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Some years ago, I tried to translate into German an English line:

I only have eyes for you.

My first attempt was a fairly literal one:

Meine Augen sind nur für dich.

Then I decided that a figurative translation might work better:

Meine Anblicken sind nur für dich.

which translates roughly as "My glances are only for you." The focus here is not on the "eyes" but what you do with the eyes.

I came by this version using what I call a "parallel construction." I had learned from an American textbook that "Meine Ehre heisst Treue" is rendered in English as "Loyalty is my honor," and therefore "reverse engineered" (or tried to) this construction.

Here's the poem the line came from.

Is either translation more accurate than the other? Are they at least within the realm of poetic license? Or is there a third, more idiomatic translation that's better than either one?

  • Where is the my in the English sentence? Where's the are? – Janka Sep 29 '18 at 12:17
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    Since idioms rarely follow logical rules, describing how you got to your translation is imho only noise in the question. In other words: By reading your failed attempts I did not gain more insight in what you want to know. Therefore, I would reduce it to your final question. – problemofficer Sep 29 '18 at 12:59
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    You need definitively to give the context where you want to use this context. Otherwise appropriate advice cannot be given. Describe the social context where you want to use this, and the text form you want to use. Is it a love letter? Is it an oral utterance? Is it a parliamentary speech? An ironic remark towards a nasty co-worker? – Christian Geiselmann Sep 29 '18 at 13:37
  • @Janka: I wasn't using a strictly literal translation. The meaning of the English is, "I have eyes for you, and no one else." Which is what I tried to render in German as "Meine Augen/Anblicken sind nur fur dich." Example: "Meine Ehre heisst Treue" is rendered in English is "Loyalty is my honor." – Tom Au Sep 29 '18 at 15:02
  • Yes? There's a my in the Englisch phrase. In general, German uses less possessive pronouns than English, not more. – Janka Sep 29 '18 at 15:32
4

Since this is from a song, others already have translated the lyrics for a similar one:

Doris Day: "I Only Have Eyes For You Songtext Übersetzung"

Ich habe nur Augen für dich

Sind heut Nacht die Sterne aus?
Ich weiß nicht, ob es wolkig oder klar ist,
Denn ich hab nur Augen für dich, Liebling.

And it seems there is not that much choice if you want to stay close to the original:

Reverso Context: Übersetzung für "I only have eyes for you" Deutsch

I only have eyes for you, Linda. – Ich habe nur Augen für dich, Linda.
I only have eyes for you - honestly. – Ich habe nur Augen für dich - ehrlich.
I only have eyes for you. – Ich habe nur Augen für dich.
You know I only have eyes for you. – Ich habe nur Augen für dich.
But I only have eyes For you Judy Goodman – Ich habe nur Augen für dich Judy Goodman.
I only have eyes for you. – Ich habe nur noch Augen für dich.
Don't worry, I only have eyes for you. – Keine Angst, ich stehe bloß auf dich.

If you want to play it a bit more freely, like your "anblicken" example, then you might try something like
Ich schau keine(n) andere(n) an.


In case you're wondering: The lyrics for the Frank Sinatra song are not that literally translated:

Frank Sinatra - I Only Have Eyes for You deutsche Übersetzung

Trockne deine Augen und trag dein Lied hinaus, es ist ein neugeborener Nachmittag Wenn du dich auch nicht mehr an den Sänger erinnerst, kannst du dich trotzdem an die Melodie erinnern Trockne deine Augen und spiele es langsam, genau so wie du in den Krieg gezogen bist Sing es so wie er es wollte, so wie wir es einmal gesungen haben Vom Zentrum des Kreises bis zur Mitte der winkenden Menge Wenn es jemals vergessen wird, dann sing es lang und sing es laut Kommen trockne deine Augen Und er lehrte uns mehr über das Geben als wir jemals wissen wollten Aber wir fanden ein Geheimnis und wir lassen es uns nie mehr nehmen Und es war mehr als heilig zu sein, trotzdem war es weniger als frei zu sein Und wenn du dich nicht mehr an den Grund erinnerst, kannst du die Menschen singen hören Durch Blitz und Donner bis zu der dunklen Seite des Mondes Bis zu den weit Entfernten, die man Engel nennt, die viel zu früh hinabsteigen Und komm, trockne deine Augen Komm trockne deine Augen

Nothing from that translation can be recommended.

15

Your translations are unfortunately wrong in meaning and/or grammar.

The best attempt at translating this sentence would be the well known

Ich habe nur Augen für dich!

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    I'm not sure that works. Isn't "Ich habe Augen nur für dich" better? The emphasis is on you/dich, not on "eyes" (versus ears). – Tom Au Sep 29 '18 at 11:08
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    @TomAu It's actually an idiom this way round - Probably because the amount of eyes per person is pretty limited on humans... – tofro Sep 29 '18 at 11:13
  • @TomAu while "Ich habe nur Augen für dich" says something like "The only thing/person i want to see is you", "Ich habe Augen nur für dich" can be seen as "I have eyes (just) to give them to you". The difference is very subtle and probably you can say it in both ways and no one will ever notice . Also someone may interpret it the other way around... but as tofro said it's a known idiom this way – mtwde Sep 29 '18 at 12:14
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    @TomAu The problem with "Ich habe Augen nur für dich" is, that in german it puts a lot more emphasis on having eyes at all, almost to the meaning "If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have eyes". Our german brains will bend it, so we will understand it in the poetic sense, but the feeling of it sounding not quite right remains. – Javatasse Sep 30 '18 at 22:46
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In Duden Volume 11 Redewendungen (3rd edition 2008), we can find many different idioms for the keyword Auge, including:

nur Augen für jmdn., für etwas haben (ugs.): jmdn., etwas ganz allein beachten: Seit dem Studentenball hat er nur noch Augen für die neue Bibliothekarin. Die Regierungsparteien haben zur Zeit nur Augen für die Ratifizierung der Verträge. Aber sie hatten nur Augen für Grün und Gold und ihren Chef, der jetzt aus den Lautsprechern zu ihnen sprach (Bieler, Bonifaz 232).

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