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"Did something happen yesterday?"

Translation:Ist gestern was passiert?

September 8, 2017

37 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pattipl

Could you please explain the word order here? I would have gone "ist was gestern passiert"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/az_p
Mod

    That emphasises gestern more than normal, but should probably also be accepted.

    The general rule is that the most-relevant information to the verb goes nearer to the end. The verb is "happened" and the natural first question to this is "what happened?", so the "what" information goes closest to the end. Other information like "when?", "to whom?", "how?", etc. is secondary.

    There's a good series explaining it here: https://yourdailygerman.com/2015/01/07/german-word-order/


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kabokt

    thats a really great article, thanks for sharing it


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/markbooth

    I'm still confused. I don't see anything in that link about when to use Verb-Object-Subject word order and I don't think I've come across any other question sentences that use this order rather than the usual Verb-Subject-Object. Can you say a bit more about why it's necessary in this case and in what other cases we would need to use this word order?

    Is it whenever a some- word is used? For instance Did it happen yesterday? would still be Ist es gestern passiert?, right? I don't want to place too much trust in an online translator but I did just find from DeepL Translator that:

    Did someone die yesterday? = Ist gestern jemand gestorben?

    Did he die yesterday? = Ist er gestern gestorben?

    which would seem to fit this pattern, but I'd certainly appreciate a native speaker's opinion on this.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lynneo

    Thank you az_p. Printed this out, as it's a great reference.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/markbooth

    I asked my work colleagues about this. It prompted a lot of discussion. Firstly it seems that this is definitely a case where native speakers know what sounds right but are rarely able to explain why. One of my colleagues did look into it more deeply, which led him to the field theory of the German language. In essence, the part between Ist and passiert is referred to as the middle field and this middle field shouldn't start with something indefinite and so the indefinite subject or object has to move to after the adverb.

    Here are some even more complicated examples including an object and location:

    • Did he say that at work yesterday?
    • Did he say something at work yesterday?
    • Did someone say that at work yesterday?
    • Did someone say something at work yesterday?

    • Hat er das gestern auf der Arbeit gesagt?

    • Hat er gestern auf der Arbeit etwas gesagt?
    • Hat das gestern auf der Arbeit jemand gesagt?
    • Hat gestern jemand auf der Arbeit etwas gesagt?

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tannuska

    Why the word 'something' was not translated in the sentence? Etwas?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/evyaco

    "Was" can also mean "etWAS", but I don't know why is "etwas" not acceptable here.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

    Ist gestern etwas passiert? should be accepted, as far as I can tell.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jzsuzsi

    It was accepted for me.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ben651871

    passierte etwas gestern?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

    That's possible, though a bit formal.

    Passierte gestern etwas? sounds a bit better to me for some reason.

    Neither is on the list of accepted alternatives; you can report them if you'd like.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KMosuzu

    Ist etwas gestern passiert? is not correct? if not, why??


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

    The most common question would use gestern as a topic and place it first -- Ist gestern etwas passiert?, for example.

    (The effect of topicalising gestern is a bit like "Yesterday -- did anything happen then?", though it sounds more natural in German.)

    Ist etwas gestern passiert? would sound more like "Something -- did it happen yesterday? (As opposed to on some other day?)". Which might be a possible translation of the English, since stress isn't marked ("Did something happen YESTERDAY?"), but is a less likely translation.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ben651871

    hat gestern etwas passiert?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

    That's not possible. passieren uses sein to form the perfect tense, so it would be Ist gestern etwas passiert?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bekir978479

    I have used hat instead of ist because it did not show any motion and any change of state such as rusting falling asleep and the like. But some things just have to be learned I guess.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/-Copernicus-

    I would say that "passieren" is certainly a change of state; if something is happening, then there's definitely some sort of change happening. (If there's no change, nothing happened.)

    If that doesn't help you, there are some verbs that you just have to know use "ist" (like "bleiben," which is quite distinctly not any sort of change).


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/karen3388008

    correct me if I am wrong, Did something happen yesterday? Why use yesterday? because it has already happened right. Schon passiert? It is in the past. Definately. So it should be corrected to "Hat etwas gestern passiert?" Please discuss.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/-Copernicus-

    Yes, we're indeed using the past tense here, but "ist" is still correct. Some verbs use the verb "sein" to form the past tense instead of "haben," and "passieren" is one of them; "hat ... passiert" is not correct. The "sein" forms the past tense ("happened / did happen") just like "haben" does; German just requires one or the other for each verb.

    The rule is as follows:

    • All transitive verbs (i.e., verbs with a direct object) use "haben"
    • Intransitive verbs that refer to movement (e.g., "gehen," "fahren," "fliegen") or to some sort of change or transformation ("wachsen," "sterben") use "sein." A couple of others, like "bleiben" and "sein," also use "sein"
    • All other intransitive verbs use "haben"

    "Passieren" is intransitive and is considered a change, since some event is "happening," so it takes "sein." So "ist passiert," not "hat passiert."

    As another example, we say "Ich bin gegangen" for "I walked," not "Ich habe gegangen," since "gehen" is intransitive and indicates motion and so requires "sein."

    A good dictionary like Pons will also tell you which auxiliary verb to use, in case you're still unsure (note the "intr + sein" at the top of that entry in the link).


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AdamKean

    Perfect answer.
    I've got nothing to add, but just wanted to bring in some 'trivia' for the linguistic enthusiasts in this thread:

    All transitive verbs (i.e., verbs with a direct object) use "haben"

    One of the most consistent rules you'll find in the German language, but there are at least two exceptions:

    Ich bin den Kompromiss eingegangen.; &
    Die Geschichte ist dich doch überhaupt nichts angegangen.

    There's no need for an entire essay here, but for anyone with insomnia I discussed this very topic at length with Ly_Mar in this discussion.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

    Die Geschichte ist dich doch überhaupt nichts angegangen.

    Huh. Duden agrees with you, but spontaneously I would have used hat here.

    Perhaps because I've never used this verb in the compound past, so I've never had the occasion to hear the "proper" helping verb for it to sound natural.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AdamKean

    Wow, that's really interesting. I guess that shows that the real 'magic' of being a native speaker is just the amount that someone has come in contact with a language, so they will have heard the 'right version' of so many sentences that they develop this feeling for what's right and what is wrong in a language, but when it comes to cases that the native speaker hasn't come across before, there's no guarantee that their gut will be right (although their experience with the language certainly tips the odds in their favour). I know that's happened with me on several occasions in English.

    Unsurprisingly, I haven't used bzw. heard "angehen" being used in the compound past (or any compound tense for that matter) either—aside from the sentence I found on Duden :P—but my 'spidey senses' were already turned on because I'd already come across "gehen"-stem verbs which use "sein" where my intuition would have said "haben", and "angehen" had already surprised me with the use of the accusative, where my gut would have said dative.

    I've heard sentences like "Das geht dich nichts an!" and "Ich habe keine Ahnung, was dieses Thema angeht." often enough that the accusative feels right now, but whenever I think about it, it still seems to be a more dative relationship than accusative. The "an" prefix is probably the biggest factor speaking for the accusative, but it's rare that you can just look at a verb (or its prefix) and determine much about it without knowing what it means (and how it's used).


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

    I guess that shows that the real 'magic' of being a native speaker is just the amount that someone has come in contact with a language, so they will have heard the 'right version' of so many sentences that they develop this feeling for what's right and what is wrong in a language, but when it comes to cases that the native speaker hasn't come across before, there's no guarantee that their gut will be right (although their experience with the language certainly tips the odds in their favour).

    I think there's a lot to be said for that, yes.

    The influence of exposure can also be seen with Germans trying to form the Konjunktiv II -- since it's used so little (being replaced by würde + infinitive in most cases), many native speakers are unsure how to form the Konjunktiv II for many verbs.

    And also by the fact that people with less exposure to large amounts of correct German (less educated people) tend to make more mistakes (prescriptively speaking) despite being native speakers....


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/royblumenthal

    To my mind, the literal translation to English would be, "Did the thing that happened happen yesterday?"

    And this is nothing at all like what the original English phrase meant.

    The English phrase is an enquiry from a position of almost no knowledge. "I know SOMETHING happened yesterday, but I don't know what it was. What happened?"

    The German phrase seems to have knowledge of the event coded into itself. It seems to be saying something like, "You know that thing that happened? Well... It happened YESTERDAY."


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AdamKean

    To my mind, the literal translation to English would be, "Did the thing that happened happen yesterday?"

    Well, it depends how "literal" literal is, but either way, I don't see how you came to that translation.

    Going 100% literal, this is how I would translate the German sentence back into English:

    Is yesterday what happened?

    Now, there are two big issues I take with that translation that make me hesitant to call it even a 'literal translation':

    1. "Passieren" forms the perfect tense with "sein". "To happen" forms the perfect tense with "to have" (as with all English verbs); so, really, we should be translating "ist" to "has"—even if we're calling our translation "literal".

    2. "Was" is a contraction of "etwas". In the same way that there isn't a direct way to translate the difference between "do not" and "don't" to German, we shouldn't try to do that with "etwas" bzw. "was" here, so even in our 'literal translation' it should be "something", not "what".

    That gives us:

    Has yesterday something happened?

    Now, I'm the last person who would call that good English, but I certainly wouldn't say:

    this is nothing at all like what the original English phrase meant.

    I'd like to think if we heard a non-native say "Has yesterday something happened?", we'd pretty quickly realise they meant "Did something happen yesterday?".


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pierpaolob6

    why not irgendwas ?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

    why not irgendwas ?

    That would be a better translation for "Did anything happen yesterday?" rather than "Did something happen yesterday?"

    You can report it if you'd like, but I wouldn't hold my breath for it being added.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/amkal1

    Why is "hat gestern etwas passiert" wrong?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mizinamo

    Please see the comment thread started by karen3388008.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Eva8875

    It is wrong!

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