German Word of the Day – “trotzdem”

trotzdem-germanHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will look at the meaning of

trotzdem

 

Trotzdem is a super super important word, and in my opinion, it should be among the first 50 or so words that we learn in a new language. What makes it so important? Well, just like weil or dass it is one of these essential function words. Imagine, you don’t know a word for becausein the language you’re learning. That would suck! I mean, how would you express reason then? You definitely can’t use your hands to somehow point out because or sign it the way you can sign arm or apple or even hammer. So it makes complete and utter sense for a textbook to pages of food vocab and body parts right in the beginning and do the impo… oh wait.
Maaan, I really am a textbook hater :)
But anyway… so trotzdem is super important and we’ll learn all about it today.

At the heart of trotzdem is the word trotz, which must be one of the most German German word. Not only because it has no real relatives in any other languages but also because of the sound. Trotz. Ka-chunk! A word like a machine sound. No elegance… just harsh and solid. And the sound matches the meaning nicely. The search for translations leads to words like defiance, contumacy, obstreperousness or ostentacounterpracticity …yeah…  one of those is totally made up.  But all this Latin jargon totally fails to capture the vibe of Trotz  –  the feeling and behavior of “Hell no!”.
It is pouring outside and your partner tells you it is not a good idea to go running? Hell no! You’ll go and you’ll do the long turn.
Your mom wants you to finish your spinach? Hell no!! You’ll poke it with your spoon until it’s cold and you get send to your room. Your boss wants to cut costs by replacing the Nespresso capsule machine with instant coffee? Hell freaking no!!! Let’s picket this godforsaken office.
All that is Trotz – A (stubborn) resistance that is somewhere between proud and pout.
And that has been so since a while. One example for the use in medieval times is the word Trutzburg. Those were basically strongholds built to counter another stronghold. Like..

“You want to take my land?! Haha… good luck. I will sit in the safety of 
my castle and raid your troops.”
“Okay… Then we’ll build our own castle right over there and raid your
raiding parties.”

Sounds childish but it was a common military tactic actually. But anyway, here are some examples for today

  • “Tim hat heute beim Mittagessen einfach seinen Teller runtergeschmissen.”
    “Wieso das denn?”
    “Einfach aus Trotz… weil es Rosenkohl gab.”
    “Kenn’ ich… meine Tochter ist auch ein kleiner Trotzkopf.”
  • “Today at lunch, Tim threw his plate on the floor.”
    “Oh Why would he do THAT?”
    “Simply out of spite/to own me… because we had Brussels sprouts.”
    “I feel you… my daughter is a _____ too.

I really don’t know how to translate Trotzkopf. Just look at these pictures at Google image search…  Pictures for Trotzkopf...  that should give you a good idea of the feel of Trotz.
Now, the concept or idea of Trotz must have been very practical and soon just having a noun wasn’t enough. So people started inventing new forms. For example the verb trotzen which is something like to resist.

Trotz has also become a preposition that means despite…. by the way, despite has nothing to do with spite… it comes from the spect-root so despite is like “not looking at something“…

And that brings us right to trotzdem.. because trotzdem is simply trotz dem written as one word. But wait a minute… isn’t trotz a genitive preposition? Like

Well… it’s true that trotz wants Genitive now… but when it was invented some 300 years ago it was designed to take Dative. And that’s why it is trotzdem.
All right.
Now let’s get to the meaning and the use of “trotzdem”.

meaning and use of “trotzdem”

Hey headline… I just said that.
If we look it up in a dictionary we get all kinds of words… however, still, yet, though, regardless, nevertheless and more. Some are quite good (nevertheless) some are really quite fail (however) but if we really want to understand trotzdem we need to forget about those.
The key to trotzdem is ..  despite that . Not just despitedespite THAT.And not only because it is the literal translation but because the two work the same.  You see, there are many ways to express one thing…

  • Thomas is tired. He reads the book regardless/anyway.
  • Thomas is tired. Nevertheless, he reads the book.
  • Thomas is tired. [ Despite that] he reads the book.
  • [Despite his tiredness] Thomas reads the book
  • [Although Thomas is tired], he reads the book.

The message is the same for all sentences. The first two use just one word to express the “despite-ness” and leave the rest to context. The others have a word to express “despite-ness” AND the actual fact … either as a noun (tiredness) or as an activity (is tired) or just as a reference to what has been said before. Together, they answer the question “despite what?“… so we could call them a [ despite-box ].I (I’ll add a link to our post on boxes below).
And  trotzdem is just like despite that. It expresses “despiteness” and it references something that has been said before. And it fills the despite-box completely.

With that in mind let’s look at how trotzdem works.
Just like any other box the despite-box takes one slot in the sentence. And for German that means if it is in the beginning, the verb has to follow in position 2.

  • Thomas ist müde. Trotzdem, er liest… is wrong
  • … . Trotzdem liest er das Buch… is correct

Another feature of boxes is that we can move them around quite freely. Here’s a longer sentence with all possible positions.

In English, the standard slots for this are at the beginning and the end. In German, we have more options. There’s a tendency though. The further we get to the end, the more likely it’ll be wrong. And the very end itself , it rarely works. You really need a lot of Sprachgefühl for that. So as far as the position of trotzdem goes, I would say… stick to the beginning or the first half.
Finally, since trotzdem “fills up” the box completely, we cannot connect stuff with is…

  • Deutsch hat Fälle, aber [ trotzdem ] die Fälle mag ich es… is WRONG
  • German has cases, but [despite that] the cases I like it… just as wrong

The despite-box is full. Die Fälle (the cases) are not in it, and so they just sit around in the sentence without any friends or connections. Awww… poor cases.
If we want to connect a thing, we need a preposition.

And if we want to connect an activity… we need a conjunction. And that brings us right to obwohlObwohl means although and it does the exact same thing… it expresses “despite-ness” and connects an activity, or in other words, a sentence that contains a verb. Together, they fill the despite-box.

Now… with all we’ve just learned what’s the answer to the following question:

Are “obwohl” and “trotzdem”  interchangeable?

Considering all the annoying things you’ve seen German do… what would you guess?
Exactly.
They’ not.
In grammar terms trotzdem is an adverb, obwohl is a subordinating conjunction. And that means they have completely different functions.
Trotzdem fills the despite-box alone, references something that has been said before and cannot connect anything. Obwohl references nothing, doesn’t fill up a box alone and connects an activity.

Can you see? We can use them to convey the same message but it’ll be two completely diffe… oh I see we have a call here…uhm… Tinley from Tibet, welcome to the show
“Hi Emanuel. I have a question about what you just said.
Sure… go ahead…
“So… I think I have seen trotzdem being used just like obwohl and it was a text by a native
speaker. Was that like old use or something”
Ohhhh… no, you’re absolutely right. I totally forgot. Trotzdem actually can be used like obwohl. But then you’d have to say it differently…
“Oh…”
Normally trotzdem carries the emphasis on trotz... TROTZdem. If you want it to function like an obwohl you need to say trotzDEM.
“Wow really?! I didn’t know that stress could make such a difference in German.”
Well, there aren’t many cases where it makes such a difference but for trotzdem it’s really important.
“Would you understand it though?”
Actually, maybe not… at least I would be really confused for a second.
“Cool, thanks a lot.”
Thank YOU for bringing that up, man.
I totally forgot about that. It is a rare use, that’s for sure. I think I never do it in daily life and I don’t think I’d write it either because the reader has no pronunciation. It does sound super fancy though to say

You could use that to show off in German class.
Here, for comparison, the standard versions.

All right.  I think we’re almost done but a couple more things.
First off, trotzdem is often used as  a one word sentence so let’s do one example for that…

Then, if you have to write a longer text and you don’t want to use the same words all the time… German has come up with a few synonyms for trotzdem … 

  •  dennoch,  nichtsdestotrotz, nichtsdestoweniger, nichtsumsokein

…yeah…one of them is totally made up.
Now I guess we should do some examples for the synonyms but … meh… let’s just not do it. We’ve done enough for today.
That was our German Word of the Day trotzdem. It means despite that and that’s really all there is to say. Whenever despite that fits, trotzdem will be a translation. If not, then no trotzdem.
One of our interns here has created a neat little exercise for you. I’ll add it at the bottom. You can try out how well you can “spot” a trotzdem and if you want a nice challenge you can also try to translate all the sentences :). I’m looking forward to your solutions in the comments.
And of course if you have some questions or suggestions or you want to get some of your examples corrected, just leave me a comment too.
Good luck with the exercise, I hope you liked it and see you next time.

Jump to comments

Exercises:

a)
Every statement with trotzdem can be rephrased into a statement with obwohl… but you need to do more than just replace one word with the other. Here are a few sentences to train. The solutions are in ugly, unreadable  yellow… uargh… just mark it, to see it :) (let me know if that is to sucky on mobile)

Example:

  • Obwohl ich Thomas nicht mag, habe ich ihn zu meiner Party eingeladen.
  • Ich mag Thomas nicht, aber ich habe ihn trotzdem zu meiner Party eingeladen.
  1. Maria hat keine Laktoseintolerant und bestellt trotzdem einen Latte mit laktosfreier Milch.

    Obwohl Maria keine Laktoseintolleranz hat, bestellt sie einen Latte mit laktosefreier Milch.

  2. Ich habe Windows neu installiert und mein Computer funktioniert trotzdem nicht.

    Obwohl ich Windows neu installiert habe, funktioniert mein Computer nicht.

  3. Obwohl mich Oper nicht interessiert, werde ich in Don Giovanni gehen.

    Oper interessiert mich nicht. Trotzdem werde ich in Don Giovanni gehen.

  4. Obwohl mein Deutsch nicht perfekt ist, konnte ich mich mit Muttersprachlern unterhalten.

    Mein Deutsch ist nicht perfekt. Trotzdem konnte ich mich mit Muttersprachlern unterhalten.

b)
This one’s a bit tougherer… only some of these sentences can be translated with “trotzdem”. Which ones?

  1. I am tired. I’ll come to the party though.
    Ich bin müde. Ich komme (aber) trotzdem zur Party.

  2. I’d like to come to the party. I’m tired though.
    Ich würde gerne zur Party kommen. Ich bin aber/allerdings/jedoch müde.

  3. Though I am tired I go to the party.
    Obwohl ich müde bin, gehe ich zur Party.

  4. It’s raining but I’ll go running anyway.
    Es regnet, aber ich gehe trotzdem laufen.

  5. We have no more butter but I was going to go to the store later anyway.
    Wir haben keine Butter mehr, aber ich wollte eh/sowieso später einkaufen.

  6. Regardless of the hefty prices I would recommend the restaurant.
    Trotz der gesalzenen Preise würde ich das Restaurant empfehlen.

  7. The prices are hefty, but I would recommend the restaurant regardless.
    Die Preise sind heftig, aber ich würde das Restaurant trotzdem empfehlen.

  8. I’m  really trying and yet I can’t seem to remember any articles.
    Ich gebe mir echt Mühe, und trotzdem ich kann mir irgendwie keine Artikel merken.

  9. I’m trying really hard but I can’t remember all of them yet.
    Ich gebe mir echt Mühe aber ich kann mir noch nicht alle merken.

  10. I begged you to do the dishes and still, there they are, dirty as ever.
    Ich habe dich bekniet, das Geschirr abzuwaschen und trotzdem, da ist es, dreckig wie eh und je.

  11. I left the dirty dishes this morning and they are still there.
    Ich habe den Abwasch heute morgen stehen lassen/nicht gemacht, und er ist noch da.

 

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Further reading:

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Anil
Anil

1. Ich bin mude trotzdem gehe Ich zur Party.
2.Ich bin mude trotzdem möchte Ich zur party kommen.
3.Ich bin mude trotzdem gehe Ich zur Party.
4. Es regnet trotzdem laufe Ich.
5. Wir haben keine butter aber trotzdem gehe Ich später einkaufen.
6. Die Restaurant ist teuer. Trotzdem würde Ich es emphelen
7.Die Restaurant ist teuer. Trotzdem würde Ich es emphelen

Ich habe versucht enige sätze zu ubersetzen trotzdem kann Ich nicht gut deutsch sprechen. Bitte controllirien Sie.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

*müde

Andy
Andy

I am tired. I’ll come to the party though.
Ich bin müde. Trotzdem komme ich zur Party.

I’d like to come to the party. I’m tired though.
Ich würde gerne zur Party kommen. Ich bin doch müde.

Though I am tired I go to the party.
Obwohl ich müde bin, gehe ich zur Party.

It’s raining but I’ll go running anyway.
Es regnet noch, doch gehe ich Laufen sowieso.

We have no more butter but I was going to go to the store later anyway.
Wir haben keine Butter mehr, hab’s sowieso geplant, zum Laden zu gehen.

Regardless of the hefty prices I would recommend the restaurant.
Trotz der hochen Preise, würde ich das Restaurent empfehlen.

The prices are hefty, but I would recommend the restaurant regardless.
Die Preise sind hoch, trotzdem würde ich das Restaurant empfehlen.

I’m really trying and yet I can’t seem to remember any German gender.
Keine Ahnung… Ich bemühe mich und kann mich aber trotzdem keine Genera erinnern.

Last three are way to hard, but i will try.

I’m trying really hard but I can’t remember all of them yet.
Ich bemühe mich sehr, aber ich kann mich nicht alle erinnern.

I begged you to do the dishes and still, there they are, dirty as ever.
Ich habe dich gebeten, den Abwasch zu machen, trotzdem sind sie da, dreckig wie ewig

I left the dirty dishes this morning and they are still there.
Diesen Morgen hab ich das dreckige Geschirr für dich gelassen und sie sind noch da.

NN

Ich habe eine Frage über “gleichwohl”.
Wann “gleichwohl” passt besser als “obwohl”?

jag041
jag041

Trotzkopf auf Englisch… vielleicht “grumpy pants”?
Das würde ich wahrscheinlich sagen… Manchmal sag ich auch nur “grump”, beispielsweise: “you’re such a grump today! I only drank all of your beers, it’s no big!”.. keine Ahnung, wann oder wo ich das gehört habe.
Ist “Trotzkopf” normalerweise ein kindmäßiges Wort? Weil “grumpy pants” und “grump” definitiv kindmäßig sind, darum gefallen sie mir. (Ich meine “kid-like” und nicht “childish”. Ich weiß schon, dass “kindisch” “childish” bedeutet. Ich dachte, dass ich zwei Fliege mit einer Klappe schlagen würde :)

Gibt es irgendwo ich gehen kann, um die richtigen Antworten zur Fragen, die am Ende von dem Text steht, zu finden?
Danke!

jag041
jag041

•irgendwohin

igorsrb

I am tired. I’ll come to the party though.
Ich bin műde. Trotzdem, werde ich zur Party gehen.

I’d like to come to the party. I’m tired though.
Ich mőchte zur Party kommen. ___________ bin ich müde

Though I am tired I go to the party.
Obwohl ich mude bin, gehe ich zur Party.

It’s raining but I’ll go running anyway.
Es regnet aber trozdem werde ich laufen.

We have no more butter but I was going to go to the store later anyway.
Wir haben keine Butter mehr, aber __________ gehe ich später zum Supermarkt.

Regardless of the hefty prices I would recommend the restaurant.
Trotz der teueren Preise empfehle ich das Restaurant.

The prices are hefty, but I would recommend the restaurant regardless.
Die Preise sind teuer, aber trozdem empfehle ich das Restaurant.

I’m really trying and yet I can’t seem to remember any German gender.
Ich versuche ziemlich, aber trotzdem kann ich keine deutsche Genus mich merken.

I’m trying really hard but I can’t remember all of them yet.
Ich versuche so eigentlich aber trotzdem kann ich nicht alle von die mich merken.

I begged you to do the dishes and still, there they are, dirty as ever.
Ich bat dich dass du Geschirr spűlst, aber trotzdem, hier ist es, schmutzig wie eh und je.

I left the dirty dishes this morning and they are still there.
– Ich verließ das schmutzige Geschirr an diesem Morgen, und sie sind immer noch da.

I wouldn’t use neither trotz nor trotzdem there where I left blank space, but I also don’t know what would I use instead – trotzdem, wollte ich keine Kommentare lesen, Lösungen zu finden. :)

igorsrb

Fuck! Wollen is the modal verb, therefore there is no zu, isn’t it?

Daniel
Daniel

Ganz im Ernst würde ich Trotzkopf als ‘little shit’ übersetzen. Das sind meine two cents.

Albert
Albert

Mein Versuch:

I am tired. I’ll come to the party though.
Ich bin müde. Trotzdem komme ich zur Party.

I’d like to come to the party. I’m tired though.
Ich möchte zur Party kommen. Aber ich bin müde.

Though I am tired I go to the party.
Obwohl ich müde bin, gehe ich zur Party.

It’s raining but I’ll go running anyway.
Es regnet, trotzdem werde ich laufen gehen.

We have no more butter but I was going to go to the store later anyway.
Wir haben keine Butter mehr, aber ich wollte ohnehin später zum Laden gehen. (auch: sowieso)

Regardless of the hefty prices I would recommend the restaurant.
Trotz der hohen Preise empfehle ich das Restaurant. (oder: würde ich das Restaurant empfehlen)

The prices are hefty, but I would recommend the restaurant regardless.
Die Preise sind hoch, aber trotzdem empfehle ich das Restaurant. (oder: würde ich …)

I’m really trying and yet I can’t seem to remember any German gender.
Ich versuche hart, trotzdem kann ich mich an kein deutsches Genus erinnern.

I’m trying really hard but I can’t remember all of them yet.
Ich versuche hart, aber ich kann mich nicht an sie all erinnern. (auch: trotzdem kanni ich mich …)

I begged you to do the dishes and still, there they are, dirty as ever.
Ich habe dich darum gebeten, abzuspülen, trotzdem ist das Geschirr noch da, schmutzig wie immer.

I left the dirty dishes this morning and they are still there.
Ich habe an diesem Morgen das schmutzige Geschirr verlassen und es ist noch dort.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Diese Blog ist sehr toll! Die liese ich gerne wöchentlich. Dankeschön!

Ewan
Ewan

Hallo!, Um anzufangen, finde ich diesen Blog sehr nuetzlich, und ich hoffe, dass du fortsetzen wirst, es zu schreiben. Also, naechste Woche fahre ich mit meiner Familie nach Oesterreich ab, um ein Urlaub zu machen. Und ich habe gewundert, ob es einige Unterschiede zwischen “deutschen Deutsch”, und “oesterreichischen Deutsch” gibt. Ich habe gelesen, dass einige Worte, die in Deutschland neutrum sind, in Oesterreich maennlich sind. Ich weiss aber nicht, ob das total Quatsch ist. Und bitte sag es mir, wenn du mein Deutsch nicht verstehst. Es ist offensichtlich nicht meine erste Sprache :)

Jo
Jo

Vielen Danke! Die Bild of der “Trotzkopf” ist toll – now I think I will remember what trotz and trotzdem mean. I have a lot of trouble remembering all those abstract words… now I’ll go looking for similar concrete memory hooks for the other pesky adverbs, etc which I have trouble with. (Note: in English we could say someone is “pigheaded” but I can’t think of a noun for that.)

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

Or, perhaps less often, bullheaded.

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Danke für noch einen schönen Blog :)

Könnte man auch anstatt “Ich gehe der Erkältung zum Trotz schwimmen” (In defiance of my cold I go swimming) sagen:

Ich gehe zum Trotz der Erkältung schwimmen?

Leider, wegen meiner Englisch-Muttersprache, finde ich so eine Wortfügung einfacher zu verstehen.

thewandererlife

ich war immer verwirrt, wie ich Obwohl und Trotztdem unterscheiden kann :)

Anonymous
Anonymous

Great post. I was wondering if you could explain the differences between vor, vorher und bevor. Always gets me – while speaking to a German person, I said “Ich denke, dass mein Deutsch ist besser als bevor”, and was corrected to “vorher”. I don’t get why… Same with weil, denn and wegen. And I’ve been reading your posts for a while now, and there was one in which the word order was rather confusing.

Maria sieht nach den langen Autofahrt von München, wo sie beruflich zu tun hatte, nach Berlin zu ihrem Freund Markus, mit dem sie, sobald sie einen Job in Berlin bekommt, zusammenziehen will, sehr müde und erschöpft aus
After her long drive from Munich, where she had job related stuff to do, to Berlin to her boyfriend Marcus, with whom she wants to move together as soon as she gets a job in Berlin, Maria looks very tired and exhausted.

In “aussehen”. You said it was fictional, but then if you really wanted to write such a sentence, how would it be in German? And if so, why are there two verbs floating in the middle (zusammenziehen will)??

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I get very confused with vorher, and from your Blog link, i gathered that one needs a preceding reference time to use voher, partnered like danach?
But then why would the above sentence in Anonymous’s question be “Ich denke, dass mein Deutsch ist besser als vorher?”
Wouldn’t you also need a reference point? Could you also use “fruher” here?

(I’m extra curious as my sentence in regards to high levels of pressure in the modern world was wrong – I had written “…und der Druck ist viel grösser als vorher” but I was corrected to “als früher”. Why?
How would you distinguish between the usage of vorher and früher?

Thanks!

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

vorher=before
If no reference point is explicitly given, the reference point is “now”.
früher is ok in the first example. In the second example there is no clear breakpoint between the modern world and the pre-modern one. The “border” between them is very vague, so I guess it’s not entirely clear what vorher refers to.

Adriano Marcato
Adriano Marcato

Salutations,
Could I use “Allerdings” instead of “trotzdem” on b.7 (maybe in a different position)?
Or “und doch” on b.10?

Thanks for the post and keep up the good work, I’m sure it helps people a lot!

dilara
dilara

Hello. Thank you for such a good blog!
I am just wondering if there is a small mistake on the 4.question of the exercises part a. Shouldn’t we convert obwohl to trotzdem at the second sentence?

-Obwohl mein Deutsch nicht perfekt ist, konnte ich mich mit Muttersprachlern unterhalten.
-Ich konnte mich mit Muttersprachlern unterhalten, obwohl mein Deutsch nicht perfekt ist.

And is it possible to covert first sentence from obwohl to trotzdem like this;

Mein Deutsch ist nicht perfekt, trotzdem konnte ich mich mit Muttersprachlern unterhalten.

Thank you very much :)

Anonymous
Anonymous

In Swedish you have the word Trots, which I belive is the same. Regarding your statement “Not only because it has no real relatives in any other languages “

lotto. lottery

Really when someone doesn’t know then its up to other viewers that they will help, so here it occurs.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Is the word *trotzdem* more likely postive than *obwhol *

sunshinestany

Great website!!! I am happy I found it and I am amazed by the quality of the linguistic content!!! Keep it up!

Anonymous
Anonymous

Dude I know its super superficial, but you gotta format the bolding of your words