Suppose I want to say

This software is so complicated to use that there should be a PhD in it.

Which of the two versions is correct?

(a) Diese Software ist so kompliziert zu benutzen, dass es einen Studiengang darin geben soll.

(b) Diese Software ist so kompliziert zu benutzen, dass es einen Studiengang darin geben sollte.

My feeling is that (b) is correct, but would (a) be outright wrong?


I translated PhD as Studiengang because it wouldn't be idiomatic to say PhD in German. Since in my opinion the focus of PhD is on the program and not the degree, I think the edit is appropriate.

(Note: The thread here is related, but doesn't answer this question.)

  • "..., dass man in ihr promovieren können sollte." This sounds off, though.
    – Carsten S
    Nov 14, 2014 at 7:21
  • "sollte" is fine, just change PhD to Bachelor or more general "Studiengang " and you're fine. No need for ever more alternative phrasings.
    – Emanuel
    Nov 14, 2014 at 10:43
  • @boaten Why do you think the question you are linking to doesn't answer your question? As it stands now I see it as a duplicate.
    – Matthias
    Nov 14, 2014 at 13:10
  • @Matthias I think it's not a duplicate because of the change of context from giving direct advice to someone to just saying that there should be something. Also, unlike in "Das sollst du nicht", the use of "soll" in (a) here cannot be a requirement for someone to follow, but would rather mean "is supposed to, is meant to". So I wanted to check my understanding of "soll/sollte" in this different context.
    – boaten
    Nov 14, 2014 at 17:22
  • Another comment: The discussion about PhD is very interesting (and surprising) to me -- I didn't expect that it would be an issue when I wrote the question. Of course, I appreciate all the explanation/discussion about that.
    – boaten
    Nov 14, 2014 at 17:40

5 Answers 5


As far as the use of "soll / sollte" is concerned, b) is correct. a) would sound strange to a degree that people might start thinking how to make sense of it, and they maybe would end up with "there are plans to introduce such a PhD in the near future". Like in "Ab nächstem Jahr soll es einen Studiengang in XYZ-Benutzung geben."

As a side note: IMHO the use of "Studiengang" isn't idiomatic (but you see from the comments that others disagree on this). To me it is a bureaucracy word that I wouldn't use outside of an academic context. It also relaxes the original phrase - a PhD is quite a high degree, while a Studiengang can be on anything from super easy to extremely demanding. I would suggest using either

... dass man dafür einen Doktor bekommen sollte.

if you want to emphasize "mastering this software is worth a high academic degree", or

... dass man darüber eine Doktorarbeit schreiben [or more academic: promovieren] könnte.

if you want to say that there is so much detail in it that it could fill a thesis.

The former is maybe a bit closer to the original, but I would opt for the latter, because it sounds "more normal" to me.


As the accepted answer to the question you linked already tells you that version a) would mean something like

There shall be a PhD for that.

This is a requirement that there has to be such a title, possibly an order to create a course enabling students to obtain such a title (depending on context and the authority of the speaker on that matter).

So you are right, option b) is more correct, but there are still several issues that others have already pointed out:

  • complicated to use: we probably wouldn't choose kompliziert zu benutzen to say that in German. The choice of wording I would make depends a lot on what is actually making usage of this software so complicated - e.g. bad UI design might be expressed by umständlich zu bedienen, while thousands of configuration options might lead to other options.

  • I feel that PhD is masculine, but I can't find confirmation for that right now (because it is der Doktor, and PhD is just an abbreviation for philosophiae doctor). The abrreviation has not (yet?) found its way into everyday German, the title is still very new, and it is not clear yet how (or if) it will be used in spoken German in the future (the same is true for the Master and Bachelor titles that came to Europe with the Bologna process).

  • It is not idiomatic to use a title synonymously for the course you need to take to obtain it. We wouldn't say "Es sollte einen PhD/Doktor/Master/Bachelor darin geben", but rather "Es sollte einen Doktoratsstudiengang auf diesem Gebiet geben." or perhaps even "Für die korrekte Bedienung/Konfiguration sollte einem ein Doktortitel verliehen werden.".

I would probably say something in the lines of:

Die Konfiguration/Bedienung dieser Software ist eine Wissenschaft für sich.

which gets the meaning across without running into any of these problems.


You tried to translate your sentence word-for-word, but that doesn't sound right.

...so complicated to use...

Native Germans wouldn't say so kompliziert zu benutzen. You either go with so kompliziert only (the use of the software is implicit), replace kompliziert with schwer, or would rephrase it altogether.

...ein PhD darin... // ...einen Studiengang darin...

The correct adverb would be dafür. But this still doesn't really sound like what native Germans say. I often heard people saying something like "it is necessary to study it".

Here are some possible sentences:

Die Software ist so kompliziert, dass man sie nur bedienen kann, wenn man sie studiert hat.
Die Software ist so kompliziert, dafür muss man schon studiert haben.
Man muss schon studiert haben, um diese Software zu benutzen.


In Germany we do not have a PhD as an acdemic grade. It may be used referring to people with this degree from abroad but we will not use it in a colloquial or metaphorical sense. In addition we can't use darin as a preposition here. We may use

man braucht dazu einen Doktortitel

but in the context and example you gave people often say:

Zur Bedienung dieser Software braucht man schon ein Hochschulstudium.

This metaphor also works in the opposite direction to express ease of usage:

Zur Bedienung dieser Software braucht man kein Hochschulstudium.

We do not use of sollte geben/ sollte sein in the given context.


That depends if you are actually requesting a PhD to exist for that software (Which I guess you are not), in that case I would use A). If you are just joking around, I'd suggest using B) as it sounds a lot more natural.

Also: "darin" is a world that I would not use in this case, "darüber" would fit it better I guess, and you don't have to mess around with the sentence to change it.

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