Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

As a thank you for the people hosting a party I brought them a little present. They said:

"Danke schön! Das wäre aber nicht nötig gewesen."

Shouldn't I have given them anything? Did I do something else wrong?

share|improve this question
    
Danke, das war bitter nötig! –  user unknown Sep 3 '11 at 21:34
2  
In Swabian: Des het's aber et 'braucht! –  Ingo Sep 8 '11 at 10:37
add comment

2 Answers 2

up vote 20 down vote accepted

It's a phrase to express gratitude. It is an indirect acknowledgment that you intended the gift as a gift, and not for satisfying a perceived necessity ("nötig" comes from "Not", English "need" or "poverty").

The confusion probably comes from the literal translation "That was not necessary / unnecessary", which, as I understand it, is a defensive remark to an attack or insult of sorts.

Edit: The more idiomatic translation and English equivalent is probably "Oh, you didn't have to!", in a positive meaning.

share|improve this answer
6  
Good answer. I'd like to add that people often use this phrase even if they did expect you to bring a present. –  Stefan Walter Sep 3 '11 at 16:45
    
Nice point, Stefan. –  Marty Green Sep 3 '11 at 18:06
4  
btw: The "correct" answer to "das wäre doch nicht nötig gewesen" is something along the lines of "aber das ist doch nur eine Kleinigkeit" or "nicht der Rede wert". –  0x6d64 Sep 4 '11 at 0:29
1  
The mentioned defensive remark to an attack or insult would be "das war [jetzt] [aber] unnötig" in German. –  OregonGhost Sep 5 '11 at 8:53
    
@Stefan: +1 Right! Who says Germans can't be Japanese :-) –  Kage Sep 5 '11 at 20:42
add comment

It's just a polite phrase meant to convey that you in no way expected to receive a gift, frequently used even by people who did in fact expect one, but want to appear polite. The English equivalent is "Oh, you shouldn't have!"

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.