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ambiguity of bis auf

English translation: I actually do feel the ambiguity

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07:37 Oct 18, 2004
German to English translations [PRO]
General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
German term or phrase: ambiguity of bis auf
This is really an ambiguity that should not exist -perhaps it only exists in my mind? In a sentence such as "Die Nummer .....entsprach *bis auf die letzten Ziffer* der handschriftlich notierten Fernsprechernummer" does a German mother tongue speaker sense the ambiguity I feel here, or would he/she automatically assume it means "apart from (ie excluding) the last numeral" without feeling that it could possibly also mean "right down to (ie including) the last numeral"?
David Solomons
Local time: 23:47
English translation:I actually do feel the ambiguity
Explanation:
I'm a little surprised that I seem to be the only one for whom the meaning is not immediately evident. As a matter of fact, when I first read your German sentence, I thought it meant "down to the last digit" rather than "with the exception of the last digit." On second thought, I think the second interpretation is however the correct one. There are instances in German where "bis" is used to say "including", let me see if I can come up with some good examples: "etwas bis ins kleinste Detail erläutern", "sie gleichen sich bis aufs Haar" (there are quite a few "googles" for that, compare http://www2.t-online.ch/dyn/c/23/64/90/2364906.html
So yes, I think it's ambiguous, however I believe if the speaker had intended the meaning "down to ..." he might have put "bis hin zu..." in order to rule out any other interpretation.
Selected response from:

Heidi Stone-Schaller
Local time: 00:47
Grading comment
Thanks to all in this discussion - it was all most useful It was hard to choose whose answer was "most useful", but I chose No 5 because of the various alternatives suggested.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
5 +8excluding the last numeral
LegalTrans D
4 +3I actually do feel the ambiguity
Heidi Stone-Schaller
5apart from
ibz
4 +1no abiguity
Lydia Molea
3s.b.
Elvira Schmid


Discussion entries: 2





  

Answers


3 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +8
excluding the last numeral


Explanation:
MHO as a native speaker - no ambiguity, David.

LegalTrans D
Turkey
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in category: 16

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Barbara Cashin: Not a native speaker, but I agree
1 min

agree  Endre Both
1 hr

agree  gfish: "bis auf die letzte" - ausschliessend, "bis zur letzen" einschliessend. my feeling as a native speaker ...
1 hr

agree  Maria Ferstl
1 hr

agree  Thomas Bollmann
1 hr

agree  Krokodil: Yes, I'm sure it's this (or "digit" instead of "numeral").
2 hrs

agree  Elvira Stoianov
3 hrs

agree  Mark Cole: Doesn't the English phrase "up to and including" imply that "up to" on its own is ambiguous?
1 day 5 hrs
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3 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
no abiguity


Explanation:
to me, bis auf clearly means excluding the last number.
If the author wanted it to be included, he/she would write
einschließlich der letzten Zahl

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Note added at 4 mins (2004-10-18 07:41:44 GMT)
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umm... ambiguity that is

Lydia Molea
Germany
Local time: 00:47
Works in field
Native speaker of: German

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Eckhard Boehle: eben, es gibt schon eine leichte Zweideutigkeit - dennoch bedeutet es: "außer der letzten Ziffer"
1 hr
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4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
apart from


Explanation:
For me there is no ambiguity here: "bis auf die letzte Ziffer" means "apart from".
I would say "... entsprach bis und mit der letzten Ziffer" if I wanted to say "including the last ...".
HTH
Irene

ibz
Local time: 00:47
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in GermanGerman
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5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
s.b.


Explanation:
I would say there could be an ambiguity, but it also depends on the writing. If it says:
"Die Nummer entsprach bis auf die letzte Ziffer der..." without comma before bis and after Ziffer, I would feel that the last number is included.
On the other hand, if there is a comma, than I would feel that the last number was not included.

HTH

Elvira Schmid
Italy
Local time: 00:47
Works in field
Native speaker of: German
PRO pts in category: 4
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34 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
I actually do feel the ambiguity


Explanation:
I'm a little surprised that I seem to be the only one for whom the meaning is not immediately evident. As a matter of fact, when I first read your German sentence, I thought it meant "down to the last digit" rather than "with the exception of the last digit." On second thought, I think the second interpretation is however the correct one. There are instances in German where "bis" is used to say "including", let me see if I can come up with some good examples: "etwas bis ins kleinste Detail erläutern", "sie gleichen sich bis aufs Haar" (there are quite a few "googles" for that, compare http://www2.t-online.ch/dyn/c/23/64/90/2364906.html
So yes, I think it's ambiguous, however I believe if the speaker had intended the meaning "down to ..." he might have put "bis hin zu..." in order to rule out any other interpretation.


Heidi Stone-Schaller
Local time: 00:47
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in category: 4
Grading comment
Thanks to all in this discussion - it was all most useful It was hard to choose whose answer was "most useful", but I chose No 5 because of the various alternatives suggested.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  xxxCMJ_Trans: well I'm not a native speaker, so I did not speak up but I instinctively react like you
4 mins

agree  Eckhard Boehle: eben, es gibt schon eine leichte Zweideutigkeit - dennoch bedeutet es: "außer der letzten Ziffer"
1 hr

agree  shineda: ja, z.B. auch: 'bis auf den Pfennig genau'. 'bis auf' scheint doch mehrere Bedeutungen zu haben.
2 hrs
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