I don’t have a quiz for you today, but do have a question from a correspondent:

Can any of you provide a good English version of the following?

Recht haben und Recht bekommen sind zwei verschiedene Dinge.

This would be used in a context of somebody who loses or fears losing in a court of justice in spite of having a very strong legal case. Typically your lawyer could say this to you, when discussing the case.

14 thoughts on “Puzzle

  1. I only have minimal knowledge of German, but since I’m the first to comment, here’s my translation:

    Being right and getting justice are two different things.

    That is, a court could for example find the defendant guilty even though they didn’t do what they are being accused of.

  2. Having right on your side and the law on your side are two different things.

    (first provisional version, I might revise)

  3. By the way, in Dutch, this would be:

    Gelijk hebben en gelijk krijgen zijn twee verschillende dingen.

  4. I like Thomas’ the best, I think it captures the rhythm of the sentence in German while giving the meaning in good English if that makes any sense…

  5. On the other hand, the structure of the sentence calls for gerunds rather than infinitives in English.

    What about “Being in the right and being found in the right are two different things.”

    I’m tempted to use “two separate issues” but that’s too ….. something.

  6. The first part, “Recht haben”, means “to be right” -> “Du hast Recht.” is German for “You’re right.”
    The second part, “Recht bekommen”, is a legal term and means basically “to win the case”, i.e. a judge decides that someone is in the right. That person “bekommt Recht”.

    So loosely translated I’d say “Being (in the) right and winning the case are two different things.” It’s not literal, but grasps the meaning.

    I love this site, by the way! I’m a linguistics student from Germany and browse through these pages often.

  7. I like Annika’s best. I wanted to mention that this is not just for legal issues. It is what my Mom told me whenever I got into a silly spat with a friend meaning that sometimes – even if you feel you are right – the other person won’t see it that way and it is better to just STFU to keep the peace. Also good marriage advise 🙂

  8. It’s not as snappy as I’d like and as the original is, but “being in the right is one thing, vindicating that right is another thing” conveys the meaning, manages to use the same word right in both clauses, and suggests a legal procedure (vindication in a court of law).

  9. First off I thought I’d let you know that this question has also been discussed here:

    FWIW, I think that the actual sense doesn’t have to do with court, per se, but rather with what (for example) a successful court battle will give you, and that is the right to proclaim that others agree that you’re right (see also the answer chosen in the proz discussion); as Gary notes, in a sense it’s about being vindicated.

    I might be tempted to phrase it this way: “Being right is one thing, having others agree that you’re right is another”

    If you definitely wanted to include the legal sense, you could simply substitute: “Being right is one thing, getting the court/jury to agree that you’re right is another”

    Or substitute for the verb: “acknowledge” “proclaim” “admit” “concede”, etc. depending on exact context. Have fun!

  10. I like Susan Aldridge’s comment about good marriage advice. No truer words have been spoken. 90% of divorces could have been prevented if the other person just zipped their lip.

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