We owe ourselves to a society

lero lero

Senior Member
mexican spanish
Good morning everybody!
Anybody out there who could give me a hand on this?
This is a common expression of gratitude after receiving something, mostly in the moral field.
Phrase: We owe ourselves to a society (country/school/ whatever) that, badly or well, provides to our needs.
My attempt: Wir schulden uns einer Gesellschaft, die, schlecht oder gut, unsere Bedürfnisse befridiegt.
Wir schulden uns (????) So simple? Somehow it seems weird to me (!!!).
May thanks in advance for your precious help.
 
  • elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Maybe “Wir sind uns selbst einer Gesellschaft schuldig...”?
     
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    Demiurg

    Senior Member
    German
    Das Konzept ist dem Deutschen fremd. Man kann der Gesellschaft etwas schulden oder etwas schuldig sein, aber nicht sich selbst.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Phrase: We owe ourselves to a society (country/school/ whatever) that, badly or well, provides to our needs.
    To be honest, I'm not familiar with that usage.
    Is it used in the same sense as "we owe something to a society" and this something happens to be us? In a purely figurative sense I hope!?
    Maybe “Wir sind uns selbst einer Gesellschaft schuldig...”?
    Even though this seems structurally and grammatically sound, I don't think I'd ever hear me - or anybody else for that matter - say that.
    Maybe I'm wrong. I'm just having a real hard time wrapping my head around both phrases.

    The usual (religious) phrase is: Wir stehen in der Schuld <jemandes oder von jemandem> mit <Definition der Schulden>

    [crossposted]

    --------------------------
    I think I just realized what stumped me and why "Wir schulden uns (selbst) <etwas>" doesn't work.
    It is a set phrase with the meaning of "we deserve <something>" and even the usage of genitive doesn't break that core meaning of "wir schulden uns" (even though the genitive would logically dictate a change of meaning).
     
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    numerator

    New Member
    Hungarian, Slovak
    Phrase: We owe ourselves to a society (country/school/ whatever) that, badly or well, provides to our needs.

    I don't think this is a common expression at all, at least not in English. Googling "we owe ourselves" brought me up only instances where "ourselves" was the indirect object, i.e., "we owe something to ourselves".

    Are you looking for a German expression for the novel - but intriguing! - concept that we ought to give our very person to society for their service to us?

    Or are you looking for an expression for the more common concept that "we owe a lot to society", "we are indebted to society"?
     

    lero lero

    Senior Member
    mexican spanish
    the more common concept that "we owe a lot to society", "we are indebted to society"?
    the novel - but intriguing! - concept that we ought to give our very person to society for their service to us?
    Not so novel! Probably forgotten. We receive so much from our society, not only materialistically speaking (house, clothing, food, that we ourselves do not produce or manufacture), but also in culture, freedom, values. We're talking about the patriotic sense of the concept. For instance, having to die to defend our country from an invasion. Not only for our own good but for our families. So we owe ourselves (yes, give our lives!) for our convictions.
    Hope it clarifies a little the meaning of the concept.
    Thanks again for your contributions.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Not so novel! Probably forgotten. We receive so much from our society, not only materialistically speaking (house, clothing, food, that we ourselves do not produce or manufacture), but also in culture, freedom, values. We're talking about the patriotic sense of the concept. For instance, having to die to defend our country from an invasion. Not only for our own good but for our families. So we owe ourselves (yes, give our lives!) for our convictions.
    Hope it clarifies a little the meaning of the concept.
    Thanks again for your contributions.
    Thanks! That makes things clearer.
    And no, you can't translate that literally into German. What Demiurg said in #3 and what I said in #4 applies.

    You cannot use Wir schulden uns <...> or Wir sind uns <...> schuldig because it means We deserve <...> and probably 90% of native speakers would misconstrue your statement.
    It would have to start with
    Wir schulden der Gesellschaft, die - (ob) schlecht oder gut - unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt, unsere <something>.

    Right now I can't think of an idiomatic, expressive, witty phrasing that would resonate with the average native German speaker and express the intended meaning. Maybe it'll come to me once others post new suggestions.

    -------------------
    [edit: correcting copy/paste mistakes]

    PS: "Bedürfnisse befriedigen" does not work in this context. It needs a more "punchy" or more convincing expression to make me want to sacrifice my life for someone or some organization!
     
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    Demiurg

    Senior Member
    German
    Wir alle stehen in der Schuld der Gesellschaft, die...
    Im Prinzip hast du recht, aber das Original besagt m.E. nicht nur, dass wir in der Schuld der Gesellschaft stehen, sondern dass wir selbst der Preis sind, mit dem diese Schuld beglichen werden muss.
     

    lero lero

    Senior Member
    mexican spanish
    In Spanish the expression would be: Nos debemos a una sociedad que, mal que bien, satisface nuestras necesidades.
    Nos debemos (we're obliged to commit ourselves) is a very common expression in Spanish to express gratitude for something received. Mainly as a moral commitment. Not necessarily going to war!!!!!
    Hope it helps. Thank you very much.
     
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    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    In Spanish the expression would be: Nos debemos a una sociedad que, mal que bien, satisface nuestras necesidades.
    Nos debemos (we're obliged to commit ourselves) is a very common expression in Spanish to express gratitude for something received. Mainly as a moral commitment. Not necessarily going to war!!!!!
    Hope it helps. Thank you very much.
    Oh, I see. Thanks!
    So, it's a common Spanish expression ... not really so common in English, though. I just browsed our Spanish-English forum and there are several threads on "nos debemos a" and not a single native English speaker suggested "we owe ourselves to".

    Depending on context and depending on the connotation you want emphasize, there are several ways to translate that into English:
    - we are indebted to a society that...
    This is more general and does not define the debt to society; it just shows that the obligation exists
    - we have a duty to a society that...
    This is quite a bit stronger; it defines the debt as our duty to support and serve society (in whatever form)

    Similarly there are several ways to bring that across in German, as you can see from the suggestions above:
    - Wir stehen in der Schuld der Gesellschaft, die...
    This is the more general form; it says that we owe a debt to society without defining any details
    - Wir sind einer Gesellschaft verpflichtet, die...
    This is still general but a bit stronger; it explicitly states that we have an obligation - it may even be understood as a duty.

    Concerning the rest of the sentence, I do not like the term "Bedürfnis" in this context because it conveys a strong idea of "what we would like to have (but don't have yet)". That comes from the distinction defined by Marketing & Advertising between Bedürfnis and Bedarf. Therefore I'd rephrase that slightly:
    1) Wir stehen in der Schuld der Gesellschaft, die für uns sorgt, egal ob gut oder schlecht.
    2) Wir sind einer Gesellschaft verpflichtet, die für uns sorgt, egal ob gut oder schlecht.

    I prefer to move "gut oder schlecht" to the end because then the core message is more distinct.
    This only leaves the question of "der Gesellschaft" vs "einer Gesellschaft". Both articles convey different connotations in and can change the tone of the statement quite a bit. But let's leave that for another time.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    You cannot use Wir schulden uns <...> or Wir sind uns <...> schuldig because it means We deserve <...> and probably 90% of
    The idiomatic way would be: Wir sind es uns schuldig, + zu-infinitive clause or dass-clause. The problem with this is that we need an additional verb, e.g.:
    Wir sind es uns schuldig, eine Gesellschaft aufzubauen, die unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt.
    Wir sind es uns schuldig, dass wir eine eine Gesellschaft schaffen, die unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    The idiomatic way would be: Wir sind es uns schuldig, + zu-infinitive clause or dass-clause. The problem with this is that we need an additional verb, e.g.:
    Wir sind es uns schuldig, eine Gesellschaft aufzubauen, die unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt.
    Wir sind es uns schuldig, dass wir eine eine Gesellschaft schaffen, die unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt.
    :thumbsup: Yes, of course, the phrases exist in various forms and they also are idiomatic.
    Also in English you have these forms "we owe it to ourselves to <verb>..." or "we owe ourselves [some fun tonight after all that work]"

    But this is different in meaning to "nos debemos a <somebody or something>"
    My Spanish is way too rusty to understand all the finer details that were suggested in the Spanish-English forum, but I think I got the gist of the 'nos debemos' expression.
     
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    διαφορετικός

    Senior Member
    Swiss German - Switzerland
    Gemäss Pons Wörterbuch heisst "deberse a la patria" auf Deutsch "sich dem Vaterland verpflichten". Das kommt dem Originalsatz* hier nahe. "In der Schuld stehen" (oder "jemandem verpflichtet sein") ist passiver. Kann beides gemeint sein?

    PS: "Sich der Gesellschaft verpflichten" finde ich keine übliche Formulierung, klingt nicht idiomatisch für mich. Daher muss man vielleicht auf die passivere Variante ausweichen.

    *PPS: Mit "Originalsatz" meine ich: "Nos debemos a una sociedad que, mal que bien, satisface nuestras necesidades."
     
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    JClaudeK

    Senior Member
    Français France, Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
    Wir sind es uns schuldig, eine Gesellschaft aufzubauen, die unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt.
    Wir sind es uns schuldig, dass wir eine eine Gesellschaft schaffen, die unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt.
    "Wir sind es uns schuldig, eine Gesellschaft aufzubauen/ zu schaffen" - entfernen wir uns damit nicht sehr weit vom ursprünglichen Gedanken? Nämlich, dass es diese Gesellschaft schon gibt, dass wir ihr viel verdanken und ihr das (oder wenigstens einen Teil davon) zurückzahlen müssen.

    => Wir sind es uns schuldig, der Gesellschaft, die einen (großen?) Teil unserer Bedürfnisse befriedigt, einen Tribut zu leisten. (?)
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Nämlich, dass es diese Gesellschaft schon gibt, dass wir ihr viel verdanken und ihr das (oder wenigstens einen Teil davon) zurückzahlen müssen.
    => Wir sind es uns schuldig, der Gesellschaft, die einen (großen?) Teil unserer Bedürfnisse befriedigt, einen Tribut zu leisten. (?)
    Ist es so, wie du den Ausgangssatz verstehst? Ich nicht.

    PS: Vielleicht ist der englische Ausgangssatz schon falsch, das kann ich nicht beurteilen. Ich habe mich nur am Ausgangssatz orientiert.
     
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    Kittybub

    Senior Member
    English - Scotland
    Hi, interesting thread, sorry I haven't had time to look at all the answers in detail, I just want to add, in case it helps - I've never, ever come across such an expression in English. I'm sure it doesn't exist. Grammatically, a person can't owe themself to somebody or something else. As a reflexive verb, it doesn't exist in English in this sense. As other posters have pointed out, we can use it reflexively in the sense of doing something good for ourselves, as in I've made a lot of effort so now I should give myself some recompense. But owing oneself, one's person, to somebody or something else? Sounds morally very dodgy! Hope that helps and sorry if I've repeated what others have said.
     

    Demiurg

    Senior Member
    German
    "Wir sind es uns schuldig, eine Gesellschaft aufzubauen/ zu schaffen" - entfernen wir uns damit nicht sehr weit vom ursprünglichen Gedanken? Nämlich, dass es diese Gesellschaft schon gibt, dass wir ihr viel verdanken und ihr das (oder wenigstens einen Teil davon) zurückzahlen müssen.
    Ist es so, wie du den Ausgangssatz verstehst? Ich nicht.

    Ich habe lero lero auch so verstanden:
    This is a common expression of gratitude after receiving something, mostly in the moral field.
    We receive so much from our society, not only materialistically speaking (house, clothing, food, that we ourselves do not produce or manufacture), but also in culture, freedom, values. We're talking about the patriotic sense of the concept. For instance, having to die to defend our country from an invasion. Not only for our own good but for our families. So we owe ourselves (yes, give our lives!) for our convictions.

    Wie ich oben in #11 schrieb: Wir selbst sind der Preis, mit dem diese Schuld beglichen werden muss.
     

    Kittybub

    Senior Member
    English - Scotland
    @lero lero said : So we owe ourselves (yes, give our lives!) for our convictions.

    I'd say that in a semantic sense you can't owe your life to your convictions. You can feel like you owe it to yourself (or your family, country, etc) to die for your cause, if necessary. But your convictions in themselves don't and can't care one way or another.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Wie verstehst Du ihn?
    In etwa so, wie ich es in #16 ausgedrückt habe. Anders formuliert: Wir sollten uns selbst es Wert sein, in einer Gesellschaft zu leben/leben zu wollen/eine Gesellschaft aufzubauen, in der unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt werden.

    Nach seinen weiteren Erklärungen ist mir inzwischen klar, dass der Satz anders gemeint war. Das, was er meinte, hätte ich aber aus dem englischen Satz aber nicht herauslesen können.
     
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    lero lero

    Senior Member
    mexican spanish
    Kittybub I think that our convictions are what guide our actions. We don't give our lives for those convictions (it's a misunderstanding, maybe a comma is lacking); we give our lives for our belief that defending our country, our family, is worth dying for. Of course, this is an extreme case; as I said, in a patriotic sense.
    Das Konzept ist dem Deutschen fremd.
    Gemäss Pons Wörterbuch heisst "deberse a la patria" auf Deutsch "sich dem Vaterland verpflichten".

    PS: "Sich der Gesellschaft verpflichten" finde ich keine übliche Formulierung, klingt nicht idiomatisch für mich.

    I've never, ever come across such an expression in English. I'm sure it doesn't exist.

    It comes to me as a novelty!! I'm shocked, amazed, at how much this concept stirs such a rejection or reluctance. At least in México, the idea of dying for a cause is even included in the National Anthem. In our life we owe a lot to many people that provide for our needs, as I said before, in material or moral aspects, as we ourselves cannot do it. We don't know it all and we cannot do it all.
    I translated the Spanish idea Nos debemos into We owe ourselves, because it translates EXACTLY what the concept means in Spanish, that we as persons are in debt and we should even give our self, be it serving, fighting or dying, to compensate for the benefits received. It's so dismaying to me that the concept can even be considered as morally dodgy!
    In order to keep your suggestions, and if natives agree, I'll translate the sentence as:
    Wir sind einer Gesellschaft verpflichtet, die, egal ob gut oder schlecht, unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt.
    Ich bin auch dankbar überrrascht und erstaunt für ihre Erwiderungen.
    Ehrlich, sehr vielen Dank.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    It comes to me as a novelty!! I'm shocked, amazed, at how much this concept stirs such a rejection or reluctance. At least in México, the idea of dying for a cause is even included in the National Anthem. In our life we owe a lot to many people that provide for our needs, as I said before, in material or moral aspects, as we ourselves cannot do it. We don't know it all and we cannot do it all.
    Oh no! I think there was something "lost in translation".
    It's not that the concept by itself is alien to us, it is just expressed in a different way, in a less literal way than in Spanish - but the idea still stays the same in German and in English.

    In order to keep your suggestions, and if natives agree, I'll translate the sentence as:
    Wir sind einer Gesellschaft verpflichtet, die, egal ob gut oder schlecht, unsere Bedürfnisse befriedigt.
    Yes, having followed the thread from the beginning, I think this is a good version and idiomatic German statement that expresses the same sentiment as your original Spanish version.

    I'm still not too happy with "Bedürfnisse befriedigt", though, and that's because "befriedigt" has a bit of a sexual connotation, which by itself would not be a problem, but in combination "Bedürfnisse befriedigt" it gets a stronger sexual connotation that you may not want in this context.
    I suggest you change that to "[die] unsere Bedürfnisse stillt" or "Bedürfnisse erfüllt", as one of the posters suggested above. This little change may avoid unwanted awkwardness without a real change in meaning.

    ----------------
    Another minor thing regarding style: 'gut oder schlecht' are adverbs that modify the verb and therefore should be placed directly before the verb. The current version is possible but opens the door for misconstruing the meaning.
    So, better:
    Wir sind einer Gesellschaft verpflichtet, die unsere Bedürfnisse, egal ob gut oder schlecht, stillt/erfüllt.

    2nd edit: strike that! Now it sounds as if the Bedürfnisse might be good or bad. :(
    I revert back to your previous version:
    Wir sind einer Gesellschaft verpflichtet, die, egal ob gut oder schlecht, unsere Bedürfnisse stillt/erfüllt.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    7
    In our life we owe a lot to many people that provide for our needs, as I said before, in material or moral aspects, as we ourselves cannot do it.
    Indeed, but not everything and not totally and not to any abstract society. There are many things in German culture that can only be understood as explicit rejection of the monstrosities that happened in our recent history.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Indeed, but not everything and not totally and not to any abstract society. There are many things in German culture that can only be understood as explicit rejection of the monstrosities that happened in our recent history.
    :thumbsup: Yes, that's certainly true. Nobody on this forum is old enough to have been in WW2, but most have a good understanding through parents or grandparents and history awareness programmes. I guess most are now not very receptive for propaganda slogans that suggest blind obedience and duty, especially not when it points to a new "Führer und Vaterland" in any shape or form...!
     

    διαφορετικός

    Senior Member
    Swiss German - Switzerland
    I'm shocked, amazed, at how much this concept stirs such a rejection or reluctance. At least in México, the idea of dying for a cause is even included in the National Anthem.
    If you had the impression that I reject the concept, there was a misunderstanding.

    Out of curiosity, I would like to ask you a related question about Spanish language:
    Nos debemos a una sociedad que, mal que bien, satisface nuestras necesidades.
    Nos debemos (we're obliged to commit ourselves) is a very common expression in Spanish to express gratitude for something received.
    Gemäss Pons Wörterbuch heisst "deberse a la patria" auf Deutsch "sich dem Vaterland verpflichten".
    Do you think that "nos debemos a ..." always refers to an obligation which is created by our environment, other people (not by "nosotros", ourselves) ("We are obliged" (passive))? Or can it also refer to an obligation which is created by ourselves, by our reasonings, feelings, intentions ("We oblige ourselves" (active))?
     
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    lero lero

    Senior Member
    mexican spanish
    Both of them! If we're favored by a good act from someone (a good teacher, a parent) or something from nature (peace, silence) we feel an obligation to respond accordingly. But also if you value something as worthy you're going to act accordingly to protect or foster it. (To learn our children the respect for the elderly, to be honest and useful to our community) This is the case of my original post. At the moment I cannot think of other examples. I hope it helps to clarify the idea.
     
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