Forum Rocket German German Vocab One German phrase which appears to have two different meanin

One German phrase which appears to have two different meanin

Ken1

Nathalie Many months ago you kindly did me a translation of the English Police caution. As follows "Sie müssen nichts sagen, aber es kann Ihrer Verteidigung schaden, wenn Sie etwas nicht erwähnen wenn Sie gefragt werden, auf das Sie später vor Gericht angewiesen sind. Alles was Sie sagen kann als Beweis benutzt werden." However, this brought a question to mind “Sie müssen nichts sagen” was the translation for “You do not have to say anything” This implies that the person has a choice as to whether he says something or not. But, doesn’t the same phrase also mean “You must not say anything” Implying the opposite, that there is no choice. Können Sie Mir Helfen

Hi Ken, yes that can be confusing. The word "must" and "müssen" don't mean the same thing even though they look so similar. Ever heard a German tourist say "I would like to become a hotdog"? The German word "bekommen" means "to get" and it sounds very similar to "to become" and therefore gets confused by many Germans. It's the same with "müssen" and "must". “Sie müssen nichts sagen” - means "you don't have to say anything" "Sie dürfen nichts sagen" - means "you must not say anything" "müssen" means "to have to" and "dürfen" means "to be allowed to" or in the negative "nicht dürfen" means "not to be allowed to". So when the police tells you that "Sie müssen nichts sagen" then you have a choice whether you want to say anything or not.

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