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I got a DB ticket recently and went through the text. I took a pic of their 'Unser Angebot' text.

enter image description here

Please note lines 1 and 2:

Sie suchen Alternativen. Ich den besten Weg.

Is it alright to drop the verb here? Isn't "Ich bin den besten Weg" correct?

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3  
Dropping verbs is done in all (Western) languages, afaik. Ever learned Latin? –  Raphael May 23 at 7:01
4  
To guess the missing verb it's always a good idea to look at the previous sentence. –  Pasoe May 23 at 7:06
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Some of the answers claim that it's only allowed in newspapers or such. That's not true. It's very common in everyday speech, too. –  Em1 May 23 at 7:46
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I'm surprised than no one has mentioned so far that the quotation marks are a really bad idea here. They make absolutely no sense and are probably the main reason this example is so confusing, since they can be understood to imply a different speaker for the second phrase. –  Mac May 23 at 8:23
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What's really awful is the punctuation and the font. You can totally omit the verb, if the first one carries over and the structures of both sentences are the same but you should not make a line break, add " " without any indication of who is speaking AND change the font weight to bold. I really don't get why they did it. I mean... wouldn't the app say all of it, at least? Epic fail DB –  Emanuel May 23 at 12:17

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The two sentences have to be read together. Consider this:

Sie suchen Alternativen. Ich auch.

In this case, the meaning is clear: the speaker affirms the plan of the addressed. Now, by saying,

Sie suchen Alternativen. Ich den besten Weg.

the speaker offers an another option. "You look for alternatives, well, I'll look for the best route."

It's mangled by advertising stratagems, obviously; the quotation marks have no business of being there, and -- given that the same person says boths sentences -- you would say

Sie suchen Alternativen, ich (hingegen) den besten Weg.

Note that in this case, though, the two statements are not contradictory: the Deutsche Bahn persona offers help. This would be clearer:

Sie suchen Alternativen? Ich finde den besten Weg (für Sie)!

Note that I changed from (implicit) "suchen" to "finden" because that's clearly what is intended here. We want an app that finds stuff, not only searches for it.

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Strictly speaking, no.


But in real life, yes. Language is flexible – even in novels and newspapers; it's not only an advertising-style what you see there. E.g. the following three sentences, where the third one doesn't have a verb and not even a subject(!):

»Die EU ist demokratisch. Italien hingegen hat das Papsttum, die Mafia und den Faschismus (schlimme Diktatur 1922–1945!) erfunden. Und den Fußball-Faschismus („Catenaccio“), mit dem sie ständig UNSERE Titelträume kaputtmachen!« Kolumne in der taz (Fettdruck ursprünglich nicht da)

(Stylistically, I'd say you even need the pause by a period. This quote here would just sound dull if you restore subject [Italien] and verb [erfinden in past]: you'd totally loose the punchline)

Back to your question, I bet that every single German speaking person understands what the tacit verb in the second sentence of the advertising you posted is, namely suchen. Why? Because it's given before, so you infer by context that that one is the missing verb. Moreover you can read den besten Weg, which is in accusative. The mistake you would fall into by supposing that the verb is sein has already been pointed out in Ingmar's answer .

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In this example, I'd use "...erfunden -- und den ...!". This seems more appropriate for separating a sentence from an afterthought/exclamation; periods are for separating sentences. –  Raphael May 28 at 6:12
    
@Raphael Stimme total zu. Aber man wollte hier nur ein Beispiel mit dem Punkt finden. –  c.p. May 28 at 11:12
    
Na gut. ;) (* "Aber ich wollte" ?) –  Raphael May 28 at 12:05

I think this is close to the figure of speech called "Zeugma" or "Grammatical Syllepsis". A collaborative verb is used only once in a set of sentences.

Look at this examples

She lowered her standards by raising her glass, Her courage, her eyes and his hopes.

You see that the verb "lowered" is used only in the first sentence, but she also lowered her courage, her eyes and his hope.

Or in German:

Die Begierde besiegte die Scham, die Verwegenheit die Furcht, der Wahnwitz die Vernunft.

You see that the verb "besiegte" isn't used in the subordinate clauses.

Wikipedia says:

Im eigentlichen (und älteren) Sinne besteht die Wortfigur darin, dass in Satzverbindungen das den einzelnen Sätzen gemeinschaftliche Verb nur einmal gesetzt wird. Zeugma

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3  
In fact the verb that's left out in the English sentence is not "lowered", but "raised" ;) –  Vogel612 May 23 at 7:55
    
Awesome explanation and thank you for letting me know about something called "Zeugma". Just read about it in wikipedia and learned something new today. –  thandasoru May 24 at 7:56

Not really, but in advertising "anything goes", right? It would be correct if you'd only use one sentence, i.e. without the fullstop (and don't get me started on the gratuitous use of quotation marks): Sie suchen Alternativen, ich (suche) den besten Weg.

Isn't "Ich bin den besten Weg" correct?

No. First, it would have to be "Ich bin der beste Weg", but how can a person be the best way? The accusative clearly shows that "I" is looking for the best way.

Good question, though. This must confuse the heck out of learners of German.

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Yep, it confused me :-) As I look at your explanation, I feel sheepish for mixing up cases. –  thandasoru May 24 at 7:52

Sie suchen Alternativen.

Ich (suche) den besten Weg.

  1. Is it ok to drop it?

YES: Why? Because you are free to arrange words and letters as you please. Languages are living things. This is Marketing. And in marketing everything is fair game especially if it stands out.

Ich den besten Weg. Is short also it is different to usual marketing lingo.

Usual: Sie suchen?

Wir haben.

Different Sie suchen? Ich (suche) den besten.

This is a double whammy.

  1. it is a question that the reader has to answer

  2. it is a statement that is strange since it is not the readers own original thought. So you have to think. WTF? Oh right. Den besten weg suche ich. Stimmt. But der beste weg is not an alternative. It is the best thing. So it is kind of a contradiction. Looking for alternatives and the best way? I don't think you can have both unless you are looking for the best way of having alternatives.

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