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The Goethe-Zertifikat A1 Wortliste includes, for the word geschlossen, the example sentence:

Die Bank hat am Samstag geschlossen.

My understanding is that (i) the sentence is in the Perfekt and (ii) the Perfekt is used to express things about the past. I understood the sentence to mean either that the bank was closed last Saturday but will probably be open on Saturdays in the future, or else that the bank had closed permanently on the most recently past Saturday. However, both DeepL and Google Translate give the translation as:

The bank is closed on Saturday.

which I take to be a statement about the next forthcoming Saturday. The translation that I've shown also appears in a shared Anki deck for language learners, having quite possibly be taken from one of the online translators.

Questions: What is the correct translation of the German sentence? If it is, indeed, a statement about the past, does it imply that the bank has closed permanently? If it is a statement about the future, how does one recognize that fact and not mistake the sentence for being a statement about the past? And finally, if it is a statement about the future, is it a statement about all future Saturdays, or only the forthcoming Saturday?

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In German predicates sometimes do not consist of a verb only, but of more words. So,

  • offen haben = to be open
  • geschlossen haben = to be closed

can be thought as one term. If you want, think of it like of a separable verb that even is separated when the prefix stands immediately before the core.

  • inseparable verb (handhaben = to handle)

    Otto handhabt heute eine Maschine.
    Otto wird morgen eine Maschine handhaben.

  • real separable verb (anhaben = to wear something)

    Jürgen hat heute einen Mantel an.
    Jürgen wird morgen einen Mantel anhaben.

  • pseudo separable verb (offen haben = to be open)

    Das Geschäft hat heute offen.
    Das Geschäft wird morgen offen haben.


The translation of

Die Bank hat am Samstag geschlossen. = Die Bank hat am Samstag zu.

is

The bank is closed on Saturday.

but closer to the German meaning are these variations:

The bank has closed on Saturday.
The bank holds closed on Saturday.
The bank keeps closed on Saturday.


addendum (tense and time)

The fact, that the word geschlossen can be both, an adjective and a participle, can be confusing here

  • participle

    Tom schließt das Tor. (Präsens)
    Tom schloss das Tor. (Präteritum)
    Tom hat das Tor geschlossen. (Perfekt, built with a form of the auxiliary verb haben and Partizip II of schließen)

  • adjective

    Das geschlossene Tor lässt sich nicht öffnen.

So, I will use the adverb "zu" now instead, because "geschlossen haben" and "zu haben" are synonyms. This also means: In all of the next sentences you can replace "zu" with "geschlossen".

And now we can vary tenses:

Präsens: Die Bank hat zu.
Präteritum: Die Bank hatte zu.
Perfekt: Die Bank hat zu gehabt.
Plusquamperfekt: Die Bank hatte zu gehabt.
Futur I: Die Bank wird zu haben.
Futur II: Die Bank wird zu gehabt haben.

So, the grammatical tense of "Die Bank hat zu." (and therefore also "Die Bank hat geschlossen.") is Präsens.

But German Präsens does not necessarily mean, that something is happening now, in the present time. This of coarse is the main usage of Präsens, but there is more.

  • Präsens can mean the present

    on the phone: "Danke, mir geht es gut. Bei uns regnet es gerade."

  • Präsens can mean the past

    Als Martin Luther im Jahr 1517 seine 95 Thesen verkündet, ahnt noch niemand, welche Folgen das hat.

  • Präsens can mean the future

    Ich fahre morgen zum Baumarkt und kaufe dort eine neue Säge.

  • Präsens can mean any time

    Dreiecke haben drei Ecken.

So, you very often use temporal modifiers like "heute, morgen, gerade eben, jetzt, schon bald, letzten Sonntag, kommende Woche, ..." to make clear which time you mean.

"Am Samstag" is such a modifier, but it is ambiguous. The most likely interpretation is next Saturday. In this case the sentence "Die Bank hat am Samstag geschlossen" says something about the future. (But its grammatical tense still in Präsens.)

Another interpretation is, that you mean every Saturday. Then the sentence talks about the past, the present and the future. But for this specific case we have the word "samstags". It explicitly means "every Saturday".

Die Bank hat samstags geschlossen.

But still "Die Bank hat am Samstag geschlossen" also can have this meaning.

  • 1
    Just to add for completion "the bank was closed last Saturday" would be "Die Bank hatte am Samstag geschlossen." – user2705196 Nov 1 '20 at 23:06
  • 1
    And you could add that the sentence doesn't necessarily talk about the future, it can also be understood as a statement applying to every Saturday (although in that case I'd typically use "Die Bank hat samstags geschlossen."). – Ralf Kleberhoff Nov 2 '20 at 10:15
  • Neither "holds closed" nor "keeps closed" are idiomatic English. Perhaps you were looking for "stays closed" or "remains closed"? We can also say "closed this Saturday" to emphasise that it's a one-off, or "closed on Saturdays" to be clear that it is closed every week. I don't know which of these would be understood by the German phrase. – IMSoP Nov 2 '20 at 12:19
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I recommend thinking about this as an idiosyncratic use of haben as a copula, i.e. similar to sein.

Die Bank hat [= ist] am Samstag geöffnet/offen/auf/geschlossen/zu/dicht.

Since haben is a copula (and not a perfect auxiliary) in this instance, the sentence is in present tense, which in German can be used to talk about both general truths (the bank is closed on Saturdays) and future events (the bank is closed next Saturday).

Note that the reading as a perfect is possible as well. Adding an appropriate adverbial forces such a reading.

Die Bank hat gerade eben geschlossen. (The bank just closed.)
Die Bank hat vor einer halben Stunde geschlossen. (The bank closed half an hour ago.)

Interestingly enough, in some cases, the perfect of a transitive verb has an alternative stative reading. This construction, as opposed to the above one, is productive.

Sie hat die Haare kurz geschnitten.

  1. She cut the hair short. (past)
  2. She wears her hair short. (stative reading, present tense)
1

In addition to the two previous answers, it is worth pointing out that schliessen is one of those German verbs that exist in both a transitive (requiring a direct object) and intransitive (with no direct object) form. Here we are dealing with the intransitive form, which has a subtle effect on its meaning.

In German the present tense is often used, where other languages would use a future tense. "Er kommt morgen" has exactly the same meaning as "Er wird morgen kommen", and is equivalent to the english "he is coming tomorrow", where also a present tense is used to denote a future event.

So here, if one were to say in German "Die Bank schliesst am Samstag", one would ordinarily be saying that the bank will close on Saturday (presumably as part of a cost cutting drive ...). The only way to imply that the bank is ordinarily closed on Saturday, therefore, is to use the past participle with haben.

As far as I am aware, this is not the case with the transitive form of the verb. "Der Manager hat die Bank am Samstag geschlossen" (the manager shut the bank on saturday) would be taken as a past event and not as a regular occurrence.

  • Welcome to German.SE. I'm by no means someone who knows any rule. I just came across this post and many comments about "there is no in/direct object in German". german.stackexchange.com/questions/34000/… – Shegit Brahm Nov 2 '20 at 15:19
  • @ShegitBrahm I was using direct object in the sense that english speakers would understand. Whilst it is true that what in english would be termed a direct object is often in German represented by the Dative, still German speakers do understand the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs; this is best described to an english speaking audience as between verbs that require a direct object and those that don't and it was in this sense that I was using the term. I was not suggesting that in German one would talk of a direktes Objekt, and I apologise if it came across that way. – Jonathan Willcock Nov 3 '20 at 8:09
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First of all, this is present tense. I do not know why you thought that it is in the perfect. Maybe because hat can be used in perfect, but in combination with geschlossen it is definitely present tense:

hat geschlossen = is closed

Whether this relates to the future, or the past depends completely on the context. For example if you were to ask me which stores closed due to the corona virus, I could answer:

The bank has closed on Saturday. = Die Bank hat am Samstag geschlossen.

And if you asked me whether the bank is open on Saturdays, I could answer:

The bank is closed on Saturdays. = Die Bank hat am Samstag geschlossen.

And finally if you ask me if the bank is open next Saturday I could answer:

The bank will be closed on Saturday. = Die Bank hat am Samstag geschlossen.

If you want to make it clear, you could either clarify which Saturday you mean, for example with jeden, nächsten or letzten, or you could specify the tense of the verb, using schloss or wird schliessen instead of hat geschlossen.

  • 1
    "Er hat den Bund fürs Leben geschlossen." Definitely perfect tense. – Carsten S Nov 2 '20 at 10:59
  • @carsten Yyou are right. The Problem is that in his case geschlossen means that a store is closed, while in yours it means something has been done. Unfortunatly i do not know how to difference them, besides using the context, since they both look the same. Also there is a third meaning of geschlossen, namely looking a door or something similar. If somebody has a solutions for this pls tell me. – Tobias Nov 2 '20 at 11:10

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