Schnee (schnee) wrote,

Past, present, future

Here's a great example of an intriguing German sentence:

War jetzt morgen eigentlich Probe?

It actually works in fairly well in English, too: "did we have a rehearsal now tomorrow?". That's past, present and future, all in one and the same sentence. Neat!

On a side note, you can shorten this one further to, say, the following:

War morgen Probe?

I.e. "was [there a] rehearsal tomorrow?", which is also rather intriguing. German, like English, is a language that lacks a proper future tense and resorts to auxilliary verbs to form it; in practice and in colloquial German, especially spoken German, however, the present tense is employed instead (so-called futurisches Präsens). But this sentence goes a step further and uses the past tense to talk about the future, which I think is fairly remarkable.

(On could of course say that it merely desugars to "War es in der Vergangenheit geplant, daß morgen Probe sein wird?"; but then one could note with equal justification that the futuric present tense in the equivalent example, "ist morgen Probe?", desugars to "Ist es jetzt wahr, daß morgen Probe sein wird?", so the futuric past is as valid IMO as the futuric present.)

Side note: I'm torn between translating "futurisch" as "futuric" and "futuristic", respectively. The former appears to be virtually unknown/unused in the anglophone world, but while the latter's much more common, it strikes me as simply wrong, or at the very least misleading. Thoughts?

Tags: german, linguistics
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