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In English when we express skepticism about a premise we frequently use a phrase that starts with the word "even". For example:

Joe: Do you know the band named Rammstein?

Dietrich: Everyone in Germany loves Rammstein?

Joe: Really? Even your grandparents?

Here Joe is expressing skepticism that people who are much older than Dietrich are familiar with the industrial-metal/nu-metal band Rammstein.

Or another example:

Paul: I love everything about my new job!

Angela: Even the 1 hour drive in rush hour traffic every morning?

Angela has heard Paul express angrily on more than one occasion frustration with his long commute at the new job, and is using a phrase beginning with "even" to remind him that this contradicts his statement.

So what phrase do Germans most commonly use to express skepticism or doubt in a premise, when replying to the person that made that statement?

  • 4
    Why do foreigners always think that Rammstein is a popular band in Germany? – elzell Jul 9 at 11:49
  • 7
    @elzell Probably because it is the only German band they can identify as such. The fact that their stadium tour in 2018 was so successful that it got a second iteration for 2019 which has sold out in two hours flat as well could also play a role in this perception. – zovits Jul 9 at 12:06
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    @zovits There's also Kraftwerk! – JAB Jul 10 at 2:47
  • This question shows that many concepts of communication are not based on the language itself. A literal translation carries the same meaning in the mentioned examples. They are examples of either rhethorical questions or sarcasm. – Ian Jul 10 at 6:55
  • Sogar gets the job done nicely. – Martin Peters Jul 10 at 7:03
29

It's just the same as in English language. Most of the time a rethorical question is asked like in your examples.

Even would be translated simply as auch [wenn] or (with a bit stronger emphasis) sogar [wenn], or selbst [wenn].

For your examples:

Joe: Kennst Du die Band Rammstein?

Dietrich: Jedermann in Deutschland liebt Rammstein?

Joe: Wirklich? Auch Deine Grosseltern?


Paul: Ich liebe Alles an meinem neuen Job!

Angela: Auch die Stunde jeden Morgen im Berufsverkehr?

Or with the slightly stronger emphasis as mentioned:

Joe: Kennst Du die Band Rammstein?

Dietrich: Jedermann in Deutschland liebt Rammstein?

Joe: Wirklich? Sogar/Selbst Deine Grosseltern?


Paul: Ich liebe Alles an meinem neuen Job!

Angela: Sogar/Selbst die Stunde jeden Morgen im Berufsverkehr?

  • 8
    You could also mention selbst. – Carsten S Jul 8 at 16:58
  • @CarstenS That's a great finding! Selbst is a synonym as well. I'll try to incorporate that. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jul 8 at 17:00
  • @CarstenS Funny enough, first hit at dict.leo.org :-). – πάντα ῥεῖ Jul 8 at 17:07
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    @CarstenS Funny you should mention that. It reminds me of the German idiom "Auch ein blindes Huhn findet mal ein Korn", which I believe translates to "Even a blind chicken can find the grain". I think I'm like most novice German learners who at first think "auch" just means "also (English)", and find out only later that it actually also carries the "even" semantic interpretation as I did in asking this question. – Robert Oschler Jul 10 at 2:54
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    @RobertMonfera: You can also have the analogue construction to English "even if ..." in German: "Selbst, wenn...". – cbeleites Jul 10 at 11:09
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If you want to express a stronger degree of disbelief than with sogar or auch, you could say:

Joe: Wirklich? Deine Eltern etwa auch?

In any case, the expressed degree of your scepticism depends at least as much on the right intonation as on the choice of words..

4

In that context I would translate "even" by "sogar". For example

Joe: Wirklich? Sogar Deine Großeltern?

  • 1
    Auch almost fits equally well. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jul 8 at 16:48
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    @πάνταῥεῖ Certainly "auch" can be auch used. But I think "sogar" is stronger and better expresses skepticism. See for example duden.de/rechtschreibung/sogar. – Paul Frost Jul 8 at 16:54
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    I mentioned in my answer that sogar expresses a stronger emphasis. In colloquial usage auch will be more frequently used from my experience. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jul 8 at 16:56
3

In addition to the mentioned "wirklich?", which is just the literal translation of "really?", we also have the following phrases:

  • Echt? (real, genuinely)
  • Ach was? (not really translatable, indicates a stronger disbelief)
  • Kann nicht sein! ("can't be")
  • Ach komm! (roughly "come on!")
  • Neee! (very colloquial form of nein "no", comically lengthened)
  • Wenn Du das sagst ("if you say so")

and probably a lot more.

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