Can you please help me with translate this sentence?

Er ließ sich vom Kellner einen Tisch anweisen.

Is any of the following translations accurate?

  1. He had a waiter show him his table.
  2. He had a waiter allocate a table for him.
  3. He was directed to a table by a waiter.

Also, is the following sentence a good alternative to the original?

Ihm hat der Kellner einen Tisch angewiesen.

  • The German sentence has no passive voice, even if the meaning is a sort of passive and one can be easily rephrase to Ihm wurde ein Tisch zugewiesen. (which would be passive.)
    – guidot
    Jul 29, 2021 at 14:30
  • 2
    @guidot: I think what's confusing on this point is the vom Kellner part. It seems to imply (to an English speaker) that there must be a passive verb as in the "by the waiter" in option 3. Apparently vom is required when you use lassen in this way, but no preposition is used in English with "to have" as in option 1.
    – RDBury
    Jul 29, 2021 at 17:36

3 Answers 3


The first translation is accurate. The second translation doesn't appear to be good English. The third translation has a subtly different meaning.

The proposed alternative sentence translates to "The waiter showed him his table." That's not the same as the original and fits better with translation #3. Although the word order of the German sentence is valid, it is quite awkward. A native speaker would only chose this word order to strongly emphasize "Ihm" (him), perhaps when answering the question "Wem?" (Whom?).


I would translate it as

He had a waiter assign him a table.

So imho your translation (2) fits the meaning of "anweisen" best.

"Anweisen" does also include the "show" part though. The waiter allocates a table and tells (or shows) the customer where to take place, and all of that is elegantly included in "einen Tisch anweisen".

You can probably also express that with your first translation, and that translation looks fine in the case that the table is, say, already reserved for that particular customer, so no allocation is needed any more at that point. However, like your translation, the German text would probably use the possessive pronoun ("seinen Tisch") instead of the indefinite article ("einen Tisch") in that case.

Your alternative German sentence has an awkward word order and completely leaves out the aspect of "He had the waiter do it.", but it's a correct sentence.


Sich von jemandem etwas geben lassen

is a generic way in German to express that two parties agree on an exchange. It doesn't sound very fluid when literally translated into English, maybe something like "let someone give you something".

Er ließ sich vom Kellner einen Tisch anweisen.

means guest and waiter both agreed on the assignment of a table by the waiter to the guest. It may include negotiations about which table exactly and also the act of the waiter leading the guest to the table.

Ihm hat der Kellner einen Tisch angewiesen.

expresses the same outcome, but is somewhat more direct in tone, may imply that the waiter was less cooperative and just ordered the guest to a certain table, one the waiter deemed fit, possibly with less inclination to serve the guest's request. Like, for instance, the seat number on a flight which, if not payed for, is just assigned.

Note that this is not a hard rule and needs mor context, but it can be used as a way to express an interaction in different shades.

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