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Ambiguous too?

..."Das würde ich auch gern wissen. "

Translation: I would like to know that as well.

Question: Is the German phrase as ambiguous as the English translation ?

i.e. " I would like to know that as well." could mean:

(A): I know this thing, but i'd also like to know that thing. Or it could mean:

(B) :Some people know this thing, and i too would like to know it.

If the German phrase is not as ambiguous as the English, then should i translate it as A or B ?

If A, then how should I write B in German? If B, then how should I write A in German?

Das würde ich gern wissen!

May 16, 2018


  • 1573

I think I would like to know that as well is as good a translation as you can get. You may get some nuances in meaning in context.


Thanks, slamRN. I suppose I could always convey my meaning by raising my voice a bit here and there... perhaps throwing in a few hand gestures for good measure :)

  • 1573

Selbst Deutsche sprechen nicht mit monotoner Stimme. ;-)


It really is not (very) ambiguous. Or, to put it differently, any ambiguity arises from the missing context. Any sentence that has das (or der or die) as its object cannot exist without context. The "das" needs to refer to something.

Most commonly, that would be a sentence within a conversation.

Hans: "Ich frage mich, ob Trump Alzheimer hat." (I wonder if Trump is suffering from Alzheimer's.) Peter: "Das würde ich auch gerne wissen!" or, synonymously: "Das frage ich mich auch!"

Now, in this example the sentence in question is a reply to someone else NOT knowing a certain thing. This is a very common pattern in German.

However, it could also be used differently:

Hans: "Jens weiß wirklich, wie man bei Frauen punktet." ("Jens really knows how to score with women.") Peter: "Das würde ich auch gerne wissen."

But that is a very unnatural use of the language. Much more common would be an answer like this:

Peter: "Das würde ich auch gerne können."

That highlights another problem with the sentence: "zu wissen" has a more restricted scope of meaning than "to know". It is (almost) exclusively used for specific bits of knowledge or information, but not for skills.

The english sentence "I know German." or even "I know how to speak German" cannot (easily) be translated using "wissen".

"Ich weiß Deutsch." No. Plain wrong. "Ich kann Deutsch." Colloquial, but kind of ok. "Ich weiß, wie man Deutsch spricht." Ok, but verrry strange. "Ich weiß Deutsch zu sprechen." Ok, but dated.

So, to finally answer your question:

Neither A nor B are good or, to the very least, plausible translations.

If we go back to the example with Trump, a good englisch translation would be: "That I would like to know, too." (Putting the emphasis on the question if Trump suffers from Alzheimer's.)

slamRN also provided a good version. But again, it is very context dependant.


thanks for this considered reply. as you say, lack of context is a problem. I suppose it's time to start reading books...

  • 1573

I get my German reading by trying to read all these comments in German.


yes it is ambiguous.


thanks, 7hAu0bvY. I am glad to hear that. That means I may safely use this construction! I may be ambiguous, but I won't be wrong :)

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