1

Attempting to translate the following English:

He brushed past Michael Donovan on the threshold with a grave nod and passed down the corridor, oblivious to the astounded stare that followed him.

I said,

Er ging eng an Michael Donovan an der Türschwelle vorbei, gab ihm ein ernstes Kopfnicken, und lief den Flur entlang weiter, wobei sich das erstaunte Starren, das ihm folgte, nicht bewusst machte.

But I was corrected by native German speakers with,

Er ging eng an Michael Donovan an der Türschwelle vorbei, gab ihm ein ernstes Kopfnicken, und lief den Flur entlang weiter, wobei ihm sich das erstaunte Starren, das ihm folgte, nicht bewusst machte.

Why is the pronoun "ihm" required for the clause containing "sich bewusst machen"?

1 Answer 1

3

When you strip the dependent clause of ajectives and subclauses, you get the following:

  1. wobei ihm sich das Starren nicht bewusst machte

This can be transformed into a main clause:

  1. Das Starren machte sich ihm nicht bewusst.

In a literal translation, this would be:

  1. The stare did not make itself aware/conscious to him.

Without the word «ihm», you have the following sentence:

  1. Das Starren machte sich nicht bewusst.

Which roughly translates as follows:

  1. The stare did not make itself conscious.

In other word, the sentence without «ihm» is patent nonsense. By inserting the word «ihm», it gains a semblance of sense.

A better sentence with «bewusst» would be as follows:

  1. Das Starren wurde ihm nicht bewusst.

Or, in a dependent «wobei» clause:

  1. wobei ihm das Starren nicht bewusst wurde

Using that sentence, the translation could be emended as follows:

Er ging eng an Michael Donovan an der Türschwelle vorbei, gab ihm ein ernstes Kopfnicken, und lief den Flur entlang weiter, wobei ihm das erstaunte Starren, das ihm folgte, nicht bewusst wurde.

However, I think it is a bad translation to start with. A more idiomatic translation might be as follows:

Er strich vorbei an Michael Donovan auf der Schwelle mit einem gewichtigen Nicken und ging den Korridor hinunter, ungeachtet des erstaunten Starrens, das ihm folgte.

4
  • This explanation is quite clear and informative -- much appreciated. And, while I am sure your alternative translation is much better, I am concerned with what German I can produce, not what is the best German. And I am not in a state of understanding that would ever allow me to arrive at such a sentence. The best I can hope for is bad German (sigh). One sometimes wonders whether that is justified at all.
    – user44591
    Jan 25, 2023 at 16:32
  • Also, I beg to differ regarding the "patent nonsense" of the English translation above. In the English sentence a thing with consciousness is implied and understood. It can be difficult for English speakers to know when German does not carry over that which the English would imply.
    – user44591
    Jan 25, 2023 at 16:44
  • 1
    other possible translation: ..., ohne das erstaunte Starren, das ihm folgte, wahrzunehmen.
    – Bodo
    Jan 25, 2023 at 17:00
  • I'd rather use "...ungeachtet des erstaunten Starrens, das ihm folgte."
    – bakunin
    Jan 26, 2023 at 8:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.