In Leserabe "Die Schatzinsel", the boy is describing the Captain, who says to the boy:

Junge, wenn dir irgendwo ein einbeiniger Seemann begegnet, so lass es mich wissen! Es soll dein Schaden nicht sein.

My best translation is:

Boy, when you encounter somewhere a one-legged sailor, let me know. It shouldn't be your fault.

The second sentence doesn't make sense. There must be a more idiomatic translation. Help is appreciated. Thanks.

  • 1
    "Es soll dein Schaden nicht sein" = "I'll make it worth your while". Both are implicit promises of reward, e.g. in situations where such deals wouldn't be strictly legal. Jan 14, 2019 at 7:27

5 Answers 5


This an idiomatic phrase that works with the negation of Schaden:

  • der Schaden (noun) = damage, harm, disadvantage

Lets look at a version of the phrase without nicht:

Es soll dein Schaden sein.
It shall be your disadvantage.

But the phrase contains a negation. So it says:

Es soll dein Schaden nicht sein.
It shall be your non-disadvantage.

So in fact you are talking about the opposite of a disadvantage, which is:

  • der Nutzen = benefit, profit, advantage

So in fact the phrase means:

Es soll dein Nutzen sein.
It shall be your advantage.

In a normal sentence the position of nicht in the phrase is a little bit strange. But in this special idiomatic phrase it is correct.

  • Thank you Hubert. You can see I made two attempts to answer my own question. Your explanation certainly fits with my re-reading of the original English. In the original, the Captain explicitly offers to pay Jim 4-pence per month for his efforts.
    – perpetual
    Jan 12, 2019 at 6:59
  • The rarely-used "shall" works well here. "It shall be to your advantage."
    – perpetual
    Jan 12, 2019 at 7:04
  • 3
    While you correctly told the meaning of the idiom, your breakdown is wrong. The negation does not apply to "Schaden" but to "sein". So literally the sentence says "It shall not be to your disadvantage". Also note that negation and opposite are not the same.
    – celtschk
    Jan 12, 2019 at 11:27
  • 1
    celtschk is imho correct, therefor no upvote from me. "It shall be your non-disadvantage" would be a wrong translation, I would rather write the same as celtschk.
    – Tode
    Jan 12, 2019 at 13:24
  • 2
    The literal meaning is indeed "It shall not be to your disadvantage", but I think it's an understatement, so the actual meaning is "You will be rewarded for it".
    – RHa
    Jan 13, 2019 at 11:43

There are a few answers, but i would like to add

It will not be to your disadvantage

as found in The Oxford-Duden German Dictionary: German-English, English-German or dict.cc


To add to @Hubert's answer:

It should not be your loss.

Is also a valid translation for the expression. I am having a bit of troubles envisioning a seaman using the term "disadvantage". But then again there is enough time to read a dictionary on a journey. Especially when you end up stranded.


The source of the confusion is the translation of "Shaden".

My new best-guess is that this whole phrase would translate into:

"It should not be any concern to you." more poetically: "But don't let that be a burden to you." or "But think no more about it."

Perhaps someone can comment on why the English phrasings want a strong contradiction (i.e. start the sentence with "but"/"however"), but the German uses "Es" rather than "Aber"/"Trotzdem".

  • I no longer think this is the right translation. See my other answer (with reading of the original)
    – perpetual
    Jan 12, 2019 at 6:42
  • See Hubert's answer for a correct translation. I leave my earlier attempt here because sometimes seeing the mistakes of others can be informative.
    – perpetual
    Jan 12, 2019 at 7:01
  • If you think your answer is wrong, better delete it. Others may read only the answer and may oversee your comment. Jan 12, 2019 at 7:08

This sentence: "Es soll dein Shaden nicht sein." Has been haunting me :) Since this came for a children's version and a translation, I first went back to the adult version (in German), and tried to find the intended meaning in the story that lead to this sentence. I then went back to the original English, and I now have a new theory: In the original story, the Captain IS very concerned about the one-legged man. He even pays the boy (Jim) to keep his eye out for the one-legged man.

So the best meaning seems to be: "It would be a shame for you if you didn't (inform me)." To close the par between the desired meaning (above) and the German sentence for the children's book, I'll make it this:

"It should, for you, be a shame     (if) not (you inform me)."
"Es soll    dein     [sein] Shaden      nicht                  sein."

I would appreciate any comments which can help clarify how "nicht" can do so much work: It seems to encompass both the conditional idea of "if/when", and at least one extra verb (either "you do" or "you (not) inform me".

(Final thought: perhaps it's the "soll" that accomplishes the constitutionality which I seem to be seeking.)

  • See Hubert's answer for a correct translation. I leave my earlier attempt here because sometimes seeing the mistakes of others can be informative.
    – perpetual
    Jan 12, 2019 at 7:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.