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  5. "Was sollen wir heute machen?"

"Was sollen wir heute machen?"

Translation:What should we do today?

March 31, 2014



"Same thing we do every day, Pinky. Try and take over the world!"


A rollercoaster.. ?


Es gibt sechs Wochen voller Sommerferien Tage,


What is the difference/how does one decide to use "sollen" oder "sollten"?


I'm just a beginner but I am starting to think that "shall" and "should" in English do not precisely translate to "sollen" and "sollten" in German, respectively; which seems to imply that there would always be some ambiguity in translation.


Die gleiche Sache dass jeder Tag wir tun, Pinky.:

Die gleiche Sache dass jeder Tag wir tun, Pinky.


Is "tun" acceptable at the end, or must we use "machen"?


"tun" and "machen" are possible.


how can sollen and sollten translate as "should?"


Yeah, we Germans ask us why you have only one word for both. We would like to connect 'should' with 'would' or 'will' to show a subjunctiv but I have never seen such a construct for 'sollte' in English.


  • Meine Mutter sagt, ich soll mehr essen. = My mother says: I should eat more.
  • Meine Mutter sagt, ich sollte mehr essen.= My mother says: I should eat more.

....it is similar to the sentences below.

  • Meine Mutter wünscht, dass ich mehr esse. (subjunctiv I)= My mother wishes, that I will eat more.
  • Meine Mütter wünscht, dass ich mehr essen würde. (subjunctiv II)= My mother wishes, that I would eat more.


Nice explanation, Abendbrot. Consider this also: the English "should" in the sense of being a recommendation seems to best capture the sense of sollten, and the English "shall" is a good approximation of sollen. The distinction becomes more clear when one remembers that "shall" is more of a command--it is not optional. That sense is sometimes lost in modern usage, particularly because "shall" is not used all that frequently.

BTW: "My mother wishes . . . "


How could I forget "-es"! Thank you, and thank you for the comment.


Abendbrot, thanks for this useful comment. You inspired me to make a separate top-level comment (find "On SOLL vs SOLLTE" in this comment-section).

  • 1085

Looking at the comments on this page, two thoughts:

My first thought: The difference between "sollen" and "sollten": My personal opinion is that English is the culprit here, misusing "shall" and "should" to the point where it appears that "sollen" and "sollten" have the "same" meaning - in English.

Myself, personally, I would try to use "shall" for "sollen" and "should" for "sollten" wherever possible.

A place where this may not be possible is where "shall" is used as a command in English, as in "you shall (do something)"; in English, this is supposed to be an even more binding set of instructions than "you must (do something)."

My second thought: Another part of sloppiness in English is its use of the verb "do." Comparing English to German and Spanish, I have come to realize that we use "do" as a helping verb, much like "can," "shall," "must," and "will."

Indeed, somewhere in history, we lost the ability to ask the simplest of questions: "Worked you?" or "Played you?" or "Paid you?" In every instance, in English, today, we have to say, "Did you work?" or "Did you play?" or "Did you pay?"

This, I believe, drives the confusion between "tun" and "machen" in German for English speakers. We are practically incapable of thinking of an action without adding the "helping" verb of "do."

In Spanish, it's "hacer," in German, it's "machen," and in either language, it's not really necessary to say that we "do" something.

And don't even get me started on "used to"!


What's the difference between machen and tun?


There is not difference in meaning. "machen" sounds sometimes more active. It is sometimes normal to use "tun" instead of "machen" and the other way around. Especially for fixed phrases there is sometimes only one verb used and the people are not used to the other verb for those phrases.


Why not "What should we do now"? How would you say this?


You would use "jetzt." "Heute" = "today"; "jetzt" = "now."


pheneas and ferb reference i see




This is partly a reply to Abendbrot in another comment hre (6 years ago), who wrote "We Germans ask us why you [English native speakers] have only one word for both [soll and sollte]."

There is more than one way to express this, but German does it more efficiently using just one word. A close look at Soll vs. Sollte might also give the bonus of cultural insights, but interpret them as you will.

(Caveat: I am not a native speaker; please reply if you are a native and read this to confirm or reject any of the below):

I see some people here have proposed English "shall" for German "soll" (vs. "should" for "sollte") but I think that doesn't fit well to get the point (maybe it does better for UK-speakers) and for many just creates more confusion.

Some proposed example translations:

Meine Mutter sagt, ich SOLL mehr essen. = "My mother says: I am to eat more" (or) "...that I am supposed to eat more."

Meine Mutter sagt, ich SOLLTE mehr essen. = "My mother says: I should eat more."

SOLL = almost as a rule to follow, a duty, even at times like a moral law.

SOLLTE = a recommendation, low(er)-stakes advice.

Thinking of "soll" as a heavier variant of the same word, and "sollte" as a softer variant, gets a lot of the way there, I think.

Most times the two (soll and sollte) could perhaps be interchanged in the same sentence, for a change in nuance but not meaning. But that is textbook-like thinking. Habitual use means some words/concepts stick to Soll and fit awkwardly with Sollte, so the nice and neat theory breaks down when it meets lived-language, as so often happens.

Would any native-speaker say "Du solltest nicht luegen"? [Sollten]. I think probably not. "Du sollst nicht luegen" [Sollen] works, though, like a well-fitting glove. Lying is a moral problem, do not soften it up!

On the other hand, there is a song: "Du solltest nicht allein auf eine Party gehen" = You're not supposed to go to a party alone. Clearly it's meant lower-stakes, semi-humorously, ironically, or maybe flirtatiously, not as something approaching a moral law like on that "not lying" advice. I don't think any native-speaker would attach a "soll" to this party-going advice.

A second form of this harder/softer distinction (soll/sollte, respectively) is how time-imperative something is. Imperative action needed = Use "soll." Some just wondering or thinking or vaguely planning without specific urgency = probably use "Sollte."

Finally, to the DUOLINGO sentnece:

Original: "Was sollen wir heute machen?"

Duolingo proposed translation: "What should we do today?"

I think the SOLLEN here fits specifically because it involves "wir." Two (or more) people are involved, so there is an urgency of action, even an implied moral commitment to each other and to the immediate future/this day's activities. It's a pre-existing commitment to do something today, as in maybe a couple who always do things together, or a protagonist in a cartoon and his sidekick (the highest-upvoted comment on the old cartoon "Pinky and the Brain").

If the sentence were a person thinking to himself, there is less urgency. "What shall (should) I do today," could much more readily take "sollten."


According to Google Translate, "What do we want to do today?" is acceptable.


That's not a good translation.

wir wollen = we want, but wir sollen = we shall, we are supposed to, (sometimes:) we should


Gramatically, mizinamo is right, but otoh "What do we want to do today?" gets the job done and maybe we can say is wrong technically but right practically.

Sorting out exactly what is meant with different cases of SOLL (vs. SOLLTE) can be difficult (officially of course it is not about the word/concept "want"), especially when trying to cram in translations into English. But the purpose of the question if parsed out could be rendered as: "Hi, Mr Other Person: What plan do you think is good for us to make and do today?" = "Was sollen wir heute machen?"


Is this also how you would say "What should we make today"? When saying "do", what is the difference between tun and machen?


I'm not a native speaker, so I'm not sure. If I go by translate.google.com, do/make (tun/machen) are synonyms. I'd love to hear from an expert!

  • 1085

Still not comfortable with "sollen" = "should."

I would prefer the English sentence say, "shall."

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