Possibly related: Hubert Schölnast's answer here.

In the German and English versions of the same game I ran across:

"Dass du mich überhaupt siehst, so wie du in andere Richtungen schaust, damit dich ja niemand beobachtet."
"Surprised you saw me, the way you keep looking every other direction to make sure no one's watching."

The English version is missing a subject and verb in the first clause, but in context it's obvious that it should be "I'm". In the German version it's missing a verb and anything to do with being surprised. So I'm having a hard time figuring out if that's implied by context or it's a typographical error of some kind. I would have added .., ist überraschend to the end. I realize that both versions are very informal, and ellipses are allowed in such cases, but it seems like the German version goes too far with it.

PS. I found a description of this construction on LEO (section c). The upshot is that exclamatory sentences can take the form of a subordinate clause. They give three examples; the last one is Dass das so teuer geworden ist! -- "It's gotten so expensive!" I think this explains the original sentence, but apparently LEO is still missing a few things.

First, one of HalvarF's comments gives some examples where surprise is not meant, but according to LEO the construction is an expression of Verwunderung/"amazement". Perhaps any exclamatory sentence contains some degree of amazement, so this might not be a contradiction. Also, the original sentence is meant to be more teasing banter than an actual expression of surprise or amazement.

Second, the link given in Carsten S' comments mentions that you can start such a construction with words other than dass, namely wenn, ob, or a question word. I'm already familiar with the wenn case, but I thought it would only be used with the subjunctive: Wenn ich nur fliegen könnte! -- "If only I could fly!" In any case, the answer in the link seems to focus on terminology and syntax rather than meaning, so it's a bit hard to tell what the example sentences mean. (Google Translate doesn't seem to do well with informal/colloquial German.) LEO only gives examples for the question word was and dass.

Anyway, just knowing that it isn't a typo is a big help. Part of the problem is that informal German like this isn't always covered covered well in grammars, especially ones in English; for some reason they only want to teach you how to speak "proper" German.

PPS. Just for my own future reference if nothing else, I wanted to add a couple more relevant links. First, Grammis mentions something about this type of construction here, starting with the paragraph that begins In dieser Ausprägung. There are five or six examples listed there. Second, this paper gives eight examples at the top of page 13. Finally, DWDS gives some example involving dass in it's entry for that word, definition IIa. The main problem I'm having now is that I can't find any sources in English, and while the examples given in German may be self-explanatory for native speakers, I'm not a native speaker their meaning isn't clear to me. Google translate and DeepL get some of the examples, but sometimes they just give a literal translation and, since we're dealing with a figure of speech here, that's not very useful.

  • 1
    Different focus, but perhaps answers this: german.stackexchange.com/a/65718/3237
    – Carsten S
    Mar 16, 2022 at 14:12
  • @Carsten S: Thanks, that's helpful. I'm thinking that in English you'd phrase such an expression as a rhetorical question: "You saw me?!"
    – RDBury
    Mar 16, 2022 at 17:02
  • I think it is answered here well: german.stackexchange.com/questions/65690/… in the accepted answer Mar 17, 2022 at 6:12
  • @planetmaker: The links go to the same question; one links to the question itself and one links to the accepted answer. It is a very helpful answer, but as I said in the PS., the focus is on terminology and syntax with not much said about meaning. I'm still doing my own research on this with the goal of finding several source which independently confirm the same information. Some of the sources I've looked at are research papers though, a bit over my head.
    – RDBury
    Mar 17, 2022 at 11:00

1 Answer 1


This construction is not missing a verb - it is missing a whole main sentence. It is called an an ellipsis: a construction where a part is missing to drive home a point. For instance: "This is - oh my god!" This is actually not a complete sentence but expresses the moment of surprise.

The (not-quite-) sentence you quoted is a common ellipsis in German and expresses a lament(ation). The "dass" is quite normally translatable as "that"

daß du mich überhaupt siehst
that you are seeing me at all

so wie du in andere Richtungen schaust
the way you look in other directions

damit dich ja niemand beobachtet
so as to particularily not beeing seen by anybody

The - implied but not said - missing part (and the main sentence in German) would be something like "..., is detestable", "...is why i dislike you", "...is what you are giving me grief with", etc.. Such a lament could go on and on - without ever ending with a main sentence because this would also conclude the lament.

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    Your examples for missing parts don't fit the example at all, imo. If you read out the whole sentence including your main sentences, I'm sure you will see it. The English translation given in the question adds "[I'm] surprised ..." which fits much better.
    – HalvarF
    Mar 16, 2022 at 16:32
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    I agree with HalvarF, there is nothing in this that would suggest such a negative continuation of the sentence. Mar 16, 2022 at 17:01
  • I got that there might be an ellipsis involved since there's an ellipsis in the English version. Usually though, English and German agree on what can or can't be omitted without breaking the grammar entirely. But the German version seems to have left out elements that would be required in English, and if I didn't have access to the English version I'd be confused about the intended meaning. In general, ellipses are difficult for learners to deal with; one often needs complete understanding of everything that remains to fill in the parts that are missing.
    – RDBury
    Mar 16, 2022 at 17:19
  • See german.stackexchange.com/a/65718/3237 for arguments why analysing this as an ellipsis may be unsatisfactory.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 16, 2022 at 17:55
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    @RDBury: the three sentences just separated by a comma (that could mean anything) make this example even harder I guess... The ellipsis could really express almost any feeling with this kind of sentences: "Dass du das in so kurzer Zeit geschafft hast! [ist großartig]"; "Dass du immer alles so negativ sehen musst! [, nervt mich]!"; "Dass sich die beiden am Ende doch noch finden! [is a pleasant surprise][is a total cliché][is completely absurd]"
    – HalvarF
    Mar 16, 2022 at 17:55

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