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In German, the common expression "Rahmenbedingungen" (used both as plural and singular) relates, for example, to a set of conditions necessary for a business idea to work out (e.g. low taxes and wages for successfully introducing and manufacturing a new product). Mostly these conditions have to be implemented/managed by a 3rd person, external authority or surroundings, so that the business/political idea can work out. In that sense, it's not a pre- but a side-condition. So you can already start to make your idea real, knowing that, for example, a soon change of business laws will realize this necessary side-conditions.

Linguee gives out different phrases and expressions for the German counterpart. I would have thought this to be a rather unique and common expression in English too, as you use and need it in many contexts (technology, business, politics, etc.). Maybe I should simply stop using Linguee for finding expressions, as it's more baffling than enlightening for this purpose. But dictionaries also name very different expressions using these words as components: condition, factor, framework, requirement (well, at least factor and condition/requirement are two different things from a math/logic point of view, so some look like bad machine translations).

So what is the common expression I'm looking for, used in different contexts? Or does it not exist and I have to check the context in English first and then choose the appropriate expression, according to the contexts mentioned above?

PS: I'm not looking for the common term boundary conditions in math, which translates to the German Randbedingung.

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There's nothing wrong with just saying necessary condition(s). –  onomatomaniak Nov 26 '11 at 8:37
Despite their meaning quite different things in mathematics, in this context condition, factor, and requirement are all near synonyms meaning roughly what you want. –  Peter Shor Nov 26 '11 at 13:53
@onomatomaniak a condition is always necessary or sufficient, I removed the redundant adjective, was very tired when formulating the question, Rahmenbedingungen is not the same in German as "necessary conditions" –  Hauser Nov 26 '11 at 14:30
@Peter Surely, but I'm more interested what the most common expression in English using one of these components is. And in German, the difference between Rahmenbedingung and Faktor is pretty clear and considered, I don't think I'm meticulously here –  Hauser Nov 26 '11 at 14:33
@Hauser: I think necessary conditions is the right phrase. Consider this Ngram. Preconditions is also used, but it's not the term you want, since you say it's not just pre-. And you are wrong about a condition being always necessary or sufficient; this may be true for the mathematical use of the word condition, but you also have social conditions, working conditions, economic conditions, emergency conditions, etc. –  Peter Shor Nov 26 '11 at 19:35
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4 Answers

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In common usage, infrastructure often is used unqualified to refer to good physical conditions in a community (as, for example, "Our town has the infrastructure to support your robot factory!"), although it implies little or nothing about tax, economic, and labor conditions. Of course one can also say "Their infrastructure is awful!"; that is, "good" is not an inherent quality of infrastructure.

Note, infrastructure is "The basic facilities, services and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society."

Regarding linguee.com, their "About" page clearly says, "there is no other technology anywhere else in the world that compares with Linguee", so obviously you should keep using it. :) They also assert that the translations they provide (which, if I understand correctly, are in this case English to German) are human-made (or at least human-moderated). In comparing the English and German, it seems that the connotation you suggested for the German word (i.e. "conditions necessary for a business idea to work out") do not hold up in these translations; for example, "worst imaginable conditions" going to "denkbar schlechten Rahmenbedingungen".

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"Preconditions" get a lot of use in formal computer science and in less formal analysis and documentation of programming routines. As far as I see it genralized perfectly to other uses.

An efficient transport system is a precondition for mass-market consumerism...

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I think this doesn't match, Rahmenbedingungen means more side- than pre-conditions. Pre-conditions means to me, you can only start to implement the idea after managing the preconditions. Rahmenbedingungen are set up by 3rd person/society, not the person/company with the idea, that's the point of "Rahmen". Maybe I should reword this point, I thought this concpet is known, as so widely used in different german contexts –  Hauser Nov 26 '11 at 14:43
@Hauser Just as a general tip, you probably shouldn't assume users of this site are knowledgeable about a specific language other than English. –  onomatomaniak Nov 26 '11 at 16:27
@onomatomaniak probably, but it's pretty international here (more than other language forums I know at least), the bigger problem seems to be that user generally expect questions about single-word-requests (which many question here are), I thought it was obvious, that I was not asking for condition OR factor, but something more, a common expression/phrase in English, I didn't tag it as single-word-request. You won't find a single word covering "Rahmenbedingungen" as Linguee/Leo links show... –  Hauser Nov 26 '11 at 16:48
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For the purposes of successfully implementing a business idea I would go with the word conditions.

For example: All the right conditions for foreign investment were in place, such as preferential tax treatments, low wages, a relatively well-educated workforce, a sound legal framework and independent courts.

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Doesn't cover Rahmen –  Hauser Nov 26 '11 at 14:43
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The words "environment" and "landscape" spring to mind here.

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