I am having a difficult time expressing "to slog through" something in German.

In dict.cc, I see "sich durchschlagen" as a possible translation. I also see "sich abplagen". Therefore, let me provide a couple of contextual examples:

  1. Ich musste mich die ganze Nacht durch die Hausaufgabe durchschlagen/abplagen.

    (I had to slog through the homework the entire night).

  2. Wir hatten eine Reifenpanne, und mussten uns durch den Wald wieder nach Hause durchschlagen/abplagen.

    (We had a break down, and had to slog through the forest back home).

Do both "sich durchschlagen" and "sich abplagen" work in both sentences? And which one better fits with "to slog through something"?

  • It seems, the actual question is "Are sich abplagen and sich durchschlagen full synonyms?" Right? – Christian Geiselmann Sep 12 '18 at 9:55
  • My main interest is in expressing "slog/trudge through", and my intuition tells me that it is one of these two words. So, yes, knowing the difference between them would help. – Mark Sep 13 '18 at 19:50

Neither word is suitable with all meanings of "to slog through".

"Sich durchschlagen" in first case means to physically work your way through something, so it would work well with your second example. It can also be used to describe something like doing some low-level job to earn money to survive when you don't find a well-paid job in the profession you are trained and experienced in ("ich musste mich mit Gelegenheitsjobs durchschlagen"). It can, however, not be used for doing something difficult like in your first example. There is a similar word that can be used, "ich musste mich durch die Aufgabe durchbeißen" (literally "I had to byte my way through it"), but that is very colloquial und should only be used in informal speech.

"Abplagen" is usable with the first example, but it has to be used with "mit", not with "durch". It can not be used to describe the difficulty of the terrain as in your second example, though it can be used to describe a heavy object you carried on that way ("Ich musste mich durch den Wald nach Hause durchschlagen und dabei noch mit dem schweren Koffer abplagen").

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"Slog through" appears to be derived from "durchschlagen" but the German original may have a somewhat weaker meaning. "Durchschlagen" basically means to work through a task that may be long and tedious, but not particularly difficult. That could refer to your all night homework (if long but not particularly challenging), or slog through (walk through) the forest.

For a difficult task that needs to be "overcome," I would use überwinden or überwaltigen.

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