I'm reading Harry Potter and I came across this sentence which is giving me a hard time:

"Doch am Stadtrand wurden die Bohrmaschinen von etwas anderem aus seinen Gedanken verdrängt."

If I had to guess based off what I've tried to translate so far they are saying something like "But at the outskirts of the drills, there was something else he repressed in his mind."

I'm a little puzzled by this sentence structure. Does Doch serve as "But/yet" in this case? Standtrand means outskirts as in suburbs according to Google Translate but is it supposed to just mean at the corner of his thoughts in this case? Any help in unravelling this sentence would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • 2
    How did you get to "outskirts of the drills"? Of course it is 'outskirts of the city' (Stadtrand, what else), so it is something like: "But when he was in the suburbs, the drills got out of his mind and he started thinking of something else." (Sorry, definitely not the best possible translation into English, but at least it clarifies the meaning, I suppose. Literally: "The drills got displaced from his mind by something else.") May 23, 2017 at 9:47

3 Answers 3


Yes, "doch" works as "but" in this sentence.

Don't know why in your translation you relate the drills with the outskirts, though.

But [when he arrived] at the town's outskirts the drills in his mind were replaced by something else.


In case it helps, here's the original English text as was written by Joanne K. Rowling:

But on the edge of town, drills were driven out of his mind by something else.

For reasons only they know, the translators chose the wording we have in the example sentence of the question. Amongst many other varations that would be possible, I might have translated it like:

Jedoch hier am Stadtrand verscheuchte nun etwas anderes seine Gedanken an Bohrmaschinen.

To avoid confusion as seen from comments: My above translation attempt serves as an example for a different possible wording only. It is by no means meant to replace or improve the existing translation which was done by a professional interpreter (which I am not).

  • Just curious: drills is really about drilling machines and not about exercises?
    – Janka
    May 23, 2017 at 12:57
  • @Janka, yes. books.google.co.uk/…
    – Carsten S
    May 23, 2017 at 14:15
  • Etwas abseits vom eigentlichen Thema: Die deutsche Übersetzung, die du vorschlägst, krankt ein bisschen daran, dass, da du die Bohrmaschinen an das Ende des Satzes stellst, genau diese nun dem Leser im Gedächtnis bleiben. Dabei sollten sie ja aus selbigem verscheucht werden. Ich bin ja auch der Meinung, dass Passivsätze vermieden werden sollten (hihi), jedoch hier hat das Passiv den Vorteil, dass man erst die Bohrmaschinen, dann etwas anderes erwähnen kann. May 23, 2017 at 14:24
  • Frankly, I prefer the wording by the translators. "Jedoch hier am Stadtrand" sounds clumsy to me, if anything, I'd write "Hier am Stadtrand jedoch". Furthermore, the word verdrängen expresses the replacement of the focus of the thoughts much better than verscheuchen, even if we accept the slightly questionable combination "Gedanken werden verscheucht". Just my two cents. May 24, 2017 at 7:10

Harry Potter was originally written in English (by the English Author J.K.Rowling). So why don't you try to find the original text?

This is a paragraph out of the German translation:

Doch am Stadtrand wurden die Bohrmaschinen von etwas anderem aus seinen Gedanken verdrängt. Er saß im üblichen morgendlichen Stau fest und konnte nicht umhin zu bemerken, dass offenbar eine Menge seltsam gekleideter Menschen unterwegs waren. Menschen in langen und weiten Umhängen. Mr Dursley konnte Leute nicht ausstehen, die sich komisch anzogen – wie sich die jungen Leute herausputzten! Das musste wohl irgendeine dumme neue Mode sein. Er trommelte mit den Fingern auf das Lenkrad und sein Blick fiel auf eine Ansammlung dieser merkwürdigen Gestalten nicht weit von ihm. Ganz aufgeregt flüsterten sie miteinander. Erzürnt stellte Mr Dursley fest, dass einige von ihnen überhaupt nicht jung waren; nanu, dieser Mann dort musste älter sein als er und trug einen smaragdgrünen Umhang! Der hatte vielleicht Nerven! Doch dann fiel Mr Dursley plötzlich ein, dass dies wohl eine verrückte Verkleidung sein musste – die Leute sammelten offenbar für irgendetwas ... ja, so musste es sein. Die Autoschlange bewegte sich, und ein paar Minuten später fuhr Mr Dursley auf den Parkplatz seiner Firma, die Gedanken wieder bei den Bohrern.

(Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen, Kapitel 1, Absatz Nr. 8)

And this is the English original:

But on the edge of town, drills were driven out of his mind by something else. As he sat in the usual morning traffic jam, he couldn’t help noticing that there seemed to be a lot of strangely dressed people about. People in cloaks. Mr Dursley couldn’t bear people who dressed in funny clothes—the getups you saw on young people! He supposed this was some stupid new fashion. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and his eyes fell on a huddle of these weirdos standing quite close by. They were whispering excitedly together. Mr Dursley was enraged to see that a couple of them weren’t young at all; why, that man had to be older than he was, and wearing an emerald-green cloak! The nerve of him! But then it struck Mr Dursley that this was probably some silly stunt—these people were obviously collecting for something ... yes, that would be it. The traffic moved on and a few minutes later, Mr Dursley arrived in the Grunnings parking lot, his mind back on drills.

(Harry Potter and the philosophers stone, chapter 1, paragraph #7)

(English paragraph #5 is split into two paragraphs in German translation)

  • The translation by Klaus Fritz is excellent
    – PiedPiper
    May 25, 2017 at 11:27

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