Can you help me at understanding this sentence?

Da kommt sein Schiff an eine kleine Insel.

I know that da means there. I've looked it up in several dictionaries.
Google Translate, for instance, helped me a lot, suggesting the meaning of sein (i.e. his), but it also suggests that da means as.

I know that one meaning of sein is to be, but I could find that it is also used as a possessive pronoun.

So, I'm a little confused about da and sein in the sentence above. Could you help me clarify the intended meaning?

  • 7
    Mh, I just don't understand why somebody would use Google Translate if one wishes to learn a language.
    – c.p.
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 22:25
  • 2
    @c.p. ... it is doing okay from Roman languages (Spanish, Portuguese to English). That is usually pretty readable and sometimes even well. But for German it is always epic fail, despite the languages being so close.
    – Emanuel
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 22:27
  • 1
    @Emanuel I didn't know. I've seen recently many questions based on nonsense obtained from automatic translators. Since I'm neither happy with the question nor taking an action can be justified, I asked in the meta. Anyway all I said against it, is just prejudice: I don't think it would help to learn; maybe you get eventually a sentence right, but that was GT's effort ;)
    – c.p.
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 22:41
  • 1
    missing capitalization. die Insel is a 'Substantiv'
    – oliholz
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 6:55
  • 2
    To keep voting private is a StackExchange-wide policy which also means that there will never be a need to explain a vote in a comment. If there were no comments we could only guess what issues led people to vote as they did here. From what I can guess two issues of your post may benefit from an edit 1.) show a research effort other than a machine's translation attempt 2.) avoid asking two questions in one. See tour and Meta for more.
    – Takkat
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:45

4 Answers 4


It seems that you speak Italian, so I'd say that in this case the best translation for "da" is "dunque" (dunque in english can be translated as "Then", it's often used to start sentences).

And "sein" is a possessive adjective. You can have a look here to go deeper.

  • 6 comments discussing Meta issues deleted. They were off topic to both, the question and the answer. Please discuss those issues in German Language Meta.
    – Takkat
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:28

"Da" is a pretty generic pointer that can point to locations as well as to events. "As" is not bad, but not the best either. Depending on the phrasing I'd use either "when" or "then"/"it was then, that"/"at that moment"... or nothing.

Er wollte gerade in die Küche, da rief seine Freundin an.
He was about to go to the kitchen when his girlfriend called.

Peter sagte "aoidufg". Da öffnete sich die Tür.
Peter said "aoidufg". It was then, that the door opened.


The context would be helpful (is it a children song?) but here are my guesses:

  • "Da" means "[and] then", i.e. it's temporal; cf "dann".
  • "Sein" is certainly a possessive pronoun here.

In summary, I'd translate:

[And] Then his ship arrived at a small island.

Or maybe:

[And] Then his ship happened upon a small island.

Depending on context.


Meaning of that sentence is:

His ship is coming to a small island.

Most probably the sentence SHOULD be "ES kommt EIN Schiff an eine kleine Insel" - dbl check that :)

"Da" means 'there'.

  • Most probably the sentence SHOULD.. No, it certainly should not! It is perfect as written; it is in a 'story-telling' mode as in a fairy tale.
    – TaW
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 8:31

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