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I read somewhere that am Boden was the older version of "on the floor". When did it change? Die Toten Hosen have a song that goes:

Steh auf, wenn du am Boden bist.

So I wonder if this saying is idiomatic or no. Any ideas?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

When you drop something it lies on the floor:

Der Stift liegt auf dem Boden.

When you are sad or depressed you’re feeling down:

Ich bin komplett am Boden.

There is also a figure of speech for that:

am Boden zerstört sein

So Die Toten Hosen call on their listeners to get up when they are down figuratively.

By the way, another common use for am Boden and zerstört is related to airstrikes and other military action:

Die Flugzeuge wurden am Boden zerstört.

This might be depressing for some people too, but actually it means The planes were destroyed on the ground (they couldn’t take off before the attack).

I don’t consider am Boden to be the older version of auf dem Boden.

Are they exchangeable? It depends:

Die Handwerker arbeiten am Boden.

This sentence can mean:

  • The craftsmen are working on the floor. (while working they are sitting/lying on the floor)
  • The craftsmen are working on the floor. (they are repairing the floor)

Die Handwerker arbeiten auf dem Boden.

just means that the craftsmen are on the floor while working (same as the first translation of the last example).

Maybe the use is different for speakers from other parts of Germany.

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