11

I understand bald's gloss is "soon" and fast's is "almost." These are pretty similar but still different. But another bald gloss is "almost."

Die Sonne wird bald aufgehen.

I recognize that fast would not make sense here.

Beide Modelle haben fast die gleiche Leistung, die Unterschiede sind geringfügig.

I recognize that bald would not make sense here.

But what about these sentences. From Linguee's sample sentences:

Er arbeitet bald 20 Jahre in dieser Firma.

Mein Sohn ist fast sechs Jahre alt.

Can you swap out those for the other and have the sentences mean the same things?

If so, I guess that means bald and fast can overlap when you're talking about time in particular. Right?

  • 1
    No, only when the quantity that is approximately correct is a time interval. Then the both meanings coincide. (Historically, bald did indeed mean "approximately" in general, but its meaning contracted over time.) – Kilian Foth Oct 30 '18 at 7:48
10

"bald" is always related to time (frames), "fast" is more general.

  • Wir sind bald / fast da. (We'll be there soon.)

  • Er ist bald / fast x Jahre in der Firma. (He's with the company for almost x years.)

Whereas these only work with "fast", not with "bald":

  • Fast getroffen! ("Almost a hit!")

  • Fast 10% der Kunden sind in Deutschland. ("Almost 10% of the customers are in Germany.")

Here meaning changes slightly:

  • Das Glas ist fast / bald voll: With "fast" it's about the fill level, with "bald" it's about the time it will take to fill it up.
  • 6
    I know a bunch of people (me included) who use bald as a general replacement for fast when numbers are involved. Das waren bald vierzig Kilo. It may be a regional thing. – Janka Oct 29 '18 at 21:44
  • 3
    @Janka I think it may indeed be regional. I never heard that replacement where I grew up but I did in other regions and/or more rural places. – Rhayene Oct 30 '18 at 8:25
  • Bald sind 10% der Kunden in Deutschland. (Different meaning, but still possible as in you could transfer them to Germany) – Zibelas Oct 30 '18 at 8:43
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    Note that the first example shows the small difference in meaning. "bald" refers to the time, i.e. "wir sind bald da" would translate as "we will arrive shortly", while "wir sind fast da" typically refers to distance and would translate as "we have almost arrived". While in most scenarios this are practically the same thing, if for example your train is stopped just short of the station, and it is unclear when you will arrive, you would say "ich bin fast am Bahnhof, aber wir haben jetzt angehalten und es geht nicht weiter" - "I am almost at the station, but we stopped and don't move." – Tom Oct 30 '18 at 11:24
  • Just as a suggestion, to make the difference clear: If your son is dead, you can still say "Main Sohn war fast 6 Jahre alt", while you cannot say "Mein Sohn war bald 6 Jahre alt" (well, in a dialect you might get through with it, but it twists the meaning of "bald"). – Frank Hopkins Oct 30 '18 at 15:06
9

Can you swap out those for the other and have the sentences mean the same things?

Yes, you can swap them, but the difference in meaning (almost vs. soon) is still there. So, by swapping you keep the overall gist of the meaning but slightly change the focus from the time aspect to the completeness aspect – or vice versa. However, for these sentences the distinction doesn’t matter in practice.

Btw, small correction. It can be either:

Er arbeitet seit bald 20 Jahren in dieser Firma.

or

Er arbeitet bald 20 Jahre [no n] in dieser Firma.

3

Yes, you can interchange "bald" and "fast" in your two last sentences (but you can't in the other sentences).

Er arbeitet bald 20 Jahre in dieser Firma.

and

Er arbeitet fast 20 Jahre in dieser Firma.

essentially mean the same, just as

Mein Sohn ist bald sechs Jahre alt.

and

Mein Sohn ist fast sechs Jahre alt.

3

Er arbeitet bald 20 Jahren in dieser Firma.

Mein Sohn ist fast sechs Jahre alt.

You could also use "soon" or "almost" in English there:

Soon, he'll have been working for 20 years at this company.

He has been working for almost 20 years at this company.

My son is almost six.

My son will turn six soon.

And it's similiar in German.

  • @PiedPiper: Changed, but "he's worked" would mean that he isn't anymore, right? I meant to say he still is. – Michael Mahn Oct 29 '18 at 23:26
  • Nah, "he's worked" implies he still is, but that's a "seit 20 Jahren" situation – user1713450 Oct 30 '18 at 0:06
  • @MichaelMahn If he he didn't work there any more it would be "he worked" – PiedPiper Oct 30 '18 at 9:22
0

"Bald" has different meanings in different contexts while "fast" has just one meaning. One of the meanings of "bald" is similar to "fast" the other is not.

As you wrote, "fast" means 'almost' or 'nearly' like 99% 1.

"Bald" on the other hand, has the following meanings 2:

  • it can mean 'soon' as in 'We will arrive soon' - "Wir sind bald da"
  • it can mean 'almost' as in 'I am waiting for almost three hours now' - "Ich warte bald drei Stunden" or "Ich warte schon fast drei Stunden"

So in some contexts, you can exchange "bald" and "fast". In my experience, "fast" is more frequently used in spoken language (native speaker). So using "bald" for "soon" and "fast" for "almost/nearly" should be a safe bet.

Regarding your examples:

Beide Modelle haben bald die gleiche Leistung, die Unterschiede sind geringfügig.

Is valid too, but it has a slightly different meaning. You would use it in the context of a development, like 'soon both models have the same power'. If there is no such development you would use "fast" instead.

Er arbeitet bald seit 20 Jahre in dieser Firma. (ok)

Er arbeitet fast seit 20 Jahre in dieser Firma. (ok, equal meaning)

Mein Sohn ist fast sechs Jahre alt. (ok)

Mein Sohn ist bald sechs Jahre alt. (ok, equal meaning)

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