Each language has them: Interjections. Words or expressions that occur as an utterance on its own and express a spontaneous feeling or reaction. You can learn the meaning of these typical German interjections and phrases just like you would learn any other vocabulary, but they are a bit different.
One, they are highly regional, and interjections might only be used in a specific region or area of the country. Two, they might have multiple meanings and uses, and in order to use them correctly, you really need to know them well. And three, like Modalpartikeln, they are used in the spoken language, and much less in written or formal use of the language, so you have to know when it is appropriate to use them.
Here is a list of some common German interjections and phrases and what they mean.
1. Ach so!
“Ach so!” is used to express that one understands or gets something now that was previously unclear. For example, if you were to explain something to your friend, and he or she doesn’t understand, so you explain it again. Now they get it, so they would say “Ach so!”, kind of like “Oh I see!” or “Oh, gotcha!”.
“Also, ich erkäre es dir nochmal: Anja kommt nicht, weil sie arbeiten muss!”
-Ach so! Jetzt verstehe ich dich!”
“So, i’ll explain it to you one more time: Anja isn’t coming, because she has to work!”
– Oh I see! Now I understand (you).
“Also” is one of the most frequently used interjections in German, but, careful; it does not mean “also/as well”. It is one of those expressions that have multiple uses and meanings. It is often found at the beginning of a sentence and gives it a similar intro than “well”, or “so”. “Well, I am ready to go. How about you?” Another use of “also” is better translated with the English “thus” or “therefore”. The famous quote “I think therefore I am” in German is: “Ich denke also bin ich.”
Also, ich hätte schon Lust ins Kino zu gehen.
So, I’d be up for going to the movies.
Ich habe meinen Bus verpasst also kam ich zu spät in die Arbeit.
I missed my buss, so/therefore I was late to work.
3. Ne, oder?
“Ne” is dialect for “Nein” in many parts of Germany. Literally “ne, oder” means “No, or?”. Adding “oder?” to the end of a statement is the German equivalent of the English question tag. In English, question tags are a bit more complicated. “isn’t it?”, “don’t you?” “hasn’t she?” are all forms of question tags, and all of them can be translated with “oder?”. You may have even heard a German say in English “Tomorrow is Friday, or?”.
Germans say “ne, oder?” when they cannot believe something is true. Did you hear, FC Bayern Munich won yet another championship? – “Ne, oder?”, meaning “No way. Did they really?” Did you also hear that we’ve been asked to come in to work on Saturday? “Ne, oder?” (No way, you can’t be serious!).
Susie hat angerufen. Sie möchte mit dir sprechen.
– Ne, oder?
Susie called. She wants to talk to you.
-No way. She did?”
We’ve all been there. We’ve accepted that a situation just is what it is, and there is nothing we can do about it. In English we might say “Oh well!”. In German, we say “Tja!”. Sometimes it can even have a “I told you so” feel. “You were right. I should have studied. I failed the exam.” “Tja!”.
Wir wollten morgen eigentlich radeln. Aber es soll den ganzen Tag regnen. Tja!
We actually wanted to ride our bikes tomorrow. But it’s supposed to rain all day. Oh well!
5. Na gut!
“Na gut” is mostly used to express that we have been persuaded, kind of like the expression “Alright fine!”. For example, your friend may ask you to come along to a party, and you really don’t want to go, but after asking over and over, you will finally tell them “Na gut! I’m in”.
“Bitte, bitte, komm mit auf die Party. Ich will nicht alleine gehen! – Na gut, ich komme mit!”
Please, please come to the party. I don’t want to go by myself! – “Alright fine. I’ll go!”
What other German interjections do you know? Comment below!
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