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  5. "Was weiß ich denn?"

"Was weiß ich denn?"

Translation:What do I know?

June 4, 2013



What purpose does "denn" serve in this sentence? I'm having trouble understanding if I should think of it as the english word "then" in some contexts or not.


It's not like the English "then" here. It's just a reinforcement, which you can't really translate, but you can leave it out, saying "Was weiß ich?"


But English does use "then" to emphasise, no? If someone shoots down a bunch of suggestions, my response would be "what then do you suggest I do?"


Yes, we use 'then' to emphasise as well. I would translate "was weiß ich denn" as "oh, what do I know" - if I had to add filler words in English. A good explanation:



Thanks, ElleLingo, for this very helpful link. What a demystifying, detailed look at the usage of denn!

To quote its summing up,

... at least in spoken German the more common denn is the question filler. People add it to questions to make them sound more casual or, in combination with question words, to get a little more room to express yourself using your voice.


I was offered "anyway", used it, and was marked wrong.


i dont know. would you say that in English?


I think I would translate your "then" with "dann", though. Here are a few ideas about the difference between denn and dann: http://german.stackexchange.com/questions/4768/denn-vs-dann


True, "what then . . . " is much more emphatic than just "what . . . ", but the meaning is also different. With a "then", the sentence effectively means, "In that case, what . . . " which is why you would use it in the context you gave. Does the "denn" in the German sentence also give it that shade of meaning?


I used 'then' and it accepted it. *shrug * (though I'll check out the link below to further educate myself.


You mean "What do I (with emphasis) know?"


i think sakasiru means that, yes. (emphasis on know rather than on I) Four letter words would do to convey the type of emphasis involved, i believe. The german version is far from being that offensive, but i dont think it is completely neutral either.

"What do i even know?", maybe?


Well, it depends on context, it can come across as pretty annoyed or as desperate as well. It generally means that the speaker is agitated because someone expects him to know something that he doesn't know.


So, almost like "How should I know?!"?


I think that "So what do I know" makes sense.


Sine the "denn" just stresses or intensifies, perhaps a good English equivalent is "What do I know anyway?"


Without the "denn" "Was weiß ich?" could just be a factual question. The answer could be be "I know that a tomato is a fruit" or "I know about 1000 words of French".

The additional "denn" makes it a rhetorical question "what (the heck) do I know?" (Why do you expect me to have an answer?)


"denn" makes the question informal.


My translation: ' What do I know, then?', was accepted.


In English, the translation for this would be "But what do I know", the implication of "denn" being that of exasperation, or "well clearly, you think you know better than me..." The more of the DL German course I take, the more I realise how nebulous a thing an exact translation is... all language is so nuanced


Pleasingly, "but what do I know" was just accepted as an answer.


For those of you who speak Spanish, "denn" = "pues". Like in German it is used for emphasis and as a connector like "because" in English.


What is the difference between "weiß" and "kenne"?


wissen is used for facts, kennen for people or places that you are acquainted with.


I tried "So what do I know" but it was rejected.


For the sentence " Was nehme ich denn", the translation " What should I take " is accepted. But in this sentence, I translated as " What should I know" and it was marked wrong. Who can tell me the difference? Thank you a lot


This is nothing you can explain with grammar, it depends on what kind of context a sentence invokes in a native speaker.

"Was nehme ich denn?" would be said in a situation where someone is standing in front of an all you can eat buffet and ponders what he should load on his plate.

"Was weiß ich denn?" would be said in a situation where someone nags you for an answer you don't have.


Thank you a lot!


Why is it "weiß" and not "weiße", since the subject is ich?


The first person sg form of "wissen" is indeed "ich weiß", not "Ich weiße". It's irregular.


I've seen several people comment in a confused manner on the use of "then/denn" in this sentence. Is this a regional thing? I've used the exact phrase "Well, what do I know, then!" on numerous occasions, usually at a loud volume while throwing my hands in the air and knitting my eyebrows. If it matters, I'm a Midwesterner who also uses a handful of Southern-isms thanks to a Southern mom.


For me that is an excellent translation and the arm throwing goes very well with it. For extra emphasis and exasperation I might modify it to "Was weiß denn ich?!?".


> usually at a loud volume while throwing my hands in the air and knitting my eyebrows.

I think that's not what the German "denn" is about.

Unfortunately, I deem myself unable to give an elaborate explanation, so please have a look at this article => https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_modal_particle


Is this considered flippant or smug? I read this as "... but what do I know?" almost like a challenge to whatever was said before.


I'd say that's also possible.


Would "What would I know?" also be a correct translation?


I think so, that's the way we say it in my neck of the woods, but they marked it wrong. I'm flagging it.


You add "denn" in the sentence only for politeness.


I wrote "what do I know really" and was marked wrong, but I think that it conveys the meaning, am I wrong?


Is this an ironic rhetorical question? In English it could be what do I know then, but what do I know then.


Could this serve the same purpose as the English phrase "but that's just my opinion?" As in, "This looks strange, but what do I know?" - "Das sieht fremd aus aber was weiss ich denn?"


In this case, you would rather use "..., aber was weiß ich schon?". That would be something like "but who am I to judge?".


I was always taught at school to use 'ss' instead of ß, but I always use ß now when necessary.

With this sentence I accidentally put 'weiss' instead of 'weiß' and it said I was wrong, is it an error with the program? or are there times when 'ss' cannot be used for 'ß'

If it is my fault, any advice to help me build on my error is appreciated, thanks ! :-)


In standard German, "ss" can't follow a diphthong like ei, ie, eu, au. So it's not weiss, but weiß. After a single vowel, it usually depends on whether the vowel is short (in this case, it is followed by ss) or long (followed by ß) => der Fluss (short u), ich aß (long a).

Note that in Switzerland (and Liechtenstein I think?), ß is never used and always replaced with ss.

[deactivated user]

    Ist es möglich zu sagen: "What do i do know" , um zu betonen


    Nein. Das doppelte do ergibt keinen Sinn.


    "What do I know anyway" is not accepted (October 2016). I am reporting it but not sure if this is correct or not


    SinanOztur1, It's an acceptable translation, especially given the absence of any context. Report it, by all means.


    Accept as a right answer, or correct


    In the tips it lists denn at the equivalent of the interjection "well".


    there are several words in German emphasizing that you want to refer to something that has happened and effects you now, because in english you have present perfect for that.

    'denn' is used in questions. you would ask 'hast du das denn gesehen?' if you have talked about a show but forgot to ask if your opponent has seen it. you would ask 'was weiss ich denn' if your opponent expects you to know. you would ask 'Wann passiert das denn?' if your opponent tells you something will happen but has left out that tiny little detail.

    'doch' stands alone after your opponent disagreed with you and means 'i disagree it is actually yes'

    'fei' is used in a sentence after a verb and means that although your opponent just said that you have done or will do something, sometimes a bit appologetic.


    I may be wide of the mark here. But, as a speaker of American English, this sentence would ordinarily be translated "What do I know anyway?" Or "But, then, what do I know??"
    As usual with DL, because there's no context to guide the participant, it gets away with the most parochial--and frequently wooden--version.


    I put "what do I know for?" it was checked wrong.


    In English this doesn't sound correct, as the word for looks out of place.



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