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I know "über etwas verfügen" means something like: have got, have sth at your disposal..., as expressed in the following sentence:

Der arme Kerl verfügte nicht einmal über ein eigenes Fahrzeug.

But what does it mean in this sentence:

Wenn Sie über Ihr Giro-Guthaben verfügt haben, ist es danach futsch.

"If you have your current bank balance (at your disposal) then it's gone"...doesn't make much sense to me!

Or is there something wrong with my translation?

3 Answers 3

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As you mentioned, "über etwas verfügen" can mean something along the lines of "to have something at your disposal" or "to be able to determine what happens with something". This typically describes the possibility to do something with the thing that's at your disposal.

But in some contexts, for example in banking or financial jargon, the phrase often describes that you did do something with it, that you actually did execute your prerogative. So a sentence like

Um über Ihr Guthaben zu verfügen, füllen Sie bitte Formular 123 aus.

means something along the lines of

In order to command over your deposit, please fill out form 123.

or, in more natural English,

In order to withdraw your deposit, please fill out form 123.

So, in this context it's assumed that you not only can do something with your money, but that you actually do. And if you did something with your money, if you spent it, it's gone ;)

EDIT: It may also be helpful to note that the "potential aspect" of "über etwas verfügen" is somewhat secondary. A "Verfügung" can mean something like a order, a decree, an ordinance, typically issued by some official body. "Verfügen" means, among other meanings, to issue such an order. Think, for example

Das Gesundheitsamt hat die Schließung des Lokals verfügt.
The health office has (formally) ordered the closing of the restaurant.

In this sense, "über etwas verfügen" refers to the actual exercise of the disposal. A more literal translation of "to have something at one's disposal", referring to the potential but not necessarily the exercise of the disposal, would be "etwas zur Verfügung haben". But in current everyday speech, "über etwas verfügen" came to typically refer to the potential, as described above.

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  • Also note that "verfügen" is very formal, almost nobody except the bank would use it. But "futsch" is informal. I don't know who would use both in the same sentence.
    – RalfFriedl
    Dec 15, 2021 at 8:43
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Your translation uses the wrong tense: "Sie haben verfügt" is past tense, perfect in this case.

The given sentence is somewhat poor, since the English translation boils down to the non-surprising fact:

If you did something with the money on your bank account (either by transfer, withdrawal or direct debit), it does no longer show up there afterwards.

Verfügen, here: meaning 2, maps to perform transfer, withdrawal or direct debit, at least that are the transactions I can imagine in that context.

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You have to look up "verfügen" in your dictionary, again...

über etwas verfügen

has at least two distinct meanings

have sth at your disposal

dispose of sth

Now you can find a meaningful translation for your example

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  • Neither Duden, nor DWDS or Wikitionary states that "über etwas verfügen" can mean "dispose of sth"...and even if it does, how would the aforementioned sentence be translated then: //If you dispose of your current bank balance then it's gone// ??? Dec 14, 2021 at 21:44

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