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  5. "Was ist schon dabei?"

"Was ist schon dabei?"

Translation:What is the matter with it?

March 23, 2013



I translated "What is already there?" and it was OK. Then I saw the other translations and asked myself: is that really OK? :)


I read a translation of dabei to mean /on one/ or /with one/. With the latter meaning, the sentence could translate as: What is already with you (one)? -or- as one would more often say What's with you (already)? (Maybe in the context of 2 people who have just met and one is being rude to the other with no apparent reason or the like). I could be wrong but that's one interpretation that brings it close to English.

It makes some sense given that one usage of the German bei (closely related to by in English but a word which has evolved from only meaning that) is when you would normally use with in English. Examples: Viel Spaß beim Tanzen! = Have fun (with) dancing! (by performing a dance) / OR / Du sollst bei ihm bleiben = You should stay with him. (by him as in close to him)

Now dabei = da + bei and with da originally meaning there as in not here (it can also mean here), it's hard to figure how this suggests any meaning; however, in German constructions you have situations where da replaces whatever you're talking about and is coupled with prepositions:

With it = damit as in Was meinst du damit? = What do you mean by/with that?/// Was meinst du dazu? = What do you think of that? /// Ich bin dagegen = I am against it /// Dein Buch liegt darauf = Your book is/(lays) on top of it.. /// Ich suche noch danach = I'm still looking for it .. ///

So it seems that this construction has a sense of direction as da suggests as in: damit : therewith (What do you mean with what you said there in the context of the example above)... dagegen : there-against/against that ... darauf : there-above/on top of that thing over there..danach : thereafter (still looking for it thereafter I have lost it in the context above)

.. and dabei = thereby / therewith / with that so we can say What's with that (that is there)? What's therewith? What's with it (already)? or What's the matter with it?

I am not sure if this da construction can be used in the context of people like I suggested at the beginning but that's the gist of it from what I gather.


And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how learning a language is extremely interesting yet extremely complex and hard to grasp at times.

  • 2399

Thank you very much! Now practice time :)

Otto Waalkes - Lei Lei Lei Lei Was ist schon dabei



Is there a transcription of what Herr Waalkes is singing? My ears are not fast enough to grasp all that he says!


On Youtube, you can change the speed of a video. Click on settings. I find slowing the replay down very helpful.


Take a lingot Christoph, you spoke my mind for me!


Great explanation, thanks. But why is the "schon" there?


In the situation of one person being rude to another as depicted in the first paragraph of Aschneiter's excellent posting, we can think that "schon" conveys a sense that the rude behavior is unprovoked, with no apparent explanation. So, I think "schon" goes along with the meaning that we are seeking an explanation "What is with it?"

More generally, "schon" might express that the speaker has newly arrived upon a situation that is already in progress.


So, "the matter" implied and schon just conveys a suddenness/present happening in the context


Very scholarly answer, but too complicated for my poor brain to grasp. I translated: "What is already there?" but was marked correct, which I think is incorrect. I'll accept that it is an idiom and means "What's wrong with it?"


For what it's worth, 'What's there already?' is marked incorrect...


Yep. It's as though this implies that something is bound to go wrong sooner than later. In English it's 'always something'. I'm with you on this......


Danke und ein lingot für Sie. (I hope that's correct :)


Ich würde sagen," danke, du kriegst ein lingot von mir" Ich weiß aber nicht ob das besser zu sagen ist :D


Das hoffe ich auch.


I am still confused between dabei/damit and bei/mit..... How do you know which one to use meaning with??


Thanks for all that. But, just one caveat: 'bei' and 'by' are false friends, and the second should never be used to translate the first. In fact, 'bei' has more in common with French 'chez' than with 'by'.


danke dir . That deserves a lingot.


Brilliant explanation! Danke sehr!


What you said made sense but what is the "schon" doing here ???


Very thorough explanation. Thank you :)


So what you're saying is it should be damit and not dabei? I don't understand


Shouldn't it be "Was meinst du daran?" instead of "Was meinst du dazu?"???


Thanks aschneiter for such a detailed explanation, which deserves a lingot from me.


all these words to say that the meaning is implied.


Words like dabei, damit, daraus, darüber, etc. fall under a class of adverbs called prepositional adverbs. These are formed when the object of a preposition is an inanimate object (from Ed Swick's German Grammar Drills). So,

damit = mit + ihm (with it)

dabei = bei + ihm (by it / at it / with it)

daraus = aus + ihm (out of it / from it)

darüber = über + ihm (over it)

dazu = zu + ihm (to it)


Same with me. I thought I would be wrong but couldn't think of a better translation. So why does this mean what it means?


this would depend on the context. e.g. when talking about object-groups and recounting which objects are already in one group, you would ask "what is already there" and in this meaning you would also translate it into "was ist schon dabei?" (in opposition to what isn't already there - "was ist noch nicht dabei?" .. that would be a very literal meaning of the sentence and native speakers would get it from the context. in most cases the sentence is not used in this literal way, though and then you couldn't use the above mentioned negated version, either. hence the other (in most cases only) viable translations.. it is a figure of speech.


Your translation is not really correct. It's maybe a correct word by word translation but does not reflect the meaning of the German expression that means :it doesn't matter or : it's not really important


Thank you! So "Does it really matter?" could also be OK, right?


I am so delighted that Duolingo accepts "What's up with that?" as a correct translation.

I can hear Kenan singing now...


Yes! An idiomatic expression like "Was ist schon dabei" deserves a good colloquial expression in English. I love it!


That works better than the other explanations I've heard so far. I'm going with it. Haha


What does dabei really mean? My dictionary gives the meaning as "although." Is that right?


An awesome dictionary! But all the meanings of "dabei" are mind-boggling!

[deactivated user]

    How would you literally translate this sentence into English?


    I would say: 'What is already there?' 'What is already present?'


    Leo is the best German dictionary!


    I use both Leo and Dict to get more sides of a translation. This is most useful when one translation just doesn't quite make sense.


    "So what?" should be an acceptable answer.


    I don't really think so. "So what" and "What is the matter with it" don't mean the same thing. The former expresses disregard for (presumably) a statement made by someone else. While the latter is asking for some clarification (or is rhetorical).


    Actually, “so what” can be considered a translation, as well.

    “Was ist schon dabei?” can be translated as “what’s the matter with it?”, but also as “what’s the big deal?” and is often a somewhat rhetorical/exclamatory phrase, much with the same connotation of what we Americans would mean when we say “so what?!”

    Like, “ich habe nur einer von ihnen gebrochen! was ist schon dabei?!"


    For that exclamatory sense, we (in NYC, anyway) would also say, "What's up with that?"


    I actually answered that way, and it was accepted.


    Wirklich? Wunderbar! These discussions are great. I am learning a lot more by reading all the comments. "What's up with that?" That's perfect and covers most situations.


    Great. The sense that it's a kind of rhetorical phrase in context is really helpful.


    I think the English connection mentioned in the first post above that works for me in order to get the sense of "What's the matter with it?" is "What's with it already?" This might also be useful in the context of the interpersonal idea of asking, "What's with you already?" (If someone you know is exhibiting unusual behavior)


    Duolingo has changed the question to "Write what you hear" instead of "Translate." Then in the answer, they translate "Was ist schon dabei?" as "What is the matter with it?" Clearly, this is an idiomatic expression. As in every language, you have to take idioms as they are.


    i don´t see the difference between dabei and damit in this sentence because in a sentence before damit was translate as "with it" too.


    this is a figure of speech (in the non-literal meaning of "what's the big deal?". it is a fixed expression and can only work in this way if all elements remain intact.. you are right, though - in most other cases "dabei" and "damit" are more or less interchangeable


    Is this idiomatic?


    Seems like it. I find a few things that seem idiomatic sprinkled in other lessons.


    I think so. Ich glaube, ja. That's so that we idioms should understand it automatically, nicht wahr?


    Aw, lighten up with the minus stuff. Basta ya. Schon genug.


    i wrote "what about it".. why is it wrong?


    it is not, but Duolingo just does not accept it. Report it.


    In my native language the equivalent of schon is often included in a questions to indicate impatience or annoyance. Is this nuance true in German?


    yes, it can be however it's not the only meaning... it can have more meanings or usages like to express: surprise, confirmation, reproach and others, depending in what combination it's used. for more see my other posts here


    Ich bin schon zwanzig. I am already twenty.


    I got this one correct simply because Duo just gives you the answer.

    The only way I can get my head around this phrase is to translate it into slang. something like, " what's up with that already?"


    "What of it!" wäre wohl die richtige Übersetzung ins Englische, zumindest nach meiner Recherche

    [deactivated user]

      I find that this woman speaker is not clear enough. 'Das' and 'Was' sound similar. Admittedly my hearing is not acute....


      So, "dabei" means "with that" and "schon" ("already") roughly translates to something that is going on, because it's already happening? That is a huge stretch, but I guess that can kinda' sorta' make a little sense.

      As always, thanks for explaining, Duolingo, instead of forcing me to ask questions to which I will never be notified about a response, which may or may not even happen.


      Is "What's wrong with it" fine too?


      I put 'what is already there' and was marked correct - but DL suggest 'what is the matter with it' as an alternative ??? Clearly these sentences do NOT mean the same thing. Is this another German idiom and if so what's a good English translation?


      both of them are correct. get over it - german is as colourful as any other language, we can express things in many fashions, as can you, i am sure. we do have alternative ways of stating both of these meanings, in case people get confused, which is very unlikely, though .. the literal meaning is rather contextual, no? :P


      Santa vaca. At least I'm not the only victim.


      Would it be alright to translate it into "What about it?"


      I would think so.


      I said "what is the problem", and i got it wrong...shouldn't it make sense or no?


      Duolingo might accept that if you report it. There are many ways in English to convey the same idea. You got a problem with that?


      what does it matter would be a more accurate translation than what is the matter with it


      Funny. I also tried "What does it matter?", but it is marked wrong.

      Question to you guys: How "wrong/right" is it, can any part be even used (sorry I can't read all 101 comments right now - no time as I have to fight against 00:00).


      Since 'schon' mean 'already', and 'dabei' has a meaning of 'present', then literally it can be translated as 'What is already present (with it)', and, in a sense, means 'What is wrong with it'. I don't know if this helps anyone, but that's how I interpreted it.


      Skarnin, For a first guess about what a sentence might mean, there's nothing wrong with your reasoning here. But as learners of a new language, we all need to bear in mind that this is not how languages really work. In general, you can't count on a word-for-word correspondence between languages. If in one language the word A can mean X in English and word B can mean Y, that doesn't mean A B can mean X Y, and if it sometimes can, it might actually mean something quite different in the current sentence. Also, the list of meanings for A and the list for X in English may have some overlap, but there are probably meanings of A that don't work for X and vice versa.

      You're probably already aware of everything I've just said. But a lot of early learners seem to under-appreciate that two languages are like two very different people who often have very different points of view.


      I have heard "Was ist den da dabei?" used to mean, "Now how hard is/was that?" (meaning sarcastically). My impression is that the given sentence means the same. Thoughts?


      "What does it matter?" = was ist schon dabei. "What is happening?" = was ist los?


      What does exactly "schon" mean?


      I was wondering that myself and came upon this page: http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa030226a.htm


      Thanks Kefienzel, that is really helpful.


      http://yourdailygerman.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/meaning-schon/ I love the "German Word of the Day" on this blog and I enjoyed reading this entry on "schon".


      What about "What's going on with that"?


      Are you sure it can't mean "by there"?


      In other contexts "bei" can be close to "by" if I am guessing correctly. In our textbook, "Bei Jens zu Hause" means at Jens' house. (with Jens at home) If I am 'with' someone, I can be 'by' them in proximity. Am I stretching this too far? What's already thereby? What's with it?


      Perforated bovine. What's up with the minus?


      We sometimes say 'what is with it' is this a translation of this? Schon can be used as a filler after all.


      I've asked a friend who studies in a german school about this sentence and she told me it had no sense jaja ja


      Am I the only one that hears "Fas" instead of "Vas"? is it right so say it this way?


      That's the correct pronunciation. Similarly Vater should sound like Fater (same F as Father in English), and von should sound sort of like the English word "fun".


      I think Dutch 'van' sounds more like 'fun'; 'von' sounds more like 'fon' (as in FONt). But people hear things differently.


      I said, "what is A matter with it" and it's wrong...really??


      What's the difference between a healthy baby and a matter baby? Then you are supposed to reply, "What's a matter baby?" (Old Motown song that used the colloquial bad grammar for, "What's the matter?" Like,"You should of looked it up." instead of "You should have...")


      Aw, who let Mr. Minus loose again? You got a problem? Have a heart and a little fun with the idiom.


      Why doesn't it accept "What is going on"?


      Is "was ist mit es los?" an acceptable answer?


      no, sorry, this is wrong! the right grammar would be: "was ist damit (a thing/object) / mit ihm/ihr (a person m-n/f) los". but this is not the meaning of this idiom, that is often used and wants to neglect/diminish the importance of a happening/action in a sense: it doesn't matter, it's nothing serious, don't take notice, no need to bother about, etc.....let's go to the next subject.


      I'm wondering how close "Was ist los?" would be. Then I remembered,"Was war es doch, mein Herz?" From where?


      I wrote accidentally "da bei" separated and it was accepted. Is this correct? The meaning is the same?


      "What is the issue with that?" was deemed wrong. Shouldn't it be accepted?


      It seems to me there's a more direct way to say the same thing without all the linguistic gymnastics. "Was ist das Problem damit" should work fine.


      Is this the same as saying "what about it?" ?


      would there be a difference in meaning if i omitted the schon? "was ist dabei?"


      (Native speakers please correct me, if I am off the mark.) I think "Was ist dabei?" would be a neutral query, something like "What's going on with it?" With "schon" inserted, you are seeking an explanation for something obviously not quite right, "What's the matter with it?"


      Why it is not "dazu"?


      If this means "what is the matter with it?", How can I say "what is the matter with you?"


      Female voice says schön.


      Literally "What is already by it" right? Which, may be called idiomatic, but to me makes more sense than "What's going on?" Which also may be equivalent to both.


      I feel like I'm playing call of duty.. "dabei comrade Vasili dabei dabei!"


      The listening exercise (normal speed) says: was ist schön dabei.


      The first pronunciation I hear as "schön"--the slower one as "schon". ???


      I got this right, but my instincts are still a little thrown off by not seeing a clear "it" for anything to even speculatively be "the matter with".


      Damn these colloquialisms, and always always always needing to research ❤❤❤ Duolingo means by doing a full-on archeological dig through these unorganized discussions. FML.


      And, to confuse matters even more, Google Translate defines this expression as "What's included?", which is a completely different meaning. ?


      Mimma... somebody who would say.... was ist chon dabei... would mean... there is nothing to brag about it... or to be proud of it.... it is not really what it is suggested here what is the matter with it....


      What part in the German sentence is representing "the matter"? I don't understand how this is the correct translation at all


      I can almost hear a New Yorker saying..."what is with it already?"


      This is simply an idiom. No amount of analysis will make it easier to understand; in fact it is rather counter-productive. You could actually say it's an idiom with the addition of an extra word. Remove "dabei" and you have one of THE most common idioms in the German Language:- "was ist schon?". It means "what of it?"or "so what?" It shows a nonchalant attitude on the part of the speaker to something already said or, that he is about to say. The "dabei" part simply focuses it on that something . Thus it becomes "what of it, that...........?" or "so what, if..........?" It's a rhetorical question. Grammatically, it carries a question mark, but it is not really a question. No answer is expected.


      'What's up with it' not accepted


      I get that this is an idiom, but is schon here to be intended as a Modalpartikel?


      It certainly IS a Modalpartikel, and as such it is not wise to attempt to attribute a meaning to it on it's own.


      Why is "schon" needed? It seems repetitive.


      This is a deeply idiomatic expression, as I have explained above, and, as a result, you can't analyse it piecemeal. Take the whole expression, and get used to using it, and interpreting it, in its entirety.


      I understand like none of what you said, I'm not a linguist, idk that stuff.


      I think you will need to learn some of "that stuff" if you want to advance your German.


      Thats what he said


      Your translation sucks, "was ist damit" is translated to your answer.


      I did a Hail Mary and typed "Was ist damit los?". Accepted! This expression makes a lot of sense to me...


      Why not "what's there already" ?


      Shouldn't "what is already with that" be a correct translation?


      DL shows " what of it".. Is that right?


      "what is the matter of it" Could this be possibly accepted?


      I translated this as: "What is already at it?", also tried "What is already near you". or "What is already next to you". Which came out wrong! Is this one of those idiomatic expressions, like "It's raining cats and dogs" or "Feeling under the weather"?


      "What is the matter with it" makes no sense to me as a translation of "Was ist schon dabei". I was marked correct as writing "What is already there?" The two translations do not relate to each other at all. I guess native speakers of a language do not always use phrases as one might expect, but such an abstract translation makes it difficult for a learner.


      Hard to understand

      • 1433

      How can this sentence be translated to "What is the matter with it", when it literally means " What is already with it?" (well, 'it' is not a powerful enough word, but I can't think of a better one). This is simply wrong.


      The translation is wrong. Was ist schon dabei = What comes with it. What's the matter with it = Was ist mit es los!


      The translation is completly wrong.


      What's wrong...... Lost a heart !

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