We say in English, "Yes, but technically, I'm not supposed to." Or, "Technically speaking, the values should be higher..." This means there is an official take on things, but we will not be purist/perfect/exact/to-the-letter. How would you say this in German. Somehow Technisch gesehen... doesn't sound quite right.

  • I would use the term "technisch" when there are technical reasons for or against something (like in too heavy, small, ...), or when a certain method or technique should be applied or avoided (e.g. in sports, or handycraft, ...). But this is probably subject to interpretation and others may see and formulate it differently, yet be able to make themselves understood. More context might be helpful. – a_donda Mar 8 '20 at 23:45
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    There are many ways to express different aspects of this but the Jack-of-all-trades would be "eigentlich". "Ich darf eigentlich nicht ..." "Eigentlich müsste der Wert höher sein" "Eigentlich kann da nichts passieren" – hajef Mar 10 '20 at 10:37

Will man möglichst eng am Begriff "technically" bleiben, dann käme

Nach den Regeln der Kunst würde man das Betriebssystem neu aufsetzen.

in Betracht, aber nicht "technisch gesprochen/gesehen". Geht es nur um offiziell/inoffiziell würde ich

Formal bin ich nicht befugt Ihnen das Desinfektionsmittel zu überlassen.

oder eben

Offiziell müssten die Werte höher sein, um den Notstand auszurufen.


Offensichtlich wird "technically" aber im Englischen weithin ohne Assoziation zu Technik verwendet, so dass "eigentlich" als Übersetzung immer in Betracht gezogen werden muss:

Eigentlich dürfte ich Dir das nicht sagen ...

Eigentlich müssten die Werte höher sein.

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    Sorry but the first paragraph doesn't make any sense at all. The translation is unfitting. "Nach den Regeln der Kunst" is not what technically means - where did you get this translation from. Also I'd like to remind you to provide an English translation as the OP is in English. – infinitezero Mar 8 '20 at 21:59
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    "Technically" bedeutet doch technisch, oder nicht? Und Technik ist Handfertigkeit, Kunstfertigkeit - oder was denkst Du, was "technisch" ist? – user unknown Mar 9 '20 at 3:20
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    "Nach den Regeln der Kunst" ist ein Spezialfall von "eigentlich müsste man", und zwar ein ziemlich enger Spezialfall. Als Antwort fände ich das zu eingeschränkt. – toolforger Mar 9 '20 at 20:13
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    This is good stuff. But it just shows how exact translations of idioms is nigh on impossible. A corollary is I hate speaking German with another American -- because typically they don't have a German mind behind it. – 147pm Mar 9 '20 at 21:29
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    @userunknown die exakteste Übersetzung von "Technically, I am not supposed to..." ist wirklich "Eigentlich sollte ich nicht...". Das deutsche "technisch" hat die Bedeutungsausweitung des englischen "technically" nicht mitgemacht und würde auf keinen Fall im Sinne von "technically, I am not supposed to" verwendet, das wäre für deutsche Muttersprachler absurd. (Als Anglizismus wandert es natürlich trotzdem ein.) – toolforger Mar 10 '20 at 22:08

In short, I would use one of these


genau genommen

streng genommen

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    As a native speaker, +1 to "genau genommen" for the case described by OP. "Eigentlich" might work as well but is a little different. Would be nice if the accepted answer went into that. – Sixtyfive Mar 9 '20 at 13:19
  • +1: "streng genommen" is what came to my mind immediately. – Guntram Blohm Mar 10 '20 at 10:24

Personally, I don't find "technisch" idiomatic. I'd use the modal particle "eigentlich" or an adverb such as "offiziell".

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    There's a difference between 'officially not allowed' and 'technically not allowed' though. – infinitezero Mar 8 '20 at 17:07
  • Certainly. However, the expressions I proposed seem to me to cover both examples. – Nico Mar 8 '20 at 17:12
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    @infinitezero is there, really? Elucidating that difference might be helpful in garnering an idiomatic phrase. OP notes that technically "means there is an official take on things" – user151841 Mar 9 '20 at 16:10
  • @user151841 I wonder if OP miswrote that. I would interpret the difference in a more opposite manner: "We should technically do that, but we're officially doing this." In such a context, I would interpret that "technically" means it's established by norm, while "officially" means an authority is deciding it as so. Authorities can override normal courses of action. – JoL Mar 9 '20 at 16:49
  • @JoL The OP coalesces two heterogeneous cases due to his mother language. In the first example, he means "officially", in the second "according to the standards". – Nico Mar 9 '20 at 17:18

If it's in a broader context than literally "technisch (gesehen)", "eigentlich" would be a good translation.

Technically, I'm not supposed to do that, but I'll make an exception this one time.

Eigentlich sollte ich das nicht tun, aber dieses eine Mal mache ich eine Ausnahme.


You can say this in German. I'm not sure if usage came from a translation from English, but it's common to say it this way.

Ja, aber technisch gesehen darf ich das nicht.

For example ( a bit contrived but I'm uncreative). Say there's a memo that you are to request permission before you print something.

A: Hey, kannst Du die Seite für mich drucken? (Hey, can you print that page for me?)
B: Hmm, technisch gesehen müsste ich dafür um Erlaubnis fragen, aber bei unter 10 Seiten beschwert sich keiner. (Well, technically I should request permission for this but typically nobody bats an eye if it's under 10 pages)

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    I've never heard of this expression in the context you mention, but it might be one which is gaining some frequency. – Nico Mar 8 '20 at 17:21
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    Maybe. One day it might become conventionalized in German due to language contact in terms of calque. – Nico Mar 8 '20 at 18:05
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    Maybe it's a regional thing but "technisch gesehen" is used here just as commonly as "theoretisch gesehen" (in other words: quite frequently). – Ben Mar 9 '20 at 13:32
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    I second "theoretisch|offiziell|genau genommen|eigentlich darf ich das nicht, aber [praktisch] können wir das schon machen." – cbeleites unhappy with SX Mar 10 '20 at 15:52
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    "Technisch gesehen" is pretty common and actually the first thing that came to my mind as well when I saw this question. – QBrute Mar 11 '20 at 10:11

First of all, I think your examples could (perhaps should) rather be written as:

"Yes, but formally, I'm not supposed to." or, "Theoretically speaking, the values should be higher.."

The difference being (in my opinion) that "technically" implies a somewhat technical, "real-world" context, as in:

  • "technically I can't edit this PDF file" (i.e. I am unable to, due to file permissions - I may however, theoretically, know of a workaround to do so)
  • "Yes, but technically, this window needs to stay closed" (i.e. while you could open the window, there is a reason - eg. a strong draft - as to why the window should stay closed)
  • or, (following this argument on quora), while I theoretically could be able to perform a complicated piece of music (given enough time to practice) I still technically can´t (as I just haven't practiced enough).


  • "the value should be higher" implies a theoretical context (i.e. the existence of a theoretical model for these values)
  • "I'm not supposed to" implies a formal set of rules you're supposed to conform to

Note how to you, all my examples above may only show a formal (or perhaps theoretical) valid use of the english language, but you may think they are technically not commonly in use! :-)

Secondly, I'd directly transfer these rules into German, and say (if I want to be precise):

  • "Ja, aber offiziell darf ich das nicht"
  • "theoretisch sollten die Werte höher liegen"

In a "real world" situation (see Google Ngrams), one would however use other words more commonly:

  • normalerweise, eigentlich, theoretisch

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