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My German book tells about a company not being successful:

Die Firma hatte keinen Erfolg.

Can one say that somebody is successful with something along the lines of:

Er hat Erfolg.

If so, is that person successful generally (rich, known...) or successful in doing something?

4

If you want to say that someone is successful generally you'd say

Er/Sie ist erfolgreich.

If you want to say that someone is successful with a specific thing you'd say either

Er/Sie hat Erfolg.

Or you could say (more often) something like

Er/Sie war erfolgreich (bei seiner/ihrer Verhandlung.)

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1

"Er hat Erfolg" literally means "he has success" (with a particular task).

To say that someone is "successful" as an attribute, one would say "er ist erfolgreich" (literally, he is "succsss rich.")

The phrase "Die Firma hatte Keinen Erfolg" is a polite way of using the first construction to mean the second. If the company doesn't succeed in any given "task," that is, "it can't do anything right," it's not going to be "successful" as the term is generally understood.

Someone or something that is unsuccessful can be also be described as "Erfolglos," (literally "successless"), but that is not as polite.

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  • There was no specific task mentioned in the book. – Mörkö Sep 11 '16 at 14:17
  • @user277143: A more idiomatic English translation would be:"The company can't do anything right." The "task" would be understood in this context. – Tom Au Sep 11 '16 at 14:18

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