One day in the cafeteria of the company as I pay my lunch, the lady at the counter tells me:
“Es gibt eine Verlosung heute. Möchten Sie mitmachen? Sie können ein Kochkurs in die Kantine gewinnen!”
There is a tombola today. Would you like to join? You can win a cooking class in the canteen!
I think yeah great, I am not interested in the prize but a lottery ticket I would never refuse…just for the fun of opening it.
As I open happily my ticket, I check out if my colleagues do the same. Überraschung! (=surprize). They don’t even have a ticket. They didn’t want to take the risk…to win such a prize. :))
But as I take a look on my ticket I discover I had luck. I didn’t win! Pfeew! My ticket says:
Nicht verzagen – nochmal wagen!
Don’t give up – try again!
When I read the ticket to my colleagues I made the following mistake – I said “Nicht versagen”. Both words exist. Just they have different meaning.
versagen = to fail (at sth.)
verzagen = to give up hope
The word verzagen was new to me, that’s why my brain automatically replaced it with the very close word that I knew (versagen). As my colleagues explained me, the word verzagen is not really used. The more common one is:
aufgeben = to give up
So my recommendation is: don’t try to remember the word verzagen. But pay attention to the fact that in german there are many synonyms that express the same ideea slightly different. Totally puzzled I asked my colleagues what is the difference then between verzagen and aufgeben. The answer was: verzagen expresses more the state of dissapointment when somebody really gives up hope. Meanwhile aufgeben means simply that you abandon something.
To be sincere I was many times angry about the fact that after so many years learning german new words pop out like this. But this is due to the fact that german is a very accurate language. It can express things very precise due to o huge vocabulary and a complex grammar structure.
A german guy once told me:
“Many times when I try to express a thing in english is difficult because they have too few words. I am searching a word in the dictionary and I can not find exactly the fine meaning that I want. But the people talking english say: Die blöden Deutschen! Die haben 10 Wörter um das gleiche auszudrücken. Dafür brauchen wir ein einziges Wort (the idiot germans! they have 10 words to express the same thing. For that we need only one word.)”