English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a German friend who keeps saying things like, "would you eventually like to do X" and "X is eventually not a big problem." I eventually (hehe) started correcting her, saying we don't use the word "eventually" in this way, but there is something nagging in my mind that there is maybe a similar word in English that we do use.

In the sense above, "eventuell" means "perhaps", "possible", "possibly". Is there word with similar etymology to "eventually" that is used in this way, or can "eventually" actually be used to refer to possibility, rather than chronology?

share|improve this question
You can substitute tons of different words in those sentences. You should explain what meaning you're trying to convey -- what is the English definition of the German word "eventuell"? – tenfour Dec 22 '11 at 14:09
We have getting quite a few of these "translation" questions recently (english.stackexchange.com/questions/52513/…). This one is not so much a question about the English word as is it about the German word, IMO. – JeffSahol Dec 22 '11 at 15:11
I don't know enough German to have an opinion on exactly what the meaning and connotations of the original word are, but I'm voting to close as "off topic" on the grounds that OP hasn't provided that essential information to anything like the required degree. ELU is not a translation service. – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '11 at 18:52
French speakers also use the English words "eventual, eventually" in this same incorrect way, because of the French word eventuel. – GEdgar Dec 23 '11 at 4:20
I don't really feel qualified to answer proper, but the definition of eventually always implies that the thing in question will happen, and only the timing is in question. A thesaurus seems to back this up by only providing phrases etc. which also carry this implication. – horatio Dec 23 '11 at 20:49
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Eventual(lly) and actual(ly) are the two most common 'false friends' between English and several European languages: French, Spanish and Polish, for example, as well as German. In all these languages, 'eventual' means 'possible', and 'actual' means 'current'.

This meaning is not however, completely unknown to us; think of the word 'eventuality' - a possible event or outcome : possibility (Merriam-Webster Online)

share|improve this answer
Thank you, that's the sort of insight I was looking for. Funny, I wonder if "actually" might actually be the word I'm thinking of :) – yuttadhammo Dec 27 '11 at 2:28

In your two examples, if you want to really suggest a native English equivalent, I don't think a word substitution is sufficient.

"Would you like to do X" is fine, because "would" is already conditional enough that you don't need to add another one. Adding "maybe" or "possibly" to me only makes the person asking sound desperate. Or is that the intent?

"X is not really a big problem" to me sounds much more natural than any word substitution I can think of.

As far as a general catch-all word substitution, you can consult any English / German dictionary to see that @BarrieEngland's answer is correct.

share|improve this answer
There are 4000+ of examples if you search Google Books for "would you perhaps like"; 400 for "would you maybe like", only 7 for "would you possibly like" – slim Dec 22 '11 at 14:56
And 7.6 million for "would you like" :D But it's not really a fair comparison because adding words will always narrow the search. – tenfour Dec 22 '11 at 15:23

Eventuell is used in German as an adjective meaning 'possible' and as an adverb meaning 'possibly'.

share|improve this answer
+1 Also perhaps. – slim Dec 22 '11 at 14:06
+1 to perhaps. This should be a separate answer. To my ear it's the best analog to eventuell. – Jonathan Van Matre Dec 22 '11 at 21:22
This doesn't actually answer the question. (Perhaps it was posted before the clarifying edit?) – Marthaª Dec 23 '11 at 18:02

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.