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Was glaubt ihr denn, wem es einfallen würde, Kinder wie euch anzugreifen?

I want to confirm what I know. Is this question the colloquial version of this question?:

Wem, glaubt ihr, würde es einfallen, Kinder wie euch anzugreifen?

3 Answers 3

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Yes, both sentences deliver the same meaning.

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  • More background would be welcome. As the answer is now, I would expect a flag for poor quality to appear soon.
    – guidot
    Apr 27, 2021 at 20:02
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No, the phrase is not colloquial, as a look into existing text corpora as Korpustreffer für "glaubt denn", aus dem Kernkorpus des Digitalen Wörterbuchs der deutschen Sprache, abgerufen am 27.04.2021 shows, which lists uses from Kurt Tucholsky through to Martin Walser.

In conversation it may be uttered in a condescending manner, however.

I would translated glauben to the English imagine, if that helps.

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  • In addidtion: Especially the Gerhard Hauptmann quote "Was glaubt denn ihr, du und der Bruder, wer ich sei?" has the same structure. It's a common pattern to add a main clause like "Was glaubst du" or "Was denkst du" to any question to make it a question about opinion or guesses.
    – HalvarF
    Apr 28, 2021 at 7:25
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The denn is important. According to the Duden, in questions it can convey impatience or urge, or a doubt. For example, it can be used to chide a child: Was hast Du Dir denn dabei gedacht? ("What on earth were you thinking?")

In your sentence, denn makes it clear that the speaker does not actually believe anybody would attack the children (or perhaps it is entirely clear who) so the question is not meant as an actual inquiry; it involves some irony because what is said deviates from what is meant, and this irony marks it as a rhetoric question. By recognizing that difference the audience realizes that nobody would attack them. Depending on the tone and context this denn may also carry a note of impatience or criticism for the childrens' flawed thinking leading them to believe they would be attacked.

The alternative without denn is indeed very similar in meaning but lacks the clear marker of rhetoric and irony. The interjected glaubt ihr serves that purpose to a degree; without it we would have a simple, entirely universal question. But if there is a rhetoric element it is not as sharp as the denn version.

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