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An Silvester war ich mit Aufräumen und Behüten meiner Kinder sehr beschäftigt. Ich habe im Internet gesurft und den Spiegel gelesen.

On New Year's Day I was busy taking care of the kids and cleaning the house. I surfed on the web and read der Spiegel.

Someone told me it is strange to use Behüten in this context and he didn't give me an explanation. When can I use Behüten as a noun and in what context?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Not mentioning, that "jmd. behüten" indeed sounds a bit sophisticated, one could also say poetic, it is a very good question that can easy be generally answered.

You can put (almost) any verb in a noun form. Often you also have a concrete nominalization, but the other form isn't wrong in all contexts. Let me give an example

Er liebt den Umgang mit Kindern, deshalb blüht er beim (bei dem) Behüten seiner eigenen so auf. Das Betreuen Anderer ist ihm ein Leichtes. Das Spielen, Rennen, Herumalbern und auf Bäume Klettern wohnt ihm noch immer inne.

mit jmd. umgehen - der Umgang (Das Umgehen is possible in certain Situation like "Das Umgehen einer Anordnung")
jmd. behüten - das Behüten
jmd. betreuen - das Betreuen (Die Betreuung exists but is more often used as the person, who cares)
spielen - das Spielen
rennen - das Rennen
herumalbern - das Herumalbern
klettern - das Klettern

Another situation where nominalization can be used is to imitate the english present progressive. Be carefull it often sounds strange, but is not wrong.

I'm right now caring for the kids. Ich bin gerade am Behüten der Kinder. (Sounds really strange)

but

I'm tidying up my room. Ich bin am Aufräumen meines Zimmers. (Sounds good)

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Behüten as a noun is very rarely used. For my ears it sounds a little old and over sophisticated. Better use something like auf meine Kinder aufpassen or um meine Kinder kümmern. So in this sentence that would be

An Silvester war ich sehr beschäftigt damit, auf meine Kinder aufzupassen und aufzuräumen.

or even better

An Silvester hatte ich alle Hände voll zu tun, mich um meine Kinder zu kümmern und aufzuräumen.

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In general, you can use every verb as a noun in certain contexts in German. The nominal character of nominalised verbs becomes clearer if you use definite articles. Furthermore, in your case, i would use Hüten instead of Behüten:

An Silvester war ich mit Aufräumen und (dem) Hüten meiner Kinder sehr beschäftigt.

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An Silvester war ich mit aufräumen und dem behüten meiner Kinder sehr beschäftigt. Ich habe im Internet gesurft und den Spiegel gelesen.

The word Behüten is best used within the context of "taking care/guarding/protecting/watching over" somebody and/or something really precious to you, like children or material valuables.

I personally wouldn't use it in the context of materialism. Also there are different angles to be considered, using languages/words/expressions: Behüten is one of many words in German language, that one rarely hears nowadays, compared to equivalent equals, even though; if you know about the meaning and also can articulate the same sentence "like above" with other efficient words then it is fairly good and acceptable to use, since it only enriches the [use of] language (:

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Why do you spell "aufräumen" and "behüten" with a lower letter (and highlight those at the same time)? Especially after adding an article to "Behüten", it's obvious that there's a capital letter necessary. –  Em1 Apr 30 at 9:34

Thinking about the German verb behüten I find no other use than in religious context.

  • Gott behüte dich/ Behüt dich Gott is a pious wish formula. I think English Goodbye is related. I take it that this bye is a remainder of something like German behüten. Of course, good in goodbye was God.

  • In Bavarian "Behüt dich Gott" becomes Pfüidi. (I should write it in phonetic script, in Latin script the pronunciation is not exact.)

  • The German noun Obhut is also a word that belongs to the word family hüten/behüten. It is hardly used in spoken language.

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