"Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the train station?"
Translation:Entschuldigung, können Sie mir sagen, wie ich zum Bahnhof komme?
I love these extra long sentences because it is closer to how I would actually speak
It is really sad to realize I got the sentence wrong by adding a "please".
I kept trying to add please too! I have the phrase in my head "Koennen Sie mir bitte sagen" for when I want to know something, and I had to work really hard to pull that please out of the middle, haha!
It is sad that I have reached this far in the course and I'm yet to be able to put together long sentences like this one.
Long sentences like these throw in a lot of grammar rules at once. Just because you can't tackle a sentence like this yet, doesn't mean you haven't learned a lot. You just haven't had many opportunities to try all the rules at the same time :) You'll get the hang of it!
It's how it is. The German sentence works more like "how do I arrive at ...." or "how do I come to". Also in English it's not "how do I go to .....".
One can say in English (although it's less frequent) 'How do you go to the station?' However, it's good to learn the kommen+zu construction.
Can I get a little explanation why "konnen Sie sagen mir" is wrong? And isn't the translation wie ich zum - how I get versus how to get?
sagen is an infinite verb, so it has to go to the end of the phrase, after the complements or objects - it's können sie mir sagen and not können sie sagen mir.
The infinitive construction "how to xyz" doesn't exist in German - there is no "wie zu xyz", so you can only use the version "how do I get to ...." in German, that is "wie komme ich zu ...."
Sagen has to move to the end of the clause, because we have a modal verb 'koennen' in the clause as well. This applies to all sentences with a modal verb and an infinitive: for instance, if you wanted to say, "Can I meet Debbie at the train station today for lunch?", you would have to say, "Kann ich heute zum Mittagessen Debbie am Bahnhof treffen?", moving the infinitive main verb allllll the way to the end of the sentence (which is one clause in this example). This is called the Verbklammer, which means that the two parts of the verb separate and go around the other parts of the clause, like brackets enclosing a thought.
I'm not sure quite what you mean by the second question, but if you are questioning the English translation of the sentence, you might have a point. I think based on what I've heard elsewhere that the German version of this sentence is actually strange. I think if you say in German 'wie ich komme zum', then you are actually asking how you, specifically, are in the custom of traveling to the train station (perhaps you have amnesia and have forgotten), as opposed to the more general 'how does one get to the train station' which is asking for directions. I think this sentence should actually be, 'Entschuldigung, koennen Sie mir sagen, wie man zum Bahnhof kommt?' if we want it to be proper German (I'd love for a native speaker to weigh in on this, though!). Otherwise, the way it is written would imply that you are asking how you, not just anyone, get to the train station, with the implication that you have done it multiple times before, and you want to know how you specifically do it. If I'm right about that, then yes, the English translation of this sentence should use 'how I get' rather than the general 'how to get'.
Hope that helps! :)
I think if you say in German 'wie ich komme zum', then you are actually asking how you, specifically, are in the custom of traveling to the train station (perhaps you have amnesia and have forgotten), as opposed to the more general 'how does one get to the train station' which is asking for directions. I think this sentence should actually be, 'Entschuldigung, koennen Sie mir sagen, wie man zum Bahnhof kommt?' if we want it to be proper German.
Wie komme ich zu/nach ...? and Wie kommt man zu/nach ...? are both standard phrases in German to ask for directions, in the sense of a description which roads or means to take, so the answer could also be "Take the bus to xyz and step over to the metro". The difference is merely a matter of style - with "ich" it is personal and direct, with man it's impersonal and a bit reserved.
Of course, you can always earn a stupid answer if someone wants to misunderstand you, but that doesn't make them less common. It's like "Was kostet das Hemd?" "Geld." - nearly everyone uses them, everyone knows what they're about, but some people like to joke and accuse you of an imprecise use of language (precise would be "Wie viel kostet das Hemd?").
PS: anyway thanks for adding the possibility with "man", I didn't think about it in my first comment. It's not an infinitive, but it's impersonal just like the English "how to".
PPS: "zum Mittagessen"
Thanks for the answers, Max.Em! I guess it's just like English then, where by strict grammatical convention the sentence should be 'How can one get to the train station (from here)?', but you are much more likely to actually hear 'How do you get to the train station?'. I appreciate your clarification on that.
Your 'Das Hemd kostet Geld' joke reminded me of my grandfather. If you said "Hey!" as a greeting instead of 'Hi', he would always say, with a twinkle in his eye, "Hay is for horses." It's good to know that kind of joke is multi-cultural. :D
Oh, and thanks for correcting my sentence. I actually wrote "zum Mittagessen" first, then suddenly second-guessed myself and changed it. Guess I should have gone with my instinct!
What is wrong with this: "Entschuldigung, können Sie mir sagen, wie ich zum Bahnhof gehe?"
As explained in quite a few other comments: here the customary choice in German is kommen, not gehen.
"how to get to the train station?" You are asking for the word komme, which means "come." It seems that to "get to" the station implies going or "gehen," and not komme.
It's a fixed expression in German. Don't try to translate it word by word. It's even not so far from English if you think about "to get sth.", which means "etwas bekommen" in German, but for "to get somewhere" we use "irgendwohin kommen" without "be-".
i forgot to add the ich before zum and was wondering if it's really that important to mention the subject there
Is "Entschuldigung, kannst du mir wie man zum Bahnhof kommt sagen?" wrong?
Long relative clauses and other long complements are usually put to the end of the sentence, not in the "Verbklammer". Im not sure if your sentence is acceptable at all (and I'm German...).
The other (minor) problem is that a question like this is usually asked to a stranger, so that it's more likely to use "Sie" instead of "du", unless you ask a child.
Thanks. It did occur to me that I should probably use Sie, and my answer sounded awkward to me, but I am not a native speaker. I need to remember the correct construction.
Wie wär's mit „Entschuldigen Sie, können Sie mir sagen, wie man den Bahnhof erreicht“? Ich hab den Satz als korrekt gemeldet, aber eventuell fälschlicherweise.
Der Satz ist sehr korrekt und bedeutet das Gleiche, nur etwas formeller.
Danke Max. Dieser Satz ist während der „Test Out“ Prüfung erschienen und war der letzte Satz, der verursacht hat, dass ich beim Test durchgefallen bin (und zwar zum ersten Mal), da ich früher ein paar riskante Sätze probiert hatte (denn normalerweise bestehen die meisten Sätze aus zwei oder drei Wörtern und so habe ich mich bisher diese Risiken eingehen lassen können).
Also bin ich in der letzten halben Stunde oder so ein bisschen emfindlich gewesen, was mein Deutsch angeht :'P und dein Kommentar hat mich gut beruhigt.
Why is the dative "mir" used here?
Because it refers to the indirect object or recipient instead of the direct object or sent object.
With "sagen" there are typically three entities present:
- The person doing the talking -- The Subject; in this sentence: "Sie"
- The words that are said -- The Direct Object; in this sentence: "wie ich zum Bahnhof komme?"
- The person who(m)* is being spoken to** -- The Indirect Obect; in this sentence: "mir"
Could "mich" be used instead?
If I conveyed my point well enough earlier on, that should be clear by now.
To use "mich" that would mean it is "the word that is being said"; so, off the top of my head, the only scenario where I could see "mich" being used correctly in conjunction with "sagen" would need to look something like this:
„Entschuldigung, können Sie mich sagen?“
*I know that needs to be "whom", but it just sounds so wrong even though it's right. Oh, English.
**And "to whom is being spoken" sounds even more wrong, so don't even get me started on the whole "You can't end a sentence with a preposition" rubbish. To cite a quote that is often misattributed to Winston Churchill:
This is the type of errant pedantry up with which I will not put!
Why does "kannst du" not work here instead of "können Sie"? I will grant you that this would more likely be asked of a stranger (where the formal 'Sie' would be appropriate), but that doesn't mean the question could not be asked of someone with whom you would use the more familiar 'du'.
I presume the thinking is that if only "Sie" is acceptable here, it will help give context to the difference between "du" and "Sie".
Of course it's conceivable that this question could be asked to someone one would say "du" to, but I'm actually in favour of only accepting "Sie", to prevent people from skating through on only using "du" whenever they need to translate "you" to German.
Please Duo add more long sentences like this one, they are so insightful
So..... I know how it works with one verb, and I (kind of) know how it works with two verbs.
Now how the hell does it work with three verbs?!
Well, it really depends on the situation i.e. the type and number of clauses involved.
They could, for example, all come at the beginning:
Muss, darf, kann ich irgendetwas für dieses Baby (tun)?
Beschütze, umarme, liebe es.
Or, they could all go at the end:
Dass ich das hätte wissen müssen, [ist mir inzwischen klar geworden].
Or you could have some sort of mix of the two:
Entschuldigung, können Sie mir sagen, wie ich zum Bahnhof komme?
So I would recommend reading up on the subject (as boring as that might sound)—and I can't think of a better website to recommend for that than Canoo.
Why is "Sie" used here and not "du"?
To me, this is a question aimed at someone, so wouldn't you say "du"?
I think it uses "Sie" instead of "du" because this question would normally be asked of a stranger, vice someone with whom you are familiar. You would, therefore, use the more formal "Sie" so as not to be rude.
"Kannst du mir sagen" and "Könnt ihr mir sagen" are also accepted.
"Sie" here is the formal version of "you," so it is indeed addressing the person.
Obviously something may have changed since I last checked, but I thought that "Sie" was the only accepted "you" form for this sentence.
Why does "komme" have to go to the end, please? I understand about the infinitive going to the end in "können Sie mir sagen", but I'm confused about why it can't be "wie ich komme zum Bahnhof".
"wie ich zum Bahnhof komme" is a subordinate clause, meaning it sounds incomplete if it stands on its own (or better, it can't stand on its own). In German, a subordinate clause is signified by the conjugated verb (in this case "komme") coming at the end of the clause, rather than at the beginning for a main clause.
Does that help at all?
Yes, I think so! The "wie" means it's a subordinate clause, because you can't say "how I get to the station" on its own. I didn't know that the verb needs to go to the end in that situation. Thank you!
Yep, you got it! I avoided mentioning "wie" in my answer, because there are so many different words that can introduce a subordinate clause, and so I think it's better to recognise the more fundamental difference between main and subordinate clauses, rather than just checking which word comes first.
However, the w-question words (w-Fragewörter auf Deutsch) are by far the most common non-conjunctions that are used to introduce a subordinate clause (excluding relative clauses), so I thought it might be useful to show how all the different w-words can be used in this way:
Entschuldigen Sie (ich hoffe, Sie haben ein paar Minuten Zeit :P), können Sie mir sagen:
- was ein Bahnhof (überhaupt) ist;
- wo(her) man die Idee (her) hat, einen Bahnhof zu bauen;
- warum/wieso/weshalb/weswegen man diesen Bahnhof gebaut hat;
- welcher Bahnhof das ist;
- wann dieser Bahnhof gebaut wurde;
- wer ihn (diesen Bahnhof) gebaut hat;
- wessen Bahnhof es ist; (oder)
- wem dieser Bahnhof gehört;
- für wen man den Bahnhof gebaut hat;
- wo der Bahnhof ist;
- wo(hin) man (hin)fahren muss, um ihn zu finden; und letztendlich
- wie ich zum Bahnhof komme?
So, as you can see, there are plenty of different (non-conjunction) words that can start a subordinate clause (please don't think my list is exhaustive!); but hopefully you can identify the pattern :)
Yes, that's fine - I understood that it wouldn't only apply to "wie". It's interesting to see so many examples, though :-) Thank you!