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4 Comments

  • As an American living in Germany, I too am frustrated by the lack of a universal equivalent of “go”. There’s a very similar absence of another common universal verb: “put”. I often want to say that “I put something somewhere”, but there’s no universal verb for it; as with “go”, you have to specify exactly *how* you put the thing somewhere. For example, “liegen”, ‘stellen”, “hängen”. Aaaaaaargh. Sometimes you don’t exactly lay, stand, or hang something, you just *put* it away. A friend suggested “hintun” as an approximate equivalent for “put away”, but it seems Germans don’t actually use that very often.

    Also, there’s another idiomatic sense of “go” that I often want to translate, and can’t: “The vacuum cleaner goes in the closet”. But if I say “Der Staubsauger geht in den Shrank”, my friends laugh at me, because vacuum cleaners can’t, you know, walk.

  • Moroccan Arabic has a verb, ‘mshi’, that is substitutable for ‘go’ in nearly every context except one: it is considered extremely rude to use it in the imperative, so you can say ‘mshi’ to an animal such as a dog, but if you want to tell a person to ‘go’, you have to use another verb.

  • Broadly speaking, Romance languages do have all-purpose ‘go’ verbs, while Slavonic and Germanic languages (apart from English) don’t.

    If we didn’t have the option of ‘go’ in English, we’d have to be more precise, and it would at least spare us from wasting time on exchanges like this:
    A “I went to that new shopping centre yesterday.”
    B “Oh, yes. That one-way traffic system’s a bit confusing, isn’t it, and there aren’t really enough parking meters, are there?”
    A “I don’t know. I walked.”

    In German you can say, for example “Sie geht nach Amerika”, meaning that she’s going there to start a new job, a course of study, a new life, etc.

    About ‘put’ (re. Jasper’s comment): In my experience German speakers use ‘tun’ quite a lot for ‘stellen’ and ‘legen’ (you meant ‘legen’, not ‘liegen’) though not so much for ‘hängen’. (But of course it’s not considered really ‘proper’.)

    And as for ‘go’ or ‘put’ being atomic, well, I suppose there’s no atom so small that it can’t be split. Or, alternatively, something can be an atom in one language but a molecule in another.

  • Like Danish Dutch has a word comaparable to flueknipper.

    In Holland we say mierenneuker which means ant ficker.