Öffnen Sie im eingeschalteten Zustand nicht diese Abdeckung.

The above sentence was offered by our translator for the following safety label sentence:

Do not open this cover while powered.

I think that the German sentence is not formal and should be corrected like this:

Öffnen Sie diese Abdeckung nicht im eingeschalteten Zustand.

What do you think?

  • The "cover" is "powered"? Or shouldn't I "open" the "cover" while I am powered"? I'd say garbage in, garbage out. ;-) Serious: It's difficult to translate, what's not clear by itself.
    – alk
    Jun 2, 2016 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


Both your sentences are not wrong, and both sentences don't differ much in terms of formality, in my opinion. But they would also both sound a bit uncommon language to a native speaker.

German safety labels rarely address the user directly, but rather use the imperative/infinitive form (This form is called "Freier Infinitiv" and is used like an impersonal imperative), thus:

Abdeckung in eingeschaltetem Zustand nicht öffnen!


Abdeckung nur in abgeschaltetem Zustand öffnen!

This is contemporary usage. If you want to ask "nicely", leave off the exclamation marks. After all, safety labels should be short, concise, and to the point. Some of such labels are sometimes even used close to idioms, like in

Packungsbeilage beachten!

which is a standing expression used on pharmaceutical products.

In a kind of well-aged/outdated way, you can sometimes still see safety signs in tramways saying

Suche beim Stehen festen Halt!

Here the passenger is addressed directly in imperative, and even in "Du" form - But that form is about 100 years outdated and sometimes laughed about today.


I would also have favoured your translation (tofros second is the best one, however), since the first one is somewhat ambiguous: it could mean, that not this but another cover may be openend in switched-on case.

  • 3
    But the same ambiguity is there in the original sentence.
    – Mr Lister
    Jun 2, 2016 at 9:31
  • 1
    For me "Öffnen Sie diese Abdeckung nicht im eingeschalteten Zustand" sounds more ambiguous: "Do not open the cover while it (the cover?) is powered"
    – Iris
    Jun 2, 2016 at 12:16
  • 1
    Do not open this cover while you are powered... ;)
    – tofro
    Jun 2, 2016 at 12:21
  • @tofro. Indeed, that is what the "English" sentence says.
    – fdb
    Sep 5, 2016 at 19:36

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