A coworker (whose native language is not English) asked me to "mild" a letter. He meant to "soften" or "tone down" the message.

There really isn't such a construct in English. But is it true that in German, "mildern" means to make "mild," in the sense that the co-worker meant? That means is there a verb form of the adjective mild?

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    Ich würde eher abmildern verwenden. – knut Apr 6 '12 at 18:31
  • But just to mention another alternative: abschwächen – Em1 Apr 6 '12 at 20:07
  • The English word MILDEN means to make mild or milder. But as another respondent already replied, one would probably say "soften the tone of" in this case. – user1528 Apr 23 '12 at 22:13
  • A suitable English synonym could be 'to mollify', depending on context. – user15067 Feb 24 '15 at 3:54

In case of a letter that may be a little too harsh or strongly worded there is a German equivalent:

In seinem Schreiben übte er scharfe Kritik an den gestrigen Beschlüssen.

Therefore a quite common verb for "tone down" or "softening" of a message would be:

"Können Sie Ihr Schreiben bitte ein wenig entschärfen?"

In case of a single argument we may also use "abschwächen", or "mildern".

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  • How peculiar. Not knowing very much of the language, I would have read your suggestion as sharpen in English. This makes the word sound like the precise opposite of the actual meaning. – Tom W Apr 6 '12 at 20:39
  • @TomW: "ENT"scharfen means roughly to UNsharpen, or "take away" the sharpness. – Tom Au Apr 6 '12 at 20:45
  • @Tom Au: I suppose that's probably fairly obvious to a competent speaker. Its similarity to the English 'en-', typically meaning 'do something to' (eg 'enliven') threw me. – Tom W Apr 6 '12 at 20:52

I would use abmildern: You could say Bitte mildere den Brief etwas ab or Du könntest den Brief abmildern.

You may also use abschwächen.

If the letter was very rude, you may also say Bitte mäßige dich im Ton. This would be a not so friendly and crude remark.

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  • mäßigen is auch gut :9 – Em1 Apr 6 '12 at 21:02

In this case abschwächen or entschärfen would be a better choice, but you are right: To make something more mild is mildern or abmildern in German. But it is rarely used.

** abmildern**

Ich mildere etwas ab.
Du milderst etwas ab.
Er/sie/es mildert etwas ab.
Wir mildern etwas ab.
Ihr mildert etwas ab.
Sie mildern etwas ab.

Ich habe etwas abgemildert.
Ich milderte etwas ab.
Ich werde etwas abmildern.

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