1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. "Was nehme ich denn?"

"Was nehme ich denn?"

Translation:What shall I take?

August 26, 2013



What role is the "denn" fulfilling here?


"denn" is a modal particle (filler word, flavoring particle) only used in questions, either to make them sound more casual or to express heightened or diminished surprise, interest, or urgency.

more about Modalpartikeln :


As such, would "What then shall I take?!" be an accurate translation? The "then" certainly intensifies the English sentence, but it also somewhat implies "in that case".


I think it would be accurate, although perhaps a little awkward-sounding to contemporary speakers; it seems more 19th century in style to me.

Additionally, in written form, I think commas around "then" would be better: "What, then, shall I take?" I think I've seen it written that way, and (as is generally the practice in English) the commas indicate where the speaker pauses, and I think a speaker would pause before and after the "then" in order to be correctly understood.


"What shall I take, then"?


"What do I take then?" would be more likely in to be used Australia. "what do I take?" is accepted but I haven't tried it with the "then". I think that the "then" nicely serves the same purpose as the denn does in German.


Sounds very British to me.


I would say, "What should I take, then?" But "what shall I take, then?" sounds good too. (though probably more something my UK friends would say)


"Denn" here doesn't mean then.


agreed, this is common usage in amerika


Hi, D

This first site (Grimm Grammar) is a great site, a favourite of mine.

Since we need some way to verbalise the 'denn' part in English, maybe we should consider GG's approach - so, what shall I take?



Just checked out that site and it is a hoot! Very entertaining as well as informative. Fun and helpful! Thanks for putting it on my "radar" - I only glossed over dnovinc's list above but I gave you both a lingot for the referral.


So, kind of like in the show Absolutely Fabulous when Edina says, "Inside my body there's a skinny person trying to get out," and her mother replies, "Just the one, then, darling?" "Then" is a modal particle? (That's used more in English English than in American English, by the way.)


That's why I wanted to translate it with "So". "So what shall I take?" or "So what do I take?". Do you think that should be allowed?


Does this sentence mean, "What do I deduce OR arrive at?


I wonder if it is related to the "then" without which some English people cannot seem to end a sentence.


Der Satz ist auch one "denn" OK, aber mit denn klingt er besser. What do I take? Was I. O. (in Ordnung)


It says the translation is "What shall I take?" but that would be "Was soll ich nehmen?"


My sentiments exactly


"What do I take then.' which was accepted. Is that possibly right??

[deactivated user]

    I see it as " Well then, what will I take?"


    "What will I take?" would normally be "Was werde ich nehmen?", (minus the "well then") - should we be changing the present tense of the sentence? I'm not trying to be picky, but this is becoming awfully fiddly, isn't it?


    I interpret it as similar in meaning to "So, what should I take, in that case?"


    That's the same what i wanted to wright, so i guess yes, it's right


    Interesting sentence. After taking beginner-level German classes and having it drilled into me that "denn" is similar to "weil" (meaning because/for), and to avoid the pitfall of thinking it gets carried into English as "then"... I now find that in fact "denn" does very nicely get rendered "then" so long as it is being used as an adverb instead of a conjunction. I went over to reverso.net and looked at all of their sample sentences using denn as an adverb. Yep - every single one works very well with denn=then.


    The only time "denn" really comes to mean "then" is when it's a particle. Consider the British-sounding expression "What's all this then?!" really the "then" has no meaning besides flavoring the sentence. It's the same in German using "denn". This DL sentence could be translated "So what do I take?" or "What am I taking then?" or simply "What should I take?" said in a polite or curious tone.


    how are we supposed to guess this?


    We are supposed to get really bewildered, pass the theme by blindly typing, retyping and re-retyping what we were told to type, finish the tree, pass the skill again in the strengthening, with slightly more comprehension, almost grasping the concept behind those denn dort weil dann deshalb, then get to it again and realize that now it's got very easy somehow.


    Okay, I checked with canoonet and an online dictionary... and I can ONLY see "to take" or "to help oneself to"... or similar meanings for nehme. Literally this sentence reads What am I taking (or do I take) then. WHERE are they getting the "Shall" from? Appreciate any help here.


    It's less literal translation and more how to preserve the feel of the sentence.

    The "denn" gives it an extra-questioning (and, depending on your tone of voice, anticipatory) edge. This sentence is about having a choice (at a restaurant, for example) trying to decide which one to make, and going about that process. Depending on the speaker's tone of voice, this sentence can express happy anticipation or anxiety at the choice presented.

    You could, technically, go and say "What am I going to take", which would have a similar enough meaning - but does not have the same feel of anticipation, which you can get closest to with "So, what shall I take?"


    I don't know if it's actually related, but when I see "denn" used like this, I imagine it in a British accent, as in "What am I taking then?" As I know they sometimes throw in a "then" in their colloquial way of speech.


    I think you're imagiining a stereotype of an upper class "toffee nosed" British accent, someone similar to the queen.


    A translation of " Was nehme ich denn?", when you touched on one or a couple of the words was "What should I take?", which isn't what the German says, at least not from what we've been taught...

    I was given words to pick from (annoying), and the closest I came to translating "Was nehme ich denn?" was "What shall I take?" - again not an accurate translation.

    The translation is more of a futuristic tense, while the German is in the present, eg, "What will I do?" "Was werde ich tun?"

    What confuses me more are suggestions of using "should". That would change the mood from indicative to conditional, eg, "What should I do?" "Was sollte ich tun?"

    "What am I taking/ do I take?" is the closest direct translation I can think of, as I'm sure someone else has already pointed out by now


    So denn is one of those words like mal used to soften and casualise?


    Yes, that's a good way to put it - I've been trying to figure out how to explain it to the ones who ask how it is necessary - it isn't per se necessary for the sentence grammatically, but it changes the mood and feel of the sentence - and you've hit the nail on the head!


    Is the adverb present in this sentence? If yes - which word is it?


    Could I say "Was solle ich nimmen?


    Was soll ich nehmen? would be right. Not sure if Duo would accept it.


    So how do I ask "what shall I take then?" in german? It's different with and without the "then" in english.


    The 'then' or 'denn' is more like a conversation filler word. Think of it more like "What shall I take...?" = "What shall I take then?".


    Why not 'dann' instead of 'denn' ?


    "Denn" and "dann" are two completely different words. The meaning of "denn" is explained rather well in this blog post: http://yourdailygerman.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/denn-meaning/ Basically, it means "because" . . . and other things. "Dann" means "then", as in "at that time". I am not sure if it also means "then" as in "in that case" or not.


    I really like the explanation in your link! Thinking of this word as "flavouring" for the sentence is a great help.


    Does, "Was soll ich nehmen" work?


    That's a valid translation, but as far as I can tell this exercise only asks you to translate from German into English.


    What about "What shall I have?" in a restaurant for example.


    Since we don't know the context, we shouldn't assume a different word than the one on screen. "nehmen" means "take" and "haben" means "have".

    If the context is obvious, then paraphrasing is more understandable.


    We should always be given unambiguous sentences or there is no way to accurately count wrong from right.


    It's only ambiguous if you're trying to paraphrase, which is not the goal of these lessons. There is a clear right answer as long as you avoid excessive paraphrasing.


    "We should always be given unambiguous sentences"

    I'm not sure such a language exists. At any rate, it wouldn't be an accurate representation of German (or any other language, to my knowledge). Are we here to learn to communicate, or to score well on Duolingo for purely gaming purposes?


    I have spent much of my life in the technical writing profession, where unambiguous sentences mean the difference between some guy pulling the right or wrong lever and killing himself in some industrial accident. I've spent the rest of my life in teaching writing. If you're going to create language lessons for people to effectively learn a language, you must provide them with unambiguous sentences. So far, the Dutch module has nothing but cut-and-dried, unambiguous sentences. The Swedish module was pretty clean, Norwegian as well. Danish was okay though trippy. I promise you, the problem is with whoever created the German module, which was a quagmire of ambiguity and bad phrasing. They simply were poor writers and did not know what they were doing in creating that module.


    Could well be. We're all just unpaid volunteers, not trained educators.

    (And I don't even know how many of the current team were even there at the beginning when most of the sentences were created.)


    Sorry but I cannot agree, although I think (as an English speaker) German is far more complicated and word order sometimes baffling, I don’t need to look too far to see lots of similarities, even when we talk about separable verbs; the two languages have the same roots; what English has done has got rid of gender and relies upon ‘subject verb object ‘ and a lot of guesswork, look at Old English and you will see German word order, 2000 years ago nobody spoke English in `Britain, we all spoke something similar to Gaelic Irish Breton or whatever; having learned some Danish, it is pretty much the same as Norwegian and Swedish (though the latter has some different spellings), it is just that Danish is so fiendishly hard to pronounce.


    Should 'can' not be accepted here? Seeing as it's not a 'should'-specific sentence anyway


    I right now can't come up with a way that would preserve the meaning of the sentence while using can, what were you thinking?


    Would a native speaker of germany casually use denn here too or omit it?


    I've definitely used it in this context.


    Was solle ich nehmen? Ist das richtig?


    No, that's not correct.

    For starters, ich solle is not right (that would be subjunctive).

    sollen is one of the group of verbs that has no ending for ich and er, sie, es: it's ich soll and er soll just as it's "he shall" in English and not "he shalls".

    Similarly with er kann" (he can), er muss (he must). Also er weiß* (English doesn't use the related verb "wit" any more).


    Denn is unnecessary here. Just "Was nehme ich?" = What shall I take? would suffice.


    google translator offers the following - What do I take?


    I was marked wrong for 'what shall I have?' - yet I've read that nehmen is colloquially used for 'what will you have? I'll have a beer, thanks'


    Why was I marked wrong for, "What do I take?"


    Can i use also here , was soll ich nehmen?


    Was soll Ich nehmenshuld be the accurate German translation of What shall I take?


    I disagree; I would translate Was soll ich nehmen? as "What should I take?"

    "Shall" implies that an action will be taken. "Should" does not presuppose that the action will be taken, only that it would be beneficial to do so.

    Also, do note that "ich" is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence.


    Shall implies Futur eins which is surely not the intention


    "Well, what do I take?" was incorrect. Is it because I used present tense?


    Why is "was werde ich nehmen" incorrect? "Shall I" is an alternative form of the future tense in English - it is almost interchangeable with "What will I take?"


    Adding or not adding however, does not change the feeling of the sentence


    It really translates to What then do I take ?


    Is it a way to ask all question about the future?


    I don't think Duo should be accepting any answer without 'then' in it. After all, the word 'denn' is present in the German sentence!


    I disagree. Did you see dnovinc's comment up above? "Denn" does not have the same function in a sentence as the English "then." See also the discussion for this sentence: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/460078


    It does in this particular sentence. My answer of "what shall I take then" was accepted because here "then" is used as a filler word.

    I've also commented on that discussion because in that example, 'denn' doesn't (really) translate as 'then' but more like "but" i.e. "but what do I know" or "what do I know though" or "hey, what do I know". I know what filler words are and in this sentence (was nehme ich denn), the English "then" can/should be used in the English translation: what shall I take then.

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