als sei er seiner Sache sehr sicher

AnnaJDT

Senior Member
Romanian
Hello!
Could you help me understand the second part of this phrase, please?
"Er sagte das [...] mit solcher Bestimmtheit, als sei er seiner Sache sehr sicher"
He said that [...] with such certaintly, as if? ... his things very surely?
Have a great weeked!
Regards,
 
  • Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Yes, more context would help us understand "Sache" better. But to answer your basic question, Anna, I understand the sentence as, "He said that with such certainty/determination as if he were very certain of his subject/matter."

    Note the English "of" clause and the corresponding German genitive ("seiner Sache") and that "Sache" is singular (plural "Sachen").

    Question for German NS's: Is possible to add a reflexive "sich"?:
    "... als sei er sich dieser Sache sehr sicher".
    EDIT: I meant to write "Is it possible to...". (Just a typo. With all the threads about where "es" is required in German, I wouldn't want people to think that this is a case where "it" is optional in English...)
     
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    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Question for German NS's: Is possible to add a reflexive "sich":
    "... als sei er sich dieser Sache sehr sicher".
    :thumbsup: That would be the normal, more common form.
    But even without reflexive pronoun, the sentence is ok. Without context I cannot see any difference in meaning. (cf. "Ich bin sicher, dass..." vs "Ich bin mir sicher, dass...")

    I'd translate it as "...as if he were very sure of himself."

    [@Dan: "German NS's" always throws up the thought of 'Nationalsozialisten', better known as 'Nazis'! I'd try to avoid that abbreviaton with German speakers...!! :) ]
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    Er sagte das mit solcher Bestimmtheit, als sei er seiner Sache sehr sicher"
    He said that with such a determination/finality, as if he was really certain about it.


    The basic meaning is that some one makes a statement or claim in a way that makes it clear that he is very confident and sure that this statement is correct.

    Question for German NS's: Is possible to add a reflexive "sich"?: "... als sei er sich dieser Sache sehr sicher".
    :tick: Es klingt, als sei er seiner Sache sehr sicher.
    :thumbsdown: Es klingt, als sei er sich seiner Sache sehr sicher. <?>
    :tick: Es klingt, als sei er sich sehr sicher.


    Yes, the reflexive "sich" may be inserted. However, I feel that the combination of "sich" and "seiner Sache" is usually too much (but not wrong).
     

    AnnaJDT

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    To provide more context:

    "Ihr könnt ja nicht einmal schießen!"
    Er sagte das in einem außerordentlich verächtlichen Ton und mit solcher Bestimmtheit, als sei er seiner Sache sehr sicher". (Winnetou)

    So "er sei" (introduced by "als") is subjunctive, just like in the English "he were" (introduced by "as if").

    I think what confused me the most is that in English one would say "as if he were very sure OF his things", while in German the literal translation amounts to: "as he were very sure his things"; the "OF" preposition is missing. Is there an admissible variant where we add the "OF"? Without it, the sentence to me sounds rather incomplete, elliptical.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    I think what confused me the most is that in English one would say "as if he were very sure OF his things", while in German the literal translation amounts to: "as he were very sure his things"; the "OF" preposition is missing. Is there an admissible variant where we add the "OF"? Without it, the sentence to me sounds rather incomplete, elliptical.
    No, you can't look at "seiner Sache" in a literal sense. I'd still translate it as "... as if he were very sure of himself in this regard" or "in/on this matter".
    "(Sich) seiner Sache sicher sein" means that this person is confident to be right with what he or she is saying or claiming. (in other words, he knows what he's talking about)

    Indeed I might be inclined to say in this case "als sei er seiner Sache sehr sicher" without the reflexive 'sich', because his statement concerns somebody else. But even with reflexive pronoun it's fine with me. Maybe with have a stronger tendency in the Bavarian dialect to use this reflexive pronoun.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    I think what confused me the most is that in English one would say "as if he were very sure OF his things", while in German the literal translation amounts to: "as he were very sure his things"; the "OF" preposition is missing. Is there an admissible variant where we add the "OF"? Without it, the sentence to me sounds rather incomplete, elliptical.
    These examples might be some kind of help:

    He rides his bike --> "bike" is accusative
    Er fährt sein Fahrrad --> "Fahrrad" is accusative
    er ist seiner Sache sicher --> "Sache" is genitive
    he is confident of his success --> "of success" is a prepositional phrase corresponding here to the German genitive. [Thank you, Dan2!]

    cross-posted with manfy
     
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    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    the "OF" preposition is missing. Is there an admissible variant where we add the "OF"?
    Generally, the German genitive quite often replaces English "of"-constructions. Please get used to the genitive case having this "of" meaning. Do not always try to create an "of" equivalent. You want to speak idiomatic German, right? In this case, no "of"-equivalent comes to mind anyway.

    Here are several examples of genitive objects that do not require a preposition:

    canoonet - Nomen: Kasus: Genitiv
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    I don't disagree with anything manfy and Kajjo have said, but I just want to stress something for Anna. Anna, you write
    I think what confused me the most is that in English one would say "as if he were very sure OF his things", while in German the literal translation amounts to: "as he were very sure his things"; the "OF" preposition is missing.
    But "his thing" ("seiner Sache") (note again, singular) is in the genitive case in German, so that's not what it "amounts to". (I pointed this out in Post 3.) One of the most basic differences between German and English is that in many instances the genitive is used in German where an "of"-phrase would be used in English:
    die Bedeutung dieser Sache - the importance of this matter
    the "OF" preposition is missing.
    It only seems that way if you fail to appreciate the German genitive!
    No, you can't look at "seiner Sache" in a literal sense.
    Here you are (correctly) taking things a step further. The first step is for Anna to be able to look at a phrase like "die Bedeutung dieser Sache" and not say, "That doesn't make sense because there is no of-word in the German".
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Yes, what Dan said, and Anna, a general comment, based on the types of threads you post in general: I don't think your approach of analyzing German sentences word-by-word is going to be very effective in the long run, especially if you're taking German sentences and comparing them to English sentences. :eek: Looking at individual words can certainly be helpful to a certain extent, as can comparing German to another language, but if you want to be proficient in German at a certain point you're going to have to start appreciating (to use Dan's word) German syntax and grammar for what it is and approaching sentences more holistically rather than fixating on words.
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    I agree with the comments above, I 'd like just to add something about the genitive object, not the genitive in general, because I believe that the genitive in "Das ist das Buch des Lehrers" wouldn't cause any problem even to a beginner. On the other hand, the genitive object in German is not a frequent phenomenon. Here is a link about the genitive object: canoonet - Constituents of the sentence: Genitive object
    My relationship to German is long enough and yet the genitive in phrases like "ich erinnere mich seiner" may bring me into confusion. In "sich einer Sache sicher sein", "Sache" is a genitive object governed by the adjective "sicher", a rare phenomenon, and its understanding requires a good command of German.
     
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    AnnaJDT

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you, all!

    Perseas,
    That link is definitely bookmarked - on the topic of genitive objects. Great to know this infrequent phenomenon is, nonetheless, a reality and hopefully it will not surprise me as much next time!
    I agree, the typical genitive (neighbour's house, Mary's book) is unlikely to pose difficulty even to a beginner. Why I fixate on this? Trying to understand why a preposition can lack, in what context. Understanding the pattern. Otherwise, I might come across "Das Buch ist auf dem Tisch" and think "auf" can go missing, as well. (Admittedly, a silly example.)


    On a side note, as for my approach generally, I have yet to refine it. It's the first time I try to learn a language in a structured way. Main things I am trying are, for the time being:
    1. focus on vocabulary (occasional intriguing constructions as in this example "throw me off the track" for a moment, but I'm very grateful to learn new things and quite happy when I can identify a pattern and apply it next time)
    2. quantify progress e.g. number of words (I found that it motivates me). When I reach 2000, will switch focus onto grammar more
    3. combine above with composing mnemonics
    4. aim to finish a book (progress will be slow but hopefully steady and consistent aka time on the road)
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    Why I fixate on this? Trying to understand why a preposition can lack, in what context.
    Yes, I understand why you wondered that a preposition was "missing".

    Please note that "of" is not the only preposition that can appear to be missing when comparing English and German. Generally, note that objects can bear a prepositional aspect even without having an explicit preposition -- and many objects actually do so!

    Another example for you to learn could be the "missing" preposition "to" when expressed as dative object in German.

    I gave the book to my friend.
    Ich gab das Buch meinem Freund.
    <dative object instead of prepositional object>
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Trying to understand why a preposition can lack, in what context. Understanding the pattern. Otherwise, I might come across "Das Buch ist auf dem Tisch" and think "auf" can go missing, as well.
    Herein lies the problem with your approach. ;) There are no "missing prepositions" in German or "extra prepositions" in English. And your "auf dem Tisch" example shows exactly why this approach is problematic.
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Otherwise, I might come across "Das Buch ist auf dem Tisch" and think "auf" can go missing, as well. (Admittedly, a silly example.)
    Not so silly. We have discussed how German often uses its genitive and dative cases to express what in English would be captured with the prepositions "of" and "to", respectively. There are languages that have many more cases than German, making most prepositions unnecessary, including "auf"/"on". One such language is the second language of your country in number of speakers, Anna!
     

    AnnaJDT

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Good morning!
    I am looking at the two forms from canoonet:
    A. without the genitive object (modern)
    B. with genitive object (formal, literary and infrequent)

    "Ich erinnere mich an diesen schwierigen Augenblick. (modern)
    Instead of: Ich erinnere mich dieses schwierigen Augenblicks.
    Sie schämten sich für ihre Herkunft. (modern)
    Instead of: Sie schämten sich ihrer Herkunft."

    The modern forms contain indirect objects in the accusative case (answering questions such as: at whom? at what? for whom? for what? about whom? about what? etc), whereas the forms with the genitive object have supressed the preposition of what was an I.O. and put the construction in the genitive.

    Could we phrase this into a rule?

    PS. This is assuming that "an Augenblick" and "für Herkunft" are I. O.
     
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    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    PS. This is assuming that "an Augenblick" and "für Herkunft" are I. O.
    I fear, it's not!
    That's why we usually don't speak of direct/indirect object in German grammar; we have an Akkusativ-, Dativ-, and Genitivobjekt. And then we have Präpositionalphrasen that can act as objects -- and their case (Kasus) depends on the preposition.

    Akkusativobjekt is usually equivalent to direct object, Dativobjekt is I.O.
    But I'm not sure if it is a good idea to see them as the very same thing. I am sure, though, that it's not a good idea to fabricate a language rule for one language by using a grammar concept and terminology from another language!
     

    AnnaJDT

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    My apologies.
    Fully agree to that.
    Minimum research should be conducted before making such public assumptions to be more respectful of everyone's time. I'd also hate misleading others.
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    Yes, manfy and Anna, the terms "direct object / indirect object" are not part of German grammar. They should be strictly avoided, because they are a different concept.

    It is much better to speak of Genitiv-, Dativ-, Akkusativ- und Präpositionalobjekten.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Yes, more context would help us understand "Sache" better. But to answer your basic question, Anna, I understand the sentence as, "He said that with such certainty/determination as if he were very certain of his subject/matter."
    I would rather say "certain of his case/cause" (in the sense of case/cause as used in court: argument, contention, what he strives for, what he tries to achieve).
     
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