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The Word DOCH – A Translation Challenge

Use of DochThere is no straight translation for the word doch. In fact, when I was learning English I struggled to find according expressions for this word in the English language. For learners of the German language this tiny word poses the same challenges.

This short, yet iffy word can lead to a lot of confusion when learning German as it does not exist in a straight forward translation in English. It can be used in various meanings. Today, I want to try to shed some light around this little word.

The word “doch” can be used to express different meanings. Let’s use some examples:

A) Doch = but, however

Frank hat verspochen zu kommen, doch er kann nicht. — Frank has promised to come, but he cannot.

Ich habe es mehrmals probiert. Doch es geht nicht. — I have tried it several times. However, it does not work.

Sara hat mehrmals angerufen. Doch niemand antwortete. –Sara called several times. However, somebody answered.

In this case, we can use ‘but’ or ‘however’ in English. As you may notice, “doch” starts the new part of the sentence or a new sentence when used as ‘but’ or ‘however’.

B) Doch = after all

Dann ist Frank doch nach Berlin gefahren. — So Frank did go to Berlin after all.

Schade, dass Marie doch nicht kommen konnte. — It a pity, that Marie couldn’t come after all.

Er wollte erst nicht mit den Kindern spielen. Aber dann spielte er doch mit ihnen. — First, he didn’t want to play with the kids. However, then he played with them after all.

In this case, we can transcribe the German word “doch” with ‘after all’. As you can see it is used in the sense that those people (Frank and Marie) had stated something different in the beginning than what they actually did in the end. It describes a definite change of mind.

C) Doch = anyway

Du kannst jetzt nicht rausgehen. Es regnet doch. — You cannot go outside right now. It’s raining anyway.

Du kannst jetzt nicht noch duschen. Es ist doch schon spät. — You cannot take a shower anymore. It’s late already anyway.

The second sentence just explains the “Why” in this case. The word “doch” gives the explanation a bit more reinforcement.

D) Doch = indeed

For this one we need a little dialog to arrive at the meaning:

Frank: Ich kann eine Stunde rennen ohne aufzuhören. — I can run for an hour without stopping.

Michael: Ich kann das auch. — I can do that too.

Frank: Kannst Du nicht! — You cannot.

Michael: Doch. (Ich kann es Dir zeigen.) — Indeed, I can. (I can prove it.)

“Doch” in this example is used to express the contrary to a statement from another person and to erase doubts expressed by another person. It always follows a scheme like this:

– Statement Person A

– Person B agrees

– Person A has doubts

– Person B wanted to erase doubts and reinforces his point of view.

The German word “Doch” is used in many other expressions and idioms. Just a few examples here:

Versuchs doch mal! – Just try it!

Es ist doch nur ein Spiel! – It’s just a game!

Nicht doch! – Don’t! Stop it!

Hör doch auf! – Please, give it a rest!

Ich hoffe doch. – I sure hope so.

Sicher doch. – Oh, sure!

Even in above expressions, you notice that the German expression would be just fine without the word “doch”. However, it gives the expression a bit more reinforcement.

In addition, you find some great translation example in Linguee:

http://www.linguee.de/deutsch-englisch/search?sourceoverride=none&source=auto&query=doch


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  • Erik Andersen August 14, 2012, 2:44 AM

    Hey – –

    Thanks for a little more insight into the confusing world of the word ‘doch’… at least for we native English speakers learning German! I’ve struggled with the word and been cautioned against using it or over using it until I’ve had more exposure to actual native German speakers using sentences with it that I then learn and repeat in my everyday.

    One thing I’ve heard about it’s usage is that it is often used to ‘soften’ harsh statements or questions… making them seem less abrupt. Sort of a ‘word’ insert equivalent of the tone of voice. I’m sure both tone of voice and words are used… just as in English… where we might start a statement or question with “Well, I was thinking” or something similar… using a questioning tone of voice.

    Anyway, from the date of this post, it seems you’ve gone into semi-retirment. But just wanted to say thanks. Anymore help, always appreciated!

    Reply
  • Jim Mandaville August 28, 2013, 10:18 PM

    I must say, this is an excellent discussion of the word “doch,” which was always a puzzle to me. As a native English speaker, it is STILL a bit of a puzzle to me. But now I can appreciate how many different forms the puzzle can take. and it has helped greatly!

    Jim

    Reply
  • Christian December 28, 2013, 1:33 PM

    I think of doch as an intensifier, used as we’d use “indeed” or “especially.”

    Du doch nicht: “especially not you.”

    Ich hoffe doch: I sure hope so.

    Reply