Zirkus by Namika: Grammar

    A while back I discovered a song by Namika called “Zirkus”. There is a lot one can learn from this song about the German language. Rather than do my usual lyrical analysis one line at a time, I thought I would try a bit of a different style. I’ll take you topic by topic as it shows up in the song and then you can watch the music video to see what I am talking about. The topics I will be explaining are as follows: present tense conjugation, dative case with prepositions, idioms and slang.

    If you would like worksheets and downloadable versions of the song lyrics, click here.

    German Present Tense Conjugation in “Zirkus” by Namika

    The first lesson taught by this song is present tense conjugation. It shows you examples of the “ich”, “du”, “er, sie, es” and plural “sie” forms of present tense verbs. It even shows you a variety of verbs so you get different versions of present tense conjugation including stem-changing verbs and modal auxiliaries. Let’s see an example of a basic regular verb.

    Regular Conjugation

    Die Show geht los.
    The show is starting.

    This is a line from the song. It uses the “er, sie, es” form of the verb “gehen”. The full conjugation would be:

    Beginner German with Herr Antrim

    gehen – to go
    ich gehe – I go
    du gehst – you go
    er, sie, es geht – he, she, it goes
    wir gehen – we go
    ihr geht – you go
    sie, Sie gehen – they, you go

    In order to conjugate a verb in German, you simply remove the -EN at the end and add the ending that matches the subject of the sentence. The endings you need to add are in bold in the chart above.

    Side Note: Separable Prefixes

    For those of you who are wondering why the song line translates as “The show is starting.” instead of something with “go” in it, you can thank separable prefixes for that. The prefix “los” was used in the original sentence, which changed “gehen” from “to go” to “to start”.

    Stem-Changing Verbs

    An example of a stem-changing verb from the song would be:

    Du siehst konzentrische Ringe in deinem Teeglas.
    You see concentric rings (circle) in your tea glass.

    This shows you the “du” form of the verb “sehen”. This verb has a stem-change from E to IE. The full conjugation is:

    sehen – to see
    ich sehe – I see
    du siehst – you see
    er, sie, es sieht – he, she, it sees
    wir sehen – we see
    ihr seht – you see
    sie, Sie – they, you see

    As you can see in this conjugation chart, the only forms of verbs that are different are the “du” and “er, sie, es” form. instead of E in the middle they have IE.

    3 Kinds of Stem-Changing Verbs

    There are three kinds of stem-changing verbs in German. Some change from A to Ä. Others change from E to I and some are like “sehen” and change from E to IE.

    There is an example of an E to I verb in this song, too. The verb “geben” has this change. It usually means “to give”, but when used with the pronoun “es”, it means “there is” or “there are”. This is how it is used in the following line.

    Heute gibt es Action.
    Today there is action.

    The full conjugation of “geben” is as follows:

    geben – to give
    ich gebe – I give
    du gibst – you give
    er, sie, es gibt – he, she, it gives
    wir geben – we give
    ihr gebt – you give
    sie, Sie geben – they, you give

    Present Tense of “sein”

    There are also a few examples of the verb “sein”, which is completely irregular and doesn’t follow any of the usual conjugation conventions. You can see it in action in the following examples.

    Die besten Plätze sind gecheckt.
    The best places have been checked.

    Das Styling ist perfekt.
    The styling is perfect.

    This only gives you two of the forms of “sein”, however. The full conjugation is as follows:

    sein – to be
    ich bin – I am
    du bist – you are
    er, sie, es ist – he, she, it is
    wir sind – we are
    ihr seid – you are
    sie, Sie sind – they, you are

    Present Progressive in German?

    Another slightly odd example from this song is the sentence:

    Alle Lampen sind am Glühen.
    All of the lamps lights are glowing. (All of the lights are on.)

    In other videos I have made about the present tense in German, I have mentioned that there is no German present progressive tense. This is when you say things like “are glowing” in English. This is usually simply translated as “glühen”, which means normally the line above would be “Alle Lampen glühen.”

    Beginner German with Herr Antrim

    There are those, however, who use a form of “sein” (to be) and a prepositional phrase with “am” and a German infinitive used as a noun, known as a gerund. That’s what is happening in this sentence.

    This kind of expression is used in certain German dialects. The most common dialect that uses “sein” and “am” to express sentences like this is the Rhinelandic dialect, which is spoken, you guessed it, around the Rhine river.

    Bottom line: If you aren’t a native German speaker, I don’t recommend using this kind of construction to express that an action is currently happening. The preferred version would just include the adverb “gerade”. If you change the line to “Alle Lampen glühen gerade, alle Plätze sind gecheckt.” the meaning would not change. This is mostly a stylistic choice by Namika in this song.

    Modal Verbs (Auxiliaries) in the Present Tense

    The last example of the present tense that I want to draw attention to is the line:

    Ich kann zaubern wie Houdini.
    I can do magic like Houdini.

    This line includes a modal auxiliary (specifically “können”) and an infinitive. It is a good reminder that the use of a modal auxiliary with another verb requires an infinitive. Normally this goes at the very end, but Namika added the extra information (wie Houdini) at the end.

    Normally the sentence would be “Ich kann zaubern, wie Houdini zaubern kann.” (I can do magic like Houdini can do magic.) It is redundant to say the verbs twice, so most Germans leave it out.

    More About the Present Tense in German

    For more information about the present tense in German, you should check out my 1 hour Master Class about the present tense. There you will learn everything you will ever need to know about the present tense in German. Take it a step further for just $5 to get the supplemental materials for the Present Tense Master Class. These materials include worksheets, notes, copies of the presentation and more.

    Dative Case in “Zirkus” by Namika

    There are also quite a few examples of the dative case in this song. These lines can give you a lot of insight into the use of this case. All of the examples in the song include prepositions that are used with the dative case. The most basic ones on the list are the two instances with the preposition “aus”. For example:

    Springen zu zehnt aus jedem Taxi, tanzen jeden Club kaputt
    Jump as ten out of every taxi, dance every club broken
    (Jump out of every taxi ten at a time, dance until every club is broken)

    Lass die Püppchen aus dem Käfig und die Affen rennen im Kreis
    Let the dolls out of the cage and the monkeys are running in a circle.

    In these two examples we have a neuter noun (das Taxi) and a masculine noun (der Käfig). They both require an M at the end of the article to indicate the dative case. In the first one, this takes the form of “jedem” and in the second “dem”.

    Standard Dative Abbreviations

    Several other examples also require an M for the ending, but they are abbreviated in some way. The standard abbreviations can be seen in the following examples:

    Vögel twittern es vom Dach
    Birds are tweeting it from the roof.

    Alle Lampen sind am Glühen
    All of the lights are on.

    Lass es Konfetti regnen für einen Moment im Leben
    Let it rain confetti for one moment in life.

    In each of these examples we take the original preposition such as “von”, “an” or “in” and change the last letter from N to M. This indicates that what follows is either a masculine or neuter noun in the dative case.

    von + dem = vom
    an + dem = am
    in + dem = im

    Non-Traditional Dative Abbreviations

    The last example is a non-traditional abbreviation and is simply done to aid with the lyrics. Instead of saying “in deinem Teeglas” she says “in dei’m Teeglass”. The meaning is the same, but this isn’t the kind of abbreviation I recommend for non-native speakers, as it is very colloquial and may give an impression that you are more fluent than you really are. The full line is written below.

    Du siehst konzentrische Ringe in dei’m Teeglas
    You see concentric rings in your tea glass

    Dative Case with Feminine Nouns

    Only one example of the dative case with a noun that is not masculine or neuter can be found in the song. Technically there are two, but they are in the same sentence.

    In der Bar “zur blauen Klatsche” aufn Gläschen oder zehn
    In the bar “to the Blue Swatter” for a little glass (drink) or ten.

    The first part “in der Bar” shows us that the dative article for feminine nouns is “der”. In the next prepositional phrase we see “zur” which is kind of the shortened version of “zu der”. This is similar to the abbreviations we saw with the masculine forms.

    Dative Case Master Class

    For a more in-depth look at the dative case in German, check out my 1 hour Master Class about the Dative Case. If you really want to get the most out of the Master Class, you can download the extra materials for the Dative Case Master Class in my online shop.

    Idioms and Slang in “Zirkus” by Namika

    The last thing that I think Namika’s song “Zirkus” teaches very well are idioms and slang. While the song itself is full of slang and idioms you won’t learn in a classroom, the video is also a good source of information. Let’s start with the song lyrics.

    eine Gruppe aufmachen – to open a group

    The phrase “eine Gruppe aufmachen” is used when you start a group chat either in WhatsApp or whatever you kids are using nowadays to chat with your friends. It is literally “to open a group”, but the translation would actually be “to start”.

    Action!

    “Heute gibt es Action” is a phrase that I would never use as an English speaker, as the translation would be “Today there is action.” That simply doesn’t make sense in English. I understand what is meant, however. It is a way of saying that there is a lot going on tonight. It is kind of like a version of “lit”, although they use that in the music video in English.

    Vögel twittern es vom Dach. – Birds tweet it from the roof.

    “twittern” is the verb “to tweet” when talking about Twitter. The verb you would usually use for the sound birds make is “zwitschern”. Namika chose the verb “twittern” instead to make a play on words.

    zu zehnt – as ten

    For some reason I never learned the phrase “zu zehnt” in college. If you say “zu” followed by a number ending with T, it means in a group of that number.

    zu zweit
    in a pair

    zu dritt
    in a group of three

    zu viert
    in a group of four and so on.

    Casual German Online Conversations

    If you watch the music video you can get a feel for the way native Germans text and interact online. The video is set up as an Instagram live video with hashtags, a comment feed and stickers. The text in the chat isn’t really slang per se, but it does show you a bit of insight into the daily online conversations of native German speakers.

    Now that you know what you are looking for in this song, you should watch the music video for yourself. It is embedded below. If you keep on scrolling, I have translated the lyrics for you below the video.

    “Zirkus” by Namika: Song Lyrics

    Verse 1

    Hab’ für meine hundert Besten kurz ‘ne Gruppe aufgemacht
    I (just) opened a group for my one hundred best (friends).

    Heute gibt es Action, Vögel twittern es vom Dach
    Today there is action. Birds are tweeting it from the roof.

    Alle schnell noch in die Maske und dann kurz noch tanken gehen
    Everyone quickly into the mask and then fills up.
    (Everyone quickly puts on make-up and then fills up on gas)

    In der Bar “zur blauen Klatsche” aufn Gläschen oder zehn
    In the bar “to the Blue Swatter” for a little glass (drink) or ten

    Alle Lampen sind am Glühen, die besten Plätze sind gecheckt
    All the lights are on. (All of the lamps are glowing.) The best places have been checked.

    Die Show geht los, jap, das Styling ist perfekt
    The show starts, yes, the styling is perfect.

    Refrain

    Und auf einmal hörst du Kinder jubeln
    And all of a sudden you hear children cheering

    Ein frischer Wind, der durch die Gassen weht
    A fresh wind that blows through the alleys

    Du siehst konzentrische Ringe in dei’m Teeglas
    You see concentric rings in your tea glass

    Weil auf einmal die ganze Erde bebt
    Because suddenly the entire world is shaking

    Hook

    Der Zirkus kommt in die Stadt
    The circus is coming to town

    Und das wird unsere Nacht
    And this becomes (will be) our night

    Lass es Konfetti regnen für einen Moment im Leben
    Let it rain confetti for one moment in life

    Werden Wunder wahr gemacht
    Miracles are made true (real).

    Verse 2

    Springen zu zehnt aus jedem Taxi, tanzen jeden Club kaputt
    Jump as ten out of every taxi, dance every club broken
    (Jump out of every taxi ten at a time, dance until the club breaks down)

    Mein Name, der ist Name
    My name, it is “Name”.
    (This is a play on her name, Namika. They sound similar.

    Steht ganz oben, fünfzig plus
    It says at the top 50 plus.
    (This is likely referencing a list of people allowed in the club. Her name is at the top of the list. The “50 plus” part shows how many people are coming in with her.)

    Ich kann zaubern wie Houdini, hoch die Tassen und hex-hex
    I can do magic like Houdini, glasses raise and hex-hex
    (Hex-Hex is the magic word used in the popular children’s series Bibi und Tina.)

    Mein Gehalt kam Gestern, Hokus pokus, heute ist es weg
    My salary came yesterday, hocus pocus, today it is gone.

    Lass die Püppchen aus dem Käfig und die Affen rennen im Kreis
    Let the dolls out of the cage and the monkeys are running in a circle.

    Alles dreht sich, Vorhang auf, Manege frei
    Everything is spinning, curtain up, the ring is open.

    Refrain

    Und auf einmal hörst du Kinder jubeln
    And all of a sudden you hear children cheering

    Ein frischer Wind, der durch die Gassen weht
    A fresh wind that blows through the alleys

    Du siehst konzentrische Ringe in dei’m Teeglas
    You see concentric rings in your tea glass

    Weil auf einmal die ganze Erde bebt
    Because the entire earth is suddenly shaking

    Hook

    Der Zirkus kommt in die Stadt
    The circus is coming to town

    Und das wird unsere Nacht
    And this will be our night

    Lass’ es Konfetti regnen für einen Moment im Leben
    Let it rain confetti for one moment in life

    Refrain

    Und auf einmal hörst du Kinder jubeln
    And all of a sudden you hear children cheering

    Ein frischer Wind, der durch die Gassen weht
    A fresh wind that blows through the alleys

    Du siehst konzentrische Ringe in dei’m Teeglas
    You see concentric rings in your tea glass

    Weil auf einmal die ganze Erde bebt
    Because the entire earth is suddenly shaking

    Hook Version 2

    Der Zirkus kommt in die Stadt
    The circus is coming to town

    Und wir sind immer noch wach
    And we are still awake

    Lass einfach noch hier sitzen, paar Träume runter schnipsen
    Let’s just keep sitting here, snap down a few dreams

    Ganz oben von dem Dach
    Above from the roof

    Die beste Nacht des Lebens kann’s mehr als einmal geben
    There can be more than one best night of your life.

    Wer hätte das gedacht?
    Who would have thought?

    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.