8

I want to say “I have no past” to express the following thought:

I don’t have a past, I only have the future, and I am to start anew".

Is “Ich habe keine Vergangenheit” correct?

  • 4
    Just a remark. "Ich habe keine Vergangenheit" is a very curious statement and it is possible that you confuse people with such a statement. – rogermue Sep 23 '14 at 16:22
5

Well, yes, the translation is correct.

Note, however, that the concept itself is not a popular one - you can never completely leave your past behind, be it individual or collective. Attempting to do so will be seen as a weakness by many, as a way of attempting to shun responsibility or running away from something horrible instead of confronting it.

Saying something like that will immediately make everyone assume you are hiding a terrible secret, but I guess that's true for the English version as well.

  • Yes, in English it is an extremely strong thing to say. If I were told it by someone I'd assume they were in witness protection, or had irreversible amnesia, or something! Even then it's a very awkward and/or melodramatic way to say it. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 23 '14 at 20:18
14

The notion of starting anew is very well transported by the phrase

seine Vergangenheit hinter sich lassen – to leave one’s past behind

(Or if you want to formulate it as a resolution: “Ich will meine Vergangenheit hinter mir lassen.”)

Incidentally, Hulk used this construction in his answer. Your translation is also fine, it depends on the context in which you use it.

Ich lasse meine Vergangenheit hinter mir.

is maybe more appropriate if you want to forget terrible things that happend to you.

Ich habe keine Vergangenheit.

would be appropriate, e.g., for a criminal that wants to hide/forget the things he did.

The best thing however is to learn from the past and do better next time:

Ich will aus meinen Fehlern / meiner Vergangenheit lernen.

8

Gestern can be used in the sense of "past" in German. For example, someone who lives in the past would be jemand, der im Gestern lebt. So parallel to that:

Ich kenne kein Gestern (mehr).
I don't know a past (anymore) in the sense of I don't know you (anymore).

Imho it conveyes what you want to express more precisely than Ich habe keine Vergangenheit, although if you append mehr here, too, the aspect of "letting go" becomes more distinct, whereas the construction without it could be interpreted as "I did nothing with my life until now".

(Counterpart: Ich kenne nur (noch) ein Morgen.)

  • Great... I was thinking "gestern" when I read the answer of Kilian and here it is :). And the whole thing can easily continue with "morgen" – Emanuel Sep 23 '14 at 9:32
6

Yes, it's correct in that there is no more apposite word to express that specific concept. (There's Vorleben, but that's usually said by others about you, and with a negative connotation.)

It's somewhat unfortunate that this word is so long; compared to the dramatic and catchy "I have no past", the German rendition sounds considerably less stylish, but that sometimes happens. To approach the flavor of the original more closely you would have to reformulate quite a bit.

4

There are some alternatives to expressing the basic sentiment of starting with a clean slate:

  • Ich fange (ganz) von vorne an.

  • Ich bin ein neuer Mensch.

  • Ich bin ein unbeschriebenes Blatt.

2

The other suggestions so far have been excellent. Yet others in the sense that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future came to my mind:

  • Ich habe keine Leichen im Keller.
  • Ich bin hier völlig unbeleckt.
  • Ich beginne hier mit einer weißen Weste.
  • Ich habe da keine Vorbelastung.
  • "unbeleckt" -- Oops? "unbefleckt" maybe? – Raphael Sep 24 '14 at 10:16
  • No, "unbeleckt" as in "not yet licked by the cat named experience" – "unbefleckt" would mean "immaculate". – Roman Czyborra Aug 24 '16 at 19:52
  • I don't think I've ever heard or read that. Sure, you can construct the word (I'd prefer "ungeleckt", though) but it'll probably be understood in family-unfriendly ways, not the way you intend. – Raphael Aug 24 '16 at 20:15
  • Ain't just Münsterländer Pott: books.google.de/books?q=unbeleckt – Roman Czyborra Aug 24 '16 at 20:42
  • So it's a word some people actually use, interesting. I note that the meaning Duden lists has nothing to do with this question. – Raphael Aug 24 '16 at 20:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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