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In German, if we want to formulate that we conduct the same procedure for a number of items that are all of one kind, we can use the suffix "-weise".

So for example, if we want to say that in a school, the same fire drill will be performed in each of the classes, we can formulate this either (more or less literally translated from German):

  • "A fire drill will be performed in each class, the same for all classes" or vice versa "In each class, a fire drill will be performed, the same for all classes".

Instead of "in each class", in German we say "per Klasse" or "pro Klasse", and can also say "klassenweise". Literally translated: "A fire drill will be performed class(weise).". Thus, in some cases or contexts, it's easier or more elegant to include the 'per-class'-information.

So, I am looking now for the English equivalent of "weise" if there should be any. (I know, that there is the suffix "-wise" in English. But first, this seems to refer to the way of doing something (instead of being say a 'repetition marker'). So, I guess we cannot use English "-wise" for German "-weise". And second, "-wise" seems to be considered not very elegant, right?)

May anybody give me some advice, please, on what could be the English counterpart, or reasonable alternatives?

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    Au contraire, -wise is very elegant. But -wise means "in terms of" in English. Money-wise, he was penniless. In terms of money, he was penniless.
    – Lambie
    Jan 17 at 20:30
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    Several German words ending in -weise can translated into English with by. E.g. scheibchenweise = little-by-little or piece-by piece, or Löffelweise = by the spoonful. Klassenweise in your example could be translated as A fire drill will performed by class or ...class-by-class.
    – Shoe
    Jan 17 at 20:51
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    @Lambie: In an informal setting, can't -wise be stretched beyond "in terms of"? Lexico describes the suffix, "1 Forming adjectives and adverbs of manner or respect such as clockwise, otherwise." There is also "by class": A fire drill will be performed by class. Jan 17 at 20:53
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    @OldBrixtonian I wasn't referring to that. I was referring to: age-wise, money-wise, etc. with a hypen.
    – Lambie
    Jan 17 at 20:59
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    It can't be generalized, but there are some common uses of "-wise" that are similar to the German use, e.g. piecewise.
    – Barmar
    Jan 17 at 23:42

2 Answers 2

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There are two general solutions here for the translation.

  • It is well-formed to give the calque

"The drill was performed class-wise."

given that the endings are cognate and are close enough in meaning.

But, in many instances like this, it sounds a little too informal or not quite right (the old fashioned "yes, but usually you just don't say that way"). You probably wouldn't use this in formal or regular standard speech or writing. Like, you can do it, but it ain't always the most elegant. (I don't doubt there are elegant or formal uses of it but in this particular case it isn't.)

  • The usual way to say this is

"The drill was performed in each class."

or

"The drill was performed per class."

without any extra verbiage like "...the same for all classes". The situation implied by 'each' or 'per' is that it is the same drill, just performed separately for each class.

The most natural way to say this in English is using 'each' or 'per', and to not use the Germanic suffix (though the latter is allowable).

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    "Class-wise" carries the implication that the drill was performed by each class in turn, one after the other. so "in each class" would be a more accurate translation.
    – AndyB
    Jan 18 at 5:27
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Not only does "-wise" point to a manner (likewise, otherwise, …) of doing something or a direction (clockwise, lengthwise, …) but it is also used to turn a great number of nouns into adverbials and adjectives (businesswise, moneywise, weatherwise, filmwise, carwise, …). (example showing both uses: "There are two ways in which a vapor may condense upon a cold surface : dropwise and filmwise. The average coefficient for dropwise condensation may be five to eight times that for filmwise condensation" (ref.)).

(OALD -wise suffix
1 in adjectives and adverbs — ​in the manner or direction of
♦ likewise
♦ clockwise
2 ​(informal) relating to
♦ Things aren't too good businesswise.

The OALD tells us that this suffix is colloquial (informal), but this is limited to the second acceptation. As you say, it is not quite elegant in writing that is formal enough. However, it can be learned that in this latter sense it is now freely productive (employment-wise, moneywise, publicity-wise). This can be verified in the SOED (1995 edition).

Nevertheless, neither of the two meanings is close to what is needed in this problem of "distribution".

When there is no doubt as to the nature of what is being assigned, distributed, happening, etc. the formulation using "per" can be perfect.

  • A can of water of twenty liters will be allotted per group. or "to each group")

"Per" is not always the idiomatic choice.

  • A robbery has occurred in each group. (here "each" is correct, not "per".)

When it is important to make precise that the same sort of thing has occurred, etc. there is no other way than using more words.

  • A drill has been carried out in each group, the same one for all groups.

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