"Aber du hast eine Ahnung, oder nicht?"

Translation:But you have an idea, don't you?

March 19, 2018

This discussion is locked.


'But do you have an idea or not?' That was my translation. Would that be grammatically incorrect? The official translation makes more sense to me now, but I'm not sure if that's because of grammar or meaning. I'd be happy if someone could explain this.


There is a slight change in meaning, or rather, the questions start from different assumptions:

  • ‘do you have an idea or nor?’ (‘hast du eine idee oder nicht?’) is a general question, where ‘or not?’ is just there to reinforce the interrogative meaning. The speaker doesn't know what the answer is going to be.

  • ‘but you have an idea, or not?’ (‘aber du hast eine Ahnung, oder nicht?’) or, better phrased, ‘you do have an idea, don't you?’ is a statement followed by a question, signalling that the speaker was reasonably sure that, indeed, you have an idea, but later developed some doubts. The expected answer is still positive, the question is just asked to look for reaffirmation of what the speaker already believes true.


The main point of the lesson is the difference between:

"Hast du ..., oder nicht?" = "Do you have ..., or not?"
(Normal or blunt question. Answer could be Yes or No.)
"Aber du hast ..., oder nicht?" = "But you have ..., don't you?"
(Polite question. Expected answer is Yes.)


Precious precision: thanks.


DL should not be an exercise in "avant garde linguistics" where self-appointed experts dismiss perfectly valid frustrations as "slight changes in meaning."


I am not an expert in any capacity, I am giving my input as a user and (non-native) English speaker just as you or anyone else is doing. Slight differences have always been of import in Duolingo's teaching method, because teaching by example means the translations have to be as close as possible to the original to allow users to pick up on the fine points that would otherwise be covered in more extensive explanations. Moreover, I was really using ‘slight’ as a courtesy to those who seem to think there is no difference at all, conceding that it might indeed appear negligible to some, but that to me a question and a statement are very different things. Given how the grammars of both languages allow to make this distinction unequivocally, I don't understand why we should muddy the waters by allowing imprecise translations of this kind. ‘You do have an idea, don't you?’ and ‘Do you have an idea or not?’ are, in my opinion, two separate sentences, and if a user hopes to learn German they should know this difference is made in the target language as well.

This whole paragraph, as the comment above, is of course only my opinion and I haven't prefaced every sentence with this disclaimer just for the sake of conciseness.



What you say about the differing English translations is correct. But the issue is which one does the German example mean. Duo says and you seem to agree that the literal interpretation is incorrect.

Even though the German words literally put an obligation on the listener to respond with whether he does or does not have an idea, the actual take away is that the listener does have an idea. He can simply nod or even make any basic sound that does not convey negative and the speaker will be reassured.

In the former case, do you have an idea or not the listener responds with....Damn right I have an idea and I resent your implication that I might not....

In the latter case of But you have an idea don't you the listener can respond with ......mmmmmm..... and the speaker is satisfied. .


I don't understand what is giving you the idea that either me or Duo are against a literal translation: both my and Duo's translations take a statement for a statement and a question for a question. The original commenter instead chose to translate the first statement with a question, which is what I objected too.

So, in short: according to both me and Duo the correct translation is “but you have an idea, don't you?”, which is a very literal translation.


Translating oder nicht as don't you doesn't seem very literal to me.

As you point out in your comment, there is a significant difference between the two sentences.

In English, Do you have an idea or not is a challenge to the listener, almost rude. In fact, in most circumstances it would be taken as rude.

Conversely, you have an idea, don't you is much softer starting out by saying the listener does have an idea, and then asking for confirmation. ////////// Edit:

I have been doing considerable reading in German since this discussion started and I have come across several such instances of or not/oder nicht where the phrase is self directed toward the speaker not the listener. It qualifies the positive nature of the sentence by the speaker.

We will meet at nine at the restaurant..oder nicht/right? But you do have an idea, oder nicht/right? The speaker has just made a statement and then qualifies it by saying oder nicht.

In the examples I have read ...But you have your passport oder nicht?...doesn't mean ...Either you have your passport or you don't... It means ....But you have your passport, or maybe you don't.


Rhetorical questions are questions nonetheless, so they still need a question mark and my proposed translation is exactly the same Duo suggests. The intention is having the question mark refer to the last part of the sentence, rather than to both parts (as evidenced by the grammar used in the first clause). Still, I can see where the confusion is coming from. I hope I helped clearing that up a little bit.



I see your point. The thing that threw me off is the Duo example has a question mark so I took it as a straight question.

As a question it seems to express exasperation in English. But, do you have an idea or not?

But as you point out as a sort of rhetorical question/statement thingy it is more along the lines of seeking confirmation. Thus, But you have an idea, don't you is more appropriate.


We're focusing on different parts of the sentence: the best way to translate ‘oder nicht?’ depends on the way you translate ‘du hast eine Ahnung’. If you translate the latter ‘grammar-for-grammar’, i.e. as a statement: ‘you have an idea’, translating the second part as ‘or not?’ is forced, while ‘don't you?’ would be the idiomatic expression used to ask a negative question after a statement. This is why I refer to this (perhaps choosing my words poorly) as ‘literal translation’. An entirely literal translation (‘but you have an idea, or not?’) sounds off in English and the closest thing that I can come up with is what I'm proposing.

Translating the first clause as a question (‘but do you have an idea’), on the other hand, changes the grammar and possibly the meaning of the sentence, framing the statement as a question. This does allow a more literal translation of ‘oder nicht?’, but it completely changes the sentence's structure and I consequently don't think it should be accepted.


I think that's more a question about English. I don't see a difference in those translations, but I'm not a native English speaker.

Anyway, we sometimes build questions in German by simply stating something and then adding an ", oder?" or ", oder nicht?". (e.g. "Wenn Pferde rückwärts laufen, dann nennt man sie Drefp, oder?" - When horses go backwards, then you call them esroh, don't you?) English uses this slightly more complicated structure for this... if I recall correctly.


Interesting and useful.

sfuspvwf npj


As an English speaker, I would say you are spot on. However, we are doing American English so .....


i put the same and as far as i can see there is nothing wrong with it and means the same , once again duo strikes


Just thought I'd add something interesting:

In Germany, people just say: oder? They use it quite frequently at the end of sentences when an opinion is wanted. I like it, it gives people the option of disagreeing with a statement, or?


Yes, this. I heard it frequently in both Germany and Switzerland and I really like the openness it allows.


Agreed, "oder" or "nicht war" seem to be to be far more common ways of seeking agreement than "oder nicht". "Oder nicht" seems to me to re-open the question. As when someone in English might say "I suppose you've already eaten ... or not?". In that case the first part of the sentence posits a closed sentence, but then the addition creates the opportunity for the interlocutor to correct a misapprehension or supply more information.


What is wrong with "haven’t you" as opposed to don’t you? It is normal UK English, or am I answering my own question?


Being English I still can't forget that the use of "got" was strictly forbidden in my school!


rodjell, Well, now you've got the rest of your life to get with it! :-) Certainly, OVERUSE of bland, neutral, words like "get" makes for dull speech and writing.


In english , should not be but you have an idea, haven't you ?


Yes, "But you have an idea, haven't you?" is a perfectly acceptable translation. In colloquial English, many (but not all) speakers would say "don't you" instead of "haven't you".

[deactivated user]

    'But you have an idea, haven't you?' Marked wrong. Why?


    Americans don't say it that way. I would be interested to know whether in British English, "haven't you" is preferred over "don't you".


    In British English the tag question should mirror the question in the main clause. You have: haven't you? You did: didn't you? There is some American influence on some speakers, but it is not widespread. The inventiveness of American English is often a thing of wonder, but we are not yet there with You have: don't you? Still less with confusing constructions like "You don't got it yet, do you?" My old English teacher would have heard squeaky chalk scraping across blackboards at that one!


    2020-02-21 From the discussion of the German sentence, it seems the English could be, "But you do have an idea, don't you?" Would that soften the squeak?


    It's not, Doctor John.


    What is the difference between "do not you" and "don't you"? Why have you defined the first as an error?


    No native speaker would ever say "do not you." That sounds bizarre.

    As a statement, you can usually say either "You do not..." or "You don't..." The latter is more common, but both have their uses.

    As a question, one says "Don't you?" Never "Do not you?"


    You could say "do you not?", but with the caveat that most listeners would probably think you were being intentionally overly formal.


    Ahnung can also mean "clue." Why is "But you have a clue, don't you?" not accepted.


    'But you have an idea, or not?' ?? (Aber du hast eine Idee, nicht wahr)


    Native english speaker, we commonly would say "But you have an idea, or not?" around here. That seems to be the most literal translation to me.


    Er ikke enig.


    Please tell me if I am wrong. I see a real difference between "don't you" and "or not" since for me, don't you means "or you don't have an idea" (in german we would use "nicht" ) whereas "or not" means more "no idea" (in german we would use "keine Anhung" ). Thinking that way, translating "oder nicht" in this context as "don't you" is more narural to me.

    PS: Edit: finally I disagree with what I wrote..sorry.. please note that I am not a native english speaker.


    I think the best English translation (capturing the "flavor" of the phrase) is "Well, you have some idea, don't you?" You may not know "exactly", but you have a hunch...


    Most of us would use "some" I think.


    I wrote "But you have a hunch, don't you?" and it got rejected. I reported it.

    • 1033

    I think that's wandering a bit from the path. Don't forget these things are marked by a computer. You can try to stretch things if it amuses you, but the further from the plain translation, the less likely the computer will have it on its little list.


    While it's not a literal translation, I tried "But don't you have an idea?" Isn't that a translation in the spirit of the meaning given?


    But you have an idea, haven't you? Acceptable British English.


    what's wrong with "But you have got an idea, haven't you?" (which would be more usual in English English)


    The audio for this one made me think it was hat instead of hast even after after listening to it 3 times. Her s is very subtle when listening it slowly

    Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.