Ich kann mir Namen schlecht merken.

In the sentence above, the meaning of schlecht is as straightforward as they come: "I'm bad/terrible at remembering names".

In the following instance, however, I suppose I cannot take its meaning literally as badly.

Father: Du gehst nicht mit ihm?

Mother: Ich kann ihm schlecht die Hand halten, wenn er ernst genommen werden soll.

My assumption: "I can't exactly hold his hand" or "I can't very well hold his hand"

I wonder if this "kann ... schlecht" is close to any of the following:

"Ich kann ihm kaum die Hand halten, wenn ..."

or: "Ich kann ihm nicht gerade die Hand halten, wenn ..."

or: "Ich kann ihm unmöglich die Hand halten, wenn ..."

  • 3
    Your assumption is corect. But your additional examples only confuse the issue, because each of them also involves non-literal senses of words, some more similar to your example of non-literal "schlecht", some less. Apr 13, 2017 at 6:05

1 Answer 1


This is a figurative phrase where someone answers a silly question with a contradicting conclusion. The meaning is a bit sarcastic.

„Marion ist geflogen?“ — „Sie kann ja schlecht zu Fuß nach New York gehen.“

“Marion flew?” — “She can't possibly walk to New York by foot, can she?”

This is also the case for your example. The question is silly in the view of the person asked, so she answered it with a contradicting example. Like she was holding the hand (of the son during the job interview.)

  • 5
    Your constructed example may involve silliness and sarcasm, but in OP's question, that wasn't the case; and it need not be in general, I think. Apr 13, 2017 at 4:00
  • The original example is also sarcastic. The question was silly in the view of the person who answered. That's why she chose the contradicting example "I could not hold his hand, could I?"
    – Janka
    Apr 13, 2017 at 18:40

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