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I have translated "present" (adj: being present) into German. There are three translations there: »anwesend«, »da« and »präsent«.

I am studying the difference between them.

  • anwesend

    zugegen, da sein (wo man erwartet wurde)

  • da

    bezeichnet einen vom Standort des Sprechers entfernt liegenden Ort; weniger nachdrücklich als »dort«" or "bezeichnet den Standort des Sprechers" or " umgangssprachlich begleitet die Bewegung vom Sprecher weg, wenn man jmdm. etw. reicht

  • präsent

    anwesend

(all quotes from DWDS)

hypothesis: "da" is colloquial.

What is the difference between them?

Thank you.

  • 1
    Is your question »How can the English word present be translated into German?«, or is it »What do the German words anwesend, da and präsent mean?.« Be aware, that this are two very different questions. – Hubert Schölnast Oct 29 '16 at 13:26
  • @Hubert, I am interested in both questions, I think I already know the answer to the first one, I first translate it and then I look for the differences and new meanings of the translations – cornejo Oct 29 '16 at 14:01
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The english adjective "present" can be translated into German in more ways that those you mentioned:

The barbaric practice continues to the present day.
Die barbarische Gepflogenheit dauert bis in die Gegenwart an.

The translation of »present day« is just »Gegenwart«, so an equivalent of the word »present« doesn't even exist in the German translation.

Another example:

The present manager has a bigger office than the last one.‎
Der gegenwärtige Manager hat ein größeres Büro als der vorherige.
Der aktuelle Manager hat ein größeres Büro als der vorherige.

In this sentence »present« can be translated into »gegenwärtig« as well as »aktuell«. Both words was not on your list.

One more example:

Sorry, I was distracted just now, I'll try to be more present from now on.
Entschuldigung, ich war gerade abgelenkt, ab jetzt werde ich aufmerksamer sein.

Also »aufmerksam« was not on your list.


But now for the words you asked for:

anwesend

Is the witness present here in the court?
Ist der Zeuge hier im Gerichtssaal anwesend?

This means to be physically located at a certain place, and often also at a certain time.

The present visitors was overwhelmed by the artists performance.
Die anwesenden Besucher waren von der Darbietung des Künstlers überwältigt.


da

Note, that »da« is not an adjective. There is an adverb »da« and a conjunction »da«. Since the German conjunction »da« never can correspond to the English adjective »present«, I will not talk about the conjunction here. I just give an example: »Da ich nicht dort war, weis ich nicht was dort wirklich los war.«

The adverb comes in three different flavors:

local: Wann werden wir da sein? (only in German German, not in Austrian German)
temporal: Schließlich war der Augenblick da, den sie so ersehnt hatten.
modal: Ich kann dir da nicht zustimmen.

(A note to the first sentence: In Austrian German it strictly has to be »Wann werden wir dort sein?«, because »da« means in Austrian German: »The place where the speaker is.« In German German »da« also can mean a place far away from the speaker, while this has to be »dort« in Austrian German.)

Only the local version has a chance to correspond with the English word »present«. But since »da« is an adverb, and »present« is an adjective, I don't think that there are much English sentences, where »present« should be translated as »da«. I thought about examples, but I couldn't find some.


präsent

This is easy again: As you already might have thought, the English adjective »present« and the German adjective »präsent« are the same word. They mean the same in both languages. Both versions of this word derive from the latin »praesens« which is present participle of the verb »praeesse« which means »to be before something«.

But in German it is not so often used as in English. In German »präsent« can by used as synonym for »anwesend«, but it always comes with a connotation of being dominant:

Der Heine-Verlag war bei der letzten Buchmesse sehr präsent.

This means, that the publishing company Heine was present at the last book fair in a dominant manner.

| improve this answer | |
  • präsent in the sense of being "high profile" is not one of the English meanings of present – tofro Oct 29 '16 at 14:50
  • Präsent can also be used in a sentence like "Das habe ich gerade nicht präsent." when talking about knowledge. – AlexR Oct 30 '16 at 2:09
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anwesend means someone is at a place.

Sie war die ganze Zeit anwesend.

She was present the whole time.

Er ist nicht am Arbeitsplatz anwesend.

He is not present at the workplace.


da can (besides at its place and over there) also mean here and that's the meaning used when translating present with da. It can be used for persons and things.

Psst! Der Chef ist da.

Sshshh! The boss is in.

Alle Gäste sind da.

All the guests are here.

Sobald die Muster da sind, können wir weitermachen.

We can continue as soon the samples are here.


präsent is seldom used. Most times when someone or something was radiating a feeling or scent and it's still there.

Dieses Ereignis war im Kopf der Leute immer noch präsent.

That incident was still present in the mind of people.

Ihr Duft war immer noch präsent.

Her scent was still present.

| improve this answer | |
  • I agree, "anwesend" has a physical meaning (without qualifiers like "geistig anwesend"), whereas "präsent" carries a more mental connotation for me. – Raketenolli Aug 16 '17 at 8:34
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anwesend - relatively neutral, also used in more formal context

zugegen - Highly upper-class, needs to be spoken with a stiff upper lip

da - colloquial

And all three mean the same.

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