Germanisms #1: requests

August 5, 2010

Overheard today, in an Australian library, a German-speaker who had borrowed a laptop was returning it because its battery had run out:

“Do you have another one for me?”

This formulation would usually sound awkward to native speakers of Australian English; in other contexts, say when used to request a cigarette, it may even be heard as being overly presumptuous and hence rude. In the same context a native speaker would have been more likely to say something like, “Can I borrow another laptop, please?”

The German-speaker’s formulation follows the pattern, however, of a common way of making a request in German. For example:

“Hast du mal eine Zigarette für mich?”

Native speakers don’t hear this as impolite.  The “mal”, in particular, has no other function than to soften the request, but even without it, the phrase is by no means necessarily rude.

Can you think of any other typical examples?

Further discussion of this structure, and here as well (both in German).