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The article I am reading has the following sentence:

Fast zwei Jahre lang hat er sich da schon durch die Wildnis Lateinamerikas geschlagen.

I can't quite work out what is going on with the 'sich' since schlagen isn't reflexive as far as I am aware. It could be that it is being used for emphasis:

1) "For almost two years he has fought through the wilderness of Latin America himself."

But the accusative makes it sound more like it means this:

2) "For almost two years he has beaten himself through the wilderness of Latin America."

Which doesn't seem to make much sense (why would he be beating himself?).

There is a third option where it means more like the English "I battled my way through":

3) "For almost two years he has battled his way through the wilderness of Latin America."

This makes more sense, but doesn't come up in my dictionary as a possibility.

Which reading is the most accurate?

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    It isn't "schlagen". You look for "sich durchschlagen". – IQV May 9 '18 at 13:25
  • That makes more sense now, thanks. But why isn't it at the end of the sentence? "Fast zwei Jahre lang hat er sich da schon die Wildnis Lateinamerikas durchgeschlagen". I though trennbare verbs stayed together in all forms other than perfect? – advert2013 May 9 '18 at 13:38
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    "sich durchschlagen" and "sich schlagen" are synonymous. duden.de/rechtschreibung/schlagen#Bedeutung13a – Eller May 9 '18 at 13:48
  • Ah ok that makes sense so "Fast zwei Jahre lang hat er sich da schon die Wildnis Lateinamerikas durchgeschlagen" would mean the same? – advert2013 May 9 '18 at 13:51
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The verb you are looking for is 'sich durch etwas schlagen' (see https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/schlagen#Bedeutung13b)

It mean something along the lines of to go through something, for example 'Er schlug sich durch die Wälder' could translate as 'he wandered through the woods'

An admittedly very similar verb is 'sich durchschlagen' - without object (see https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/durchschlagen_durchstreichen_durchdringen#Bedeutung5b). It mean something like to make an effort to survive, for example 'Nach dem Krieg hat er sich mit einfachen Arbeiten durchgeschlagen' means 'After the war he eked out a living with simple jobs'

It gets even more confusing if you consider 'sich zu etwas durchschlagen' (https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/durchschlagen_durchstreichen_durchdringen#Bedeutung5a). 'Er hat sich bis zum Wald durchgeschlagen' - I don't know how to translate that, Basically he had trouble reaching the forrest but eventually did.

EDIT: You could use the last version of 'durchschlagen' also with 'durch': sich durch etwas durchschlagen. 'Er hat sich durch den Wald durchgeschlagen' (but it doesn't sound very nice). Note that in your example you definitely need the 'durch' in front of Wildnis. At the end it's optional:

'Fast zwei Jahre lang hat er sich da schon durch die Wildnis Lateinamerikas (durch)geschlagen.'

  • Great thanks. I have a couple more questions if that's ok. 1) does 'sich durch etwas schlagen' imply some struggle, like 'battle through' in English, or does it mean it was just normal/easy travelling through? 2) If it does, would the original sentence be too different from 'sich durchschlagen': "Fast zwei Jahre lang hat er sich da schon die Wildnis Lateinamerikas durchgeschlagen"? Thanks! – advert2013 May 9 '18 at 14:07
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    1) Yes it does, 'battle through' is a good translation. 2) 'Fast zwei Jahre lang hat er sich da schon die Wildnis Lateinamerikas durchgeschlagen' is wrong. You need the durch in front of wildnis, see the EDIT of my answer – joleroi May 9 '18 at 14:12

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