I’m through / Ich bin durch

This post is one of a series on ‘Germanisms in American English’ and should be read in conjunction with the introductory post here.

I’m through
Ich bin (jetzt/schon) durch

I’ve always thought of through and durch primarily as prepositions, but they can also be adverbs, and even adjectives. In the above English and German phrases they are used as adjectives – like alternatives to finished or fertig. The following two English examples are taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary1:

»  I’m not through yet. I have one more topic to discuss.
If you’re through using the phone, I’d like to use it next.  «

Growing up in the UK, I only ever heard this use of through on American TV and films, so I’ve always assumed it was an Americanism. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary describes this usage as ‘especially North American English’, while dict.cc has an entry for ‘Are you through with it?’, which it labels ‘[Am.] [coll.]’ (American colloquial).

As for the German equivalent, the Duden dictionary defines this usage of durch as a colloquial synonym for fertig (finished), and gives the following example:

»  mit dem Lehrbuch bin ich jetzt durch (habe es durchgearbeitet)  « 2
Translation: I’m through with the textbook now (I’ve worked my way through it)


1 Scroll down to the definition of through as an adjective and keep going until you reach the section entitled ‘Examples of THROUGH in a sentence’.

2 Duden lists this usage of durch under the category ‘Adverb’, despite defining it as a synonym of fertig, which it considers to be an ‘Adjektiv’. This may be because this usage is viewed as an element of the compound verb participle durchgearbeitet (as the above-cited example shows), and hence as an adverb.

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