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I have read that "Gesang" translates to "singing" in English. But is that the present tense?

The sentence that I am working on is:

Sing to yourself

So I would like to know the context in which the different variations are used in regards to time. Like "Did you sing to yourself" would be asking about a past action.

So far with using a dictionary I have the phrase translated to

Singen, die sich selbst

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Gesang is a substantive. –  c.p. Mar 3 at 16:25
So is "Singerei" and, when capitalized, "Singen". –  elena Mar 3 at 16:29
Whoever feels that a beginner's question needs to fulfill certain criteria to be on topic should contribute with their opinion to the following meta question: meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/637/…. –  Takkat Mar 4 at 11:58

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In this case just looking up words in a dicitonary without looking closely at context may be confusing indeed.

The example you gave also is a good example of how this confusion can arise. Of course does Gesang translate to singing but in this case it is not the English present continuous of to sing but it is the noun the singing.

To overcome this we should have a dictionary providing some context or possible variations where it comes clear that we are looking for different forms and inflection. A good overview on inflection of singen can be found at canoo.net.

Then it may come clear that "sing to yourself" needs the imperative form of singen. Hence a literal translation may be

Sing(e) zu dir selbst.

However this is not very idiomatic. Looking at the English to German translation of "to sing to sb" we will find the different verb vorsingen in the list. Hence the following translation will go better:

Singe dir selbst vor.

We will have to look up the inflection of vorsingen then to get it right in different tenses.

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Wäre auch singe vor dir selbst richtig? Es erscheinen ja auch da in der Liste beide jdm vor|singen und vor jdm singen (ganz unterschiedlich, zumindest grammatisch: denn "Ich habe vor, meiner Freundin vorzusingen" ist nicht gelich "Ich habe vor, vor meiner Freundin zu singen"). Ok, vielleicht könnte ich das in einem neuen Beitrag stellen. –  c.p. Mar 4 at 9:17
@c.p.: ja, es gibt noch viele andere Möglichkeiten (z.B singen für, singen mit, ...). Es ist also noch Platz für weitere Antworten ;) –  Takkat Mar 4 at 9:41
I really do not understand why you protect this question other than because you like the answer you gave based on the title you gave. How did you arrive at that title anyway? It has nothing to do with the question, the text of the question does not make it clear what is being asked and other questions have been closed for less. I really would appreciate a comment on this. –  Emanuel Mar 4 at 15:53
@Emanuel: it was not me who closed other questions for less. Because of recent closings and downvotings there is considerable confusion whether beginners questions are welcome or not. That's why we need a Meta discussion. From what we had defined up to now this question here showed research effort, and it is clear enough that both, you and me came to the conclusion that "vorsingen" is the missing verb here. Easy to answer, but does this make the question bad? It is well within the scope we had defined for a beginner's question. Note that we also have many worse (but upvoted) questions. –  Takkat Mar 4 at 17:18
@Takkat... I see your point but please. I quote OP: "So I would like to know the context in which the different variations are used in regards to time. " What does that mean? What does that have to do with anything? Is OP wondering if different tenses want different prepositions? Or is he wondering whether "Gesang, Singerei etc" are needed for different tenses. The question as it is now is an editing ruin. I don't have a problem with beginner questions but I want to be able to understand the question. I am okay with the current title though, so I'll retract my close vote. –  Emanuel Mar 4 at 20:09

Let me try to exemplify in one (incomplete) sentence the spectrum of prepositions that singen could accept:

Gestern haben wir vor vielen Menschen wärend des Abendessens dank der Großzügikeit Herrn X für {eine Hochzeit · Gott · den Teufel} (je nach deinem Geschmack) (...) gesungen.

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There is also "auf" "von" "über" "um" "hinter" "neben" "während" and more... and they all work with "singen" –  Emanuel Mar 4 at 13:18
@Emanuel Ja wohl. Da hast du Recht. Ergo beschränke ich mich jetzt auf vor. Die andere sind einfach anderer Art. Ich kann das nicht erklären, aber es existiert doch einen Unterschied zwischen "Ich arbeite an einem Tisch" so, der Zimmerman und "ich arbeite auf einem Tisch" so, der/die Stripper(in). Die Präp. an gehört kanonisch zu arbeiten, wohingegen auf nicht. –  c.p. Mar 4 at 13:27
"singen vor" ist nicht "cannonischer" als "singen um" oder "singen hinter"... es ist einfach nur eine Angabe. Es gibt nunmal das Wort "vorsingen". –  Emanuel Mar 4 at 13:32
@Emanuel Na ja, wenn wir uns auf die Bedeutung sing. to somebody beschränken, ist es schon die Präposition – zumindest laut dict.cc. Aber wir können das immer, wenn du anderer Meinung bist. Wörterbücher haben auch ja Fehler. Außerdem wie kann eine Frage beantwortet werden, wenn der Titel so schwankend ist? Worauf soll man antworten? –  c.p. Mar 4 at 14:11
meiner Ansicht nach sollt man auf den Inhalt der Frage antworten, nicht auf den Titel. Und der Inhalt ist mir unklar, deshalb habe ich "close" gevoted. Was "vor" angeht, stimme ich nicht mit dict.cc überein. Vor jemandem singen heißt einfach "sing in front of someone" was natürlich auch ein "to" impliziert. Wenn es denn eine Präposition sein soll, dann wäre das "für", denn da geht es tatsächlich nur um den Hörer, und nicht um die Position. –  Emanuel Mar 4 at 15:48

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