German word of the day: Naja

Naja, we look at one of the most widely used German particles.

German word of the day: Naja
Photo: depositphotos

Germans have a habit of using a lot of particles – which again and again confuse non-native speakers. After talking about doch last week, let’s have a look at one of the other tricky ones.

SEE ALSO: German word of the day: Doch

Picture this: You are talking to someone in German. The conversation goes like this: Your conversation partner tells you a rather long story and ends it with “Naja, und dann habe ich ihr gesagt, dass sie nicht zurück zu kommen braucht.” (“Well, and then I told her that she doesn’t have to bother coming back.”) In this case, your conversation partner used one of the most infamous German particles.

Naja, or na ja can be translated to “well” and is an interjection, which means it’s used to express a feeling. In the case of na ja, it’s used to express either agreement or doubt.

Two examples for its use are the following:

To tell the person you’re talking to that you agree with their statement, but have something more to say: “Na ja, ich stimme dir zu, aber…” (“Well, I agree with you, but…”)

To wrap up a long story with a final statement: “Na ja, das war jetzt eine lange Geschichte, aber alles in allem finde ich es blöd.” (“Well, this was a long story, but all in all it really upsets me.”)

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

Na ja consists of the words na and ja, ja meaning “yes” and na being a totally different case. So let me explain.

Na is a short particle that you will probably stumble across many, many times while in Germany. If you look it up, the dictionary Duden explains na like this:

“A particle preceding a [shortened] sentence and creating the emotional transition of something, which preceded the sentence as something spoken, occurred or thought, to a concluding statement, which may contain personal feelings, but especially the impatience, dissatisfaction, resignation, rejection, but also surprise, a request, encouragement or joy.”

What a mouthful. A shorter explanation is probably: Na is a particle that can be used in basically any context.

Here are some examples to showcase this:

Na, wie geht es dir? – “Hi, how are you?”

Na, das ist ja super gelaufen. – “Well that went great.” (ironically)

Na so was! – “How strange!”

Na schön. – “Very well.”

Na, dann mal los! – “Well then, let’s go!”

Na endlich! – “Finally!”

Na, jetzt mach mal nicht so ein Theater. – “Now, stop making such a fuss about it.”

So, if you want to sound like you’ve been speaking German all your life, casually start using na or na ja in your sentences. People will be impressed.

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German word of the day: Isso

Perhaps you've seen this word on social media and you're not sure what it means. Let us explain...

German word of the day: Isso

Why do I need to know isso?

Because it’s a nice colloquial expression to use if you’re feeling a little lazy since it combines a few words. It was also one of Germany’s favourite youth words back in 2016, although it’s definitely not particularly cool anymore and is used by all ages

What does it mean?

Isso is derived from the statement: ist so (short for es ist so) meaning ‘it’s like this’ or ‘it is so’ in English. When used as a response to someone’s statement, it usually means you completely agree. A good translation is: ‘right on!’, yes, that’s exactly right!’ or ‘it’s true!’.

You can also use the expression yourself to emphasise your thought. In this case you’d add it on at the end of your sentence. You often find isso used on Twitter, when someone is quoting a Tweet.

It can also be used in a more downbeat form accompanied by the shrugging of your shoulders. In this case you’re saying isso, because it can’t be helped, it’s the way it is. 

Use it like this: 

– Wir müssen gegen steigende Mietpreise in Berlin demonstrieren.

– Isso! 

– We have to protest against rising rents in Berlin. 

– That’s exactly right!

Frauen sind die besten Autofahrer, isso!

Women are the best drivers, it’s true.