I’m learning German using an app called Duolingo, wherein it asked me to translate the above question to English. I guessed

What does she have?

This answer was not accepted. A Google translate enquiry showed that the correct answer is

What is wrong with her?

Why? How did that translate to wrong with?

  • Google translator has no impressive track record so far, so the result only shows anotherpossible direction of meaning.
    – guidot
    Oct 2 '15 at 20:19
  • 2
    German native speaker here. I’d immediately translate „Was hat sie?“ to “What’s wrong with her?”. „Was hat sie?“ is short for „Welche Krankheit hat sie?“ or „Was ist mit ihr passiert?“ or „Was ist mit ihr nicht in Ordnung?“ or „Was ist los mit ihr?“. It could, of course, mean “What does she have?”, but that sentence doesn’t really make sense, right?
    – Philipp
    Oct 2 '15 at 20:28
  • Google is correct if no context is given. Supply "issue": "what's her issue". Also (no joke) she's a female. I don't think that's coincidental (but possibly unconscious) because one would ask that if somebody is sulking, which perhaps women do more often if we believe the cliché. Oct 5 '15 at 23:28

It depends a lot on the context what the specific meaning of ‘was hat sie?’ can be. It is nigh impossible to decide why the given answer is correct without knowing the dialogue or actions that preceded the question.

What does she have?

Is the most generic translation of the most generic question possible: If the former sentence is sie hat … and you didn’t understand what it was.

The translation you supplied as being correct:

What’s wrong with her?

implies that just a second ago some action or dialogue prompted her to leave the scene in disgust, anger, sadness or whatever. Now, one of the remaining characters is asking a third what is wrong, i.e. what made her leave like that, which issue she has that suddenly popped up. In this context, it is non-ambiguous for Germans.

Further contexts, as Oelrim pointed out, can lead to entirely different translations altogether.


Depending on the context, this phrase can mean several things:

  • She is ill/mad and the question means “What’s wrong with her?” or “What illness does she have?”
  • She took an exam and the questioner asks about the grade she got.
  • “WAS hat sie?” (“What did she do?”) as a surprised reaction to an unbelievable statement somebody made about her.
  • And don't forget the "Was hat sie (das ich nicht habe)" - what makes her special or stand out.
    – Stephie
    Oct 2 '15 at 11:08
  • Correct, but does not answer the question.
    – Jan
    Oct 2 '15 at 11:18
  • Is this question socially acceptable? The Duolingo forums suggested it is not, but I'm feeling confused after reading the answers here. Oct 2 '15 at 15:18
  • 1
    In general, these expressions are acceptable, but depending on your relationship with your dialogue partner and the person ("she") you are talking about, the borders between a harmless smalltalk and talking behind somebody's back are often blurred. You should decide at your discretion what you want to say, just as in any other language.
    – Œlrim
    Oct 2 '15 at 15:35

A meaning not already covered in other answers:

What is bothering her?

This would refers not to an illness, but to something on her mind (e.g. a sick child, money problems, etc.)

  • 1
    Semi-covered by my answer, but I’ll agree it’s not necessarily clear.
    – Jan
    Oct 2 '15 at 20:54

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