Word of the Day – “anyway”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our Word of the Day. And this time, it’s actually a pretty special episode because instead of taking a German word and explaining it, we’ll take an English word and look at how to translate it properly.
The reason I haven’t done this kind of articles yet is that not all of you are native English speakers and I wanted to keep the focus on German and use English only as a means to an end.
But hey, it’s 2020 and I just felt like doing it.
So, today we’ll talk about the translation of:

anyway

And not only because it is a really common and useful word, but also because looking at this can help us understand the differences between a bunch of German words learners are slightly confused about.
So are you ready to jump in?
Perfect.

Taken at face value, anyway means something along the lines of “no matter which way”. Something is the way it is, no matter the “way”. So there’s a core notion of “makes no difference”. That’s what unites all anyways. But we can also distinguish between three different use-types of anyway:

  1. a “contradictory”-anyway
  2. an “aligned”-anyway
  3. a “conversational” anyway

Why are we making this distinction? Well, of course because German uses different translations for all three, and mixing them up would be… you guessed it… confusing.
So, the first type, the one we called contradictory, implies or expresses a conflict or contradiction between two things.
Here’s an example:

  • “Hey man, did you know that Maria will be at the party.”
    “Ugh… I… I will go there
    anyway.”

The anyway does two things here. First up, it signals that Maria’s being at the party has no effect on my decision to go there. That’s pretty much in line with the core of anyway we found – Maria or no Maria, I will go.
But in addition to that, the anyway in the example ALSO implies that the fact that Maria is there would normally be a reason for me to not go. That’s what I mean by contrast or contradiction.
Synonyms for this type of anyway are regardless, nonetheless or despite that. Which is probably the best to keep in mind, because it leads us right to the German translation for this contrast-anyway. Some of you might have a hunch already. I am talking of course about … trotzdem.

  • “Maria wird bei der Party sein.”
    “Ugh… ich… ich gehe trotzdem.”

Trotzdem is THE translation for anyway, whenever there’s a contradiction involved. Actually, let’s say it’s the only translation. Yes, theoretically there are a few alternatives to be found in the dictionary. But they’re barely ever used in normal daily conversation. Any they look like letter garbage. I mean, come on… nichtsdestotrotz. That looks like my cat walked across the keyboard.
So yeah, whenever you can replace anyway with despite that (WITHOUT changing the meaning, of course) use trotzdem in the translation.
Here’s a couple more examples.

  • “I hate your aunt and she hates me.”
    “I know. Will you please please come with me anyway?
  • “Ich hasse deine Tante, und sie hasst mich.”
    “Ich weiß. Kommst du bitte bitte trotzdem mit?”
  • I’m tired but I’m watching another episode anyway.
  • Ich bin müde, aber ich gucke trotzdem noch eine Folge.

Cool.
Now let’s get to the second use of anyway, the one I called it “aligned”anyway. On first glance, it can actually look very very similar to the first one.
Let’s take the example with Maria and the party again but modify it slightly.

  • “Hey man, do you know that Maria will be at the party?”
    “Oh really?! Well… I was gonna go there
    anyway.”

We haven’t really changed that much, but the whole notion of contradiction is gone now. Instead, the example sounds like the fact that Maria will be at the party might actually be a reason for me to go. But I don’t need this reason, because I am going even without her being there. I was gonna go anyway. Again, her being there has no effect on my decision, but this time my decision and her presence are “in alignment” not “in contradiction”, if that makes sense.
I know this one is much harder to grasp, so let’s look at another example, comparing the two.

  1. I have a cold. But I am working at the office anyway.
  2. I have a cold. But I am working at home anyway.

This time, the only difference in the examples is the location. But that changes the entire context and thus also the “vibe” of the anyway.
In the first version, me being at work is clearly a contradiction to me having a cold, I mean… especially these days, with Corona
The second example on the other hand says that the fact that I have a cold is not a problem, because I was gonna stay at home even without it.
I couldn’t think of a synonym for this aligned-anyway, but a fairly good test is to add “so it’s a match.” to the end.

  1. I have a cold. But I am working at the office anyway, so that’s a match.
  2. I have a cold. But I am working at home anyway, so that’s a match/not a problem.

The first sentence got pretty weird. I mean, how is having a cold and being at the office a match. But the second one works fine.
And how do we actually translate this aligned-anyway?
There are actually several options here, but the two most common and natural ones are sowieso and eh.
And yes, eh is a word! And a pretty common one, too. I’ll post a link to my article about that below :).
So here are the translations for the two examples we had:

  • “Hey man, do you know that Maria will be at the party.”
    “Oh really?! Well, I was gonna go there
    anyway.”
  • “Hey Mann, weisst du, dass Maria bei der Party sein wird?”
    “Oh echt?! Naja, ich wollte sowieso/eh hingehen.”
  • I have a cold. But I am working at home anyway.
  • Ich habe eine Erkältung. Aber ich arbeite eh/sowieso zuhause.

Cool.
We’ll see more examples in the exercise of course but before we get to that, we have to talk about the third type of anyway, the conversational-anyway one.
This one is actually pretty easy to spot. It is the one that we say before we say an actual sentence, to kind of switch topic or get back to it after a detour, or just move aside what has been said before.

  • “I met this girl at the bar and she looks exactly like Maria…”
    “Hey, Maria will be at the party by the way.”
    “Oh really? Well, that sucks. Anyway, so I met this girl and we started to talk and…”

I think this one is pretty clear, but how do we translate it to German?
Well, there are several options and it depends a bit on context or “tone” which one to pick. Here they are, each with their closest counterpart in English

  1. wie dem auch sei
    (“be that as it may” )
  2. (naja…) jedenfalls
    (“in any case”… jedenfalls is actually part of the sentence, doesn’t work as a standalone)
  3. aber ja (“but yeah so”… works if you’re talking and you want to get back to the topic after a slight detour)

Now, I know many of you are now like “Please tell us exactly when to use which with examples.” but I’m not gonna do that and I urge you not to get hung up on these. There are more options, people also make all kinds of combos and you just need to develop sprachgefühl for that. But German doesn’t use this conversational-anyway as English anyway, so often it’s best to just leave it out.
As far as the example goes, number two or three feel like the most natural fit to me.

  • Oh echt?! Das ist nicht cool. Naja... jedenfalls habe ich diese Frau getroffen….
  • Oh echt?! Das ist nicht cool. Aber ja… ich habe diese Frau getroffen….

Oh and let’s note that jedenfalls is actually a proper part of the sentence with the verb after it. You can’t use jedenfalls as a standalone, like you could the other.
Cool.
So those were the three types or ways of using anyway and how they each translate to German.
Here they are again:

  1. contradictory-anyway
    test: can be replaced with despite that
    translation: trotzdem
  2. aligned-anyway
    test: you can add “so it’s a match” and it kind of makes sense
    translation: eh, sowieso
  3. conversational-anyway
    test: sits in front of a sentence, not really part of it
    translation: wie dem auch sei, jedenfalls, [nothing]

And now all that’s left for us is a little practice.
Usually, I’d include that here, but I haven’t prepared it yet, and since many of us have to stay put at home these days, I thought, I’ll just give you the article now, so you have something to read, and follow up with the quiz in a few days :). So stay tuned!

And that’s it for today!
This was our look at how to translate anyway.
As always, if you have any questions or thoughts or if you have a specific use of anyway that you’d like to have a translation for, just leave a comment and we’ll clear things up together.
Oh and also, what do you think of this kind of article?
Should I do more “How to translate”? If yes, please let me know which words you’d like me to talk about.
I hope you liked it, and I’ll see you in a few days with the quiz.

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Monty
Monty
8 months ago

As a native English speaker, who is learning German, this style of article is AWESOME. I am always fascinated by the differences in perspective between English and German, and this was a cool way to explore those differences!

I had never really thought about the multiple meanings of “anyway”. Just goes to show that English can be equally as confusing/random/frustrating as German can be.

Thank you for another great article!

Jost
Jost
2 years ago

Erstmals auf dieses sensationelle Blog gestoßen — auch Deutschen macht das Spaß!
Für “Aligned anyway” gibt es noch eine verbreitete Übersetzung außer “eh” und “sowieso”, die ich häufig verwende und höre: “ohnehin”. Vielleicht etwas schriftsprachlicher, aber nicht ungewöhnlich.

api
api
2 years ago

Danke für den Artikel! Super wie immer. Ich bin Japanarin und empfehle oft japanischen Deutschlernenden dein Blog. Die Artikel sind inmer hilfreich, die sprachlichen Eigenschaft von Deutsch zu begreifen. Es gibt naja viele japanische Mediums über deutsche Grammatik aber… dein ist der Topp!! How to translate ist ein gutes Thema, ist meine Meinung. Ich liebe nomalen Artikel über deutschen Wörtern trotzdem!

karenzshea
karenzshea
2 years ago

great article, would like if i could

Luispal
Luispal
2 years ago

Hi. I’d like to thank the people who paid extra and gave me a chance to be able to come and improve my german. I hope you are all doing fine and keep having those little but amazing gestures.

Viele Grussen aus Kolumbien!

Azeez Khan
Azeez Khan
2 years ago

Hallo leute!! I am leaning German and the way these articles explain vocabulary is just amazing.
Anyways :), I wanna thank German-is-easy and the community for signing me up. Can’t wait to read them all!

Aly
Aly
2 years ago

I pretty much knew must of these apart from sowieso/eh but great article. I use Anyway SOO much as a placeholder in English I was desperate to try and figure out what to use in its place after I moved to Germany. I remember my confusion when my friends said there isnt a direct translation and when someone mentioned Jedenfalls I used it incorrectly (standalone) with aplomb. Honestly didnt really how much I loved anyway until I it was removed from my lexicon haha

hereinzuscheinen
hereinzuscheinen
2 years ago

wonderful explaining, I’d like to thank everyone who is helping people who can’t get payed accounts, such as me, you guys are awesome <3

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
2 years ago

This was really interesting and helpful. I mean, every article is, but I don’t think it hurts to say it. Translating from English to German is tricky for me, at least right now, because it’s easy for me to rely on English logic more so than German logic, if that makes sense. So to hear from a native speaker how it’s done is valuable, especially for situations like here where English rolls a bunch of meanings into one word and German separates them into different words. I’ve noticed quite a few words like that, but they are (rudely) not coming to mind. Also in situations where things are just done differently. One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how to express that I really like something. My American instincts are perfectly happy with strong words like awesome, amazing, and strings of adjectives and adverbs to describe things. German seems maybe more restrained, but I don’t really know when something is too much. An example, I’ve heard someone say “das macht wahnsinnig viel Spaß,” but “wahnsinnig sehr viel” seems like it might be too much. And somewhere in the comments on another article, you mentioned that “unheimlich wunderschön” would be too much emphasis.

So I guess my question would be if there are any guidelines or examples you could give, or is the answer maybe as simple as try to dial it down a notch from what an exuberant American might say. Sorry if that’s too vague of a topic for an article suggestion, and if that’s something you’ve covered before, please point me to it. I hope to eventually read all the articles, but there’s a lot to cover.

Enjiu
Enjiu
2 years ago

For those who payed that extra: DANKESCHÖN (:
I am not able to pay at the moment and I couldn’t be more grateful.

pmfeely54
pmfeely54
2 years ago
Reply to  Enjiu

interessanter Beitrag wie immer. In welche Sinne benutzt man ”ohnedies”?
danke

Flavia
Flavia
2 years ago

It’s impressive to see how many nuances there are about these modal particles! Vielen Dank fur deine nützliche Newsletter und weiter so!!!

lois049
lois049
2 years ago

That is super useful! Ive been always struggling with anyway and ended up saying it in English :D
Thank you!!!!

P.S. And totally yes, articles like that would be also really helpful.

Kela
Kela
2 years ago

Hallo
I’m new here and enjoying every bit of this blog. Thanks to everyone who donated to help me and others to share the knowledge of this community.

Naz
Naz
2 years ago

!!!Attention please!!!

Servus fellow learners!
A giant ‘THANK YOU’ goes from me to you who have paid extra to help broke learners like myself to become a member and another one goes to dear Emanuel who have presented the world this treasurous resource!

See you around!

Das
Das
2 years ago

Super as always. But… how does immerhin fit in? As in er ist immerhin dein Chef – anyway/after all he’s your boss. Is that just a synonym for sowieso ?

daschles
daschles
2 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

yeah for me (american english native speaker/from the northeast of the US/vintage 1960) that’s an anyway (or at least an anyway spoken [or read] with a particularly heavy emphasis… I think part of the problem is expressions like “anyway” are loaded with the time & place of both hearer and speaker. That’s what’s makes it fun/hard

Jeff
Jeff
2 years ago

Totally helpful explanation of I word I use often in English. Vielen Dank!

Diego
Diego
2 years ago

was ist denn mit “immerhin”?

Philip Allcock
Philip Allcock
2 years ago

–“I couldn’t think of a synonym for this aligned-anyway, ”

I think “already” will often work for this. “I was already going to go”… “I was already going to work from home”.

Bron
Bron
2 years ago
Reply to  Philip Allcock

I think that we often use “all the same” for the second, aligned-anyway. “Wow, Maria will be there. Well I am going all the same. “

Philip Allcock
Philip Allcock
2 years ago
Reply to  Bron

I would say “all the same” is far closer to either “nevertheless” or “notwithstanding”. It can be in spite of or it can be that it makes no difference. I wouldn’t say it expresses that the decision had already been made to go.

And that concept of “already decided” is fundamental I think – “already” obvious implies it, and so does the use of “still” in the “nevertheless” sense. “Maria will be there, you know. Meh, I’m still going to go…”

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years ago

… und wie ist es mit “auf alle Fälle”?

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years ago

Ich dachte daß “übrigens” das Englische Wort “moreover” ähnlich ist … oder?

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
2 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

“Moreover” ist mehr wie “außerdem”. Allerdings finde ich es schon zumindest auf Englisch idiomatisch, “by the way” ironisch zu verwenden, wenn man ein weiteres, entscheidendes Argument macht:

– Dude, why did you offer to give Maria a ride on Saturday? You said you couldn’t go that day. And by the way, you don’t actually have a car or a driver’s license.