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Ich kann mir 5 Wochen Urlaub nehmen und dann kann ich mit meinen Kindern verreisen.
Ich kann 5 Esel füttern und dann kann ich 3 Äpfel essen.

From context we know that we need at least 1 day without work to have a vacation and at least 1 donkey fed to eat the apples.

But looking at the sentence structure.

Does "und dann" here mean that if I manage to make use of being able feed 5 donkeys, only then I am able to eat 3 apples?

So is this another way to express a conditional meaning?

Wenn ich 5 Esel gefüttert habe, (dann) kann ich 3 Äpfel essen.

Or "müssen" as a modal verb and a Finalsatz:

Ich muss 5 Esel füttern, um 3 Äpfel essen zu können.

What if I can feed 5 donkeys, but I choose not to? Or, instead I choose to only feed 3 donkeys? Am I not able to eat 3 apples? Or does the option to eat 3 apples simply follow the option to feed 5 donkeys chronologically? So the time of donkey-feeding needs to have elapsed before the time of apple-eating starts, without the need to have ever fed a donkey?

So my question, I guess, is, if this is a clear sentence, and what the meaning of the sentence is.

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  • Correct tenses can help (and your verb conjugation is wrong anyway): "Wenn ich 5 Esel gefüttert habe, (dann) kann ich 3 Äpfel essen."
    – user6495
    Jun 14, 2023 at 8:40
  • Is there more context for the examples? "Ich kann 5 Esel füttern und dann kann ich 3 Äpfel essen." is a bit ambiguous. Without context, I would suspect that this might be about the amount of apples possessed by the narrator. If this is about needing to first feed donkeys before eating apples, the first "kann" is wrong.
    – user6495
    Jun 14, 2023 at 8:44
  • @Roland Maybe look at the vacation example, it is less ambiguous. "Ich kann mir 5 Wochen Urlaub nehmen und dann kann ich mit den Kindern verreisen". Jun 14, 2023 at 10:13
  • That example is still artificial and something I wouldn't ever say, which makes it less than usefull. I might say something like "Ich nehme mir 5 Wochen Urlaub und vereise mit meinen Kindern." or "Ich nehme mir 5 Wochen Urlaub, damit ich mit meinen Kindern verreisen kann." Your double "kann" construction is really weird. I believe it is equally weird in English.
    – user6495
    Jun 14, 2023 at 10:47
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    "From context we know that we need (...) at least 1 donkey fed to eat the apples." - I have no idea how you come to that conclusion based on the written sentence. Jun 14, 2023 at 12:34

3 Answers 3

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That's not a question of grammar but rather one of interpreting the situation.

Ich kann mir 5 Wochen Urlaub nehmen und dann kann ich mit meinen Kindern verreisen.

That sentence is a snarky remark in my view. This is due to the subjective use of können in the first part. That ich kann doesn't mean I'm able to but rather I had to, if I could.

But this is pretty much guessed. Context is key.

Ich kann 5 Esel füttern und dann kann ich 3 Äpfel essen.

I don't have such a feeling here, because the two actions are unrelated.

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Language is a device to transmit meaning. But, as human interactions can defy clear-cut characterization, language can be ambiguous, laced with hidden meaning and innuendo. Sometimes the meaning is to be gleaned from the context - which may or may not exist.

Having said this rather general/philosophical bit let us dive into your first sentence:

Ich kann mir 5 Wochen Urlaub nehmen und dann kann ich mit meinen Kindern verreisen.

"können" means, in a strict sense, having the ability. "Und" just combines two sentences. In a strict sense "und" doesn't establish a causal relationship between the two sentences. "Dann" is either temporal ("am 24. ist Weihnachten, dann werde ich nach Hause fahren") or causal ("wenn A, dann B") and here it can be both.

If the former (5 weeks vacation) would indeed be a prerequisite for the latter (with my kids) one could contract it. This won't really establish a causal relationship, but suggest one nevertheless:

Ich kann mir 5 Wochen Urlaub nehmen und dann mit meinen Kindern verreisen.

The way the sentence is given it is a Aufzählung (enumeration) with two items: 1. take vacation, 2. journey with the kids. How about this:

Ich kann die Fenster putzen und dann kann ich den Boden reinigen und dann kann ich auch das Geschirr abwaschen und außerdem kann ich Wäsche waschen.

Would you really think cleaning the windows is a prerequisite of cleaning the floor and both these chores are necessary prior to do the dishes? I'd rather say this is a potential cleaning person itemizing what he is able to do.

So, having said all this, the point is not

Does "und dann" here mean that if I manage to make use of being able feed 5 donkeys, only then I am able to eat 3 apples?

The question is wrong, IMHO, and therefore there is no answer. The question is not: can I justify this or that interpretation, but: which interpretation could be expected by the average reader/listener?

For instance:

Ich möchte mir diesen Film ansehen.

It is technically possible to interpret that as "I want to see the movie but that doesn't include listening to its sound".

Coming back to your sentence: I would interpret taking the vacation as a prerequisite for the journey with the kids. Not because of the "und dann" or any other grammatical or syntactical device but simply because I know (by and large) how the world works.

A similar point can be made for your second sentence and I refrain from repeating all I said above mutatis mutandis for that.

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The purely logical meaning

Since "dann" means "after that", a sentence with "dann" implies that this "that" must have happened or it is a vacuous truth. Put simply, its a conditional. So it is logically equivalent to

Ich kann mir 5 Wochen Urlaub nehmen und, wenn ich das gemacht habe, kann ich mit meinen Kindern verreisen.

"kann Urlaub ⇒ kann Reise". But you seem to be confused with the so called logical conditional ⇒. Because only from the meaning, you are making no statement at all about what happens if you don't take vacation! So if there is a requirement or not is left entirely to the listener and context, you make no statement whatsoever about it.

This can be changed with words like "erst" or "nur":

Ich kann mir 5 Wochen Urlaub nehmen und erst dann kann ich mit meinen Kindern verreisen.

If you say it like that, it is clear that not taking vacation means no journey with your children. "Urlaub ⇔ kann Reise".

Your last sentence is the exact opposite: "kann nicht Reise ⇒ nicht Urlaub".

Ich muss mir 5 Wochen Urlaub nehmen, um danach mit meinen Kindern verreisen zu können.

is superficially not saying if it suffices to take vacation to go on a journey with your children. Maybe there are other requirements.

Remark: It is not clear if "dann" refers to "after taking vacation" or "after vacation". I initially understood the sentence as "Children are so tiring that I need at least 5 weeks of paid leave to be mentally ready for a journey with them:)".

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    5 weeks, not days. Jul 15, 2023 at 3:01

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