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Expressing Probability in German

For our beginners, we are devoting this week's newsletter to expressing probability, or the likelihood that something will occur or be the case. There is a range of adverbs that can help you express this in German. 

When something is certain, common adverbs used are definitiv, sicher, or bestimmt. "Definitely" is also among the common translations of the phrase auf jeden Fall.

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Für Kerber steht fest, dass sie die Abstiegsrunde im April definitiv spielen wird.

For Kerber, it is certain that she will definitely play at the relegation round in April.

Caption 19, Angelique Kerber: Fotoshooting mit dem neuen Porsche 718 Boxster S

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Na ja, es wird sicher kein Problem sein, den Internetbetreiber zu zwingen, den Film zu löschen.

Well, it will certainly not be a problem to compel the internet provider to delete the movie.

Captions 6-7, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche

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Die Kündigung hat bestimmt andere Gründe.

The layoff surely has other reasons.

Caption 30, Berufsleben: Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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Oh, wow! Dann wirst du ihn auf jeden Fall wiedersehen, oder?

Oh, wow! Then you will definitely see him again, right?

Caption 47, Die Wohngemeinschaft: Die Verabredung

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The best translation of "likely" and "unlikely" or "probable" and "improbable" in German is wahrscheinlich and unwahrscheinlich.

 

Wahrscheinlich brauchen wir noch ein bisschen Nachhaltigkeitsunterstützung,

We likely still need a little bit of support with sustainability,

Caption 77, Angela Merkel: beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat

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Dass der Winter noch mal in voller Wucht zu uns zurückkommt, ist im Moment aber ohnehin eher unwahrscheinlich.

That winter will return to us in full force is, momentarily, however, without a doubt rather improbable.

Captions 41-42, Rhein-Main-TV: aktuell Frühling im Zoo

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Like wahrscheinlich, the word wohl as an adverb also signifies that something is likely or probable. Eventuell, vielleicht and möglicherweise are used when something is possible but can't be guaranteed. 

 

Und das wird wohl auch erst mal so bleiben.

And it will first also likely stay like that.

Caption 19, Andreas Bourani Startet durch

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Es kann sein, dass wir eventuell etwas Milch brauchen.

It could be that we'll maybe need some milk.

Caption 12, Sallys Tortenwelt und Kochwelt: Apfelkuchen mit Marzipan und Mandelsplittern

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Vielleicht wird's morgen für mich regnen.

Maybe it will rain for me tomorrow.

Caption 15, Andreas Bourani: Eisberg

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Das Kartengerät ist möglicherweise schon seit Wochen angezapft.

The card reader was possibly tapped for weeks.

Caption 44, Großstadtrevier: Neben der Spur

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Just as auf jeden Fall means definitely, auf keinen Fall means that something definitely will not occur, by no means.

 

Na, du wirst auf gar keinen Fall arbeiten.

Well, you won't work in any case.

Caption 45, Küss mich, Frosch: Für immer Frosch?

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Further Learning
Create your own sentences in which you describe how likely certain events are to happen, from the definite or most likely to the most improbable. If you need more guidance, you can find many more examples of these adverbs in use on Yabla German.

Zwingen vs. Erzwingen

The German verbs zwingen and erzwingen look very similar (especially in the past tense as gezwungen and erzwungen) and have similar meanings, but there are some fine points in distinguishing their proper usage. Let's take a look first at some examples of zwingen

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Na ja, es wird sicher kein Problem sein,

Well, it will certainly not be a problem

den Internetbetreiber zu zwingen, den Film zu löschen.

to compel the internet provider to delete the movie.

Captions 6-7, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche

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Und wir waren gezwungen, einige Kürzungen vorzunehmen.

And we were forced to make some cuts.

Caption 14, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern

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Es ist aber auch keine Mutter jemals gezwungen worden

There, indeed, has never been a mother [who was] forced

im Fortuna-Kreißsaal zu entbinden.

to deliver in the Fortuna delivery room.

Captions 34-35, Fortuna Düsseldorf - Kreißsaal für Fußballfans

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Thus, the verb zwingen refers to the person or company etc. that is being forced or compelled to do something.

 

The verb erzwingen is also usually translated as "to force" or "to compel," as well as "to enforce," but with erzwingen it is not about who is being forced, but what is actually being enforced, be it a situation, arrangement, or law etc.  

 

Er hat die Entscheidung erzwungen
He forced the decision.

 

Sie erzwingt ein Versprechen.
She is forcing a promise to be made.

 

An easy way to remember the difference between the two verbs is that zwingen is always about who is being forced or compelled to do something, and erzwingen is always about what is being forced, compelled, or enforced upon somebody:

 

Die Regierung wurde gezwungen, die neuen Gesetze zu erzwingen.
The government was compelled to enforce the new laws.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Further Learning
Search for more examples of zwingen in its various conjugations on Yabla German and try writing some sentences on your own using both verbs.

Verschieden, unterschiedlich, and anders

On Yabla German, you have probably come across these three words, which are most often all translated as "different." However, they are actually not always synonyms. The following distinction is to be taken with a grain of salt, but may be helpful:

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anders = "different," implying "other" or "another"
verschieden = "different," implying "various" or "diverse"
unterschiedlich = "different," implying "dissimilar" 

 

Following this, you would say that these adjectives have unterschiedliche Bedeutungen, but not verschiedene Bedeutungen. What exactly is the correct usage of verschieden then?

 

Wir haben jetzt viele verschiedene Leute gefragt.

Now we've asked a lot of different people.

Caption 91, Silvester - Vorsätze für das neue Jahr - Linkenheim

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In the sentence above, the use of the adjective verschieden simply implies that a large number of people were asked about their New Year's resolutions in a survey. If the sentence used the phrase viele unterschiedliche Leute, it would emphasize that the people asked were different from each other, perhaps in terms of age or background. 

 

Es gibt ja unterschiedliche Gründe, warum Erwachsene spielen, ne...

There are indeed different reasons that adults play, right...

Caption 1, Gamification - Wie Spielen den Alltag interessanter macht

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In this example, the opposite occurs, and the emphasis is on how dissimilar the reasons are, not the fact that a wide variety exists. 

 

Die Kündigung hat bestimmt andere Gründe.

The layoff probably has other reasons.

Caption 30, Berufsleben - Probleme mit Mitarbeitern - Part 3

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In this sentence, the use of andere Gründe emphasizes that there are reasons that are different from what has already been considered. Verschiedene Gründe would imply that there are a variety of reasons, while unterschiedliche Gründe would more likely be used if two people got fired for distinct reasons. 

 

Remember that anders can also be used with als for comparisons, which is not the case for the other two adjectives. 

 

Man kann hier natürlich noch andere Sachen tun als nur schwimmen.

You can, of course, do other things here besides just swimming.

Caption 6, Berlin - Wannsee

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Further Learning
There are many examples of these adjectives used on Yabla German. When you see them, ask yourself exactly which meaning is being implied. 
You might also want to watch this video, which looks at this tricky topic in more detail.

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