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Der Freund, die Freundin. The friend. A simple German word, but one that can lead to confusion. Why? Find out here, and find out what to do about it.
First and foremost, Freund is friend. Nothing more, nothing less. However, if you make it possessive, things change. If you say mein Freund, it usually suggests that you mean “my boyfriend”. The same for meine Freundin – “my girlfriend”.
Let’s see it in a conversation.
Lena: »Ich war gestern mit meinem Freund im Kino.«
Anna: »Ach, du bist in einer Beziehung?«
Lena: »Nein, nein, das ist nur einer meiner Freunde. Ich bin nicht in einer Beziehung.«
Lena: “I went to the movies with my friend yesterday.”
Anna: “Oh, you’re in a relationship?”
Lena: “No, no, that is just one of my friends. I am not in a relationship.”
Interestingly, this is not so much the case if it is a girl’s female friend. If a girl says meine Freundin, it is usually assumed to be her friend, not her girlfriend.
Above, I discussed a girl’s male friend. A guy’s male friend could lead to the same confusion. For example:
Markus: Ich wohne mit meinem Freund in einer WG.
Markus: I live with my friend in a shared apartment.
In Germany, many people would assume that Markus is in a relationship with that Freund, even though it can also mean that it is just a friend, just like in English. If he had said Ich wohne mit meiner Freundin in einer WG, it is also assumed, maybe even more so, that he is in a relationship with that Freundin.
In any case, this can cause Verwirrung (confusion) without clarification. So what can we do to avoid confusion?
Though a bit impersonal, ein Freund changes the conversation already. Putting it in what Markus says above, it becomes ich wohne mit einem Freund in einer WG – I live with a friend in a shared apartment. Here, Freund just means friend. It is the same for Lena that goes with einem Freund ins Kino. – No Beziehung assumed!
A word used a lot by guys is der Kumpel (mate, buddy, pal). It takes out any assumption of relationship and you can just say mein Kumpel and everybody will get it! Girls don’t need a different word, because meine Freundin often already does it for them.
It is not a big deal to get it wrong, just know that it may lead to confusion! Have you already had this issue? Do you have a word in your language that can lead to confusion? Let me know in the comments below!