German modal particle

German modal particle

In the German language, a modal particle (Lang-de|Modalpartikel "or" Abtönungspartikel) is an uninflected word used mainly in spontaneous spoken language in colloquial registers. These words have a dual function: reflecting the mood or attitude of the speaker or narrator, and highlighting the sentence focus.

The effect that a flavoring particle has is often vague and dependent on the overall context. Speakers often use them somewhat excessively, and sometimes combine several particles, as in "doch mal", "ja nun", or even "ja doch nun mal". They are a feature typical of the spoken language.

List of modal particles

"Halt" and "eben" imply that the (often unpleasant) fact expressed in a sentence cannot be changed and must be accepted. "Halt" is more colloquial than "eben".

:Gute Kleider sind eben teuer. ("Good clothes are expensive, it can't be helped."):Er hat mich provoziert, da habe ich ihn halt geschlagen. ("He provoked me, so I hit him – what do you expect?"):Es ist halt so. ("That's just how it is.")

"Ja" indicates that the speaker thinks a certain fact should already be known to the listener and intends his statement to be more of a reminder or conclusion.

:Ich habe ihm ein Buch geschenkt, er liest ja sehr gerne. ("I gave him a book; as you know he likes to read."):Ich verleihe kein Geld, das zerstört ja nur Freundschaften. ("I never lend money. Everyone knows that only destroys friendships.")

"Mal", a contraction of "einmal", indicates a certain immediacy to the action or even implies a command. On the other hand, it can give a kind of casualness to a sentence and so making it sound less blunt.

:"Hör mal zu!" (Listen!" or "Listen to me"!):"Beeile dich mal!" ("Do hurry up!")

:Sing mal etwas Schönes! ("Why don't you sing something pretty?"):Warst du schon mal in Österreich? ("Have you ever been to Austria?")

"Doch" can have two meanings. For one, it can serve as a reply to a real or imagined, or pre-emptively answered, disagreement, hesitation, or wrong assumption on the part of the listener, or other people. In different situations this can have different effects.

:Komm doch her! ("Why don't you come here?"):Komm doch endlich her! ("Come here at last!"):Ich habe dir doch gesagt, dass es nicht so ist. ("I "did" tell you that it's not like that."):Ich kenne mich in Berlin aus. Ich war doch letztes Jahr schon dort. ("I know my way around Berlin. Did you forget I visited it last year already?")

In this way, "doch" can be similar to "schon", but "schon" implies an actual qualification of the statement, often made explicit in a phrase with "aber" ("but"):

:Ich war "schon" auf der Party, aber Spaß hatte ich nicht. ("I was indeed at the party, but I did not enjoy myself.")

This is not to be confused with the literal meaning of schon (already), indicated by the unstressed schon:

:Ich war schon auf der Party, aber Spaß hatte ich nicht. ("I was already at the party, but I did not enjoy myself.")

In other contexts, "doch" indicates that the action described in the sentence was, in fact, unlikely to occur:

:Du bist also doch gekommen! ("You came after all."):Ich sehe nicht viel fern, aber wenn etwas Gutes kommt, schalte ich doch ein. ("I don't watch much TV, but I do tune in if something good comes on.")

"Aber", when not used as a conjunction, is very similar to "doch". It conveys a meaning of disagreement to a previously-stated assertion.: Du redest aber schon gut Deutsch! ("On the contrary, you speak very good German!")

"Eh", meaning "in any case", which tends to replace standard German "sowieso", implies an emphasized assertion in colloquial German, especially in the south:

:Ich hab ihm eh gesagt, dass er sich wärmer anziehen soll. ("I told him to put on warmer clothes in the first place."):Das ist eh nicht wahr. ("That's not true anyway.")

"Vielleicht", as a modal particle, is used for emphasis and should not be confused with the adverb "vielleicht" (meaning "perhaps"):

:Das ist vielleicht ein großer Hund! ("That's quite a large dog!")But::Vielleicht ist das ein großer Hund. Es ist schwer zu erkennen. ("Maybe that's a large dog. It's difficult to tell.")

"Fei" is a particle peculiar to Upper German dialects. It denotes that the speaker states something important that might be a surprise for the listener. Although it is very common in Southern Germany, it has disappeared from standard German and cannot be translated::"Des kôsch fei net macha!" (Swabian) = Das kannst Du nicht machen! ( [Watch out!] You can't do that!)


* Hammer's German Grammar and Usage; revised by Martin Durrell; Edward Arnold, a division of Hodder and Sloughton; ISBN 0-340-50128-6

External links

* [ Teaching German Modal Particles]
* [ canoonet "Die Partikeln"]

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