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Talking with my colleague about reading though an extra-thick medical book, I said jokingly:

Zum Gelehrten tauge ich wohl nicht, was? Wenn du es schaffst, auch nur einen dieser Wälzer durchzulesen, ohne dabei einzuschlafen, dann nur zu. {or: "dann mal zu"}

Here I wanted to express the idea of:

... If you can read though any of these extra-thick medical books without falling asleep, more power to you.

In English, "more power to you" is used in an encouraging tone, praising someone for what they have started out to do, wishing them success.

The "nur zu", for lack of a better phrase, sprang to mind, but I get the feeling that "nur zu" carries a rather detached connotation, as in "then go ahead (even if I won't do it myself)".

Does "nur zu" or "mal zu" work well enough? How is this idea commonly expressed in German?

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    The German nur zu tends to have a slight odour of irony or sarcasm. Or can have. I don't know if this is the case with the English expression, too? – Christian Geiselmann Aug 14 '19 at 12:37
  • @ChristianGeiselmann Yes, "more power to you" can also have an ironic/sarcastic flavour, depending on context. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 14 '19 at 12:43
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    in slang i would propose "Gönn dir!" ^^ – miep Aug 14 '19 at 14:17
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    Cpt. Picard: Make it so! – πάντα ῥεῖ Aug 14 '19 at 17:51
  • Andere Variante: "dann mach mal" oder "dann mach doch". – Paul Frost Aug 14 '19 at 18:56
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Wenn du meinst, du schaffst diesen Wälzer, ohne einzuschlafen – viel Erfolg!

[Na dann] viel Erfolg, wenn du meinst, du schaffst diesen Wälzer, ohne einzuschlafen!

This is an ironical use of »viel Erfolg«, the speaker believes that the addressed one will not succeed. Underlying message: »Mach nur, du schaffst es ja doch nicht!«

»Nur zu« or »[na] dann mal zu« instead of »viel Erfolg« would transport the same message with a slightly reduced degree of doubt.

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You are correct in your observation that "nur zu" has a rather detached connotation to it. Like, "All right, go for it."

Note that "dann" can be left out of "nur zu", but shouldn't be in "dann mal zu", where it is an idiomatic necessity (for lack of a better explanation).

In a more encouraging tone, you could say: "… (dann) umso besser."

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No, nur zu by itself has contains no encouragement, this has to be provided by the context, because it similarly usable with negative context as well:

Nur zu, du wirst schon sehen, wohin du damit kommst. (Free translation: Just try, but don't complain afterwards.)

A slightly encouraging variant would be:

Das ist einen Versuch wert.

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