Ach, ich fühl’ mich nicht wohl (I)


When you are on an audition tour and feel sick, you need not only a good doctor but also a specific vocabulary. You can find a doctor’s office in every neighborhood but you cannot expect that every doctor will speak English. At first, you’ll sign in with his or her assistant who will inquire about your condition, and may not speak any English at all. Then, you will wait in dem Wartezimmer until you are called.

The doctor visit will be an exercize in the use of reflexive pronouns, both accusative and dative.

The doctor will most likely ask you, “Was fehlt Ihnen?”

The verb fehlen (to miss, to be missing, to lack, to be lacking) has a Dativobjekt, an object that is expressed in dative, which we mostly place at the beginning of the sentence.

Dem Mann fehlt Talent. Der Frau fehlt das Geld.

Regarding the health condition the verb fehlen is used …

– … to inquire about the health of another person,

– … to express a healthy condition with the negative.

Mir fehlt nichts. Dem Patienten fehlt nichts, er ist gesund. Ihnen fehlt nichts. Dir fehlt nichts. Ihr fehlt nichts.

When the doctor asks, “Was fehlt Ihnen?”, he or she expects a more or less specific statement.

Ich fühle mich nicht wohl,” (I do not feel well) is a good entrance, but it will trigger further questions.

The verb fühlen can be used …

– … as a transitive verb, meaning it leads to an object, a noun that describes a feeling.
Ich fühle Wut, Angst, Traurigkeit etc.

– … as an impersonal verb that has no object other than es.
Ach, ich fühle es.

– … as an reflexive verb that expresses our well-being or not so well-being:

Ich fühle mich nicht wohl, ich fühle mich nicht gut. Ich fühle mich hervorragend, ich fühle mich gut.

We can report a cold in several ways.

Ich habe eine Erkältung. Here we state the fact with a noun.

Ich bin erkältet. Here we state the fact with an adjective, drawn from the reflexive verb sich erkälten.

Ich habe mich erkältet. We state the fact with the reflexive verb in present perfect.

You can be more specific:

Ich habe Schnupfen (common cold). Ich habe Husten (cough). Ich habe Fieber (fever). Ich habe eine Grippe (flu).

From: Ach ich fühl’s – German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing, Lulu Press, 373 pages, ISBN: 978-1-312-46345-5

Next week: Part II: How to Report Pain.


  More information about the book: click here.


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Bernd Hendricks. Born in Duisburg, Germany. Based in Berlin. Writer, German Language Educator. I was six years old when I went to the opera for the first time. My Grandma took me to Hänsel und Gretel at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duisburg. The first time I met an opera singer personally was during my time as foreign correspondent in New York when at a Christmas party a baritone pelted me with questions about the language of Zauberflöte. He was preparing for his role as Papageno. After my return to Berlin in September 2010, I have been giving German lessons to singers on their audition tours. My workshops in Berlin, Vienna, and London are based on my widely read book Ach, ich fühl’s—German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing. My latest book, Die Frist ist um—Navigate the Language of 10 German Operas, takes you on a journey through the language of the most popular and often performed operas in the German-speaking countries. I am also the author of several non-fiction books and two novels.

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