(530) Sokrates: Willkommen dem Ion! Woher kommst du uns jetzt gewandert?

First, I would like to know if uns here is a case of dativus ethicus (is there anything like that in German)?

Then, finally, I would like to know how I am to translate into English the whole sentence. Though I know all the words, it seems to make no sense at all, especially the last part of it, uns jetzt gewandert.

No German dictionary that I know of records wandern as needing an indirect object like uns.

So a literal translation of this sentence would then be:

(530) Socrates: Welcome to Ion [dem Ion]! Where are you coming from [Woher kommst du] to us [uns] now wandered about [jetzt gewandert]?

  • 1
    There actually is a dativus ethicus in German.
    – tofro
    May 1 '17 at 11:41
  • Regarding your request for translation into English, or for suggestions for adequate idioms for the complex "Wo kommst du uns jetzt denn her?" (yes, I varied the text a bit, on purpose), this seems rather to be a question for the Stackexchange English forum, doesn't it? May 1 '17 at 19:44
  • 1
    @ChristianGeiselmann Nope. I have yet to get an answer explaining to me the function, if any, of that uns there; and whether it is a case of dativus ethicus. And it is in the context of this problem that I also asked for a secondary explanation of how this whole sentence might be rendered into English (not a translation as such, which I can always find and read on the Internet). So... nope. May 2 '17 at 7:40
  • 1
    The German dictionary is for modern German. Nobody would build the sentence like that ourdays. Now we would say: „Woher kommst du jetzt gewandert?” I never heard of “Dativus ethicus” before, but according to what I now have read, I'd say this isn't the case here. Probably it comes from „zu jemandem wandern” (like „zu jemandem gehen”). And I'd say it's „uns” instead of „mir” because it's a kind of “pluralis majestatis”. May 3 '17 at 11:35
  • 1
    @MatthiasWimmer Dativus Ethicus is still present in modern German - Everyone might have heard a "Komm du mir bloß nach Hause!" when he was a teenager.
    – tofro
    May 6 '17 at 7:52

That's a toughie! May I have a shot?

Regarding your first question: Yes. (as @tofro wrote in their comment)

As for your second request, let's start with a counter example. Please translate LITERALLY (into German), without consulting a dictionary:

She's walking out on me.

I bet that you've come up with something really ugly (so did I, by the way).
Now, let's put a cherry on top of the sentence. She's doing it NOW. Translate, literally:

She's walking out on me now!

I have 2 results for you:

Sie ist gehend hinaus auf mir nun. (my translation)
Sie geht jetzt auf mich hinaus. (translate.google.co.uk)

A quick question, before we continue our work of destruction, sorry, translation: What's the opposite of "walking out on somebody"? Let's say it is "walking IN on somebody".

Back to the sentence you have found: Woher kommst du uns jetzt gewandert?

Applying our translation technique, I get roughly:

Wherefrom are you now wandering in on us?

Is this the final answer? Yes, final answer. Right. Now let's move on to the third sentence ... (I can't wait!)

Friedrich Schleiermacher: Platons Werke - Kapitel 32 http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/platons-werke-2430/32

Why does it start with a lower case letter?

  • While I very much appreciate your answer, and the deconstructive humour of it, I don't think that "Wherefrom are you now wandering in on us?" is the final answer. Why? Because in your English rendition there is only one verb, while in the German original there are two. Then the original sentence would have had to be like this: Woher wanderst du uns jetzt? May 6 '17 at 8:32
  • 1
    Alright. Final final then: Wherefrom cometh you now wandering in on us?
    – user26801
    May 6 '17 at 9:02
  • I really like it. But it's rather cumbersome like this, at least to a modern mind, isn't it? And yes, that's the final final answer. May 6 '17 at 9:08
  • Thanks for letting us know. I feel the same - the text is hard to read, but I enjoy that sort of writing style from time to time.
    – user26801
    May 6 '17 at 9:16
  • Yes, me too. That's why I am trying to read it, although some might argue, and not entirely without a sense of being right in their observation, that this is too much for me, too complex, too difficult, etc. But this is my way of learning German, by leaps and bounds, one day still learning vocabulary by rote, the other sinking my mind's teeth into such raw meat, as texts like these can offer me. May 6 '17 at 9:25

Another approach for insight is grouping the words differently as already suggested in the question comments and Stefan's answer.

Woher kommst du uns jetzt gewandert? (surprised)

Woher kommst du jetzt gewandert? (annoyed)

Woher kommst du gewandert? (neutral)

The strikingly unnecessary piece is uns jetzt. Jetzt functions for specifying the time. But it may also specify the mood.

Imagine Sokrates making a greeting gesture with both arms, embracing the person who had approached.

You cannot use a plain jetzt. That is because that particle expresses you are disturbed.

Was ist los? (neutral)

Was ist jetzt los? (slightly annoyed)

Was ist jetzt wieder los? (very annoyed)

See how these particles which seem to specify a time/repetition in fact specify a mood?

Of course, Sokrates don't want to express annoyance but respect so he has to embrace the other person with his words, too. That is the purpose of uns.


Yes, that apparently is a case of dativus ethicus. This form is used to express special interest or judgement of the person(s) in dative in the ongoing action.

English has no modern way to express this (Shakespeare still could - "Rob me the exchequer" [Falstaff] is about the only example I could find, here meaning: "do that for me").

Dativus ethicus is not really present in contemporary German - With maybe one major exception: Education.

Parents tend to use the dativus ethicus in expressing expectations towards their children:

Dass du mir bloß keine Dummheiten machst, solange du bei Oma bist!

Komm du mir mal nach Hause!

Would roughly translate to "I definitely want you to ..."

This translation obviously would not fit to your example - There, the dative would rather be translated to something like

We wonder where from you have been wandering to us.

(Simply stressing the personal interest)

We might still wonder why there are two verbs "kommen" and "wandern" in the sentence - There should be a simple explanation for that: "kommen" simply denotes arrival, could be from next door or a foreign country. "wandern" (which wouldn't have been understood as "hiking" in ancient Greece, but rather as "travelling") makes it clear that he came from far away. If you leave out one of the verbs, you'd be missing its respective aspect.

With this aspect in the translation, you might want to modify the above sentence to

We wonder where from you have been travelling that you now arrive here?

  • So two things out of three are now crystal clear to me. 1. Yes, it is a case of dativus ethicus, as I have thought all along. 2. Jetzt is indeed something of a modal particle there rather than just a simple adverb of time. These things are very clear now. The only remaining mystery is, to me, why there are two verbs in that sentence instead of one: both kommen and wandern. Shouldn't only one of them have been enough? May 6 '17 at 9:01
  • See my extended answer
    – tofro
    May 6 '17 at 9:12

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