and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a look at the meaning of
Allerdings has two translations. Or wait, let’s say, it stands for two idea. Two ideas, that shouldn’t be too big of a problem… unless… they seem to be opposites. Imagine there were a word that means white AND black. What a whacky idea…. (get it? Whack as in white plus b.. not funny? … never mind then) .
Allerdings has the ideas of confirmation and contradiction, so let’s take a loot at it and see if we can get a hold of it, shall we? Great.
Allerdings is a combination of aller and dings. Aller is the genitive form of alle (I’ll add a link to the WODT “alle” at the bottom)
- Das wichtigste aller Dinge ist…
- The most important thing of all is…
And there we almost had it. The sense of lif… oh… I mean, the words allerdings. All that’s missing is an s, which is an old way to mark something as adverb, and writing the whole thing as one word; but German does that in its sleep. Allerdings started with a meaning like “entirely” , “with/from all its parts”. Here’s an example of how they would use the word 8 centuries ago.
- Dein Land und Gut gehört allerdings dem König.
- Thy land and manor all/completely belongs to the king.
- Man kann Lord Bolton nicht allerdings trauen.
- You cannot trust lord Bolton with everything. (lit.)
That’s how it started and then began a long, loooong journey of allerdings. First, there people started using it for emphasis.
- Ich bin allerdings sehr zufrieden.
- I am content “of all things” (lit.)
- I am completely/utterly content.
Now, when you emphasize something you are usually kind of convinced of your statement. You think it’s true. So the next meaning of allerdings is not a big surprise…
“Allerdings” being all like… “Yes, indeed”
And while the other ones we had are forgotten, this allerdings is still used… a one word answer to mean indeed.
- “30 Euro für diese kleine Portion ist aber ganz schön teuer.”
- “40 Dollars for this small a portion is pretty damn expensive.”
Now, while indeed is a good fit in this example, we need to look at the usage a little more closely.
First of all – and this might be my very personal impression – but I feel like allerdings doesn’t really work all that great if you want to agree with a statement about how really really good something was.
- “This movie was truly amazing.”
- “Dieser Film war ok.”
I have asked in a discussion board and others seem to have no problem with that, but I would never use allerdings in this situation. I don’t what I’d say… probably “Meeeh”, because most new films suck. Things were better in the golden age of cinema… the 80s. But anyway, I just feel like allerdings is missing genuine, positive excitement. It does agree, but it is very conscious and reflected about it … at least that’s how I feel. (native speakers, how is it with “indeed”, by the way? Can that sound all enthusiastic?)
Now, a second kind of statements that doesn’t work all that great are statements that contain a negative… not or no.
- “Das war kein guter Film.”
- “That wasn’t a good movie.”
In English, you’d just “it wasn’t” I guess and technically, in German, you could say “Allerdings nicht.” but I find it … not wrong but odd. Like… cutting your fingernails really really short and then run them across velvet… uuuuggghhhh. The thought alone makes me shiver. Okay… I guess saying “Allerings nicht” isn’t THAT vexing; but it’s not idiomatic.
So… when does allerdings sound good? Well, it works great with negative judgments, or skeptical ones, or astonished ones, or impatient ones….
- “Das ist ein Problem.”
“So ein Kackwetter.”
“Also, das kling aber sehr weit hergeholt.”
“Puh… das war knapp.”
“Ich hätte wahrscheinlich fragen sollen, bevor ich dein Bier nehme.”
- “That is a problem.”
“What crappy weather.”
“Well, that sounds far fetched.”
“Phew… that was close.”
“I guess I should have asked, before taking your beer.”
For all those, “Allerdings” is a great way to agree. Those are allerdings-moments. Not purely negative but always with a negative touch of sorts. And that brings us to another interesting thing about the word, which also leads us to the difference between allerdings and genau.
You see, allerdings is often not only agreeing to the statement… like saying “True”. It also conveys something between the lines. For example, allerdings also agrees to the evaluation or assessment of reality which is inside of the statement. Yeah… that made no sense, I know. But let me give you an example. You are at the reception of Bürgeramt (citizens registration office) because you want to register… the receptionists informs about the expected waiting time upon which you say
- Ich muss also 6 Stunden warten?!
- So, I have to wait 6 hours?!
On the surface, this is a question. But it only takes an additional ! or some melody to add in the additional message that 5 hours is freaking long.
Now, for example the receptionist is likely to focus on the question-part and say
or this ( to sympathize and voice some regret for your having to wait):
- Ja, leider./Leider ja.
- Unfortunately yes.
Now, suppose it wasn’t the receptionist but a fellow waiter you are having this conversation with, there is a good chance to get a
as an answer to your question. The person not only affirms that you got the time right, no, the person ALSO thinks that the wait is freaking long. And the allerdings gets that across without much help needed from tone.
The receptionist on the other hand SHOULDN’T use allerdings because it might come across as triumphant…. like… “Damn straight stupid citizen. 6 hours because THIS is how we do it around here.”… okay maybe that’s a little extreme but I hope you get the gist. You complain and depending on who you’re complaining to allerdings can either be “Yeah, I feel you.” or “Yeah, I hear your whining. In your face!”
Let’s take another, a completely different example… mom helps her first grader with the math homework. Kid asks:
- Zwei plus zwei ist… äh… Moment… äh 4??
- Two plus zwei is… uh…. one second… uhm… 4??
Here, the mom would likely say “Genau“(exactly). Saying allerdings would make the issue bigger than it is. Allerdings would be appropriate had the kid sounded REALLY surprised about that.
- “So… two plus two is … 4?!?!?! Four as in fantastic four? THE four?”
“Indeed. The very same.”
The kid conveys surprise and the allerdings of the mom acknowledges that… like “Yeah, that was a surprise was it.?”
So… in general, genau is more neutral. Of course it can sound very friendly or grumpy or whatever, but it just confirms the statement. Allerdings, at least if there is a negative or surprised touch in the statement, totally picks up on that touch. It says “You’re right, and what you said between the lines was also right.”Sure, those are nuances and you don’t have to worry all that much. Just use it and if it sounds strange… well, whatever. Strange can be cute. I just thought I’d mention it.
Now, there is another difference between genau and allerdings, and this one is more straight-forward and you should try to remember it. Genau only works if someone figures something out. It doesn’t really work if you make a statement about the weather.
- “Der Regen nervt.”
“Genau.“… nope…allerdings is MUCH better here.
- “The rain sucks.”
I guess it is the same in English. Saying exactly makes you sound like you knew it all along and you were just waiting for the other one to find that out.
Anyway… so… if you want to use this allerdings, just to be safe, use it to agree to negative, skeptical or astounded statements.
Now, so far we’ve only used it as a stand alone word. But indeed can also be used in a sentence.
- This is indeed a good idea.
So… can we do that with allerdings, as well? The answer is yes… with a giant
BUT in pursuit.
First of all, it doesn’t always work. I have no idea though there is a pattern or “rule”. That’s nothing new though. That’s just language in use. What makes the but so big this time is that you have to be really – really, really, really – have to get the pronunciation right. Raise your voice over the course of the word and put a super strong emphasis on DINGS. Think of it like a fountain that is turned on in mid sentence… blluuuuuuuuuuaaaaSHHHHHhhhhhhhh….
Okay… maybe a picture is better :)
For the standalone version it is not that strict but also there it is a good idea to put a strong stress on the dings… because if you don’t… it’ll be a different allerdings.
Allerdings being all like… “Yeah… but”
Let’s just start with an example:
- “Wir gehen nach der Arbeit was trinken. Willst du mitkommen?”
“Ja, ich muss allerdings vorher noch mal kurz nach Hause.”
- “We’re going for a drink after work. Wanna join?”
“Yes, but I’ll have to go home real quick first.”
Allerdings is used to mark up something as a sort-of-contradiction to whatever has been said before. Here, it marks the going home part as a “sort of”-obstacle to my coming with… just like but does.
- “Ja, ich muss nur noch mal kurz nach Hause.”
- “Yes, I just have to go home real quick.
Now we replaced it with a word that implies “no problem”. I am still telling my co-workers that I have to go home first. But the feel is different. Going home doesn’t sound like a complication or obstschale at all now. So… this is what allerdings does and it is by far the more common use of the word.
Unfortunately, I don’t exactly know how this allerdings evolved from the approving one, we just had. I mean… sometimes they are really close actually.
- “Ich will Sonnenblumen pflanzen.”
“Das Land gehört allerdings dem König.”
- “I want to grow sunflowers.”
“[But] the land is entirely the king’s.”
If it is known that the king hates sunflowers the second statement clearly is a complication, an obstacle. But we could also just think of the meanings as two separate ones. Or how about the other example we had earlier…
- Man kann Lord Bolton nicht allerdings trauen. (old use)
- One cannot trust Lord Bolton with everything.
- Man kann Lord Bolton allerdings nicht trauen. (actual use)
- You cannot trust Lord Bolton though.
Both versions are very different but very similar at the same time. They limit the trust on Lord Bolton. But as I said, I don’t know how it happened and it doesn’t really matter that much. Let’s get back to the current usage.
In the first example, we translated it to but. But that is not the only possibility. The exact word doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s but, sometimes it is though, sometimes it is however and sometimes it is just well in THAT case… I always find a reason not to go running.
- Ich wollte eigentlich laufen gehen, [allerdings] (es) ist [[allerdings]] es heute [allerdings] zu kalt.
- I wanted to go running, [however / but] it is too cold today [though].
It’s the idea that matters… the idea of contrast or obstacle.
I’d say, let’s keep those in mind and just look at some examples:
- “Wir waren gestern abend schick essen.”
“Und, wie war’s?”
“Nicht so toll, die Portionen waren super klein und vom Geschmack her war’s jetzt auch nicht so die Offenbarung… der Wein war allerdings sehr gut.”
- “We were out for a fancy dinner last night.”
“Ad, how was it?”
“Not so great. The portions were super small and as far as taste goes it wasn’t exactly a revelation… the wine was really good though.”
Here, we’re clearly dealing with a contrast. The food was mediocre, the wine was outstanding. This contrast-allerdings is also a very nice “Redemittel”, that you can use to discuss a certain topic in a test.
- Arbeiten während des Studiums kann eine gute Sache sein. Man verdient Geld, kann Netzwerke aufbauen und lernt die Realitäten der Arbeitswelt kennen.
Allerdings kann es auch zum Problem werden, wenn man seine Energien überschätzt.
- It can be a good thing to work during your studies. You can earn money, build up a network and you get to know the realities of the working world.
However, it can also become a problem if you overestimate your energy.
Now,maybe for some examples where it is more about an obstacle….
- “Ich versuche Deutsch zu sprechen, ich lerne allerdings noch nicht so lange.”
- “I’ll try to speak German, but I’ve kind of just started learning, though.”
- “Ich hätte gerne zwei Karten für La Traviata… und bitte gute Plätze. Ist für meine Freundin zum Geburtstag.”
“Kein Problem. Wie wär’s mit diesen Plätzen hier… da hat man echt gute Sicht.”
“Hmmm… ich dachte mehr so an so einen Balkon.”
“Das wird dann allerdings sehr teuer.”
- “I’d like two tickets for La Traviata… and good seats please; it’s for my girlfriend’s birthday.”
“No problem. How about these ones here… you have a really good view there.
“Hmmm…. I was thinking more like one of those balconies.”
“Well THAT is going to be rather expensive.”
The second example is interesting because it shows that the word IMPLIES that something is an obstacle… it doesn’t really need to be one. I mean… the person probably wouldn’t use allerdings if I was Marc Zuckerberg, because money wouldn’t be an issue.
Here are two more examples where allerdings just marks something as a possible obstacle.
- “Kannst du mal vorbeikommen und meinen Computer neu aufsetzen?”
“Ja, allerdings erst nächste Woche.”
- “Could you come by and re-set and install my computer?”
“Yes, not before next week though.”
- “Ein Bier und einmal die Tagessuppe bitte.”
“Gerne. Dauert allerdings einen Moment.”
- “One beer and the soup du jour please.”
“With pleasure. It might take a moment though.”
So… I hope those examples gave you an idea how the word is used. Keep in mind the ideas of obstacle and contrast and while neither a contrast nor an obstacle or purely negative, their “dialectic qualities” may be the reason for the lack of enthusiasm the other allerdings, the affirming one, has.
Now, speaking of the first allerdings – we’ve learned that we need to be very exact with the pronunciation or emphasis or it will sound like the second one. So how does the second one sound exactly? For one thing, the contrast-one doesn’t need a specific melody. It can be just flat. The main difference, however, is that the contrast-one lacks a strong emphasis. The stressed syllables are all and dings but in comparison to the rest of the sentence, they almost disappear.
- “Das ist allerdings TEUer.”
Here, the strong main emphasis is on TEU. Allerdings just blends in with the rest. And everyone would understand that to mean something like
- “Oh, well THAT is expensive.”
with a doubtful or surprised tone. Like… you wanted to buy it but then you find out the price and that is an obstacle to your plan.
Now, the same sentence with the other allerdings:
- Das ist allerDINNNGS teuer.
That would be something like
- Well, that IS really expensive.
This would be appropriate if someone had remarked already that it is expensive.
- Es gibt allerdings ein PROBLEM.
- But there is a PROblem.(which is in contrast to the good news I just had)
- Es gibt allerDINGS ein Problem.
- (But), there IS in fact a problem.
The first sentence would work if the conversation so far had been about how everything is hunky-dory, while the second one could work if the had been a denial of a problem going on, or, if something that has already been mentioned turns out a problem.
- “So… this looks like a walk in a park. No problems at all.”
“About that… uhm… the park is actually the Glacier Bay national park in Alaska…. and we have winter.”
“Oh… well THAT IS a problem.
And here, we could use both allerdings-s here and it would be loosely the same statement. Allerdings – A full circle. Yin and yang. Difference in unity. Two aspects of the same side. Not together, not separate – separether. Like in those groovy modern relationships…. oh my, why did I have to get married? Wait, am I?
I think that’s it. That was our German Word of the Day allerdings. I think it is no problem to understand the word, but it is not that easy to use it idiomatically because of all those fine nuances it has. The second one is definitely the one to remember and use… and don’t think in translations.Think in ideas… contrast or obstschale…. here’s a nice picture that might help you reme… oh wait, never mind, that was just a typo.
If you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to give it a shot and make your own example with allerdings... just leave me a comment :).
I hope you liked it and see you next time.
Ps: This post was suggested by Robert. Thanks a lot for your support. Vielen Dank :)!