"Kannst du nicht schlafen?"

Translation:Can you not sleep?

December 25, 2014

This discussion is locked.


can't you sleep & can you not sleep are not the same in English... I don't understand this sentence


I agree with you. Can someone kindly explain what does really the sentence "Kannst du nicht schlafen" mean?

(1) Is one asked if he is able (and ready) to spend a certain period without sleeping (e.g. in order to work extra time urgently) (2) or the querist wonders about one's possible problems with sleeping (e.g. insomnia)?

In Russian it sounds: (1) Можешь ли ты не спать? or Ты можешь не спать? (2) Ты не можешь спать (заснуть)? And these are quite different meanings.

Thank you.


In English, "can" normally refers to ability. If a person cannot sleep, that means something is wrong, something removed his ability to sleep, as in your (2). Your (1) is more like "Will you not sleep?" or "Won't you sleep?" - asking if it is the person's intention to stay awake.


now it would be great if someone explained it in German as well :) how would you say the sentence with the first meaning?


The German can mean either of them, but usually means (2).

For (1), a clearer wording would be Ist es dir möglich, nicht zu schlafen? (Is it possible for you to not sleep?) or Kannst du ohne Schlaf auskommen? (Can you manage without sleep?).


Other ideas by me: Kannst du die Nacht durchmachen?/Kannst du auf bleiben?/Kannst du wach bleiben?(Can you stay awake?) Even Kannst du nicht schlafen? but then stressed on the "nicht" and with a short break between "du" and "nicht". So you won't write it.

Referring to your second sentence I would say it without "können", just: "Kommst du ohne Schlaf aus?" It is not wrong, but in language shorter is usually better. The verb "auskommen"(google: "get by") already contains the aspect of possibility. Other word: zurechtkommen (speak like: zu Recht kommen). means the same.


"Cannot sleep?" Is a correct colloquial Form in my opinion


As a native speaker, that sounds too formal and a little strange. "Can't sleep?" sounds more normal.


However, "can't" is a contraction for "cannot." Consequently, the meaning appears identical.


Just for discussion only, I used an online translation entering the following English: Can you not sleep? Mind you, this is online translation only. But, the results were as follows: Kannst du nicht schlafen.


Why is the subject "du" but schlafen is not in the "du" form while "kannst" is in the "du" form?


That's the whole point. This is how every modal verb is treated. "Can sleep" is the modal/main verb pair. The modal verb gets conjugated and the main verb gets rendered in infinitive form and put to the end of the sentence.


Why did it allow cannot you sleep. No one says that.


As I saw in comments, this is like Can't you sleep?(Do you have insomnia? e.g.) But I wrote Can you not sleep (and listen to me? e.g.) and it was marked corrected. Which one is true about this case? And how to say the other in German?


you cannot sleep? why is this wrong?


That's not the right word order for a regular question sentence in English -- the verb has to come at the beginning, as "Can you not sleep?" or "Can't you sleep?".


Why is "You can't sleep?" incorrect? Reported, but I'd like to know if I was right to report or not :)


Because it is a question, the verb has to come before the pronoun. "Can't you sleep?"


If i said "kannst du shlafen nicht" would it be wrong? >.<


Yes, it would be wrong -- nicht goes to the end of a sentence but infinitives such as schlafen go even more to the end of a sentence :) So the schlafen "wins".


Oh, ok thanks ^.^

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