    and
    grosmax said:
    (...) She is not aware of anything wrong about that (...)
    This tempus is called Plusquamperfekt and is neither wrong nor has anything to do with east/west.
    I've copied a short explanation from canoo.net:

    "Das Plusquamperfekt drückt immer einen Sachverhalt aus, der im Sprechmoment vergangen, abgeschlossen ist. Es unterscheidet sich dadurch von den anderen Zeiten des Vergangenen, dass der Sachverhalt nicht nur in Bezug auf den Sprechmoment, sondern auch in Bezug auf etwas anderes Vergangenes abgeschlossen ist. Es drückt Vorzeitigkeit in Bezug auf Vergangenes aus (vgl. den Deutschen Namen des Plusquamperfekts: Vorvergangenheit):

    - Sein Vater war damals schon gestorben.
    - Bis 1969 hatte noch kein Mensch den Mond betreten.
    - Nachdem sie die Kinder dreimal vergeblich gerufen hatten, machten sie sich Sorgen."

    Hope this made it clear to you.
    Regards, Bahiano
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    The problem is not
    Sein Vater war damals schon gestorben.
    but
    Sein Vater war damals schon gestorben gewesen.
    I'm from a southern Bundesland and we use "war gewesen" in our dialect as the "correct" grammatical form. This leads to people making mistakes when speaking "Hochdeutsch".
    Not quite, all of you are mixing up something [for explanation: I am from Austria - Austrian and Bavarian dialect are closely related]:

    - plusquamperfect would be in Austrian and Bavarian dialect (and I guess in Switzerland and Svabian dialect too):
    Bei meiner Geburt ist mein Vater schon gestorben gewesen.
    (meaning: when I was born my father was already dead - he died before my birth)
    - plusquamperfect in German standard language (with the exact same meaning):
    Bei meiner Geburt war mein Vater schon gestorben.

    - perfect would be in Austria, Southern Germany and Switzerland (dialect):
    Bei meiner Geburt ist mein Vater gestorben.
    (My father died at my birth - he died at the same time.)
    - and in German standard (exact same meaning):
    Bei meiner Geburt starb mein Vater.
    - it would be possible to use in German standard 'ist ... gewesen', but only in a different context, not if (like in the example above) in a past long gone, but more likely if you would like to stress that an action had been finished (not necessarily in the nearer past, but more likely so) or that a certain state of affair has been reached, or that certain actions did occur in the nearer past and you are telling them from memory now; like the following, this (I think) really should be with 'ist ... gewesen':
    Das Kalb ist wohlauf, aber die Kuh ist leider gestorben.
    (The calf - in present tense - is well, but the cow died in the process.)

    It is extremely difficult for us native speakers to tell what form would be the correct one in what circumstances if speaking standard language, because there are huge regional varieties of the use of the tenses: past tense = Präteritum = starb vs. perfect = Perfekt = ist gestoben vs. plusquamperfect = war gestorben.
    So even I am not absolutely sure if the above rendering really exactly describes the correct use of tenses in German standard language. To my best knowledge, it does.

    As for the question of casebook if 'war gewesen' is correct, this one only can be answered if you give us context:
    - if it were in a sentence like 'Bei meiner Geburt war mein Vater schon gestorben', it would be completely correct, but I do not think that you do mean such sentences
    - what I do think is that you've got sentences in mind like the one mentioned by grosmax: 'wir waren gestern in der Kneipe gewesen': this clearly would mean past tense, 'war ... gewesen' is wrong in this case, whereas both 'waren' and 'sind ... gewesen' would be acceptable in this context

    And as for the question if this does occur constantly, I would say: yes, it does. So, yes, in some regions there seem to be speakers using formal plusquamperfect and meaning past tense/perfect tense.

    The reason for this? I don't know; but I think it's due to the fact that German native speakers are so very insecure of the use of the different forms for past tense (because in everyday speech most use either 'war' or 'bin gewesen' only - or used to use ;-), that they overcompensate: with formal plusquamperfect instead of correct (simple) past tense.

    I think this use is more common in Germany and there more so in Western and Northern Germany, but probably this hypercorrect form does occur in the South of Germany, too.
    As for Austria, only people imitating the hypercorrect German use do use this hypercorrect form constantly - it would be extremely unusual to use it in informal speech here, and even on TV (where you might here it occassionally) it sounds rather strange, at least to my ears.
     

    casebook

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    Thank you all for your comments. I realize that there are occasions when "war gewesen" is correct but most of the usage that I have heard on TV is like that described by grosmax.
    In English the equivalents are "have been" and "had been" which we call the pluperfect. We use the pluperfect for talking about the past in a sentence already in the past tense, For example, I am retired but I have been for many years a doctor, before that I had been a student.
    I have been interested in the several comments and thank you all.
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Thank you all for your comments. I realize that there are occasions when "war gewesen" is correct but most of the usage that I have heard on TV is like that described by grosmax.
    In English the equivalents are "have been" and "had been" which we call the pluperfect. We use the pluperfect for talking about the past in a sentence already in the past tense, For example, I am retired but I have been for many years a doctor, before that I had been a student.
    I have been interested in the several comments and thank you all.
    I live in an East German city and here it's quite common to say war ... gewesen. Many people lament about this use but they keep on using it nevertheless. I also started using it not long after I moved here. Unconsciously.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I live in an East German city and here it's quite common to say war ... gewesen. Many people lament about this use but they keep on using it nevertheless. I also started using it not long after I moved here. Unconsciously.
    In this case, obviously, the originally wrong use of 'war ... gewesen' meaning simple past tense now has become in your city spoken standard and is thus, as spoken standard in your region, a variant of German in its own right and not wrong as such. In this regional variant - linguists call them regiolects (in analogy to dialect) - one could describe the form of 'war ... gewesen' as meaning past tense and no plusquamperfect any more.

    Nevertheless, this use of 'war ... gewesen' still would be wrong (grammatically) in my dialect, where this is not at all an accepted use, and neither would it be correct in German standard language.
     

    casebook

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    Thank you Sokol for this comment. I understand what you mean. In North England people say "I'll learn you English" instead of "I'll teach you English". I even had a headmaster who use "learn" like this and it is accepted as correct in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Similar it appears in Thüringen:

    "Ich lerne Dir Deutsch" statt "Ich lehre Dich Deutsch."

    The form with the double past marker

    "Wir waren nach Steinach gefahren gewesen." is wrong in standard but a proper construction in dialects.

    I think, especially in my home dialect "Itzgründisch" it is also caused by the fact that many verbs lost ther endings and so there is no simple past tense for many verbs. The default past is something like "is gange" (ist gegangen) rather then the form with "ging" there.

    When going to standard German, they changed the sound and the form of words there but kept parts of the regional grammar - at least in colloquial language.

    Best regards
    Bernd
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Similar it appears in Thüringen:

    Ich lerne Dir Deutsch statt "Ich lehre Dich Deutsch."

    The form with the double past marker

    "Wir waren nach Steinach gefahren gewesen." is wrong in standard but a proper construction in dialects.

    I think, especially in ma home dialect "Itzgründisch" it is also caused by the fact that many verbs lost ther endings and so there is no simple past tense for many verbs. The default past is something like "is gange" (ist gegangen) rather then the form with "ging" there.

    When going to standard German, they changed the sound and the form of words there but kept parts of the regional grammar - at least in colloquial language.

    Best regards
    Bernd
    That's so similar to Swabian!

    There the preterite is more or less lost, which is why constructions like "Hasch d Schpätzle gessa ghedd?" is normal, because "aßt" doesn't exist.
    They also say "ganga sei" instead of "gingen", which practically doesn't exist.
    And saying something like "Kasch mir des lerna?" is totally normal.

    I guess it is important not to mix up norms for writing and speaking, because in most of the cases we just have to accept that the spoken language is different.

    Grüsse,


    MarK
     

    Schmalzstulle

    New Member
    German, Spanish
    A friend of mine, born and raised in (the Western part of) Berlin, constantly uses this form: "Wir waren gestern in der Kneipe gewesen" instead of "Wir waren gestern in der Kneipe" or "Wir sind gestern in der Kneipe gewesen", and even "letztes Jahr waren wir Ski fahren gewesen". She is not aware of anything wrong about that, and it is definitely not common usage in Berlin. I suppose she got that from her parents (both from West Germany).
    I was born and raised in Berlin (West) and i have to object: The Plusquamperfect form IS extremely common in Berlin slang. It is however, always wrong. It doesn't matter if you're from the south, west, east or North, saying "ich war gestern in Berlin gewesen" ist simply incorrect grammar. Dialects do not change the grammar rules of the language.

    Sorry if i offend any local patriot feelings, but "war gewesen" is always wrong. Simples.
     

    Schmalzstulle

    New Member
    German, Spanish
    ... but of course they can, and they do, whether you like it or not.
    uhm... no, they can't. It is then incorrect grammar that is commonly used by a regional group of people - but still wrong. Bavarian is incorrect grammar, as is Berliner dialect, Hamburg dialect, etc.

    If you refer to Austrian or Swiss German, these are not dialects.
     

    Glockenblume

    Senior Member
    Deutsch (Hochdeutsch und "Frängisch")
    I've read (I think in DUDEN) the following:
    In spoken langaguage, in Southern Germany (and Austria, Switzerland) people prefer Perfekt when speaking of the past, in Northern Germany Präteritum, and in the regions in between Plusquamperfekt - as a mix between Perfekt ad Präteritum.

    Of course, in standard German, the Plusquamperfekt isn't a mix between the Perfekt and the Präteritum, but has a totally different function (see the other posts).
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    uhm... no, they can't. It is then incorrect grammar that is commonly used by a regional group of people - but still wrong. Bavarian is incorrect grammar, as is Berliner dialect, Hamburg dialect, etc.

    If you refer to Austrian or Swiss German, these are not dialects.
    Hi Schmalzstulle, what is your definition of dialect?

    You should note that a dialect is not wrong standard language. Dialects may have own grammar rules, and indeed they have.

    In a certain sense our standard language is also just a dialect.

    It is a dialect with fixed rules.

    And there is no strict difference between langauage and dialect.

    There is also a difference between a dialect and the colloquial language, but even this is not strict.

    A grammatical and stylistic form in dialects is that they keep the double negation as emphasizing negation.
    Another one is that they have grammatical forms that are not available in proper High German (Standard German), for eexample the form "meiner Mutter ihr Haus"=My mother's house.
    It is not wrong in dialect.
     
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