1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Dutch
  4. >
  5. "What does it say?"

"What does it say?"

Translation:Wat staat erop?

July 21, 2014



I put "Wat zegt het?" and it was considered correct but the suggested translation doesn't make sense to me. Is it just an idiom?


It means "What is standing on it". In Dutch you use the verb "staan" (to stand) with a preposition to indicate that a text is located somewhere.

  • Het verhaal staat in het boek (the story is in the book)
  • Het artikel staat op de voorpagina (the article is on the front page)
  • De woorden staan onder elkaar (the words are underneath each other)

That's why you're asking what's standing on it, which could be a road sign or a note etcetera.


Now I kind of get the expression with the examples you gave, but in this question there are no context given. How are we going to learn and understand this usage? :(


It's the same in German. You can't use the verb "say" for inanimate objects, such as signs or books, when meaning something like "what is written?"


This is what makes learning another language so hard, constantly asking, "but does say really mean SAY in the same way?"


Yeah, it is hard, but I also find it quite fascinating to see how the same ideas are expressed in different ways in different languages. For example, in French, you shouldn't say, "I can't speak French", because you can, you just don't know how to.


I didn't know about that (what you say about French)! I've never heard anybody saying "Je ne sais pas parler français" instead. Interesting


I think the proper translation in French is "je ne parle pas français," or "I DON'T speak French."


This is in reply to DSDragon's point, but it wouldn't let me respond to it directly. Of course, "je ne parle pas français" is a perfectly natural way of expressing the fact that you don't speak French, but the point I was making is that between "je ne peut pas parler français" and "je ne sais pas parler français", the latter should should be chosen.


"Wat staat erop?" is like saying "What does the text on it say?"


To further clarify, you're referring to the text (or image, or whatever) that's [standing] on some surface and asking what it means.


Could it also mean what image is on it or what stain is on it.. I don't know if it is correct here to use 'say' as in written or 'speaking' ..


So would 'what stands on it?' be an acceptable translation? I don't see what tells you it refers to something written


"What stands on it?" would be a word for word translation of "Wat staat erop?" but I doubt native English speakers prefer to say that over "What does it say?" "What stands on it?" or "What is standing on it?" also has a different meaning in English and refers more often to objects or persons, not to written words. If you scroll up, @lenkvist gives a good explanation of why in Dutch the verb "to stand" used with a preposition indicates that text is located on or in something. "Wat staat erop" is just the most common Dutch way of saying "What does it say?" (or What's written on it?).

Learn Dutch in just 5 minutes a day. For free.