I was reading a sentence from a novel that read in English, "My own father might have said the same thing in different words." Google translate gave me as its German equivalent,"Mein eigener Vater hätte das vielleicht mit anderen Worten gesagt." That follows the normal grammatical rules of past participle at the end of the clause.

My own translation would be "Mein eigener Vater hätte das gesagt, vielleicht mit anderen Worten." This would break up the sentence into two clauses, and put "gesagt" at the end of the first clause. I believe that I have seen a similar construction in other contexts, and want to know if this is a valid one.

How do native speakers determine where to put the "gesagt?" This really means when do I use two clauses versus one?

  • It seems that the English sentence at the beginning is incomplete. – Carsten S May 1 '18 at 11:39
  • @CarstenS: The immediately preceding sentence was "Nick's father said X." My sentence was the follow-up, "My own father might have said the same thing, in different words." – Tom Au May 1 '18 at 12:00
  • The “in other words” part is missing in the question, which makes it confuses. Also, it makes a difference, whether there is a comma before it, so this is important. – Carsten S May 1 '18 at 12:02
  • You cannot give a universal answer here. This is a question of style, context, and situation. In formal texts you would form different sentences than in informal, oral speech. – Christian Geiselmann May 4 '18 at 10:43

Your proposed translation makes it sound much more certain that the father would have said X; I would translate it back as "My father would have said the same, (though) perhaps in different words". Note that by having "gesagt" where you put it, the "vielleicht" does not apply to it. The original phrase, and google's translation, do not have this level of certainty; the father might have said it, and if so, might have used different words.

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    Your back translation of my German is the version I want. The "novel" was my own work, so I plan to change the English to make it line up with the German. Thanks for your help. – Tom Au May 1 '18 at 16:50

In the first translation the father would have maybe said that, but would have used different words. In the second translation on the other hand the father would definitely said it and maybe had used different words. In the second translation there is additionaly a stress on the part following the comma.

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    Your answer would be easier to understand if you could copy & paste the translations you refer to. – Robert May 3 '18 at 18:56

As Christian Geiselmann stated in his comment, it depends on context. If you want to put emphasis on the fact that your father would have expressed the same opinion, and the "different words"-part is just an additional remark, your second option would be the one a native speaker would chose

Mein eigener Vater hätte das gesagt, vielleicht mit anderen Worten.

(= My own father would have said the same thing, however he might have used different words)

On the other hand, if the emphasis is intended to be on the different words, the preferred usage would be the first

Mein eigener Vater hätte das vielleicht mit anderen Worten gesagt.

For this naked sentence without context, I would even tend to use "vermutlich" or "wahrscheinlich" (=probably, likely) instead of "vielleicht" (=perhaps), but more context might change that.

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