Rhabarberbarbara: A German Tongue Twister with English Translation

One of my favorite German tongue twisters is the story of Rhabarberbarbara (Rhubarb Barbara). The German text to the story of Rhabarberbarbara along with an English translation is included below.

The story of Rhabarberbarbara is fantastic for many reasons, but the main one is that it is fun to read. This story can be a guide for how to build compound nouns in German. It is also entirely written in the Präteritum tense, which makes it a good practice exercise for those skills, too. Read along with the text below and then learn a bit about compound nouns and the Präteritum tense.

For extra materials about compound nouns, click here.

For extra materials about the Präteritum tense, click here.

Rhabarberbarbara Text in German

In einem kleinen Dorf wohnte einst ein Mädchen mit dem Namen Barbara. Barbara war in der ganzen Gegend für ihren ausgezeichneten Rhabarberkuchen bekannt. Da jeder so gerne Barbaras Rhabarberkuchen , nannte man sie Rhabarberbarbara.

Rhabarberbarbara merkte bald, dass sie mit ihrem Rhabarberkuchen Geld verdienen könnte. Daher eröffnete sie eine Bar: Die Rhabarberbarbarabar.

Natürlich gab es in der Rhabarberbarbarabar bald Stammkunden. Die bekanntesten unter Ihnen, drei Barbaren, kamen so oft in die Rhabarberbarbarabar um von Rhabarberbarbaras Rhabarberkuchen zu essen, dass man sie kurz die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren nannte.

Die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren hatten wunderschöne dichte Bärte. Wenn die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren ihren Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart pflegten, gingen sie zum Barbier.

Der einzige Barbier, der einen Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart bearbeiten konnte, wollte das natürlich betonen und nannte sich Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier.

Der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier kannte von den Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren Rhabarberbarbaras herlichen Rhabarberkuchen und trank dazu immer ein Bier, das er liebevoll Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier nannte.

Das Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier konnte man nur an einer ganz bestimmten Bar kaufen. Die Verkäuferin des Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbieres an der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbar hieß Bärbel.

Nach dem Stutzen des Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbarts ging der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier meist mit den Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren in die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbar zu Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbarbärbel um sie mit zur Rhabarberbarbarabar zu nehmen um etwas von Rhabarberbarbaras herrlichem Rhabarberkuchen zu essen und ein Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier anzustoßen. Prost.

Rhabarberbarbara Text in English

In a small village there once lived a girl with the name Barbara. Barbara was known in the entire area for her excellent rhubarb pie. Because everyone liked eating Barbara’s rhubarb pie so much, they called her Rhubarb Barbara.

Rhubarb Barbara soon realized that she could make money with her rhubarb pie. Therefore she opened a bar: The Rhubarb Barbara Bar.

Of course there were soon regular customers in the Rhubarb Barbara Bar. The most famous among them, three barbarians, came so often to the Rhubarb Barbara Bar in order to eat of Rhubarb Barbaras rhubarb pie, that they soon were called the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians.

The Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians had wonderful thick beards. When the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians wanted to tend to their Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian beards, they went to the barber.

The only barber who could work on a Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian beard of course wanted to highlight that and named himself the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber.

The Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber knew from the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians about Rhubarb Barbara’s marvelous rhubarb pie and always drank a beer with it that he lovingly called Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Beer.

The Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Beer could only be purchased at a very special bar. The saleswoman of the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Bier at the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Bier Bar was called Bärbel.

After pruning the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beards, the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber mostly with the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians went to the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Bier Bar to Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Bier Bar Bärbel in order to take her along to the Rhubarb Barbara Bar in order to eat some of Rhubarb Barbara’s superb rhubarb pie. Cheers.

What Rhabarberbarbara Teaches About German Compound Nouns

In German, you can make a ton of great nouns in German just by putting other nouns together. Rhabarberbarbara showcases this very well. The examples in this tongue twister are very simple, as they don’t require any extra letters between the parts of the compounds. That’s how these generally work, but there are a few things you need to know about German compound nouns.

Rule #1: Last Noun Decides Gender

The main rule to know is that the gender of the last noun in the compound noun dictates the gender of the entire compound noun. This is why Rhabarberbarbarabar is feminine, but Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier is masculine.

Let’s take a look at the examples from the video in order to examine this rule in more detail.

ArticleGerman NounEnglish Translation
die (plural)Rhabarberrhubarb
der (masculine)+Kuchencake/pie
der (masculine)Rhabarberkuchenrhubarb cake/pie
ArticleGerman NounEnglish Translation
die (plural)Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenrhubarb Barbara bar barbarians
der (masculine)+Bartbeard
der (masculine)Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartrhubarb Barbara bar barbarian beard
Article German NounEnglish Translation
die (plural)Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierrhubarb Barbara bar barbarian beard barber
das (neuter)+Bierbeer
das (neuter)Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierrhubarb Barbara bar barbarian beard barber beer

Rule #2: Adding -S

Occasionally, you have to add a few other letters in between the nouns. This doesn’t happen in the story of Rhabarberbarbara, but it is something you will come across a lot.

The most common of these letters is “s”. This can occasionally be used to show ownership between the nouns. Other times, it is to aid pronunciation. Some of the more common times that you use an “s” are after the following endings: -keit, -heit, -tät, -ung, and -schaft. Take a look at these examples.

-keit

ArticleGerman NounEnglish Translation
die (feminine)Einsamkeitloneliness
Possessive S+s‘s
das (neuter)Gefühlfeeling
das (neuter)Einsamkeitsgefühlfeeling of loneliness (loneliness’s feeling)

-heit

ArticleGerman NounEnglishTranslation
die (feminine)Gesundheithealth
Possessive S+s‘s
die (feminine)Kartecard
die (feminine)Gesundheitskartehealth (insurance) card (health’s card)

-tät

ArticleGerman NounEnglish Translation
die (feminine)Universitätuniversity
Possessive S+s‘s
die (feminine)Mensafood court
die (feminine)Universitätsmensauniversity food court (university’s food court)

-ung

ArticleGerman NounEnglish Translation
die (feminine)Reinigungcleaning
Possessive S+s‘s
das (neuter)Mittelmeans
das (neuter)Reinigungsmittelcleaning solution (means of cleaning)

-schaft

ArticleGerman NounEnglish Translation
die (feminine)Freundschaftfriendship
Possessive S+s‘s
der (masculine)Ringring
der (masculine)Freundschaftsringfriendship ring (ring of friendship)

Rule #3: Adding -N or -EN

Occasionally, you will need to add an -n or -en between the words. This happens most often if the first noun ends with an -e. Check out these examples.

ArticleGerman NounEnglish Translation
der (masculine)Löwelion
Pronunciation N+nN
der (masculine)Zahntooth
der (masculine)Löwenzahndandelion (Lit: lion’s tooth)
ArticleGerman NounEnglish Translation
die (feminine)Klasseclass
Pronunciation N+nN
das (neuter)Zimmerroom
das (neuter)Klassenzimmerclassroom

While there are other letters that you will sometimes need to add in the middle of your compound nouns, they don’t have such solid rules for when you use them. I recommend you go out and read some German stories and articles and look for the compound nouns. Try to break them apart and see if there are any letters that were added. If there were, what were they and why were they added? You will pick up the extra rules along the way.

For more on compound nouns, click here.

What Rhabarberbarbara Teaches About the German Präteritum Tense

Rhabarberbarbara is written in the German Präteritum tense. The Präteritum tense in German is primarily used for written works in the past tense: fairy tales, novels, stories, and newspapers. It is also used with the verbs “haben” and “sein” while speaking. The modal verbs are also used in this tense while speaking.

This explanation is just a quick overview. If you want an in-depth look at the Präteritum tense, click here.

Regular German Verbs in the Präteritum Tense

Regular verbs are simply conjugated with endings that start with -te. The endings and an example with the verb “wohnen” are in the following chart.

PronounsEndingswohnen
ich-tewohnte
du-testwohntest
er, sie, es-tewohnte
wir-tenwohnten
ihr-tetwohntet
sie, Sie-tenwohnten

If a verb stem ends with D or T or would otherwise require an extra E between the verb stem and the ending in the present tense for du, er, sie, es and ihr, you need to add E between the verb stem and the ending for all forms. Here are a few examples of those verbs.

Pronounsredenarbeitenatmen
ichredetearbeiteteatmete
duredetestarbeitetestatmetest
er, sie, esredetearbeiteteatmete
wirredetenarbeitetenatmeten
ihrredetetarbeitetetatmetet
sie, Sieredetenarbeitetenatmeten

Regular Präteritum Tense Verb Examples from Rhabarberbarbara

The story of Rhabarberbarbara uses a variety of regular verbs. Each of them are conjugated in the following chart and example sentences.

Pronounswohnenmerkeneröffnenpflegen
ichwohntemerkteeröffnetepflegte
duwohntestmerktesteröffnetestpflegtest
er, sie, eswohntemerkteeröffnetepflegte
wirwohntenmerkteneröffnetenpflegten
ihrwohntetmerkteteröffnetetpflegtet
sie, Siewohntenmerkteneröffnetenpflegten

In einem kleinen Dorf wohnte einst ein Mädchen mit dem Namen Barbara. –
In a small village there once lived a girl with the name Barbara.

Rhabarberbarbara merkte bald, dass sie mit ihrem Rhabarberkuchen Geld verdienen könnte. –
Rhubarb Barbara soon realized that she could make money with her rhubarb pie.

Daher eröffnete sie eine Bar: Die Rhabarberbarbarabar. –
Therefore she opened a bar: The Rhubarb Barbara Bar.

Wenn die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren ihren Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart pflegten, gingen sie zum Barbier. –
When the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians wanted to tend to their Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian beards, they went to the barber.

Irregular German Verbs in the Präteritum Tense

Irregular verbs require a stem change. While there are patterns to these changes, the main thing to know is that the endings are the same as the present tense with the exception of the ich and er, sie, es forms, which don’t require an ending. If a verb stem ends with S or ß, there is an extra E added for du, er, sie, es and ihr. Here are a few examples of irregular verbs in this tense.

Pronounsessengehenbringen
ichgingbrachte
duaßestgingstbrachtest
er, sie, esaßetgingbrachte
wiraßengingenbrachten
ihraßetgingtbrachtet
sie, Sieaßengingenbrachten

Irregular Präteritum Tense Verb Examples from Rhabarberbarbara

The story of Rhabarberbarbara also uses a variety of irregular verbs. Each of them are conjugated in the following charts and example sentences.

sein, essen, nennen & geben
Pronounsseinessennennengeben
ichwarnanntegab
duwarstaßestnanntestgabst
er, sie, eswarnanntegab
wirwarenaßennanntengaben
ihrwartaßetnanntetgabt
sie, Siewarenaßennanntengaben

Barbara war in der ganzen Gegend für ihren ausgezeichneten Rhabarberkuchen bekannt. –
Barbara was known in the entire area for her excellent rhubarb pie.

Da jeder so gerne Barbaras Rhabarberkuchen aß, nannte man sie Rhabarberbarbara. –
Because everyone liked eating Barbara’s rhubarb pie so much, they called her Rhubarb Barbara.

Natürlich gab es in der Rhabarberbarbarabar bald Stammkunden. –
Of course there were soon regular customers in the Rhubarb Barbara Bar.

kommen, haben, gehen, & heißen
Pronounskommenhabengehenheißen
ichkamhatteginghieß
dukamsthattestgingsthießt
er, sie, eskamhatteginghieß
wirkamenhattengingenhießen
ihrkamthattetgingthießt
sie, Siekamenhattengingenhießen

Die bekanntesten unter Ihnen, drei Barbaren, kamen so oft in die Rhabarberbarbarabar um von Rhabarberbarbaras Rhabarberkuchen zu essen, dass man sie kurz die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren nannte. –
The most famous among them, three barbarians, came so often to the Rhubarb Barbara Bar in order to eat of Rhubarb Barbaras rhubarb pie, that they soon were called the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians.

Die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren hatten wunderschöne dichte Bärte. –
The Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians had wonderful thick beards.

Wenn die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren ihren Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart pflegten, gingen sie zum Barbier. –
When the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians wanted to tend to their Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian beards, they went to the barber.

Der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier kannte von den Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren Rhabarberbarbaras herlichen Rhabarberkuchen und trank dazu immer ein Bier, das er liebevoll Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier nannte. –
The Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber knew from the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians about Rhubarb Barbara’s marvelous rhubarb pie and always drank a beer with it that he lovingly called Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Beer.

Die Verkäuferin des Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbieres an der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbar hieß Bärbel. –
The saleswoman of the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Bier at the Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarian Beard Barber Bier Bar was called Bärbel.

For a full breakdown of the Präteritum tense, click here.

For more on the Präteritum tense, click here.

Herr Antrim
Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites. *This site uses a variety of affiliate links. If there is a link that leads to an outside site from which you could potentially make a purchase, it is very likely an affiliate link for which Herr Antrim will receive a small portion of your purchase. This does not cost you any extra, but it does help keep this website going. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you would like more information about the affiliate programs this site uses, click here.
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