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Is there any reliable way to tell when auch means even as opposed to also? I’m just trying to find out if there is some criterion other than trying the one or the other – not asking you to translate anything.

I am translating Nietzsche, Fröhliche Wissenschaft 108:

Neue Kämpfe. — Nachdem Buddha todt war, zeigte man noch Jahrhunderte lang seinen Schatten in einer Höhle, — einen ungeheuren schauerlichen Schatten. Gott ist todt: aber so wie die Art der Menschen ist, wird es vielleicht noch Jahrtausende lang Höhlen geben, in denen man seinen Schatten zeigt. — Und wir — wir müssen auch noch seinen Schatten besiegen!

My English version (Notice how 'huge, horrible' is alliterative, just like schauerlichen Schatten):

New struggles — For centuries after Buddha died, his shadow was still shown in a cave – it was a huge, horrible shadow. God is dead – but, given the nature of man, there will be, perhaps for millennia to come, caves in which his shadow will be shown – and we – we must [also vanquish / vanquish even] his shadow!

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The crucial bit that can turn "auch" from "also" into "even" here is the word "noch". "noch" adds an instance of "in addition" to the statement, which is also what "auch" does. So we have two different ways to express "in addition" and that is exactly what makes the whole thing lean toward "even" in the sense of "wow, that is quite a stretch".

I do A. But I also do B. And I don't also do B but I "also also" do C.

The question whether you translate that as "also" or as "even" is pretty much a question of how strong the double whammy comes across. And that has to do with context. In the example you gave, I would go for "also" but I can't tell you why. I would use "sogar" if the part before that was clearly stating how hard a task it was to kill Buddah himself. If there is nothing in the text that would merit a factual "on top of that", I would stay away from "sogar".

EDIT:

The situation is different if the "auch is used in combination with "wenn" in a specific kind of sentence:

Wenn ich auch müde bin, so mache ich doch meinen Edit. Auch wenn ich müde bin, mache ich meinen Edit.

Both, "too" and "also" have their limits here, at least as far as my sprachgefühl goes (no native speaker), because they're too focused on the whole "in addition"-thing. So an "even" would be very likely in these kinds of situations, not because "auch" is very strong (in the second example it borders a regular "auch") but because an "also" would sound wrong or at least miss out on the "special-ness" that the "wenn"sentence sets up. (hope that made sense)

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  • That is what I was thinking too...to use 'even'. We got rid of Buddha eons ago, but we have to rid ourselves of every trace of him, even his shadow... (that is all there is to the passage, so unfortunately that's all the context I have to go by). – Ornello Dec 3 '14 at 1:06
  • @Ornello...I actually wanted to say that I'd go for "also" (I accidentally wrote "auch"). "Even" just seems stronger than the original is. Based on logic "even" makes more sense, based on feel it doesn't. At least that's my feeling – Emanuel Dec 3 '14 at 8:50
  • It ends up being a matter of 'intuition', I suppose, but I have been leaning towards 'even'. With Nietzsche, it's usually best to err on the side of the more 'dramatic' expression. – Ornello Dec 3 '14 at 14:44
  • Based on the last part of your answer, Emanuel, I do think 'even' fits best. – Ornello Dec 3 '14 at 15:47
  • @Ornello... but if Nietzsche is bent on drama that begs the question why he himself didn't use "selbst", which is a little stronger than "auch" but not as "achieving" as "sogar". Anyway, it's as you said a matter of intuition and we'd need to ask Nietzsche what he would have preferred :) – Emanuel Dec 3 '14 at 17:27

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