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I wonder if there is a rule how to say it right. Let’s say you want trade wood for straw. So you have wood and the other one should have straw. So you ask:

Tauscht jemand Holz gegen Stroh?

But if you swap Holz and Stroh it means the same.

Tauscht jemand Stroh gegen Holz?

So which one should be first: What I have or what I want?

  • 8
    Reminds me of the 25-year-old joke of an ex-GDR guy who came to a gas station and said: "Ich hätte gerne eine Zündkerze für meinen Trabbi" and the guy in the shop answered: "OK, mach' ich - Guter Tausch" – tofro Sep 13 '16 at 19:10
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As simple as that:

Ich tausche das, was ich habe, gegen das, was ich will.

You can only tauschen, what you already have. What you get for it, is introduced with the preposition gegen.

  • An additional problem here is the jemand. You are referring to the other person, who would want to swap what they have against what you want. – Oliver Mason Sep 14 '16 at 8:13
  • I think switching subjects should not be a problem. – Barth Zalewski Sep 14 '16 at 8:25
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My family plays the game die Siedler von Catan a lot, wherein a large part of gameplay centres around people swapping goods. I’ve noted that we hardly ever use the word tauschen for the direct exchange to prevent just that ambiguity. If I have wood and I need grain (it’s not really straw in the game), we usually say:

Will jemand Getreide abgeben?

Will jemand Holz haben?

With these verbs it is always clear which direction you are talking about. We only use tauschen in a very generic way:

Will jemand mit mir tauschen?

Note that contrary to Barth’s answer, I initially understood the sentences in the wrong way, so it is definitely better to prevent any misunderstanding on the word choice level.

  • 2
    I also discovered the problem in that game. – Colin Sep 13 '16 at 21:25
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    I very much agree with the last paragraph, having understood offer and request like Jan. We usually go with unambiguous verbs like biete and suche or brauche. – Stephie Sep 14 '16 at 5:10
  • I would also say that it is completely ambiguous. – Oliver Mason Sep 14 '16 at 8:13

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