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I am trying to figure out the many translations of the word "tangle" in German. There seems to be overlap in areas that are not present in English, as well as restrictions that are not present in English, and therefore relying on various dictionaries still leaves me with questions. Let me give some examples.

  1. The yarn has tangled itself.
    Das Garn hat sich verheddert.

  2. My charging cables are in a tangle.
    Meine Aufladungskabel sind in ein Gewirr.

    (This has to be wrong, but "Gewirr" is all I really see. And no connection to "verheddern"?)

  3. She's tangled up with the wrong man.
    Sie hat sich mit dem falschen Mann eingelassen

    (= got involved with. Can you say sich verwickelt/verheddert here?)

  4. I've got myself in a tangle trying to figure out this problem

    (Kann man, "habe mich bei diesem Problem verheddert" benutzen?)

As you can see, I am quite confused. But these are the 4 main uses of "tangle" in English (in my opinion), and if I can untangle these (another use?), it would be of great help.

  • 1
    Hier nur ein paar Anmerkugenn: (1) kann man so sagen, wobei ich persönlich in dem Beispiel zu "verwickelt" oder im Falle von Garn sogar zu "verknotet" greifen würde. (2) wäre in Ordnung, wenn du die Präposition "in" weglassen würdest. Die Formulierung in (3) ist sehr gut. Bzgl. (4) würde ich irgendetwas mit "durcheinander kommen" anwenden. – Em1 May 7 '18 at 12:10
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I'll try to find a link for all your examples to the 1st one.

  1. "Meine Aufladungskabel sind in ein Gewirr"

sounds wrong to me I'd say

" Meine Ladekabel sind in einem Gewirr"

or

"Meine Ladekabel haben sich verwickelt"

instead. IMO "verheddert" wouldn't fit with cables, as they usually are thicker than yarn! So I'd use it in cases where untying the "node" would be somewhat tricky and difficult. Also note that for the case of cable tangle German has a "one word solution": "Kabelsalat" which expresses that everything is mixed (and maybe even tangled) together.

Note that your 3rd example could also be translated in colloquial language as

  1. " Sie hat sich mit dem falschen Mann verbandelt"

"verbandeln" has a clear connection to "verbinden" which comes close to verwickeln. One could even say that the sentence could be expressed as:

"Sie hat sich da in etwas verwickelt"

I think it is usually easy (or lets say possible) to find a connection between what we may call the "best expression to use" or "the expression of (1st) choice) and the closest synonyms of "to tangle". I'd say German is a very descriptive language.

  1. I've got myself in a tangle trying to figure out this problem

Here some possible options:

Ich habe mich -selbst- bei dem Versuch eine Lösung für dieses Problem zu finden, durcheinandergebracht.

durcheinander bringen also may be used as a figurative synonym of "verhedderen/verwickeln"

One says:

"In Gedanken verwickeln"

One could also use:

"Ich habe den Faden verloren": Beim Versuch dieses Problem zu lösen, habe ich -total- den Faden verloren.

"Den Faden verlieren": "loosing the yarn" is a figurative link to "verheddert" as the yarn might have fixed itself somewhere while getting tangled.

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    +1 especially for “Kabelsalat” and “Faden verlieren” – they are very nice and idiomatic. – besc May 7 '18 at 7:53
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Generally speaking, Verheddern has a connotation of something (bigger) being caught in some kind of entanglement (like a fly in a web), opposed to something (like cables) being entangeled within itself, which would rather be verwurschtelt (loose entanglement), verknäuelt (a ball-like entanglement) or verknotet (more tightly intertwined). I.e. „Mein Pulli hat sich in den Dornen verheddert.“

  1. Is correct like that and would be what you'd actually say in German.
  2. Here you would rather use either of these:
    • „Meine Ladekabel sind durcheinander“
    • „Meine Ladekabel sind verknäuelt“
    • „Meine Ladekabel sind verwurschtelt“ (<- This is an awesome word, but a little more colloquial)
    • „Meine Ladekabel sind/(haben sich) verknotet“ (when they are really intertwined)
    • „Meine Ladekabel sind ein [reines] Durcheinander“
  3. Your translation is good. Other ways to say it would be:
    • „Sie hat mit dem falschen Mann angebandelt“
    • „Sie ist mit dem falschen Mann verbandelt“
    • „Sie ist mit dem falschen Mann liiert“ (sic!)
  4. You could theoretically say „Ich habe mich in einem Problem verheddert“, but it sounds a little strange. More fitting translations might be:
    • „Ich habe mich in ein Problem verstrickt“
    • „Ich habe mich an dem Problem aufgehängt“ (focus on loosing a lot of time in vain by trying to solve it, often used by students who wasted all their time in a test on a single task, hence lacking the time for the other assignments)
    • „Von dem Problem habe ich einen Knoten im Kopf“ (means the problem was so complicated that you can't think straight anymore)
  • Thanks a lot! This has been extremely helpful. I guess the last thing I am still a bit confused about is the translation for the noun "tangle" (something you can pick up and try to "untangle"). For example, a tangle of cables, etc. Is, "ein Gewirr von Kabel" not correct". – Mark May 7 '18 at 18:26
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    "Gewirr von Kabeln" by itself is correct. Like: "Ich habe in meiner Schublade ein Gewirr von Ladekabeln". You just wouldn't say "Meine Ladekabel sind in einem Gewirr", rather "Meine Ladekabel sind ein [reines] Gewirr" or one of the adjectives. Other nouns in that context would be "Knäuel" (a tangle of string), "Durcheinander", "Wirrwarr" or "Tohuwabohu" (though each has a slightly different connotation with the last (two) more referring to a total chaos, i.e. a messy child's room). – GrafWampula May 8 '18 at 6:24
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    "Ich habe mich in einem Problem verstrickt" is a really good suggestion. – Em1 May 8 '18 at 6:36

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