German Modal Particles

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What are Modal Particles? (Modalpartikel)

Modal Particles are also known as "Shading Particles" because they show different shades of meanings of other words. They are mainly used in spoken language and show the speaker's feelings, attitude and mood. They can strengthen or weaken the statement. They are usually in the middle of the sentence after the verb and any pronouns.

Using the Modal Particles

Modal particles often have very different meanings:

Use of „ja“

1. It expresses that everything happened as expected:

  • „Das musste ja passieren.“

2. It expresses surprise or wonder:

  • „Das war ja einfach.“

3. It expresses a warning:

  • „Mach das ja nie wieder.“ 

Use of „eigentlich"

1. To politely change the subject:

  • „Was kommt heute eigentlich im Fernsehen?“

2. When you are contemplating something specific, in reality, in actually:

  • „Ein neues Auto ist eigentlich zu teuer.“
  • Eigentlich kennt sie sich mit Computern nicht aus.“

3. Normally, Theoretically, a Disappointed surprise:

  • Eigentlich müsste die Uhr jetzt funktionieren.“

Use of „denn“

1. To make requests or demands more friendly:

  • „Wie spät ist es denn (eigentlich)?“
    „denn“ is often used together with eigentlich to further enhance the friendly impression.

2. Negative Surprise:

  • „Was hast du denn gemacht?“
  • „Was habt ihr denn da schon wieder gemacht?“

Use of „doch“

1. To make requests or demands sound more friendly:

  • „Vielleicht holen wir doch lieber einen Elektriker?“

2. To make an accusation or explanation - unfriendly:

  • „Ruf doch endlich den Elektriker an.“
  • „Ich hab ihn doch schon angerufen.“

3. To remind the listener of something that is already known:

  • „Darüber haben wir doch gestern gesprochen.“

Use of „mal“

To make requests or questions friendlier:

  • „Komm mal hier her!“
  • „Schaltest du mal bitte das Licht an?“

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Use of „eben/halt“

Expresses resignation or acceptance of something. It can't be changed or you don't want to talk about it anymore.

  • „Das funktioniert halt nicht! Akzeptiere es!“
  • „Das kann man eben nicht ändern.“

There is no difference between „eben“ and „halt“; they are synonyms.

Use of „wohl“

Expresses uncertainty.

  •   „Ob das wohl richtig ist?“
  •   „Wo ist Anna?“ – „Die wird wohl zu Hause sein.“

Use of „vielleicht“

Expresses uncertainty or annoyance.

  • „Ist das vielleicht ein Ufo?“
  • „Das ist vielleicht eine Scheiβe!“

Use of „ruhig/schon“

Expresses encouragement. The listener should think positively.

  • „Das wird schon wieder!“
  • „Versuch es ruhig! Du kannst nichts verlieren!“

Use of „bloß/nur“

Expresses a warning or strengthens a command.

  • „Stell die Vase bloβ wieder hin!
  • „Überlege dir nur gut was du sagst!“

Related Topic:

Entire lesson in German only: Modalpartikel

Other lessons on Adverbs include are:

Partikel (Particles) should not be confused with  Präpositionen (Prepositions), Adjektiven (Adjectives) or Adverbien (Adverbs).

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