Confused by line in Harry Potter: "Ich danke euch".

I've been listening to the Hörbuch of Harry Potter (Goblet of Fire) in German, and I'm very confused about something. There's a scene where Voldemort has called his DeathEaters to the graveyard, and he's chewing them out for not being faithful enough. He lets Lucius Malfoy off with a warning, and Malfoy says, grovellingly, "Ich danke euch! Ich danke euch!"

Please correct me if I am wrong, but "euch" is the accusive informal you, isn't it? Wouldn't it make more sense for Malfoy to say, "Ich danke Ihnen"? It confuses me that he's using the informal form of you, because that really doesn't fit the characters' relationship. But I'm also confused that he's using the accusative, because I thought danke took the dative.

So, what am I misunderstanding? I admit, I'm still a little shaky on some of the "you" stuff. Thanks!

May 10, 2018


could it be the royal we/you?
important people (kings/popes etc) are sometimes considered to be plural (king+state)

May 10, 2018

Yes, you are right, npLam. It is the royal plural (majestic plural). : )

May 10, 2018

ich danke euch -> i thank you (plural informal) thats right.

in stories they do sometimes skip the formal speech.

on the other hand, if it the other person is from a noble family ( i am not familiar with Harry Potter so i do not know) it can also be the "royal plural". did he adress one or more people with "ich danke euch"?

if it was only one person it was probably the "royal plural" if it was more than one person it could be they skiped the formal speech in the translation.

May 10, 2018

Hmm, you and npLam could be right about the "royal you", I suppose, because it definitely was only one person being addressed. I had never heard of that before.

Voldemort (the character being addressed) is a megalomaniac and the most powerful wizard anyone has ever seen, so people are terribly afraid of him, and very careful about what they say to him. The guy who spoke is one of his servants. (In fact, now I notice that an even more subserviant character also says, "danke euch", so I think that must be it: the royal you.)


May 10, 2018

well you never hearing about it could be due to the fact that germany does not have a monarchy anymore, so there is no need for a royal plural.. and you can only find it in some stories nowadays...

if it was a servant adressing his master with euch, than it is clearly the royal plural :-D

May 10, 2018

Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard anyone has ever seen ;)

May 12, 2018

From me as a native German which reads a lot of older lecture. It is definetely the plural majestic. He is submissive and fears to become a stated example of sanctions. The adress shows that he would highly respect Lord Voldemort. You will not have this often in daily German because the plural majestic is old fashioned. You meet with it in films, theater or in jokes

May 10, 2018

Nobody seems to have addressed your "why is he using the accusative?" question. He isn't: euch is both the accusative and dative form of ihr. So, in "ich danke euch", euch is dative.

May 11, 2018

@birgit72635, Malfoy says it to Lord Voldemort: "Ich danke Euch."

By the way, I like Harry Potter too. : )

May 10, 2018

I like Harry Potter too.

Me too. But in German, this should be "Harald Töpfer", shouldn't it?? ;-)

May 10, 2018

I love "Harald Töpfer", it's quite dignified, I think ;) In French, where they did translate a great deal of original names, they kept Harry as Harry. Did the German version translate things like the Houses names, or some teachers'?

May 11, 2018

as far as I remember, they use the genuine names for people, but many names of places (and their hidden jokes) were killed by translation.

May 11, 2018

It's a pity: the French translator was praised for his way to save them: when he couldn't find a satisfactory translation, he just let the English be.

It's been a while since I last read them, perhaps I'm due for another time around. I should maybe read the series in German this time… But I prefer original German language. Just found Pipi Langstrumpf, the first chapter is already great fun :)

May 11, 2018

But Pipi Langstrumpf is Swedish (Astrid Lindgren).

I'm learning foreign languages in order to be able to read literature in the original language. I read and enjoyed HP in English; I've never seen a translation.

I think that foreign literature in the foreign language also introduces us to different concepts. This is part of what "language learning" is about for me.

Therefore, I find it surprising to see so many here who want to read HP in German or other languages. It's not a German book ...

I would not strive to read "Momo" (by Michael Ende) or my favorite "Wenn das Glück kommt ..." (by Mirjam Pressler in any other language than German.

I read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in French, HP in English ...

May 11, 2018

@Heike Ah! I always thought Pipi was Swedish, and somehow become convinced perhaps Mrs Lindgren was of Swedish descent and wrote in German… Brain, brain, you play with me.

Fact is, I can read it in German. But other than that, I'm totally on the same line as you. Reading one of my all times favorites (Jane Eyre) in original English was an eye opening experience.

Momo is on my list, as I've so loved die Unendliche Geschichte (translated, alas, I was so young I didn't even know I could learn German one day).

I think part of the appeal of Harry is most fans have read it so many times, they can easily connect the dots when they try it in a different language. I've read about an aspiring polyglot who treats it as a sort of test: for each language she studies, being able to go through Philosophers Stone is the sign she can go deeper in the litterature of this language. For what it's worth…

I wonder if you wouldn't enjoy le petit Nicolas: it seems to be a children book, but though all the protagonists are children, it's more about childhood, a dreamed childhood in a past that never really was, but seems oddly familiar. It's both archetypical and humorous, tender and nostalgic, I very much love it.

May 12, 2018
  • 1497

It seems this question has been answered, but just as a fun fact - Ihr used to be the formal you, just like how plural you became formal you in lots of European languages. It was in the 19th century, I think, that the switch happened. So if you're ever reading older German literature, you will come across this much more often.

May 11, 2018

Hmm..... Thats odd I have read all the books and Most of the movies and I have never heard that.# Weird#HarryPotterisAwesome

May 15, 2018
Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.