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How would you state it? Are there alternatives?

If the expression does exist, where does it come from?

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Its another meaning but a similar picture: In jemandes Fußstapfen treten means to follow in somebodies foot prints - meaning to be a follower. –  knut Mar 3 '13 at 0:47
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2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

You can't translate that figurative expression directly, word by word, into german. But in german, there's a similar expression with (IMHO) identical meaning:

Was würden Sie an meiner Stelle tun?

Was würdest Du an meiner Stelle tun?

It's a shortened form of

Was würden Sie tun, wenn Sie an meiner Stelle wären?

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Note that there is also a direct translation for the German one: "What would you do in my place?" So there are (at least) two English expressions that correspond to (at least) one German expression. –  musiKk Nov 17 '11 at 8:28
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My choice of a German translation for "to be [walk, fit?] in someone's shoes" is "in jemandes Haut stecken". It preserves more of the idiomatic character of the original as opposed to "an jemandes Stelle sein".

But I think that "in someone's shoes" is more neutral: "In jemandes Haut stecken" is used mainly in a context, where the described situation would be at least a nuisance. "Stecken" in its intransitive form is very similar to "to stick".

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I think "in jemandes Haut stecken" is about what someone experiences (that is, it's about empathy), while "an jemandes Stelle" refers more to his situation (and the options one has). Especially it sounds very wrong to me to say "Wenn ich in seiner Haut stecken würde, würde ich ...". –  celtschk Aug 24 '12 at 10:23
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