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"Du hast ihn doch nicht etwa gelöscht!"

April 21, 2013



According to my German friend this is a bit of a mistranslation, not an idiom at all.

To say "Don't tell me you deleted him!" in German, one would usually say:

  • "Erzähl mir nicht (or: Sag nicht), dass du ihn gelöscht hast!"

"Erzähl mir nicht"/"Don't tell me" is a common phrase; my friend says she uses it all the time.

"Du hast ihn doch nicht etwa gelöscht!" on the other hand, should be translated as:

  • "You didn't actually delete him, did you?"

The "doch nicht" is basically the English "did not" here. The "etwa" could be replaced with "tatsächlich", because "actually" works great here as well. But it can be left out too.

It's a common phrase. The base is this: "Du hast doch nicht etwa..." - "You didn't (actually)..., did you?"

And then you can add a lot behind it. If you add something like "Angst", the "doch" becomes an "aren't" instead of "didn't" ... (you don't do fear... you do have fear).


  • "Du hast doch nicht etwa Angst (vor der kleinen Spinne)!"

You're not actually/really scared (of the little spider), right!?"

You could leave the "etwa" out; it's often just extra stress, just like actually/really. In formal writing you would leave such an "filler word" away.

The "...,did/are you?" or "..., right!?" that my friend decided to add at the end is because she felt that it stressed the meaning better in English. In German you could add an "..., oder?" or "..., nicht wahr?" as well. One might be in total disbelief when one asks with this phrase, or one might want to mock ("You aren't afraid of the spider, right? Ahahahaha."). When mocking, you could, in English, eventually use "Don't tell me...". Both phrases can usually be used interchangeably.


hmmm.....following the hints, i thought of it like, "[So] you didn't delete it after all!" Whilst the correct translation is given to be, "Don't tell me you deleted it!" I imagine this is idiomatic and so wont dwell on the translation itself. However, the first (mine, following duo's hints) is quite different from the 'correct' translation/equivalent.

The English "after all"generally offers relief after bad news is revealed to be, in fact, not so bad - after all. (As in, "ahhh, [sigh] what a relief...) Where as the "don't tell me..." type expression is used before any definitive knowledge of the situation is had (as in, [still biting my lip, i might just get mad if such and such turns out to be the case].

I would appreciate it if someone could clear up the actual sense at work here.


I think it is the "etwa" that does it. "By any chance". So you are saying, "By any chance, (please tell me this isn't true), you haven't deleted him after all (after I specifically asked you not to)." That is how it plays out in my head anyway.

I agree the hints are confusing. I got it wrong the first time as well.


I will ask my native German friend about this one and get back to you.

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