Ob den Patienten bewusst ist, dass sie mit Hausmitteln behandelt werden?

Please translate this literally to English. Why is there an "ob"? Should the question just be like this:

Ist den Patienten bewusst, dass sie mit Hausmitteln behandelt werden?

Can you guys please explain to me this weird usage of "ob"?

  • 4
    It would be helpful for understanding the question, why you consider ob to be weird. It seems to be a pretty normal example of ob used as conjunction, see DWDS. That the word can be left out without significantly changing the meaning of the sentence may appear curious, but is insufficient to qualify for weird in my opinion.
    – guidot
    Sep 18, 2021 at 21:36
  • @guidot: Polar questions almost always start with the verb in German, so it seems unusual to come across one which doesn't. Also, which is the main clause? Both ob and dass are subordinating conjunctions and both clauses use VL verb placement. I don't know about "weird", but the sentence doesn't seem grammatical by the rules I've learned so far. Harald Lichtenstein suggests it's an ellipsis, and that could explain it, but such a construction would not be possible in English
    – RDBury
    Sep 19, 2021 at 2:03
  • Whether patients are aware, that they are treated with homespun remedies? Your second example is perfectly correct, it just expresses something slightly different, i.e. a direct question (Do patients know … ?), whereas the first one refers to the question in a roundabout, perhaps even rhetorical way. It makes more sense when you add a phrase like “I wonder whether …” or “You ask me whether …”
    – Ingmar
    Sep 19, 2021 at 7:06

2 Answers 2


The sentence seems to be abbreviated. I guess you would better understand, if it is written like this:

Ob die Patienten wissen, dass sie mit Hausmitteln behandelt werden, weiß man nicht.

With this you can translate it to:

One doesn't know, whether the patients know that they get domestic remedies.

Then the ob has a meaning and can be translated to whether.

  • 1
    Please do not use the "code function" for such things.
    – choXer
    Sep 18, 2021 at 20:33

Using "Ob" in this way means the question is a suggestive question. The person stating the question clearly implies the answer is expected to be "No."

In this example the reader is supposed to read "No, the patients probably do not know about the way they are treated." between the lines.

If I tried to translate it to English (not literally, and maybe a bit exaggerated) it might be

But are patients really aware that they are being treated with home remedies?

The version of the question without the "ob", starting with "ist", is a much more neutral form to state the question.

@harald-lichtenstein is right that the "ob" sentence is an ellipsis: the missing words are exactly the words evoking the suggestive part, i.e. creating doubt that the patients know.

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