English-German Differences (simple present versus present progressive)

So I was just looking through these language patterns as a type of review when I noticed the translation for this sentence below

Er liest beim Früstück — He is reading during breakfast.

However, the sentence directly above that one is translated as such:

Er liest wenig — He reads a little.

This got me thinking about the English distinction between ING and S endings. For example:

He reads during breakfast – compared to – He is reading during breakfast.

According to this website: Simple Present vs. Present Progressive - English Grammar the difference between “he reads” and “he is reading” is simple present versus present progressive.

So I am wondering, does German make such a distinction?

No such distinction in German. The only kind of progressive use we have is what used to be called Das Gerundium:
Leise lächelnd liest sie seine Briefe. She reads his letters while smiling; with a smile she reads his letters." “Er kommt keuchend um die Ecke. Huffing and puffing he rounds the corner. He turns the corner while huffing and puffing”.
“Beim Frühstück lesen beide schweigend ihre Briefe. They both read their letters silently over breakfast.”

N.B. Er liest wenig - he reads little, ie hardly. Er liest ein wenig. He reads a little.

I think English is in the minority in making that distinction with “-ing”; most other languages leaving it to context, or further clarification as to whether the action is happening at that very moment, or just in general. One of the few bits of English grammar I find interesting : )

My breakfast sentence should have read:

Frühstückend lesen beide schweigend ihre Briefe. While having breakfast they both silently read their letters.

Danke Sanne,

ich freue mich über Hilfe beim Prüfen meiner Übersetzungen ins Englische. Das ist wirklich schwierig für mich, vor allem die Feinheiten. Also wer noch Übersetzungsfehler findet, den bitte ich um eine kurze Info an mich. Ich habe
“He reads a little” geändert in “He reads little”.

Kein Problem. Ich dachte, dass sei Commasplice beim Tippen passiert. Eigentlich hätte ich es als ‘he hardly reads’ übersetzen sollen:))

You’d think this would be something taught to me in school at some point! I’m glad I now know this, it clears up so much confusion.

I actually had more of a problem with “Er hat wenig Zeit” with the translation " he has no time" I would have thought it would be “Er hat keine Zeit” because doesn’t “wenig” mean “little” or “minus”?

As I wrote above I’m thankful for help in translations into English. I provide them as a service but for a non-native it is difficult for me to translate as accurate as an native English speaker. Just let me know if you find other English translations with problems, and I’ll correct them.

If someone could provide more translations I would be glad to add them to my lessons. Just let me know.

So is “He has little time” a better translation for “Er hat wenig Zeit”?

I’m not sure if it is a problem since I’m the wrong person to ask, as I’m only a beginner with German and have no idea whether it’s some nuance in the language or idiom or something like that. I think to translate very accurately you have to be nearly bi-lingual in both languages, like a teacher. In Google translate ( which I know isn’t the best) Er hat keine Zeit = He has NO time (literally). Meaning zero time. And Er hat wenig Zeit = He has (LITTLE) time, meaning a small amount.
I’m not sure if Er hat wenig Zeit in German is a nuance or something like that. The problem with translations is you have to really trust the translator, if you don’t understand the language you really have to take people at their word (or trust dictionaries) for the real meaning. But I know with languages some words or Idea’s are very hard to translate literally, like the word “doch” in German.

Sometimes I wonder about submitting my writings to those who don’t understand English as they might not know what I’m trying to say. Lately when I submit my writing submissions, I have them in both German and English, so if they know English I’ll get a much better correction.

Thanks Vera for all your hard work with all of your lessons, I really enjoy them and think your translations are good. One just needs a good dictionary and you get the gist of the message, which I know can’t be translated literally, one must translate it as it sounds natural.

“He has little time” seams to be the better translation. I’ll change it. Thank you!

Hi Vera. How much of your ‘Ab jetzt lerne ich Detusch’ course has translations? I looked at some of the later lessons and there are none, but a lot of the early lessons have them.

I am planning to go through it all soon, even though it is well below my current level, because I think I can still learn a lot from it. I can check the English translations as I do it, and make translations for some of the other bits too.

For example, in lesson 6, the phrase

Anna: Es war schön, dich getroffen zu haben!

is translated as

Anna: It was nice, having met you!

This is a good translation, but I think a better translation would be

Anna: It was nice to have met you!

Thank you, Colin. I’ve changed the translation.

I’ve added translations to the numbers 01.xx to 04.xx. These are about 50 lessons. I thought at that point new learners should be able to get the meaning by using the translations from the hints or the dictionaries, if they have followed the course.

I appreciate every help I get for the translations. It is much easier for me to translate from English into German than the other way round.

I would love to offer translations in other languages as well, but unfortunately my level in French is too low, and I speak no other languages at all :frowning:

You are probably right that after the first 50 lessons, the translations are not going to be very helpful. I will check the ones that are there when I go through them.

I think it is ok to have them just in English since these will be the most helpful to the highest number of people. Of course the translations in other languages would be good too.