How to say inevitable?
Hello! I've found three different translations for inevitable: "unvermeidlich, unumgänglich and unvermeidbar". Is there any difference between these three? When is it most appropriate to use one or the other?
W/o further context, it's hard to say anything meaningful.
The differences are minuscule. I'd prefer unvermeidlich over unvermeidbar if it is an adverbial use. Unumgänglich is of course nice when you talking about actual or metaphorical progress measured in steps (since there is der Gang (~the walk) hidden in that word). However, I guess it's hard to come up with an example where only one of these three words is suitable. I guess in 99% of all phrases they are interchangeable.
since there is der Gang (~the walk) hidden in that word
What jumps out to me in "unumgänglich" is actually "umgäng" which my brain relates back to "umgehen" which can either mean to deal with something/to come to terms with it etc. or to literally walk around something; both of which make sense to me in "unumgänglich".
The latter meaning, found in the inseparable form of "umgehen" is the obvious link to "unumgänglich":
a) um etwas im Bogen herumgehen, -fahren oder verlaufen
b) (etwas Unangenehmes) vermeiden
c) bei etwas so vorgehen, dass damit vermieden wird, etwas zu beachten, dem sonst entsprochen werden müsste
I don't think that really warrants discussing, especially as (b) is literally "vermeiden"—it's pretty clear how that links to "unumgänglich". In that sense it can't be far away from "unvermeidlich" or "unvermeidbar".
What gives "unumgänglich" a slightly different feel for me is the separable form of "umgehen". Obviously, some of the definitions aren't relevant to "unumgänglich", but I feel that some (or one in particular) could be playing a role beneath the surface:
3. a) in bestimmter Weise behandeln
gut, vorsichtig, behutsam, hart, grob mit jemandem, etwas umgehen
verantwortungsvoll, sparsam, verschwenderisch mit den natürlichen Ressourcen umgehen
sie geht sehr nachlässig mit ihren Sachen um
mit Geld nicht umgehen können (nicht haushalten können)
mit einem Werkzeug, einem Gerät umgehen können (es zu benutzen, zu handhaben wissen)
freundlich miteinander umgehen
If I were to define "unumgänglich" from this version of "umgehen" I'd say "Etwas ist unumgänglich, wenn es einem unmöglich ist, richtig/vernünftig damit umzugehen".
For those who have seen the Matrix trilogy; when Agent Smith says that he's inevitable at the end, it isn't just that it's impossible to avoid him, Neo had been trying and failing to destroy him, not evade him; but nothing worked until he became him (spoiler alert :P).
That's where I can see this side of "unumgänglich" playing a role.
Some slight differences in meaning I perceive:
unvermeidbar/unvermeidlich: could refer to something more coincidental. E.g. There are so many puddles on the road, so inevitably you'll step in one of them. I.e. a specific consequence is inevitable and you cannot do anything about it. The meteor is on collision course with the Earth. The collusion is "unvermeidbar".
unumgänglich: This implies a step that has to be taken, for which there is no alternative. There is a problem for which a solution simply has to be found. Or a more drastic approach has to be chosen to achieve a certain goal. Unumgänglich expresses a certain amount of regret or the acknowledgment that a step might not be the best or not be welcomed by a lot of people, but it still has to be taken.
Unvermeidbar/unvermeidlich could more easily be used in the second scenario than unumgänglich in the first scenario.
They are synonyms, in real life one would often use "notwendig" which of course isn't a synonym but can be used to express similar thoughts.
I read "unvermeidlich" a lot in the comments so far but I'd rather say "unausweichlich"