I’ve been learning and using German since my freshman year in HS, although there have been many periods when the opportunity to do so has dropped to zero. Lately I’ve been reading and listening to German more, because the internet makes it so easy to obtain foreign language media.
There are a few very common constructions that I don’t remember ever encountering in HS or university, when I was actively engaged in learning the language. My reading materials at the time were mostly literature and linguistics related, and it’s possible that these expressions just wouldn’t tend to come up in that context, but I tend to doubt it. Anyway, these are the expressions:
(1) es sei denn, a conjunction meaning “unless”
(2) A gerund form with zu that turns the verb into an adjective, as in die zu installierende Software (=“the software to be installed”)
(3) Von wegen!, which is about the same as “As if!” in English. How those two words can mean that, when neither of them seems to have the remotest related meaning perplexes me.
The second item was easy enough to figure out from context, but I was surprised to have been unaware of it after years of study. The third example is similar, yet without any context I would have had no idea whatsoever. And the first example I understood only by the fact that I was reading a German translation of LOTR.
What are your “missed things” in your foreign languages?