Remember “actual” from our first lesson? It means that something is true or correct. Its false friend “aktuell” means that something is current or up-to-date. Mix them up and you completely change the meaning of what you are trying to say. The false friends “eventuell” and “eventually” are equally deceiving.
The German “eventuell” means that something might happen, but we don’t know if it really will. It translates most closely to “possibly” or “maybe”. The English “eventually” describes something that will definitely happen, but we don’t know when.
- I will have to get out of bed eventually.
- The battery in my phone is eventually going to run out.
- We will paint the living room eventually.
There is no optionality in these statements, but there is an implied waiting period. It’s not like you can stay in bed forever. Given enough time, the event of you getting out of bed will happen. “Eventually” describes a certainty, but we don’t know when that certainty is going to manifest. Use it when you could replace it with “sooner or later”.
Despite what its false friend might have you assume, you cannot replace “eventually” with “maybe”. It’s not like your phone’s battery is maybe going to run out. Given enough time, it certainly will be empty. One day, we will paint the living room.
Mistranslating “eventuell” with “eventually” alters the meaning of a sentence:
- “Ich werde eventuell nach Paris fahren.” → I have not decided if I will go to Paris or not.
- “I will eventually go to Paris.” → Some time in my life, I will go to Paris.
When you don’t know if something will happen, use “maybe”. If you don’t know when it will happen, use “eventually”.
If you follow these lessons, your English will improve eventually.
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False friends are everywhere. Eventually is very similar to the German “eventuell”, but it means something completely different.Read full lesson