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German word of the day: Doch

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German word of the day: Doch
Photo: depositphotos
13:46 CEST+02:00
This word is quite common in colloquial speech but infamously difficult to translate.

There are many German particles – mal, halt and wohl for example. Most of these are quite hard to translate, but usually have a German equivalent. Still, there’s one that confuses translators on a regular basis. This word is the infamous doch.

SEE ALSO: Das ist ja mal wichtig: The complete guide to German particles

Have you ever witnessed a discussion between two German children? If not, let me lay it out for you. It might start with any good reason and go on for a while – but after some time it will inevitably go on like this:

One child says “Nein”, the other child says “Doch.” That exchange – “Nein.” “Doch!” “Nein.” “Doch!” “Nein.” “Doch!” might go on for some time.

In this case, doch can be best translated with “but yes.” Thus it is often used to intensify statements, negatively as well as affirmatively.

Doch has many other meaning as well, though. You can use it as a synonym for aber (“but”), allerdings (“however”), jedoch (“but with the addition”), but also as freilich (“of course.”)

When one of my German friends to explain the word to me, she called it an affirmative contradiction. And this, I would say, describes doch quite well. In many cases you use it to basically show that you agree to disagree. In others, you don’t use it that way.

Hence, it really shows: It’s complicated.

There is not one translation and its use depends on the context, really. But it’s also a quite flexible word, which means: you can basically use it in any context.


Das habe ich doch gesagt.

But that’s what I said.

Ich habe doch morgen Zeit.

I have time tomorrow, although I initially thought I wouldn’t.

Sie kommt doch nicht zur Party.

She’s not coming to the party after all, although I thought she would.

Es wäre doch schade, wenn kein Platz mehr wäre.

It really would be a shame if there was no more space (wouldn’t it?)

Wir könnten doch stattdessen am Mittwoch ins Kino gehen.

Instead, we could go to the cinema on Wednesday, couldn’t we?

Nein. – Doch!

No. – But yes!

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