When is it necessary to use the construction “wissen zu schätzen” rather than “schätzen” alone?
“Schätzen” on its own usually means to estimate or guess. It’s commonly used in German where you might say “I reckon…” or “I guess…” in English.
Ich schätze, wir werden nicht genug Zeit dafür haben = I guess we won’t have enough time for that.
But “schätzen” can also mean to value or to appreciate something, when used with an accusative object:
Ich schätze deine Bemühungen = I appreciate your efforts.
The phrase “wissen etwas zu schätzen” is literally “to know how to value something”.
So, “ich weiß deine Bemühungen zu schätzen” is literally “I know how to appreciate your efforts”, but actually means the same as the above example: “I appreciate your efforts”.
And, fun side note: schätzen is related to the word “der Schatz” in German (the treasure). So, it could be used in the same context as “I treasure something” in English.
Ich werde dieses Geschänk schätzen = I will appreciate/treasure this gift.
And if you ever watch Lord of the Rings in German, you will find that Gollum’s oft-repeated line “my precious!” is translated into German as “mein Schatz!”
Great explanation! However, I’m still having trouble getting my head around what the “wissen” construction accomplishes socially. Read one way, it sounds like a rebuke ("Of course I appreciate your efforts. I’m not stupid!) It also sounds (to my English-speaking ears) like one of those sometimes insincere humble ways of phrasing (“Your humble servant”) I would love to hear a native German speaker weigh in on when and why one adopts the “wissen” version.
It is not a rebuke at all.
The “wissen version” is the normal way to express it, at least in business.
If I had an appointment with the president of my university, I would say
"Ich weiss es zu schätzen, dass Du Dir die Zeit nimmst. " but never “ich schätze es …”.
I might use the shorter version for something that occurs regularly and say to a friend
“Ich schätze unsere gemeinsamen Ausflüge sehr.”
Thank you again. It’s very clear now which is which. So to say “I understand how to value…” is like saying I am a correct and proper person who understands.
It’s hard to remember at my fairly elementary level that the depth and breadth of German is still in the future. I have to stop suspecting potential rebukes and jokes I may be missing, not to mention irony (French always sounds faintly ironic to me.) And I will settle for being pleased at catching when someone says “Doch!” because a huffy contradiction is pretty close to a rebuke.