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German word of the day: Eben

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
German word of the day: Eben
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

You just have to get to know this useful German word, which will help you sound like a native speaker in no time.

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Why do I need to know eben?

Because it’s used in a wide variety of contexts and, if you use it in the right way, it’ll make you sound like you’ve really got the hang of the German language.

What does it mean?

As an adjective, eben means “even”, “flat” or “smooth”. You might hear people talking about eine ebene Fläche (an even surface), for example.

Linked to this sense of evenness are the words ebenso and ebenfalls which mean “likewise” or “as well”. You often hear these words used to reciprocate good wishes, like this:

Hab’ einen schönen Abend!
Have a nice evening!

Ebenso!

Likewise!

But this isn’t the only meaning of eben in the German language. It’s also widely used in a similar way to the word gerade – and can be translated to “just” or "simply". 

You'll hear it in sentences like this: 

Was hast du eben gesagt?

What did you just say?

or this:

Dann müssen wir eben härter arbeiten

Then we'll just have to work harder.

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Got the hang of it? Great - now here's one last meaning that you need to know. Eben is also often used in spoken German to mean "exactly" in a confirming statement. You'll hear it used in conversations like this, for example:

Wenn wir erst um 10 losfahren, werden wir zu spät ankommen

If we don't leave until 19, we'll arrive too late.

Eben, deshalb will ich um 9 los.

Exactly, that's why I want to leave at 9.

This use of the word eben only makes sense if it refers to something that has just been said.

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Comments (1)

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Thomas Wilson 2023/07/21 15:28
Es gibt einen kleinen Tippfehler: If we don't leave until 10, we'll arrive too late. (not 19).

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