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When dealing with fractions in German we normally say "drei-viertel" or "3/4". Another example would be "sieben-zwanzigstel = 7/20". But is there another way of saying it? In English another way of saying "three-fourths" is "three over four". Would an equivalent "3 durch 4 oder 18 durch 31" be appropriate and acceptable?

Is there another way?

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  • This is a tricky subject seeing as the everyday way to say it in German may be as stated in some answers, but the influence of English words in both tech and math in Germany is gradually getting stronger. You run the risk of finding the right German word and then when using it, have Germans go "Whut?" or some German equivalent of that. So as much as this question is about translation and meaning, for practical purposes you might be better advised to just stick to English. Any German with a more than halfway refined understanding of mathematics, will understand you perfectly well.
    – user48613
    Commented May 15, 2021 at 20:09
  • I’ve noticed that Translate translation app doesn’t seem able to cope with converting (English) fractions into German. Eg three and a half, three and a quarter were translated as Die dreieinhalb and Dreieinhalbviertel (which to me seems more like three and a half quarter (-?) But if you want number and fraction (things) eg. “three and a quarter cakes”, it is rendered as “Dreieinhalbkuchens” same as “three and a half cakes” also “Dreieinhalb Kuchens”. …but then, perhaps that’s due to faults in the translation app? Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 1:36
  • @Berend: Was ist älteren Personen, die in der DDR nur Russisch gelernt haben, was mit älteren Kindergartenkindern, die 3/4 durchaus schon verstehen können, was mit bildungsfernen Schichten, was, wenn man einen deutschen Text schreiben will, was mit Flüchtlingen, die weder deutsch noch Englisch können, aber vielleicht Französisch? Wieso nicht die ganze Sektion hier schließen - die Leute sollen Englisch lernen! Whut? Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 5:46
  • @Berend, generell kenne ich das Problem ja auch, und ich streue auch schon mal Englische Fachbegriffe ein, aber wenn jemand Deutsch redet und dann Englische Zahlen einstreut, würde ich mich doch sehr wundern.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 20:27

2 Answers 2

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Besides using percentage values, there is no other common way. However, note that your spelling is incorrect. The correct spelling of your examples is "drei Viertel", and "sieben Zwanzigstel".

Also, beware that in German, n über k, which is the literal translation of n over k, is referring to the binomial coefficient, not to the fraction.

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  • Aha that makes sense. Thank you for your help!
    – Ski Mask
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 9:14
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In my experience, saying "3 durch 4" or "3 von 4" is appropriate, though colloquial. It'd probably not be used frequently in e.g. a mathematical lecture, but I've heard this often in colloquial speech.

You can't go wrong with "drei Viertel", though, so if in doubt, I'd advise you to stick to this.

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    I think the choice depends on the numbers. When the spoken numbers are short and when there is no ambiguity I would use the form like "drei Viertel". When the spoken numbers get longer, especially the denominator, I would prefer "A durch B". Examples 3/1000 "drei Tausendstel" vs. 3/2857 "3 durch 2857". Some numbers can create an ambiguity when spoken, e.g. 3/10000 "drei Zehntausendstel" vs. "dreizehn Tausendstel" 13/1000. In such a case, either the pause between the words should be emphasized or the unambiguous form "3 durch 10000" or "13 durch 1000" can be used.
    – Bodo
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 17:06
  • @Bodo That's exactly what I had in mind because the common way of saying fractions works for small values but if you are talking about larger values such as 123/3456 then saying it in the more common way.
    – Ski Mask
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 9:16
  • Isn't there something fundamentally colloquial about saying fractions to begin with? To communicate numbers correctly in any given language, there is mathematical formulas. Fractions themselves have an entirely different meaning linguistically in English than they do in German. As an example the use of fractions in measurement is very common in the imperial system, whereas in the metric system it is virtually non-existent, giving Germans less routine in their use. This has no effect on formulas, but in spoken word it may make the difference between being understood and generating confusion.
    – user48613
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 19:56

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