1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

The only thing that could have made it better, would have been your being there! (conditional)

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by eagerstudent, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. eagerstudent Junior Member

    'The only thing that could have made it better, would have been your being there!'

    I have been trying to get a grasp on the 'conditional', and have attempted this sentence in german. I have come up with: Das Einzige, dass es besser gemacht haben koennte, waere dein Dabeiseins gewesen!

    Is this anywhere near the mark? I would very much welcome any advice!

    Thanks in anticipation!
  2. djweaverbeaver Senior Member

    English Atlanta, GA USA
    My attempt:

    Das Enzige, was es besser hätte machen können, wäre dein Dabei-Sein/deine Anwesendheit gewesen.
  3. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    First of all, two tiny grammar faults:
    I actually prefer Djweaverbeaver's suggestion Anwesenheit over Dabeisein. If the difference between being there and presence is important to what you want to say, and, hence, you don't want to use Abwesenheit then I would re-phrase it like this:
    Das Einzige, das es besser gemacht haben könnte, wäre, wenn Du dagewesen wärst!
  4. eagerstudent Junior Member

    Thank you both very much for your most helpful comments, I appreciate it!
  5. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    There is a difference between
    XXX hätte es besser machen können............ and
    XXX könnte es besser gemacht haben.

    The English sentence is ambiguous because could can be past indicative or past subjunctive. If past subjunctive is meant (which I assume) then könnte es besser gemacht haben is more accurate.

    (*) If you want to say to make something better, you should keep besser and machen together (hätte besser machen and not *besser hätte machen); otherwise it means to do something better (=in a better way) or, alternatively, besser means better in the sense of rather, preferably (You better do that).
  6. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    Hi, "Dabeisein" would be possible, but I'd prefer "Anwesenheit".
    Note that a different sequences is possible.

    Das Einzige, was es hätte besser machen können, wäre deine Anwesenheit gewesen.

    Another variant:
    Das Einzige, was es besser gemacht haben könnte, wäre deine Anwesenheit gewesen.

    I do not see a difference in content here.

    It is also possible to use verb style.

    Es wäre vielleicht besser geworden, wenn du dagewesen wärst.
    - But this changes the content a little bit compared to the English text.
  7. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Let's construct a simpler sentence, then it may become apparent:
    Du hättest das besser machen können.
    Du könntest das besser gemacht haben.
    The first sentence is adamant, the second cautious.
  8. ABBA Stanza Senior Member

    Hessen, DE
    English (UK)
    I'm not sure I understand this. :confused::(

    Firstly, what is meant by "difference in content"? Is it a translation from "inhaltlicher Unterschied" (= substantial difference)?

    Assuming that is the case, then both of you seem to think that there is not much difference between the two sentences. But if so, this does not agree with what I've learned so far, especially if comparing with something/someone else. For example:

    (1) Du könntest das besser gemacht haben als er/sie.

    I interpret this to imply that the person being addressed *may* have done it better than the person being compared to. The setting of the verb "können" in the Konjunktiv II indicates to me that the person speaking/writing is unsure here.

    (2) Du hättest das besser machen können als er/sie.

    I interpret this to mean that the person being addressed had the capability/opportunity of doing it better than the person being compared to, but didn't​. In other words, the other person did it (in the opinion of the speaker/writer) at least as well, if not better. The setting of the verb "haben" in the Konjunktiv II indicates to me that the situation is purely hypothetical, because it did not occur and the past cannot be changed.

    So, whilst I agree with berndf that the first formulation is cautious and the second adamant, the former appears to be cautiously positive with respect to the opinion on the performance of the person being addressed, whereas the latter appears to be adamantly negative. So, for me, there was always a significant difference between these two grammatical patterns. But now, the quoted posts have made me unsure, and it sounds like you both think that both forms are almost interchangeable (apart from some slight differences in emphasis, perhaps).

    Any help in pointing out any potential misunderstanding I might have in this area would be much appreciated. :)


Share This Page