‘Schon’ is a really common word in German, but quite difficult to translate into English. You will probably have learned that ‘schon’ means ‘already’. However, there are other translations, which we take a look at below.

 

1. ‘Schon’ is ‘already’ in English if you use it in the sense of ‘earlier than expected’ or ‘before the present time’.

Mein Baby ist erst 11 Monate alt und kann schon laufen.

My baby is only 11 months old and he can already walk.

 

It’s already 5 o’clock! Where’s the tea?

You don’t need to do the washing up, I’ve already done it.

I’ve already done my homework, so can I go out to play now?

 

2. In questions, ‘already’ is used when you think something might have happened, or you are surprised that something has happened. ‘Yet’ is more open:

Hast du schon gegessen?

Have you eaten yet?

Has the post been delivered yet?

Is that the time already?

Have you already met Professor White?

 

3. If ‘schon’ means ‘up until this point in time’ it has to be translated as ‘before’ or ‘ever’ in English.

Warst du schon mal in London?

Have you ever been to London? (You and the person you are talking to are not in London.)

Have you been to London before? (You and the person you are talking to are in London or planning to go soon when you ask the question.)

 

4. If ‘schon’ is used to indicate that something isn’t new, but has existed for a long time it is ‘as early as’ in English.

Schon 1915 gab es Elektroautos.

There were electric cars as early as 1915.

 

5. ‘Schon’ is translated as ‘even’ if it means ‘less or fewer than expected’.

Nach dem Unfall tat ihr schon die kleinste Bewegung weh.

After the accident, even the slightest movement hurt her.

Schon kleine Mengen Schokolade sind für Hunde giftig.

Even small amounts of chocolate are poisonous for dogs.

 

6. ‘Even’ is also the correct translation of ‘schon’ if it means ‘surprisingly early’, as in this example:

Sie war schon als Kind eine Leseratte.

She was a bookworm, even as a child.

 

7. Sometimes translating ‘schon’ can be really complicated. Look at these simple sentences:

Unser Zug fährt schon um 4:00 Uhr.

You would have to translate that as:

Out train leaves really early, at 4 o’clock.

 

Now it’s time for some practice! Complete these sentences with already, yet, even, before, as early as or ever.

 

1. Have you __________ seen an eclipse of the moon?

2. _________ a few minutes learning vocabulary every day will improve your English.

3. Have you done the shopping __________?

4. This is a great restaurant! Have you been here _________?

5. Our new smartphone could be available __________ next month.

6. You don’t need to take the dog out, he’s __________ had his walk.

7. _________ small amounts of nuts are dangerous for people who have allergies.

8. Do we have to watch this film again? We’ve _________ seen it twice.

9. He preferred reading a book to playing football, ___________ as a teenager.

10. Some scientists knew about the effect of carbon dioxide on the climate __________ 1932.

11. The sun is so strong in Australia that you will get burnt if you go out without sunscreen for ________ a quarter of an hour.

12. John didn’t bother to listen, because he had heard it all __________.

13. Have you _________ had a cuckoo in your garden?

14. The new school could be ready for the first pupils __________ 2018.

 

 Solutions

1. Have you ever seen an eclipse of the moon?

2. Even a few minutes learning vocabulary every day will improve your English.

3. Have you done the shopping yet?

4. This is a great restaurant! Have you been here before?

5. Our new smartphone could be available as early as next month.

6. You don’t need to take the dog out, he’s already had his walk.

7. Even small amounts of nuts are dangerous for people who have allergies.

8. Do we have to watch this film again? We’ve already seen it twice.

9. He preferred reading a book to playing football, even as a teenager.

10. Some scientists knew about the effect of carbon dioxide on the climate as early as 1932.

11. The sun is so strong in Australia that you will get burnt if you go out without sunscreen for even a quarter of an hour.

12. John didn’t bother to listen, because he had heard it all before.

13. Have you ever had a cuckoo in your garden?

14. The new school could be ready for the first pupils as early as 2018.