To be or not to be, that is the question

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by tvdxer, Dec 30, 2006.

  1. tvdxer Senior Member

    Minnesota, U.S.A.
    Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
    English: "To be or not to be, that is the question"

    Spanish: "Ser o no ser, esa es la cuestión" (that's how Wikiquotes translates it...I was expecting pregunta in place of cuestión, but that sounds much truer to the original English!)
  2. Chazzwozzer

    Chazzwozzer Senior Member

    Turkish: "Olmak ya da olmamak, işte bütün sorun bu!"

    Few language pointers for learners:
    ya da:
    or.please note that it is not written as a one word, which is a very common mistake.

    you might find info on the usage here.
    question (which you ask)
    question (which you discuss, an issue)
  3. endl3ss Member

    In tagalog:

    "Mawawari ba o hindi mawawari iyan ang tanong"
  4. Kraus Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    In Italian:

    "Essere o non essere, questo è il problema"

    Literally: "Essere o non essere, questa è la questione", but "questa è la questione" would be an unpleasant pun...
  5. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)

    להיות או לא להיות - זאת השאלה

    pronounced lihiyot o lo lihiyot -- zot hashe'ela
  6. jester.

    jester. Senior Member

    Aachen, Germany
    Germany -> German
    German: Sein oder nicht sein - das ist hier die Frage.
  7. Mutichou Senior Member

    France - French
    In French: Être ou ne pas être, telle est la question.
    I have also seen c'est la question (it is the question).
  8. linguist786 Senior Member

    Blackburn, England
    English, Gujarati & Urdu
    Although I can't claim to have ever seen this, this is what it would be in:


    होना या न होना, यह है सवाल
    (honaa yaa na honaa, yeh hai sawaal)

    ہونا يا نہ ہونا، يہ ہے سؤال
    (honaa yaa na honaa, yeh hai sawaal)
  9. Lillita

    Lillita Senior Member

    Lenni vagy nem lenni, az itt a kérdés.
  10. DrWatson

    DrWatson Senior Member


    I think there are more than one translation of this particular quote, but the most common I've seen is:

    Ollako vai eikö olla, kas siinä pulma.
  11. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    The famous Arabic translation says :
    أكون أو لا أكون، تلك هي المسألة
    akún aw lá akún, tilka hiya 'l-mas2ala

    And as Arabic verbs don't have infinitive forms like in English or the Romance languages, this verb is conjugated. Hence, the Arabic form say something like : for me to be or not to be...
  12. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    In Dutch:
    Zijn of niet zijn, daar gaat het om.


  13. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    Быть иль не быть - вот в чем вопрос
    Byt' il' ne byt' - vot v chom vopros.
    Byt' - to be
    vopros - question
  14. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Portuguese: Ser ou não ser, eis a questão.
  15. DrLindenbrock Senior Member

    Italy; Italian & Am. English
    Yes, and let me add that we also use this other translation:

    "Essere o non essere, questo è il dilemma"

    I think the two versions are equally used.
  16. Marga H Senior Member

    Polish : Być albo nie być, oto jest pytanie!
  17. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    What about: ?
    Mangyáyári bá ó hindî, iyán ang tanóng. :)
  18. Kraus Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    "Иль" вместо "или" по делам метрики, правда?
  19. Lugubert Senior Member

    Swedish: "Att vara eller inte vara, det är frågan".

    As an aside, this quote is often illustrated by a man holding a skull. But that would be the churchyard scene corresponding to the quote "Poor Yorick!"
  20. l10ner

    l10ner Member

    Beijing, China
    Simplified Chiense:
  21. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    English translation mine.
    Yes, in modern Russian the word ili is used for "or". Il' is considered poetic/archaic and was used in a popular translation of Hamlet, perhaps both for style and better rythmic flow.
  22. Lugubert Senior Member

    My Chinese is embarrasingly limited, but I was surprised by
    Back-translated, it looks to me like "To live or to die, that's a question". The famous parallelism is completely lost, which is graphically obvious even if you know no Chinese at all. It is as well in 生存,还是毁灭 (To live or (to be) destroy(ed)), which is a fairly common quote on the Internet.

    Is it possible to find an existing translation, accepted by scholars? I would love a link.
  23. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Well Lugubert, Japanese has the same surprise for you.


    ikiru-ka shinu-ka, sore-ga mondai da.
    To life or to die, that is the question.
    Too many similar translations to locate the original passage and the translator.

    このままでいいのか、いけないのか。それが問題だ(小田島雄志 1973-80)。
    konomama-de īno-ka ikenaino-ka. sore-ga mondai da.
    If it is okay to go on as it is or not; that is the question.

    存(ながら)ふるか、存(ながら)へぬか? それが疑問じゃ(坪内逍遙 1926)。
    nagarauru-ka nagaraenu-ka? sore-ga mondai ja.
    To survive or not to survive, that is the question.
  24. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    Linguist, can I suggest a ही in between /yah/ and /hai/ (ie, a यही)? I feel this will add some emphasis which will match the English translation more.

    I can't quite put my finger on why, but I am not a fan of this translation. It just doesn't sound right...if I heard it spoken it wouldn't dawn on me that this is a direct copy of the English saying. Not to say that it's incorrect, know what I mean?
  25. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Actually the big problem is with languages that have no verb "to be", and there are many. "To be or not to be" is almost untranslatable in them. Look at Tagalog (Philippines), the translation supplied above involves a verb that doesn't exist as such and whose stem, wárì ['wa:ri?], means "it seems, apparently, opinion", a far cry from "to be".
  26. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Být či nebýt, to je, oč tu běží.
    Backwards: To be or not to be, that's what is at stake/what is going on.

  27. Maja

    Maja Senior Member

    Binghamton, NY
    Serbian, Serbia
    In Serbian:

    Biti ili ne biti, pitanje je sad!
  28. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Is there no word for "to exist" in such languages?
  29. charlie2 Senior Member

    Here is one. It is my understanding that the first two given under the title 名家譯文 are the most authoritative translators of the works of Shakespeare. (They do not always agree and the present quote is an example.)
  30. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    I cannot give an answer for all the languages that have no verb "to be". Probably many have the verb "to exist", although it is not this verb that was used by Shakespeare.

    As regards Tagalog, existence and possession involve the same two tool-words: may [mei] for the affirmation and walâ [wa'la?] for the negation.

    May buwáya sa ílog na itó. = There are crocodiles in this river.
    Walâng buwáya sa ílog na itó. = There are no crocodiles in this river.
    May buwáya akó. = I have got a crocodile.
    Walâ akóng buwáya. = I have no crocodile.

    May and walâ couldn't possibly be used to translate what we are dealing with here.

    There is magíng "to become", actually a prefix treated as an independent word. It cannot be used alone; it needs to be associated with a noun phrase. If I used it to translate Shakespeare's line, I'd have to add hárì ['ha:ti?] "king", hence:

    Magíging hárì ó hindî ... = To become a king or not ...

    The problem is that this sort of translation restricts the portent of the line, etc. :)
  31. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English

    Another thought.

    /hotaa hai ya nahii.N hotaa hai, yahii hai savaal/

    I think this might be a better translation. I feel that /hona/ in your example implies that "something is about to/might happen." How do you feel?
  32. Lugubert Senior Member

    Yet another language in which I'm not fluent, but I'll buy most any Hindi two-verb rendering over a single verb. But wouldn't a Hindi purist use prashn प्रश्न instead of savaal? Or, perhaps even samsyaa समस्या (question = problem)?
  33. Bienvenidos

    Bienvenidos Senior Member

    This translation sounds extremely awkward because this just is not a common phrase in Persian:

    Bâša yâ nabâša, i sawâl as.
  34. CiegoEnamorado Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    America and American English
    If I may interject and add to this, on one of my tests for my Japanese class we had to translate this line into Japanese. The translation she taught us was 生きるべきか死ぬべきか、それが問題だ。(Ikiru-beki ka shinu-beki ka, sore ga mondai da.) Slightly modified from the "ikiru-ka shinu-ka" translation. Interesting. :)
  35. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    Most definitely! I was going to use /prashn/ myself, but I decided not to in the end because I was lazy and didn't want to explain myself;)

    So how do you feel about my translation? Any critiques on what it should be?
  36. Lemminkäinen

    Lemminkäinen Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    Norwegian (bokmål): Å være eller ikke være, det er spørsmålet
    Norwegian (nynorsk): Å vere eller ikkje vere, det er spørsmålet
  37. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    The Latvian translation is rather boring: Būt vai nebūt? – tāds ir jautājums.

    It is classic but not very impressive. I liked the Japanese translation about life or death, it is much more appealing and better revealing the intention of the author. I guess that it is not the verb "to be" (what about iru?) but the lack of the infinitive that does not allow the direct translation.
  38. Lugubert Senior Member

    Anand: The Modern English-Hindi Dictionary:

    To be or not to be? जीवित रहें या मर जायें? jiiivit raheM yaa mar jaayeM

    My clumsy effort towards a 'literal' translation: 'may be living or may go dead'.
  39. Andreas_Jensen Senior Member

    Danish: At være eller ikke at være, det er spørgsmålet.
  40. Venezuelan_sweetie

    Venezuelan_sweetie Senior Member

    La Jerusalén de los Suramericanos.
    Venezuela --> Spanish -or something alik
    Actually, it is more similar to the Italian version by DrLindenbrock:
    In the theater plays, they (actors ;) ) say "Ser o no ser, he ahí el dilema".

    Cuestión is used as matter, issue, dilemma and, sometimes, question.
  41. Kassikakk Member

    Estonia, Estonian
    Estonian: Olla või mitte olla, selles on küsimus.
  42. lotjed_13 Member


    Zijn of niet zijn, dat is de kwestie.
    Zijn of niet zijn, dat is de vraag.
  43. Cleo-Mi New Member

    A fi sau a nu fi, aceasta este intrebarea!
  44. Tim~!

    Tim~! Senior Member

    Leicester, UK
    UK — English
    In Esperanto:

    Ĉu esti aŭ ne esti, jen la demando.
  45. Alijsh Senior Member

    Persian - Iran
    We have it:

    budan yâ nabudan, mas'ale in ast.
    بودن یا نبودن، مسئله این است
  46. theez New Member

    Korean ::

    죽느냐 사느냐, 그것이 문제로다. (juk-nu-nya sa-nu-nya, gu-go-si mun-je-ro-da.)
  47. kareno999 Senior Member

    Columbus, OH
    I don't like this translation and even don't think it's right.
  48. daoxunchang Senior Member

    Chinese China
    Whether they are "right" or not may depend on how hard you haved tried to place yourself in those translator's place. 生存还是毁灭this seems to me the only choice if we do want a translation of "to be or not to be" in our language.
  49. Tisia Senior Member

    Iran, Persian, Kurdish, English, Finnish
    I wonder it makes a difference in the meaning to say:
    مسئله بودن یا نبودن است (mas'alaye budan ya nabudan ast)
  50. deine Senior Member

    Lithuania - lithuanian

    Būti ar nebūti, štai kur klausimas


    Būt ar nebūt, štai klausimas

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