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I am trying to translate the sentence H jumped down off the table. The 'jump' element is not stressed, he could equally just 'step' or 'get' down from the table. I am just not sure which prepositions to use.

My attempts:

Er sprang von dem Tisch herab/herunter

Not sure if 'von' is right there

Er sprang den Tisch herab/herunter

I know you can use a similar syntax to that to talk about going down the stairs, i.e. without a preposition before the noun, but it doesn't look right to me in this case.

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    For a proper translation we need context. The isolated sentence is not enough because the choice of words depends on the overal situation. – Christian Geiselmann Dec 22 '19 at 0:28
  • Isn't the english sentence wrong already? It seems like a mixture of "He jumped off the table" and "He jumped down from the table". – Björn Friedrich Feb 8 at 12:47
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Paul sprang vom Tisch herab.

This is told from the perspective of somebody who is on ground level.

Paul sprang vom Tisch hinunter.

This is told from the perspective of somebody who is on the table. It might be another person standing or sitting on the table. Or it may be Paul himself.

*Er sprang den Tisch hinab.

This is technically a well-formed sentence (grammar-wise), but it makes no sense, unless you invent a very, very specific situation. Usually "[eine Sache, Akkusativ] hinunterspringen" is used related to, say, the slope of a hill. So you can say:

Paul sprang den Abhang hinunter.

The Abhang is a larger area - much larger than Paul. If you insist on using "den Tisch hinunterspringen" you may invent a situation where a tiny creature (say, a mouse) runs or jumps down a sloped table top, or so. But this does not seem to be an everyday situation. Unless you are one of the authors of Pinky and the Brain, perhaps.

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  • "you may invent a situation where a tiny creature (say, a mouse) runs or jumps down a sloped table top" - I disagree about the "tiny" part. IMO, as soon as the tabletop is sloped for some reason, "Er sprang den Tisch hinab." works to express that "he" is moving downwards along the sloped surface of the table. – O. R. Mapper Dec 28 '19 at 21:20
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I'd say "Er sprang vom Tisch." 😉 No need for "hinab" or "herunter" here, imho.

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I feel that "off" and "down" are somewhat redundant, but I'd translate it as "Er sprang runter, weg vom Tisch". You may replace "runter" with "hinunter" (seen from the table) or "herunter" (seen from the floor), depending on the point of view.

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  • When you talk about point of view, do you mean the point of view of the narrator? I.e. if the person recounting the story was at ground level, you would use herunter? – Jacob Lee-Hart Dec 21 '19 at 18:14
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    Yes: "hinunter" means "away from" and "herunter" means "approaching" (getting closer). – U. Windl Dec 21 '19 at 18:16
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You're right, "hinunter" doesn't fit this context. It implies that the noun in question serves the purpose of allowing movement along it, or at least that the movement follows the length of the object.

Thus, you might use it for moving down a set of stairs, a firepole, a hatch, a tree trunk or even an anchor chain (if you're a diver), but not a table.

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  • Thanks, that makes sense, but could you tell us how it should in fact be phrased then? – Jacob Lee-Hart Dec 21 '19 at 16:42
  • a) there are two nouns; suppose you mean the grammatical object, the table. b) while Tisch and disc are deceptively aimilar, most tables have legs, which have a length, which one can "move along" as you say. I think "Er sprang vom Tisch." suffices for most cases, but one can imagine several continuations, and hinunter is one of them, that implies landing on the floor, just as "Er ging vom vom Garten hinein." is unobjectionable. Yet, "Er kam von draußen herein." makes a difference. So it depends on the verb, too, and your allusion to stairs, and thus going or climbing is misleading. – vectory Dec 21 '19 at 19:02

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