Shouldn’t it be "Wir schaffen es"?

If I said “Wir schaffen es”, would that have the same meaning as “Wir schaffen das”?

What is the meaning of the word das in “Wir schaffen das”? I thought das means that.

  • Please be aware that "schaffen" in the context refers to "(to be able) to accomplish something ... if we..." so it's a kind of conditional or something we may accomplish in future! so "das" refeers to the thing we will accompish! – Medi1Saif Feb 4 '16 at 14:48

English only has two degrees of demonstrativeness:

We can do it.


We can do that. (or: this; they are on the same level of emphasis)

(I feel that we can do it conveys the purpose of the sentence better. The main discussion point is not the verb used, anyway; and changing the verb does not change what it or that mean.)

German, on the other hand, has an additional degree:

Wir schaffen es.

Wir schaffen das.

Wir schaffen dieses/das da/jenes.

The das is able to refer to what everybody knows is the thing one has to make; es would sound a lot more like ‘we can do something.’ You can think of das being somewhere still in the it range but well on its way towards the that range. It is demonstrative, but much weaker than the English that.

  • Doesn't English also have "we can do this."? – 無色受想行識 Feb 5 '16 at 3:54
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    Yes, but this (dieses) the same degree as that (jenes). English does not have a sentence like We can do the. which would be verbatim for the original sentence. – Alfe Feb 5 '16 at 15:13
  • @無色受想行識 See edit. – Jan Feb 6 '16 at 12:43
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    Ich behaupte "Wir schaffen dieses/das da/jenes." ist absolut unidiomatisch, ein Phantasiekonstrukt. "Wir schaffen es" ist auch nicht mit "We can do something" übersetzbar. – user unknown Jun 5 '19 at 7:58

I’d say that since das in this case actually refers to a certain and distinct problem, using it here is a small inaccuracy in the translation. I understand ‘we’ll make it’ more as a common statement, primarily referring to the circumstances, state or general attitude — not necessarily related to a particular problem.

I am not a linguist, but I suspect ‘we’ll make it’ to be an ellipsis. The words left out on the phrase’s end are through this/that/it/… and therefore it can almost equally translate to the German ‘wir schaffen das’ as well as to ‘wir schaffen es.’


Yes, "das" means "that". However "das" also means "it": "Das ist ein Buch" - "It is a book".

The meaning of "das" in "Wir schaffen das" is "it" or "this" or "that".

PS. It's normal that the most expressions are not translated word-by-word so you shouldn't expect that if you just replace every word in an English phrase you'll get a valid German phrase and vice versa.

PPS. Are you reffering to A.Merkel's speech?

  • Yeah I'm referring to Merkel's use of the term - it's been published all over the English media - but the literal translation still confuses me. In your example, even: Das ist ein Buch would translate to That is a book and not It is a book? – user20208 Feb 4 '16 at 13:09
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    Don't be too confused. Languages use words sometimes differently in different sentence contexts, even if they mean more or less the same. Obama's "Yes we can", for instance, would be "Ja, wir können das" in German. A mere "Ja, wir können" would just sound too short for German ears. – Alfe Feb 5 '16 at 15:18

Wir schaffen das


Wir schaffen es

equally translate to

We'll make it

Usually we just say

Wir schaffen's [schon]

(which is an abbrevation of "schaffen es" obv.)

  • "Wir schaffen's" klingt süddeutsch für meine Ohren. – Alfe Feb 5 '16 at 15:15
  • Das "schon" im letzten Beispiel hat etwas beschwichtigendes, das bei "Wir schaffen es" und "Wir schaffen das" nicht mitklingt. – user unknown Jun 5 '19 at 7:52

"Wir schaffen das" translates best to "We can do this!"

Not in general, but in this slogan, "das" (the, that) can be replaced with "dies" (this), hence "We can do that!" becomes "We can do this!"

Me: German\American bilingual

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    Wieso hört und liest man dann nie "Wir schaffen dies"? – user unknown Jun 5 '19 at 7:45

After looking at: Duden

I got reminded of what schaffen actually means. It means working. We have a saying in Germany: "Schaffe, schaffe, Häusle baue." Which kind of means work work, build a house.

The present perfect of "schaffen" is "geschafft"

Saying the following sentence does not make sense: "Wir haben das geschafft."

But the following works: "Das haben wir geschafft."

The difference between "Das" und "Es" is specificity.

You can point at something and say "Das! haben wir geschafft". But when you say you have finished a job which includes a lot of things you cannot point at. You'd say: "Wir haben es geschafft."


Wir schaffen es is indirect and general, as in we'll make it (just in time). And Wir schaffen das. Is we'll complete this job. (Before the world ends)

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    1) ‘Wir haben das geschafft’ is a perfectly valid and legitimate sentence. As is ‘wir haben es geschafft.’ 2) The difference between something you can point at and something you cannot point at is not the difference between das and es. 3) The question is about das/es and how they relate to English that/it, not about schaffen. Altogether this is very much a no-answer so –1. – Jan Feb 4 '16 at 17:27

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