German to English - gerund or noun form?
Thread poster: Emal Ghamsharick

Emal Ghamsharick  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:41
English to German
+ ...
Jun 10, 2010

Hello All,

German uses the noun form of a verb's infinitive instead in situations where it would be appropriate to use either the gerund or the noun form in English. I'm wondering which version other GER to EN translators prefer to use.

Example 1:

German: "Betreiben von Datenbanken"

English: "Operation of databases" (Preferable in this case)
OR "Operating databases"
OR EVEN "Operating of databases" (since gerund can also function as a noun)


Example 2 (not so clear):

German: "Datenbanken betreiben"

English: "Operation of databases"
OR "Operating databases"
OR EVEN "Operating of databases"


I frequently encounter constructions of this kind in bullet point lists or tables and haven't come up with a definitive solution yet.
Is this a question of individual style to you or do you see a fixed rule that would apply here?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts,

Emal


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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:41
Member (2007)
German to English
Possible alternatives Jun 10, 2010

That's a good question, Mr. Ghamsharick. I prefer to cut the Gordian knot with "Database operation" in the first case, although I believe "Databases' operation" would be more grammatically correct.

I would go with "Operating databases" in the second example. I like to hack out as many words as I can without affecting meaning. In this case, I think "of" can go.

Could someone comment on the legitimacy of writing "Database operation" when more than one database is involved? This has been bothering me for some time. I see it all the time at in English prose and it feels completely correct to me.

On the other hand, "Databases' operation", while grammatically better, feels contrived.
The closest I could come in the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., is:

7.27
Possessive versus attributive forms. The line between a possessive or genitive form (see 7.26) and a noun used attributively—as an adjective—is sometimes fuzzy, especially in the plural. Although terms such as employees’ cafeteria sometimes appear without an apostrophe, Chicago dispenses with the apostrophe only in proper names (often corporate names) or where there is clearly no possessive meaning.


a consumers’ group
taxpayers’ associations
children’s rights
the women’s team
a boys’ club

but

Publishers Weekly

Diners Club
Department of Veterans Affairs
a housewares sale

But this doesn't quite address my issue.


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szkott
Austria
Local time: 18:41
German to English
Noun Adjunct User Society Jun 10, 2010

I agree, it's a very interesting question.

I just thought I'd add the possibility of Noun Adjuncts to the list.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_adjunct:
In grammar, a noun adjunct or attributive noun or noun premodifier is a noun that modifies another noun [...]
Noun adjuncts were traditionally mostly singular (e.g., "trouser press") except when there were lexical restrictions (e.g., "arms race"), but there is a recent trend towards more use of plural ones, especially in UK English. Many of these can also be and/or were originally interpreted and spelled as plural possessives (e.g., "chemicals' agency", "writers' conference", "Rangers' hockey game"),[2] but they are now often written without the apostrophe although this is criticised by some authorities.[3]

"Database Operation" has database as a noun adjunct. I would separate the meanings of the different forms like this (and correct me if you think I'm wrong):

database operation: the operation of databases in general
databases' operation: the operation of a specific group databases

Doesn't "Datenbanken betrieben" mean "database driven", much like "elektrisch betrieben" means "operated by electricity" or "electrically powered"?

In "database driven software" database is used as a noun adjunct too.

Operating databases sounds like databases that are currently running, being used or functioning. As opposed to the databases that are down.

It's interesting that we have "Human Rights" and "Women's Rights" groups. It seems to say to me that these formations are not as strict as I have maybe made them seem above.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Database support? Jun 10, 2010

szkott wrote:
database operation: the operation of databases in general
databases' operation: the operation of a specific group databases

In another life, when I was in IT, we always talked about database support. Is that the translation of the German term, perhaps?
It's interesting that we have "Human Rights" and "Women's Rights" groups. It seems to say to me that these formations are not as strict as I have maybe made them seem above.

I'm not sure they're really strict at all, really. Maybe they were but not any more, not if you're talking about common usage anyway. The internet makes these things more difficult of course. You can always find examples of both good and bad usage (both by natives and the millions of non-native speakers) and that just reinforces the doubt.


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Emal Ghamsharick  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:41
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for comments Jun 13, 2010

I like the idea of "hacking out words". It's a good general rule for other constellations as well, especially since the German language tends to use too many words at times...

I would say that "database operation" refers to a non-specified number of databases.

I'm not referring to databases in particular, btw. It could be any sort fo similar construction:
Projektkoordination - Project coordination/coordination of projects
Zimmer aufräumen - Cleaning rooms/cleaning of rooms/room cleaning
Instandhaltung von Gebäuden - Building maintenance/maintenance of buildings

etc.


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:41
English
+ ...
Words to work by. Jun 13, 2010

edm176 wrote:

I like the idea of "hacking out words". It's a good general rule for other constellations as well, especially since the German language tends to use too many words at times...


I've read this thread with interest, but cannot possibly comment on the translation problem (although as an editor I favor "Database Operation" for use in bullets and lists.) I do however, want to comment on "hacking out words"... One of my favorite aphorisms regarding writing, and a guiding light in my work, comes from Strunk & White in The Elements of Style: "Omit needless words."



[Edited at 2010-06-13 10:31 GMT]


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