Recently I've learned a new verb: schaffen. As the dictionary says, the verb means to accomplish, but also to create. So I thought that in the sentence They accomplish their goals I can use this verb as follows:

Sie schaffen ihre Ziele

However, a couple of translation services I've tried to verify myself (including Google Translate), tend to translate this sentence into:

They create their goals

Though, for example, Bing translator does the job as I expected and uses the meaning to achieve.

I understand that it is probably not the best decision to rely on automated services in this question but these systems are usually trained on huge corpora of texts so a seed of doubt was planted regarding the question which meaning is more popular in the native German speech :)

How do you think you would formulate this sentence? Should it be some other verb, or maybe the whole structure is a sort of unnatural?

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    It also has the meaning of getting somewhere in time (or not): Ich schaffe es nicht mehr rechtzeitig zum Bus! (I won't make it to the bus in time) – infinitezero Feb 4 at 23:33
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    Welcome to German.SE. As you said, these automated networks need trainings - something, they achieve with plain old (online) dictionaries - to avoid creating false things. So yes, I encourage you to try dictionary sites like leo.org or dict.cc or ... (reputation for a site differs). And in case you feel confident, you can switch over to duden.de or dwds.de for explanations in german only. – Shegit Brahm Feb 5 at 7:33
  • @infinitezero Oh, I see! So there is some similarity with the verb to make as I can understand from the responses. Interesting! – devforfu Feb 5 at 11:48
  • @shegit-brahm Yeah, absolutely agree. I usually try to consult with dictionaries but in some cases, when I am practicing in "free-form" writing of some random sentences that come into my mind, it helps to get at least some basic feedback about the correctness. – devforfu Feb 5 at 11:48

The sentence is exactly what someone could say in that context. Nevertheless is „etwas schaffen“ used like that more colloquial. In written newspaper articles you might rather find „Sie erreichen ihre Ziele“.

But regarding your question referring to google translate: don‘t trust these services. Especially when dealing with multiple meanings of a single word they often do a lousy job.

The tricky thing in your example: one could really mean „they create their goals“ when saying „sie schaffen ihre Ziele“ but usually then there would be a context around that sentence or one or two little additional words. For example:

Sie lassen sich ihre Ziele nicht vorgeben: sie schaffen sich ihre Ziele selbst

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    To be precise, schaffen in the meaning of to create is a shortened for of erschaffen. In general, schaffen is quite flexible word. On could roughly compare it with "to make", which could also mean to create as well as "to make it to the goal". – Volker Landgraf Feb 4 at 23:05
  • Got it! That makes sense. Yeah agree, the automated services seem to fail on many tricky cases. Also, it seems that I've missed the point that schaffen is a rather colloquial verb as I can understand now based on the responses. Thank you! – devforfu Feb 5 at 11:52
  • @VolkerLandgraf' Ah makes sense! Thank you. – devforfu Feb 5 at 11:52
  • To be exact, you use "schaffen" in the meaning of "to create" in your example. – Sebastian Feb 5 at 15:06
  • Ohne das auch von Dir kursiv gesetzte <i>sich</i> wird man "sie schaffen ihre Ziele" nicht als Hinweis auf selbstbestimmtes Arbeiten verstehen, zumal der Satz ja auch in einem Kontext steht. Wie auch "schafft sein Pensum", "schafft 300 Anschläge die Minute", "schafft Arbeitsplätze", "~ den Aufstieg" u.v.m. sehe ich es nicht als reine Umgangssprache, sondern auch in der Presse. – user unknown Feb 5 at 18:14

How do you think you would formulate this sentence? Should it be some other verb, or maybe the whole structure is a sort of unnatural?

'Sie erreichen ihre Ziele.' is for me the best option.

'Sie schaffen ihre Ziele.' Here we have a colloquial usage of schaffen. But for me 'Ziel' belongs to official language. So the two do not match perfectly. I would say 'Sie schaffen, was sie vorhatten.', but 'Sie schaffen, was sie sich vorgenommen haben.' and 'Sie schaffen ihre Ziele.' are mixtures of colloquial/relaxed and official, which annoy in a way. This is a very slight feeling.

'Sie schaffen es, ihre Ziele zu erreichen.' This construction is also possible but contains some redundancy (schaffen plus erreichen). My mixture concern is not relevant here because the usage of 'es', 'erreichen', and the infinitive clause renders the entire sentence official.

  • Thank you very much! Didn't know that schaffen has a colloquial usage in this context. – devforfu Feb 5 at 11:57

Just an addition: Another commonly used expression is "Sie erfüllen ihre Ziele" which means more or less the same thing as "Sie erreichen ihre Ziele". However, you can use the former only with immaterial goals (e.g. the goal to accomplish something) but the latter also has the additional meaning of reaching a destination.

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    Interesting! So if I am correct then the verb erfüllen here is somewhat similar with to fulfill in English, right? While erreichen is probably more like to reach? – devforfu Feb 6 at 8:51
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    Yes, that's correct :) – JayTheKay Feb 6 at 14:31

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