The pandemic stirred up our lives and—no surprise—our language too. It brought us a couple of new verbs and made three participles most famous. While the verbs leave our tongues to enter our day-to-day conversations, the participles appear as a single letter, the letter G, on the doors of restaurants, stores, trains, theaters and opera houses, unmovable like insignia of an omnipresent royalty.
The term 3G means:
Some places, e.g. opera houses and department stores, require only 2G:
In German, a participle is a word formed from a verb to mostly create the perfect tense and the passive voice. Coupled with a helping verb, it participates—as its name “participle” suggests—in creating the past tense and the passive.
The verbs that are the basis of 3G are:
impfen (to vaccinate)
genesen (to recover from an illness)
With most verbs we create the participle by adding the prefix ge-.
sagen (to say) → gesagt
spielen (to play) → gespielt
singen (to sing) → gesungen
trinken (to drink) → getrunken
The participle of verbs that never change their vowel, so-called regular verbs, like sagen, spielen, impfen, and testen end with a -t. The participle of verbs that change their vowel, so-called irregular verbs, like singen, trinken, or genesen, end with -en.
Some verbs, so-called non-separable verbs, form their participle without ge-. They have the privilege to carry the following prefixes:
ver– (e.g. verlieben = to fall in love), be– (e.g. bestellen = to order), emp– (e.g. empfehlen = to recommend), ent– (e.g. enttäuschen = to disappoint), er– (e.g. erleben = to experience), zer– (e.g. zerstören = to destroy), and ge– like genesen.
Separable verbs which cause many students of the German language great suffering take the prefix ge– into their midst.
vorsingen (to audition, recite) → vorgesungen
auftreten (to perform) → aufgetreten
So, why do impfen, genesen, and testen present themselves as participles? Do they express the past tense? No, because the person who wishes to enter a store cannot claim, Ich habe geimpft (I vaccinated). It implies he or she is a doctor who administered the vaccine. Neither does it mean he or she is protected against the virus.
These participles express the passive voice, more specifically the Zustandspassiv, the passive that describes a condition (Zustand) rather than a process (Vorgang).
If I am being vaccinated—by someone we do not want to mention in the sentence—we say, Ich werde geimpft, using the helping verb werden.
I want to present the condition, namely that I am vaccinated, we say, Ich bin geimpft, using the helping verb sein (to be).
3G means, ich bin, du bist, wir sind etc. geimpft, genesen, getestet.
However, a new verb has been threatening the fame of these three participles. Derived from the English “to boost”, the verb boostern hast began to dominate everyone’s conversation. Boostern has pushed aside it first version, the Auffrischung (auffrischen = to refresh, to revitalize), and is often used as participle in passive voice: Ich bin geboostert.
Another verb which I read in the newspapers the other day gets its novelty from its prefix frei (free).
When you are tested positive you have to go into isolation. You cannot eat in restaurants or shop and you cannot have contact with other people for a certain number of days unless—and this is a new rule in some parts of Germany—you test negative before the end of that period. You will be free, you set your self free by testing negative: freitesten. Ich bin freigetestet.