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What are the rules for using "jemals" in German? I've been told that

Hast du jemals diesen Film gesehen

is not a commonly used expression and that

Hast du diesen Film schon gesehen

would be preferred. Why is this?

Google Translate (not the best translator) gives the first sentence as the translation for "Have you ever seen this film". Is there a better emphasis word to replace "ever"?

Example:

Have you ever done this?

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You are correct, that the direct translation of "Have you ever watched this movie" is "Hast du jemals diesen Film gesehen?". And your friend is also correct, that usually very few people would express the question that way in Germany - except for in a few circumstances.

I think, this is rather a cultural difference than a linguistic one. In the US in particular, people tend to use hyperbole, exaggeration and extremes (from a German point of view), and you often hear words like "Awesome" or "Fantastic" in everyday conversation. In German (and to a good deal in British English as well), this is not as common, and the conversational tone tends to be more modest - which is considered a good thing and people boasting and exaggerating are usually rather frowned upon.

A similar phenomenon occurs with "Have you ever watched this movie?" In German, this would imply a rather probing question on whether you are actually sure that you have not EVER seen it, where this connotation is probably not as strong in English. I personally would simply ask "Hast du diesen Film gesehen?", without using "jemals".

As to "schon": "Hast du diesen Film schon gesehen?" can actually simply be translated by "Have you watched this movie?": the "schon" is implied through the use of the present perfect in English, and rather refers to something in the not too distant past that has not been completed in the present in this case, and the same feeling is conveyed through "schon". In your example, it would mean "Hast du diesen Film (der gerade ins Kino gekommen ist) schon gesehen?" - which I guess is not really what you were trying to ask.

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    I would expect jemals for trope-like films, or films everyone has seen to an extent that everybody is in on the in-jokes. »Wegen däs Schildäs!« »Hast du den Film jemals gesehen?« »Nein« »Dann zitier nicht daraus!« – Jan Jun 2 '15 at 15:16
  • @Jan: To which film are you referring? :-P – M.Herzkamp Jun 3 '15 at 12:31
  • @M.Herzkamp Dat kriejen wir später ;P – Jan Jun 3 '15 at 12:39
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A frequent use case for 'jemals' is in rhetorical questions, where you expect the answer to be negation, like

Hast du jemals 'jemals' in einem Satz benutzt?

Another possible use could be

Ich weiß nicht, ob ich jemals Recht hatte

I don't know if I was ever right.

To translate your example, it is important to know the context. If you are talking about skating to your disapproving parents, you could ask

Habt ihr das jemals ausprobiert?

as a rhetorical question. You perfectly know that your parents never skated.

If you want to show off to your buddy about some trick you can perform, you could say

Hast du das schonmal gemacht?

Replacing the 'jemals' with 'schonmal'.

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A disadvantage of the suggested

Hast du diesen Film schon gesehen?

is the missing context. A not unlikely follow-up request could be "Please tell me, what happened after....".

So if I as the asking party want to make sure, that I'm not after details, and just like to know, whether you also saw this film at all, may be 20 years ago, I might insert jemals.

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