The English word feasible might be confused with the German word “Fies” meaning horrible, nasty or disgusting. “False Friends” is not the subject of interest to me here but I am interested in the German "Machbarkeit". Everything in German seems to be machbar “doable or can be made”. While in English you can say: do a job, take a picture/exams, go for a walk, have experience .... German sticks to only one little verb called "machen" at least in spoken German. Old English macian is related to Old Frisian makia, to construct, Dutch maken, German machen, to make. A look in a monolingual German dictionary will suffice to find out the range and power of this all-round verb, its frequency and usefulness. You practically already speak German if you can use this verb properly. Its power is inherent in the word itself that’s why the German word for power is “Macht”. German dictionaries give you extensive lists if you happen to look it up in a dictionary. It is indeed the most productive verb of all times, often overused, collocates with a number of words and serves as a joker "Platzhalter" due to its inherent core meaning which can stand in neutrally for a variety of other verbs in written German.

The meaning of a word is often cultural. Whether a certain expression reflects a process, an activity or sees it as a finished product can be only explained culturally. For example the English say: make the beds because the focus here is not on the process or activity but the result.The German verb “machen” is a verb which is slowly replacing “tun” another German verb with the same meaning. Consequently Germans don’t differentiate between the process and the activity of making something and the finished product. Although roughly speaking English uses "make" for producing something new i.e. the emphasis is on the product/the result and uses "do" for expressing the carrying out of an action, this distinction is not always reliable, clear or predictable to German speakers and is a pitfall for typical German mistakes.

The question is: why is this verb so popular and dominant at least in spoken German? Is it because of its inherent power (Macht) or is it probably because the Germans are a nation of engineers? You often find German men go to work very early in the morning in order to be back early in the afternoon and make “basteln” everything in their garages. They repair everything including their own cars, washing machines and can even build their own houses after watching a bricklayer do it only once. They are certainly the envy of people from other nationalities with their manual, technical skills and natural thinking. In addition German women can easily paper and paint the walls. Don’t forget to take it into consideration when getting married to a German.

Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim
Bremen - Germany