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Dabei brauchte er doch Verbündete, und ...

Without any further context to judge its meaning, is "Dabei" at the beginning of a sentence usually understood as:

He would need allies with that / in this situation, though. (with the meaning of "though" coming only from "doch")

Or:

However, he would need allies, though. (with both "Dabei" and "doch" meaning "but / however")

When "Dabei" is used with the verb "brauchen", is the first meaning more likely?

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It is difficult to interpret the sentence with certainty without any context, but you are probably right in both assumptions. 'Dabei' refers to something previously mentioned and 'doch' indicates that he does not have what he needs.

'Doch' is a German word often difficult to translate to English. In this case, it might perhaps be better to use the conditional mood to indicate this intention: To do so, he would need allies, and ...

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First things first.

Dabei braucht er Verbündete.
He needs allies for an earlier mentioned thing.

An earlier sentence might have been:

Er möchte sich seinem Gegner zur Wehr setzen. Dabei braucht er Verbündete.
He wants to defend himself against his enemy. For that he needs allies.

Adding "doch" implies, that he needs allies but has none or does not ask them. Doch together with dabei implies that the speaker questions the behaviour. Together with an earlier sentence this might read as.

Er hat all seine diplomatischen Beziehungen beendet. Dabei braucht er doch Verbündete. Ich verstehe das nicht.
He cancelled all his diplomatic relations. But/However he needs allies. I don't understand that.

Another example is:

Lutz isst jeden Tag ein großes Stück Kuchen. Dabei hat er doch Diabetes!
Lutz eats a big slice of cake everyday. How can he do that, he is a diabetic!

  • Therefore (deswegen) is unlikely a good choiche of translation for dabei. – jarnbjo Jul 9 at 18:56
  • Typo, I think: Lutz eats a big spice [should it be "piece"?]. And also FaceTime maybe is a computer auto-correction? Nice answer though. – Alejandro Camus Jul 9 at 21:45
  • Fixed your comments. Typing on the phone was difficult – infinitezero Jul 10 at 4:46
  • As @jarnbjo pointed out, therefor(e) means deswegen, giving a reason. A better translation for that example would be For that he needs allies. – Volker Landgraf Jul 11 at 9:16
  • Therefor and therefore are two entirely different words. – infinitezero Jul 11 at 10:10

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