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I was watching the TV series Weißensee and wanted to say to someone that every episode was a cliffhanger, i.e. the show ended with you wanting to immediately watch the next episode to see how the exciting situation was resolved.

How would a German express this?

Is there anything closer to the concept of cliffhanger than something like "es war sehr spannend"?

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This word has already been absorbed into the German language: https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Cliffhaenger

Two version exist, which only differ in writing:

Der Cliffhanger
Der Cliffhänger

The latter being how a German would write this word the way it is pronounced.

  • Thank you. I did find Cliffhanger in a German-English dictionary, but I’m always looking for a way to avoid English imports if I can. – Wortspiel Aug 20 '19 at 12:21
  • @Wortspiel Indeed, me, too, would be interested in finding a German alternative word or expression. One would believe that this type of effect was in use in the world of theatre in pre-pan-anglosaxonistic times as well, so there should be words in other languages. – Christian Geiselmann Aug 20 '19 at 12:27
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    If you try to avoid established foreign words you might sound weird though, if you really try to use a German word instead. – infinitezero Aug 20 '19 at 16:44
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    While that is certainly true, I think such a word does not exist in the German language. – infinitezero Aug 20 '19 at 21:17
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    The whole German Wikipedia post on Cliffhanger doesn't have a single word in it that could be used as a translation. The LEO forum says, it could be Hängepartie, but I find it not very fitting – yunzen Aug 22 '19 at 7:13
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The term Fortsetzung folgt. (to be continued…) is widely known as a catch phrase.

It sometimes used as humour. The typical German deadpan one.

(her) Die Nachbarn haben sich heute ja wieder schlimm gezofft. Irgendwas mit Urlaub…

— Hmja, Fortsetzung folgt. (he doesn't look up from his newspaper)

There's even a song from the German band BAP named Fortsetzung folgt.

  • Sehr gut! Aus Dir spricht ein im Kopfe freier Idiomatiker! – Christian Geiselmann Aug 20 '19 at 19:02
  • Ähnlich wohl auch noch: Und wie es weitergeht, erfahren Sie im nächsten Teil. – Christian Geiselmann Aug 20 '19 at 19:04
  • oder auch: schalten Sie auch nächste Woche wieder ein - und zwar auch in Situationen, die mit Fernsehen absolut nichts zu tun haben – Volker Landgraf Aug 20 '19 at 21:18
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    This is somehow an answer to a different question, namely "how to express 'to be continued' in German?" The answer for this question can be derived as "Folge, die mit 'Fortsetzung folgt' endet", but that's rather unwieldy. – O. R. Mapper Aug 22 '19 at 4:08
  • Before the term Cliffhanger came into use, the concept was well known already. And the catch phrase for it was Fortsetzung folgt …. That's why I told about the BAP song. It's from 1988. It was a so well-known phrase back then, one could say it and was immediately understood as Oh, yeah, they made the cut at the most dangerous moment.Cliffhanger is used in German from 200x on. – Janka Aug 22 '19 at 8:44
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There is another plot device in German. It's not perfect but well ...

Offenes Ende / Offener Schluss (open end)

An offenes Ende is the end of a book/movie/etc where the author doesn't tell how the story goes on. There is no Happy or Tragic End, just uncertainty what happens next. You see, it's very similar to a cliffhanger, as both do not tell the whole story and every cliffhanger is a offenes Ende. But i don't think every offenes Ende is a cliffhanger, as a cliffhanger stops at a climax and indicates there will be another episode, another movie, another book which will tell what happens next. An offenes Ende first of all says: "That's all. Imagine yourself what will happen next." There doesn't have to be another book/movie/etc (but maybe there will ^^) and it doesn't have to stop at a climax (but maybe it does ^^).

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As noted by the other answers, there is no concise truly German term for "cliffhanger", and the imported noun "Cliffhanger" is commonly used (in context - the word is probably unknown to people who are not specifically interested in storytelling techniques or the logistics of tv series production etc.).

The concept can still be expressed as a noun phrase, though, as

erster Teil eines Zweiteilers (or "einer zweiteiligen Folge/Episode", or "einer Doppelfolge")

i.e. "first part of a two-parter".

Obviously, you can adapt this as needed to match the actual episode count, e.g. "dritter Teil eines Fünfteilers", or even "einer mehrteiligen Folge" if the total number of connected episodes is not known yet.

  • I disagree. You can have several parts without cliffhangers. – infinitezero Aug 22 '19 at 6:52
  • @infinitezero: Technically, you may be right. Yet, ending an episode of a series whose story will be continued in the following episode not with a cliffhanger situation seems so unusual I'd argue the terms are synonymous for all intents and purposes. At least, I cannot imagine the text "Fortsetzung folgt" after anything other than a scene that leaves some plot threads open to create suspense. – O. R. Mapper Aug 22 '19 at 7:02
  • Just think of Lord of the rings. That surely is a Dreiteiler, yet there is no cliffhanger. – infinitezero Aug 22 '19 at 7:25
  • @infinitezero: "That surely is a Dreiteiler" - I was using the word exclusively referring to episodes of a (tv or otherwise) series, as indicated by its longer form "dreiteilige Folge". But come to think of it, didn't one of the films end with the gang splitting up and the hobbits approaching what lies ahead, and another one with the destination mountain showing up at a distance? Quite cliffhanger-y if you ask me. – O. R. Mapper Aug 22 '19 at 7:34
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    Cliffhanger literally comes from a guy hanging on a cliff. I.e. it is a very suspenseful situation and you immediately want to know how it continues. Will he fall, will he be rescued? If the movie had cut after Shelob appeared behind Frodo, THAT would have been a cliffhanger. – infinitezero Aug 22 '19 at 7:43

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