How to say 'however'
Hello. One thing that I've struggled with more than others in German is the adverbs. Specifically the many ways you can say some variation of “however.”
Looking up “dennoch” on wiktionary I see that it means “however.” Both “trotzdem” and “jedoch” are listed as synonyms. Going to “trotzdem” - that apparently is a synonym for “obwohl.” Meanwhile “jedoch” is apparently a synonym for “aber.”
Following that apparent train of logic, does this mean “dennoch” is the same as “obwohl” and “aber”? Probably not.
I've taken notes to try to understand them.
Aber: But (to express a limiting viewpoint)
Sondern: But rather (requires a negative preface, to express a contrast with it)
Jedoch: However (close to Aber and Hingegen)
Hingegen: On the other hand
Dennoch: All the same
Trotzdem: “Nonetheless” when used at the start of a sentence. Can rarely be used colloquially as a conjunction to start a subordinate clause, in which case it means, “despite.”
Allerdings: Can mean “however” (in which case it is a slightly weaker version of "jedoch"). It can also mean, “truly, indeed.” Depends on context.
I know as an English speaker even I would find it difficult to explain to a foreigner exactly the differences between, “But, However, Although, Nonetheless, Nevertheless, etc.” much less come up with “rules” for when to use them. I've even seen disagreement among English speakers about what should be used where.
Some overlap more than others. Is the situation similar in German?
Very interesting! As an German native I struggle with the English words, too. I guess it's about the right "feel" of the words.
Some thoughts: "Trotzdem" is no synonym for "obwohl" and does not start a subordinate clause - at least not in Standard German. Nevertheless, it is used in such a way in some regions (to me it sounds cringeworthy). An example on the difference: "Obwohl er die Grammatik nicht versteht, spricht er trotzdem gut Englisch."
"Aber" is the most common word of the lot and is used in many ways. Examples: "Das Baby ist sehr klein, aber gesund." "Du bist aber groß geworden!" "Ich stimme dir zu, möchte aber hinzufügen, dass... " "Aber, aber, reg dich doch nicht so auf!"
"Despite" is probably best translated with "trotz". "Trotz seiner frühen Geburt ist das Baby gesund."
"However" as a stand-alone at the beginning of a sentence could be translated imo with "Wie dem auch sei"
Just to add to this nice explanation:
In spoken German you often will hear:
Wie auch immer - for however
Was auch immer - for whatever
Doesn't make much sense to try to translate the auch with also or too. It is part of the expression and could be seen like the so in e.g. whatsoever
"Obwohl er die Grammatik nicht versteht, spricht er trotzdem gut Englisch." - das ist mir etwas zu viel. ich würde entweder "Obwohl er die Grammatik nicht versteht, spricht er gut Englisch." sagen, oder "Trotzdem er die Grammatik nicht versteht, spricht er gut Englisch." (mit betonung auf "-dem", weniger gebräuchlich, klingt literarischer für mich.)