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The closest usage of sich fassen I have found is Fassen Sie sich kurz translated into Be brief.

But in my case (it's from an online german course):

Fassen Sie sich zusammen, meine Dame!

is translated into Try to compose yourself, m'lady! I don't even understand the English translation.

Could you tell me what is the meaning behind this expression sich zusammenfassen?

Update: It's one of the course at Memrise.com. But there are several courses

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7  
Compose oneself means to manage to control your feelings or expression. But I would translate it into German as sich zusammennehmen or sich zusammenreißen. Without zusammen it is fine to say sich fassen for compose oneself. The verb zusammenfassen, however, mean to combine several things or to outline briefly. –  Em1 Nov 2 '12 at 12:53
1  
Perhaps that means "go to the point" or "be brief"; or "make an abstract of yourself"? :D –  c.p. Nov 2 '12 at 13:39
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Are you sure that it does not say "Reißen sie sich zusammen, meine Dame!"? In that case the English translation would make a lot more sense, it would also fit the sentence structure better. –  0x6d64 Nov 2 '12 at 18:28

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This expression is not valid German.

We have

  • sich fassen: compose oneself
  • sich kurz fassen: be brief
  • etwas zusammenfassen: summarize
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To get your act together, to hold it together. Even, while a tad non-PC, to man up. One more: to get a grip on yourself.

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"Fassen" means to "hold" or to "seize." A loose translation might be "to bring" or to "pull."

Zusammen means "together." So zusammenfassen means "bring together," or "pull together."

So "Fassen Sie sich zusammen, meine Dame!" would mean "Pull yourself (sich) together, m'lady!" or in a more elegant translation, "compose yourself, m'lady!"

And "Fassen Sie sich kurz" would literally mean, "Hold yourself short [time]," translated more idiomatically as "be brief."

But as noted in AGuyCalledGerald's answer, "This expression not valid German." It is used only in rare instances. I posted an answer just to help you understand what some (non-native) speaker said, or meant to say.

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Sorry, -1 because the answer gives the impression that it is idiomatic to say this in German. There may be some rare instances (see Takkat's answer), but it's not a good idea for a non-native speaker to experiment with this. –  Mac Nov 5 '12 at 8:25
    
@Mac:I added a new (last) paragraph that hopefully clarifies this. –  Tom Au Nov 5 '12 at 19:57
    
Downvote undone :) –  Mac Nov 6 '12 at 8:09

Zusammenfassen

When a verb is separated it may not be easy to find in a dictionary. Looking up the separate compounds "zusammen", and "fassen" will not help much. Only in the composite form we will find the most common meanings:

zusammenfassen: to summarize, to recapitulate, to sum up, ...

Sich zusammenfassen

  1. Rarely we can use "sich zusammenfassen" in the meaning of "to pluck ones courage". This usage is somewhat old-fashioned but can sometimes be found in novels:

    Er fasste sich zusammen und machte sich langsam auf den Weg aus dem Krankenhaus zurück in die Nacht, seine Nacht. Marie B.: Im Schatten des Mondlichts
    Sie schien betroffen, sie erwiederte nichts; er faßte sich zusammen und brachte die Rede auf die Blumen. Die Liebeslüge. Zeitung für die elegante Welt 1840

  2. Whenever we say "Ich fasse mich zusammen:" we do so to initiate a summary of what we may have said before. This however is not really good style.

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