Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Lost in translation

Some things you just can't translate concisely.

I just came across a construction in English: s.o.1 needs s.o.2 to do, which I can't really (in general) translate into German.

For example, I need you to go shopping can be Du musst für mich einkaufen gehen, but We need the president to pass a law against this can't become *Der Präsident muss für uns ein Gesetz dagegen erlassen (which is grammatical but doesn't mean the same thing; it's more like he's doing us a favour, while the English original just said he should do it, not necessarily for us specifically).

Unrelatedly, I'm reminded (by Amy's speech) of another difference between English and German: in German you can use "to want" with a direction, whereas in English you need a verb as well.

For example, Ich möchte in den Hochstuhl is fine in German, but *I want into the high chair (or, as she says, I want in the highchair)—you need a verb such as I want to go into the high chair.

Another recent Germanism was I need (pause) mal on toilet: in German, ich muss mal ("I have to") and ich muss mal auf Toilette/Klo ("I have to ___ to the toilet") is a common euphemism for needing to go to the toilet, with (auf Toilette) gehen "go" being understood.

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