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  5. "Ist gestern was passiert?"

"Ist gestern was passiert?"

Translation:Did something happen yesterday?

January 4, 2013



Is "What happened yesterday?" a correct translations as well?


Nope. The speaker is not asking >what< happened. They're asking >if< something happened.


Why is it among the correct answers now???


The last person to touch the sentence is an account belonging to the Pearson team, so you would have to ask them. (See https://www.duolingo.com/comment/24066422/Interference-from-the-Pearson-course for some background on the Pearson sentences if you're not already aware of the situation.)

I think it's a mistake adding that to the accepted answers.


Well, that's annoying. I came here because I actually did say "What happened yesterday?" and it was marked correct, and immediately I wondered about it, thinking that it was probably wrong. So, if we report their "correct" answer as wrong, I wonder what happens?

*edit: tried to report it, but didn't get that option. Sigh.


How can you tell the difference? According to the translation hints "was" is "what" as well. What part of the original sentence is the "if"?


In this case, "was" does not mean "what". It's actually short for "etwas" (something). Maybe it'll become clearer if you turn the whole thing into a declarative sentence. "Gestern ist etwas passiert." (Yesterday, something happened.)

If you want to ask >what< happened, you'd say "Was ist gestern passiert?"


Thank you. That contraction eluded me.


so you could use "etwas" instead of "was" and be clearer? Ist gestern etwas passiert?


Ist gestern etwas passiert? is also possible, yes.

I'd say that both sentences are equally clear to a fluent German speaker, though.


Can we switch the word order like ist etwas gestern passiert? If not, what is the reason


Thank you! Is it generally accepted to use "was" in that way? It looks very strange to me.


In spoken German, "was" tends to sound more natural than "etwas".

Duden lists a few common examples: http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/was_etwas_jemand#Bedeutung1

In formal written German, you should stick with "etwas" though.


Thanks much! I did the same thing as jon_na


Thanks very much, that makes a lot of sense! :)


I think "What happened yesterday?" Would be "Was hat(ist?) gestern passiert?"


"Ist", yes.

"Passieren" takes "sein" instead of "haben" when building the "present perfect" equivalent.

  • Something has happened = Etwas ist passiert

You are right about your sentence, when asking "what", "was" comes first.

But being "ist" the first word, it sounds just like putting "has" at the start, thus changing that "was" into "etwas":

  • Ist was passiert? = Has anything happened?
  • Was ist passiert? = What (has) happened?


So why isn't it "Ist etwas passiert"?


From what I understand, "was" is sometimes used as an abbreviation for "etwas". I guess it's just shorter, and more common to hear spoken.


Can someone explain like I'm 5 how this sentence works? I've been looking at it and I have no idea how it translates the way it does and the structure of it :S


Ok, but it takes 10 to understand it :p

First, "passieren" doesn't use "haben", but "sein", when making the "present perfect" equivalent:

  • Ist passiert = has happened (some verbs do that, especially when the action is somehow towards oneself - a change of state)

Now, it's a matter of word order in questions (that is similar in both languages):

  • Was ist passiert? = What (has) happened?
  • Ist (et)was passiert? = Has anything happened?

The tricks are:

  • "was" can be used instead of "etwas" in this kind of sentence (gotcha!)
  • German doesn't change "something" into "anything" in questions, it remains "etwas" in all cases.


Ah, so "was" here is not a "What..?", but a colloquial for "etwas"? Are "was" and "etwas" interchangeable?


Yes. "Was" here is a colloquial "etwas".

You can do that, but I'm not sure about how colloquial and acceptable it is.


Is it OK to write "was" instead of "etwas", or is it considered colloquial?


That is indeed colloquial.


Shouldn't gestern be capitalized?


It is an adverb, not a noun


Does this really make sense? Google translate didn't recognize the phrase.


Yes, it makes sense. Don't use Google Translate.


Thanks, when I read it again now I suddelny understood how it worked grammatically. I will contuniue to use google translate, though :)


You should take christian's advice seriously. Don't use google translate, really! ;-)


And you should eat more vegetables. You are perfectly spherical!


Wait... he IS a vegetable....


Can you suggest a good method to translate such a thing for sure? Peeking does not always help, and Google Translate sometimes gives quite correct translations. I usually use it when I have no idea of a translation. Afterwards I may ask others in a discussion.


Use a proper dictionary with context information. Try http://www.pons.eu



I find that helps me sometimes for expressions.


@christian: thanks for the link, but dictionaries don't always work for expressions. Google Translate is far from perfect, but sometimes it gives you a new idea of the meaning or of the translation, and it is way faster. I use ABBYY Lingvo German-Russian dictionary to look up the new words and write them down and Google Translate for quick lookup of phrases.


Why is it not 'irgendwas'?


irgendwas is more like 'anything' than 'something'
Plus, it is a pronoun and here etwas is used as adverb


Will Perfekt work for today? I mean can one say "Ist heute etwas passiert?"


Yes, it'll work. E.g. a family sits at the table in the evening and a family member asks: "Ist heute was interessantes passiert?" (Did something interesting happen today?).


How do you say "Did yesterday happen"?!


Hat gestern stattgefunden?, perhaps.

It's a rather odd thing to ask.


In this case the correct translation is: "Hat Gestern stattgefunden?" or "Ist Gestern passiert?". "Gestern" is a noun in this sentence and thus capitalized.


One of the difficulties I have understanding spoken German is these shortened words. Is there a list of words like "was" that are shortened forms of words that are longer in written German?


Not as far as I know. See them more as a synonym and not as a shortened form, this could possibly help.


Is "Ist was gestern passiert?" correct?


Would you kindly expand on your answer, Mizinamo? I came to this discussion looking for an explanation why the subject (et)was does not follow the finite verb in this interrogative sentence.


I'm afraid I cannot -- I just learned to speak the language as a child by listening to native speakers, not be studying the grammar.

It may be connected to the fact that (et)was is indefinite, but I don't know the reason why it's not right after the verb except that "it sounds wrong that way". (Which is no help to a learner, I admit.)


Thanks, all the same. I guess we just need to learn and get used to this as a standard expression. Say, can you think of other examples of this word order?


How do I say "Is 'yesterday' what happened?" It doesn't make much sense, but I can picture it in a drama/romantic movie or something...


It really doesn't make any sense. You're not going to find a meaningful translation.


That's a ❤❤❤❤❤❤ answer, sorry


That could be Ist 'gestern' das, was passiert ist?.

A rather unlikely sentence, though.


Nobody explains things properly here... "was" is also colloquial for "etwas", so "ist gestern etwas passiert?" "is yesterday something happened?" [literally].

Now, people don't say "etwas", but "was". For example: "Hast du was für mich?" (have you got anything for me?)

Hope that helps.


anyone knows why "what has happened yesterday" is not accepted ?


That is a very good question. The short answer is that native English speakers just would not use the perfect tense there ("has happened"), just the simple past ("happened"). But I'm not really sure why. If I find out, I'll let you know.


"Was" is not at the beginning of the question as it should be for meaning "what".

"Ist" is instead. And "ist" correlates to "has" in English. (Because "ist passiert" = "has happened").

Putting "ist" at the start is like putting "has" at the start:

  • Ist (et)was passiert? = Has anything happened?


"What has happened," being present perfect, is only used in reference to the present time.


is it correct to say was ist gestern passiert.as and if so does that sound any more or less natural?


That is natural, but it means: "what happened yesterday?"


I am fairly certain "Did yesterday something happen" is equally correct and rather common. Any reason on the German side not to allow it?


Sorry, "Did yesterday something happen?" doesn't work in English.


It seems like it should accept either 'was' or 'etwas' as a correct answer


Anything happened Yesterday? Why on earth is this wrong!


It's very informal! Did anything happen yesterday is correct grammar


DL has become really poorly. ''Anything happened yesterday?'' should surely be accepted. I am getting tired of these deficiencies which appeared of late!


Not it surely shouldn't. "Gestern was passiert?" is a translation to "Anything happend yesterday?". Both are informal forms. You will here "Gestern was passiert?" in spoken German but like "Anything happened yesterday?" it's grammatically incorrect.

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