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.
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.
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)
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.
yes it can mean although. I use this dictionary often: http://dict.leo.org/ende/index_de.html#/search=dabei&searchLoc=0&resultOrder=basic&multiwordShowSingle=on
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?!"
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.
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 was wondering that myself and came upon this page: http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa030226a.htm
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".
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?
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
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.
"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.