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I've found a local German tutor who is fluent in German (she's American but lived in Germany for years and teaches German). We were going over some "quickies". One example she gave was:

Das Hotel ist um die Ecke.

Which she (and Google) translate to "The hotel is around the corner".

However, when I went to Google Translate and typed "The hotel is around the corner", it suggested

Das Hotel liegt um die Ecke.

What is the difference? I'm probably getting ahead of myself since I've only had one lesson.

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Change hotel with shop and you will see another variant ;) –  Takkat Jul 10 '11 at 14:41
    
Note that: "um die Ecke bringen" means killing somebody. –  phant0m Jul 13 '11 at 21:49

5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

First of all, don't rely on Google Translate. Its translations are not the only ones possible, nor always correct.

In your case, the verb to be (in the meaning of "at a place") can be translated with the German verb sein, which is the same verb, and liegen, which literally means "lie" and has the same meaning here. Both translations are equally correct.

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Oh I certainly agree about Google translate. I knew it wasn't perfect but I have to admit, it seems like a pretty good system for free. lol. But then again, this is why I am hiring a real tutor. :-) –  cbmeeks Jul 10 '11 at 14:46
    
@cbmeeks I use Google translator too (mostly German / English <-> Chinese), and I found out that it has problems with sentences that use rather complex grammatical forms. Beware of that! –  Hellenologophilist Jul 10 '11 at 14:48
    
Thanks. Oh, I certainly don't take it as the best/only way. However, do you find the accent to be correct? In other words, is it useful for learning how to pronounce German words? –  cbmeeks Jul 10 '11 at 14:50
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@cbmeeks Don't rely on it. The pronounciation is sometimes quite weird, because the engine infers it from the orthography. Ask your tutor instead ;) –  Hellenologophilist Jul 10 '11 at 14:55
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@FUZxxl: liegen literally means lie and it is legen that means lay. The simple past tense of lie is lay,=German lag. This is rather confusing and even anglophones make mistakes in that context. My mnemonic for keeping things straight is to remember the title of Faulkner's novel As I lay dying –  Georges Elencwajg Jul 10 '11 at 21:00

I just want to add some additional meaning: If someone says: "Das Hotel ist gleich um die Ecke", then this has a total different meaning. It just means that the Hotel is very near - but not necessarily around a corner.

I know this phrase only with "gleich" in it - but I can not say whether in some other places in Germany "Das Hotel ist um die Ecke" can have the same meaning.

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There may be a slight difference. Maybe not so much with Hotel, but a bit more apparent with something that comes and goes in the sense of a trend, like a bar (Kneipe) or restaurant:

Die Kneipe liegt um die Ecke.

The bar is (to be found) around the corner. (No ambiguity, just a phrase for giving directions.)

Die Kneipe ist um die Ecke.

The bar is (to be found) around the corner. (as before) OR: The bar is passé. (as in: Was good until a year ago, but is not good any more.)

The latter could be an implied meaning, but would be very colloquial and without hearing the tone of how it is said, would not be obvious. Locals would likely ask about how it is meant to be sure.

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German has location verbs which make "sein" more precise: stehen, sitzen,liegen, stecken and hängen.
For example: es steht ein Junge vor dem Kino,der Schüler sitzt und schreibt, der Kranke liegt im Bett, das Bild hängt an der Wand, der Schlüssel steckt in der Tür.
Easy, isn't it: case closed? Not at all! Because you have metaphors,images, ambiguous conceptions of location and what not.
For example you have to say:

Das Auto steht vor der Garage, wie steht der Dollar?, wie steht das Spiel?, rot steht dir gut, es steht so in der Zeitung, er sitzt wegen Diebstahls (=is in jail !), dein Anzug sitzt perfekt, das Wort liegt mir auf der Zunge,wo hast du nur gesteckt, wer steckt dahinter, ...

Of course you can justify these uses after the fact but I find these expressions rather unpredictable from pure logic. So what should non native speakers do? As usual with foreign languages: use dictionaries and read a lot !

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There's only a very slight difference, if any. Using the verb "sein" may be a little bit colloquial, since it has a very broad meaning. "Liegen", however, bears reference of a static, spatial meaning, often used in a geographic context:

"Paris liegt in Frankreich"

sounds better than

"Paris ist in Frankreich".

But you can use "liegen" in this sense only for static facts, especially not regarding human individuals.

"Mein Kollege Erich liegt gerade in Frankreich"

would sound somewhat weird, maybe bearing the connotation "he isn't working very hard there, lounging in the sun all the time".

Regarding a hotel, "liegen" is completely okay, especially in written language. A native speaker would probably prefer "sein" in everyday language when describing the way to the hotel (as in your example).

However, he will prefer "liegen" if he wants to describe its ambience and environment: "Das Hotel liegt mitten in der Altstadt, umgeben von Palmen". Using "sein" in this context would be a stylistic inconsistency in my opinion.

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Agree with this answer much more than with FUZxxl's. There is a strong tendency in German (in contrast to English) to avoid simple words like "sein" and "haben", therefore "liegen" is typically better than "sein" for locations, with the latter being more colloquial (like tohuwawohu (shouldn't that be Tohuwabohu, by the way?) explained, though not wrong. Also +1 for the example with Erich. This may also mean that he's dead ;) –  OregonGhost Jul 10 '11 at 17:34
    
@OregonGhost - ok, that would be another "static" meaning ;) btw, you're right, it's a 'b' written - 'w' is some sort of phonetic transcription :) –  tohuwawohu Jul 10 '11 at 19:16
    
@OregonGhost,@tohuwawohu : it should indeed be tohuwawohu. The second sentences of Genesis begins in transliteration as: Veha'arets hayetah tohu vavohu .Here is the interesting link from which I copied that mb-soft.com/believe/txw/bereshi2.htm (However in French it is indeed tohu-bohu) –  Georges Elencwajg Jul 10 '11 at 21:30
    
@Georges Elencwajg: I guess that's what tohuwawohu meant with the phonetic transcription. The German word, however, is Tohuwabohu. –  OregonGhost Jul 10 '11 at 21:30
    
@OregonGhost: ah, your comment was posted while I was modifying mine. I didn't know the word tohuwabohu existed in German, but as I just wrote in my modified comment, it is tohu-bohu in French too.Interesting, thanks. Anyway, I find the fate of these wandering loan-words fascinating (but to tell the truth I find everything about languages fascinating...) –  Georges Elencwajg Jul 10 '11 at 21:51

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