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An episode of www.SlowGerman.com has the following sentence:

Den Kindern in Deutschland geht es gut, wenn man die Situation mit vielen anderen Ländern vergleicht.

In English I believe this translates to:

The children in Germany have it good if you compare their situation to those in many other countries.

But what the German sentence actually appears to say is:

The children in Germany have it good if you compare the situation in many other countries.

Since it does not make sense to compare a situation to a country, should not the German be more correctly written as something like this?

Den Kindern in Deutschland geht es gut, wenn man ihre Situation mit diejenigen in vielen anderen Ländern vergleicht.

  • You are right, the German sentence is sloppy. – Björn Friedrich Oct 17 at 15:12
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    If you're hungry, there's food in the fridge. Language is beautiful! – David Vogt Oct 17 at 15:45
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    Wenn schon, dann bitte mit "...mit denjenigen in vielen anderen Ländern..." – tofro Oct 17 at 17:32
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Yes, this is correct German.

Your suggested improvement is more explicit in what is being compared. Also, your grammatical analysis that forms the base of your literal translations, is correct.

However, the original sentence is still correct, conventional and normal German. That the situation is compared to the situation in other countries is not explicitly mentioned, but it is implicated - as you say, there is no other meaningful interpretation of this sentence, and, together with the premise that the partner in the conversation is making meaningful utterings, it is clear that this is what is meant.

This principle and the aforementioned implicit premise is a very common feature of conversation, not only in German language. For more details and discussion of this, you might want to have a look at Grice's Theory of Implicature, see Wikipedia or Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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  • Yes, that makes sense. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult for someone learning the language to sort out idioms from implications. Thank you. – user44591 Oct 17 at 15:31
  • Wikipedia has a summary of implicature in case you don't want to take the whole linguistics course. German has as many figures as speech as English, and it helps to keep that in mind when you encounter something that seems odd. To quote myself, if the literal translation doesn't make sense then perhaps what you're translating is not meant to be taken literally. – RDBury Oct 18 at 1:21
  • I did find both links to be very informative. Thanks. – user44591 Oct 18 at 11:06
  • @jonathan.scholbach -- I probably should have seen the WP link, but the captions do help. – RDBury Oct 19 at 6:01

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