Forum Rocket German German Grammar Free Translation from German to English

Free Translation from German to English


I wish to express a certain frustration that I have experienced more than once with Rocket German regarding translations. I realise that many sentences between German and English do not translate literally, especially if the course is teaching an expression. However, for a beginning learner such as myself, free translations between German and English (either direction) is confusing when it is not required, and I would recommend adhering more to a literal translation in these cases in order for the learner to better grasp grammatical constructions in German.

Below are 2 examples I encountered today in lesson 12.4 "Der Streit":
1. "Nachdem wir die Heiratsurkunde unterschrieben haben, ..."  is translated as "After signing the marriage certificate, ...". This is a free translation of "After we have signed the marriage certificate, ...". I don't see any constructive purpose of using a free translation in this case. The literal translation is perfectly acceptable in English. I would also guess that in German it would be possible to literally translate the free English translation above into German as "Nachdem Unterzeichnung der Heiratskunde, ..." (or something of the like). So in this particular exercise of the lesson, there was no reason to not provide a literal translation in order to better understand the grammatical structure.
2. "Ich verbringe Stunden damit das Haus aufzuräumen und zu putzen..." is translated as "I spend hours trying to clean up the house and tidy up..." Why "trying to"? It appears to me that this, too , is a free translation and should actually translate as "I spend hours cleaning up the house and tidying up...". By inserting the "trying to" in the English translation, and then later on in the lesson (e.g. Flashcards) requesting  me to translate the English into German, it causes needless confusion. There is no constructive reason that I can see to not literally translate the German sentence into English.

Thanking you in advance for any consideration you may give to the above.


Hallo PaulS108,

Thank you very much for getting in touch with us with these suggestions! I have passed them on to the development team.

We have also added a literal translation for the first phrase and have removed the "trying" from the second.

Viele Grüße



I agree with Paul about over free translations, in fact I think I have posted about it in the past.
On the particular sentence:
Ich verbringe Stunden damit das Haus aufzuräumen und zu putzen und Stephanie läßt einfach überall ihre Sachen rumliegen.

To me, the tricky word is "damit"  what is it there for, is it essential, and how do you use it in your own sentences?

The closest near literal translation I can think of is:
"I spend hours with/on tidying and cleaning the house..."



Guten Tag sfpugh,

Thank you for your question!

There are two different grammatical uses of the word damit:

damit as an adverb
This is used to refer to things meaning "with this matter/object/activity", for example:

"Bist du damit fertig?" - "Are you finished with this/it?"
"Ich verbringe Stunden damit das Auto zu waschen." - "I spend hours (with) washing the car."
"Ich nehme das Auto und fahre damit zur Arbeit." - "I take the car and drive to work with it."

damit as a conjunction
This is another word for "dass" or "sodass" and can be translated as "in order that/so (that)". It is used to introduce a subordinate clause, for example:

"Ich lerne Deutsch, damit ich nach Deutschland ziehen kann." - "I learn German so that I can move to Germany."
"Ich mache Sport, damit ich fit werde." - "I do sports so that I get fit."
"Er geht arbeiten, damit er Geld verdient." - "He goes to work so that he earns money."

I hope this helps to answer your question.



Thank you Julia.
I don't have any trouble when damit refers back to a thing previously mentioned/implied such as in your example:
"Ich nehme das Auto und fahre damit zur Arbeit." - "I take the car and drive to work with it."
"Bist du damit fertig?" - "Are you finished with this/it?"

It was the other use that I had trouble with where it explains/provides additional information about an earlier phrase - the "so that" or "in order to" version

In the original sentence:
Ich verbringe Stunden damit das Haus aufzuräumen und zu putzen und Stephanie läßt einfach überall ihre Sachen rumliegen.

Could you use um instead of damit?

Ich verbringe Stunden, um das Haus aufzuräumen und zu putzen.



Um...zu would fall into the second category. It introduces a so called final clause ("Finalsatz") which is a a subordinate clause illustrating a goal, purpose or intention. 

"Ich lerne Deutsch, um nach Deutschland zu ziehen." - "I learn German in order to move to Germany."
"Ich mache Sport, um fit zu werden." - "I do sports in order to get fit."
"Er geht arbeiten, um Geld zu verdienen." - "He goes to work in order to earn money."

Please note that unlike damit, um...zu needs an infinitive clause to make it work. You also have to make sure the subject of the main and the final clause are the same. 

And yes, you could also say:
"Ich verbringe Stunden, um das Haus aufzuräumen und zu putzen." - "I spend hours in order to tidy up and clean the house."



Thank you for explaining the difference between damit and um...zu, that's really helpful.


Gerne! :) 

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