Is eventually in English the same as eventuell in German?

Here’s the short answer: eventually (English) and eventuell (Deutsch) don’t mean the same thing. Luckily for me, this question came up in class and I realised I had been making the same mistake my students were making – another example of a false friend.

So what’s the difference? Which word should I use, and when?

Eventually in English

In English, eventually is an adverb used to talk about something that will happen at some point, at the end of a period of time or after a series of events. When we’re not sure when something will happen, but we’re sure it will happen, we use eventually.

     It will stop raining eventually.

It cannot rain forever.

     Eventually, we will run out of fossil fuels.

We know they are a finite resource.

     He’ll call me back eventually.

I know he always does.

     Our train eventually left 15 minutes late.

It was always going to leave, however there was a delay.

Notice the position of the word eventually in each sentence. We can put eventually at the beginning of the sentence (followed by a comma), in the middle of the sentence (before the verb) or at the end of the sentence.

Eventuell in German

And now to our false friend in German. It’s an adverb, so it works in the same way in a sentence, however it means something else entirely. In German, eventuell is similar to maybe, perhaps or possibly in English. So when something is eventuell in German, it might or could happen, but not necessarily.

     Für die Zugfahrt müssen wir eventuell Sitzplätze reservieren.

We might have to reserve seats for our train ride.

     Eventuell hat Maria schon gegessen, wenn sie um 20 Uhr nach Hause kommt.

Maybe Maria will have already eaten when she gets home at 8 o’clock.

     Ich denke es werden 40 Personen zur Party kommen, eventuell sogar 50.

I think 40 people will come to the party, possibly even 50.

Translations

eventuell – DE – adv.

     maybe, possibly, perhaps, potentially

eventually – ENG – adv.

     irgendwann, schliesslich, endlich, auf lange Sicht