In a book I'm reading, the author used the question "Weißt du noch". I'm guessing from the context it means "Do you remember". Is that so? Does the addition of the word "noch" turn "wissen" into "remember"?

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    Strictly to meaning, "Do you recall", or "Can you recall" might be more accurate. – primo Apr 1 '14 at 9:51

In the context you gave, your translation is perfectly right.

However, there is a subtle difference between wissen and erinnern. The latter would imply that you can recall the precise memory from your mind including enough detail to replay substantial parts of the topical event. For wissen, it suffices to know the event happened (perhaps by remembering some other fact that implies the original event).

This difference has very little relevance in actual language use. It might make a difference in a police interrogation or some other contrived setting.


Erinnerst du dich noch an unser erstes Treffen in London? – Do you still remember our first date in London?)

You would be expected to remember the walk along the River Thames, the stroll through Notting Hill bookstores etc.

Weißt du noch, wie wir uns das erste Mal getroffen haben? – Do you still know when we first met?

You might only remember to have seen some email dating back to the time that mentions the London visit, though you have no memory of it (don’t you tell her that …).

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  • Is this why erinnern appears with the reflexive? If erinnern means personal memory of an event and wissen means general recollection of an event, then is that why the reflexive is useful? Apologies, but I'm better at feeling when to use the reflexive than I am at knowing why to use it (though still weak at both). – NL7 Apr 1 '14 at 14:28
  • @NL7 I can't say whether your hypothesis is correct (the difference stated in my answer is really subtle, so I'm doubtful). Note however that sich erinnern-> to remember, erinnern -> to remind. There has been a recent trend of using the irreflexive form with the semantics of the reflexive verb, but it's not yet mainstream (at least that's my impression). – collapsar Apr 1 '14 at 14:48

Yes, exactly.

"Remember" doesn't mean anything else than "to still know". I guess we prefer saying "weißt Du noch" (3 syllables) instead of "erinnerst Du Dich" (5 syllables) because it's shorter.

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  • Both version a very common from my experince. Maybe depending on region and cultural group - but don't have any pattern so far ;) – frlan Apr 1 '14 at 8:01
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    @frlan I'd rather think it depends on context. "Weißt du noch, um wieviel Uhr ..." would sound slightly odd with "erinnern", but "Erinnerst du dich noch an den Tag..." would sound absolutely off with "wissen" – Em1 Apr 1 '14 at 8:06
  • Hmmm... yeah. True. I was thinking about the typical "Damals" session with grandparents ... – frlan Apr 1 '14 at 8:42
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    @Em1 I think it doesn't depend on context, but syntactical usage: sich *an etwas* erinnern can't be formulated by noch wissen as it can't have a prepositional object. sich erinnern + subclause can be formulated by noch wissen. And "Erinnerst du dich, um wie viel Uhr …" doesn't sound odd to me at all. – Toscho Apr 1 '14 at 12:17

another example: „I [still] KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER“ (dt. „Ich weiß [noch], was Du letzten Sommer getan hast“)

The question should be "What is the difference between 'to know' and 'to remember'?". I think http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remember_versus_know_judgements gives an idea about the difference. And maybe the above-mentioned example helps you to cope with noch. I am getting more and more confused, whether noch has the power to change the meaning of wissen. Maybe noch really helps to put some memory back to consciousness. So if you still know sth, you can remember it exactly - which is a different meaning.

Really good question! I hope we are getting a consensus and a good explanation.

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  • Knowing and remembering are indeed very confusing concepts. However, German is the only language I know that really catches the essence and actually formulates recalling as "still knowing". – Ilya Kogan Apr 2 '14 at 11:26

I would only add to the current answers the probable answers to the question "Weißt du noch?":

Ich weiß nicht mehr. is what what Germans would say if they don't (can't) remember (anymore).

Ja, weiß ich. means in this context Yey, I (do) remember.

It doesn't happen very often that a German would like to be genau with the subtlety of the difference between wissen and erinnern, mainly because errinern is much more difficult to say quickly, and to my knowledge, efficiency is the rule of thumb for speaking as it is for many other aspects of being a German :)

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