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I'm not sure about the use of "vor" in this sentence.

"Nico, ich habe Respekt vor deiner Entscheidung. Aber ich glaube, das funktioniert so nicht."

As I read it, I translate it as "for" in English but I'm sure if this is the case.

I have respect for your decision.

I start to understand this preposition as "in front of" or "before", "ahead of" and so on.

I've seen that it could also have the meaning of "with". Is this the case?

Thinking about "with" I would use "mit".

And I would write: "Ich habe Respekt mit deiner Entscheidung".

Would it be wrong? Or mit is not appropriate compared to vor here?

Or vor it's reinforcing something like: "with your previous" decision?

I hope it's clear, thanks for helping me understand.

3 Answers 3

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Sometimes it's impossible to translate a preposition in isolation. You have to look at the combination of verb + preposition. This is the case here.

Respekt haben vor jemandem/etwas translates to to have respect for someone/something or to respect someone/something. There is not much of a point in asking why it is just these prepositions and not some other. There is probably some explanation, but it is not of much practical value.

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  • Thanks @Rha, it makes sense. So, in this case, it means "for" but because it's a sort of fix combination or expression. Vor is a tricky preposition for me, I have a hard time to learn it with these other variations.
    – David R
    Jan 29 at 17:53
  • I think this is covered under Def III.2 in DWDS. It's tricky for English speakers since English uses different prepositions for this one meaning in German: "Respect for", "Fear of", "Secret from".
    – RDBury
    Jan 29 at 19:11
  • Thanks for the link @RDBury, I had a look but it's still too difficult for me to understand all that but I have a better idea now. This example I posted was for A2 level students, so apparently that usage of "vor" is quite common for Germans.
    – David R
    Jan 29 at 19:59
  • @David R: There's no shame in pasting the material from DWDS into Google translate if the going gets too difficult. DWDS is targeted for native, or at least fluent, German speakers, but sometimes English dictionaries such as Wiktionary don't cover all definitions. Also, be careful not to confuse German speakers with Germans. There are German speakers with many nationalities other than German, just as there are English speakers with many nationalities other than English.
    – RDBury
    Jan 29 at 20:44
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Prepositions can never be translated on their own between two languages, only within context.

A preposition expresses a relationship between two entities. Here it connects "Respekt" with "Entscheidung", and in German it happens that the connection of respect with the thing that causes the respect is expressed with "vor". The same preposition gets used with "Angst" (e.g. "Angst vor dem Examen"), but not "Freude" (e.g. "Freude über das gute Examen"). Although these are very similar relationships (something like an emotion, connected with the cause of that emotion), it's not always the same preposition.

On the other hand, the same preposition "vor" is used when e.g. describing a location in front of a door, although now were talking about a very different relation, one about locations, not causes.

This usage of prepositions in German is somewhat arbitrary, but not only in German. Every language I know has its own decisions when to use which prepostion, which cannot be derived by logic.

So, never try to translate a preposition on its own, as the illogical preposition usage systems of two languages will never match.

Instead, you have to learn the correct prepositions for given contexts. But don't worry if you don't get it correct in all cases. Most of the time, you'll be understood even if you use the wrong one.

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  • The former substantive (e.g.*Freude*) on its own is also insufficient for the decision of the preposition, since I see no alternative to Freude _auf_ den Urlaub.
    – guidot
    Jan 31 at 15:32
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Respekt haben vor + Dativ

It's a set phrase in German, eine feste Verbindung (a set construction) and like the others mentioned, it simply is what it is, and it must be seen in context of German.

I like to tell my students "Prepositions are cultural." Because they only function that way in German, like in this example.

This is how specific German is. This is exactly how you say "I respect your decision," and that is how it's formulated in German.

In other words: #BecauseGerman.

Is this by chance from the film Nicos Weg?

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  • Is it just me, or does "Respekt haben vor etw." sound decidedly different compared to "etw. respektieren"? IMHO, "Respekt haben vor" implies the subject is intimidated, i.e. "Respekt" is a euphemism for "fear". In contrast, "etw. respektieren" seems much closer to the meaning conveyed by "I respect your decision." Feb 3 at 9:11
  • Despite having read about it numerous times, I've never understood the etymology nor the idea of respect being related to fear. I think "Respekt haben vor" is probably a higher register (is more formal) than the verb respektieren. And German speakers use higher registers more frequently than we do in N. American English. Feb 3 at 19:50
  • "I've never understood (...) the idea of respect being related to fear" - I suppose the thinking goes somewhat like this, at least in German: "Respekt" implies that you look up to the recipient of said "Respekt" for one reason or another. If you look up to them, that can mean they are superior to yourself. If they are superior to yourself, you need to tread carefully. In other words, you are intimdated, you fear them. Feb 3 at 21:13

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