German Emphasizers and Modal Prticles

German Classes

German Emphasizers

An emphasizer is a word which will emphasize or change the meaning of a sentence. Emphasizers are commonly used in the German language. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to translate emphasizers directly. That’s why we tried our best to explain to you the most common German emphasizers in this blog . The most common emphasizers are: aber, denn, doch, ja, mal and schon. Let’s look at them closer. Learn to speak German


Aber, meaning “but”, is used to emphasize a statement, making the statement more important or have a bigger impact. For example: Das ist aber nicht meine Tasche. – This bag is really not mine. Das ist aber schade. – That’s a real pity.


Denn, meaning “then” is used to emphasize the meaning of a sentence to bring more clarity. It is also used as a conjunction which we won’t explain in this blog. For example: Wo ist denn die Party? – Where is the party then? Was ist denn passiert? – What’s happened here then?


Doch, which has no direct translation, can be used in three different ways. a) It is used as a positive reply to a negative statement or question. For example: Hast du nicht die Zeitung gelesen? – Doch! – Haven’t you read the newspaper? – Yes, I have! Du kannst nicht fahren – Doch! – You can’t drive – Yes, of course I can! To use doch in these cases, the question or statement must be a negative and the answer must be a positive disagreement with it. b) It is used to make a question out of a statement. For example: Das kannst du doch? – You can do this, can’t you? c) It is used to emphasize a command/imperative. For example: Hilf ihm doch! – Help him then!


Mal is used to emphasize time specific (now) commands or conversations. For example: Hilf mir mal! – Help me now! Schauen Sie mal… – Look here now…


Ja (yes) is used to positively emphasize a statement. For example: Er kann das ja zu Hause machen. – He can do this at home. Das ist ja einfach. – This is easy.


Schon, meaning already, is used in informal statements often to emphasize something that has just happened or about to happen. For example: Wieso macht sie das schon wieder. – Why did she do that again?

Modal Particles

“Particle” is a catch-all term for words that have no clear part of speech, like “hmm.” (Many English particles are also described as “interjections.”) A modal particle is a word that’s used in speech to convey extra emphasis or emotion, without any real grammatical function. In any case, the exact definition of a modal particle is complicated, but hopefully you’re getting the idea. For our purposes, let’s just define them as any common verbal flourish in spoken German. (Another way to think of them is as ‘verbal emoticons.’) You’re going to hear a lot of these if you talk to native speakers, so it’s useful to know them. Some can have different emphatic meanings, so they appear under more than one heading below.
Affirmation/ Agreement aber aber gerne! with pleasure!aber sicher! most certainly
wohl Das ist wohl wahr! That’s certainly true!
ja Das ist ja eine tolle idee! That’s really a great idea!
na Na klar komme ich! You bet I‘m coming!Na logisch! Of course!
Contradiction/ Disagreement doch Du bist doch nur zugekifft. You’re just [saying that because you’re] high.Q: Das ist doch nicht dein Ernst, oder? A: Doch! Q: You’re not being serious, are you? A: I am!
Special Emphasis/ Focus gerade Dass ich das gerade von DIR höre… That I’m hearing that from YOU (of all people)…Gerade heute musste es schneien! It had to snow today (of all days)!
eben Ich versuche, eine Antwort auf eben die Frage zu formulieren. I’m trying to find an answer to [just] that very question.
Resignation eben So ist es eben. / Es ist eben so. That’s just how it is.
naja Naja, was hast du erwartet? Ah well, what did you expect?
halt Ich war halt besoffen. (What can i say?) I was drunk.
Surprise aber Das war aber nett von dir! That was nice of you! [I wasn’t expecting it]
etwa   Ist das etwa für mich? Is that for me?
Interest denn Wie alt bist du denn? [to a child] So how old are you?
mal Guck dir das mal an! Take a look at that!
Intensifiers schon Das ist schon viel! It’s more than you think/more than it seems
ja Du bist ja blöd! Are you ever dumb!
aber Das ist aber völliger Quatsch! That’s complete nonsense!
Exasperation/ Anger nur Wie konntest du nur? How COULD you?Was hat er sich nur dabei gedacht? What WAS he thinking?
schon Was will er schon von mir? What in the world does he want from me?
nun Was soll das nun bedeuten? Now what’s that supposed to mean?
Softening/ Casual halt Es war halt ein Vorschlag. It was just a suggestion.
mal Warte mal. Wait a sec.

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