Understanding the German modal particle 'doch'
Understanding the German modal particle ‘doch’
Doch is a modal particle. In German grammar, a modal particle is a word used to indicate attitude, tone, or the focus of a sentence. Like wohl, mal, and auch, it is used primarily in spoken German. Despite its frequent use, doch is one of the more difficult words for people learning German to master.
The best way to master doch and any vocabulary word is to carefully study and memorize real example sentences. In WordBrewery’s Explore Mode, you can use the search bar at the top of the screen to search for authentic sentences with “doch” that recently appeared in a German news article. Here are some examples to get you started:
1. “Doch” can mean “however” (synonymous with jedoch)
Let’s look at this paragraph from an article about soccer in the German newspaper Die Zeit. The example sentence is in bold. Vocabulary from both sentences is below the text:
“Zwar wird der fränkische Sportausrüster [Adidas] die Partnerschaft mit dem DFB, die fast so alt ist wie die Bundesrepublik, auch nach 2018 fortsetzen. Doch es wird deutlich teurer.”
auch | also, even
der fränkische Sportausrüster | the Frankish sports suppliers (Adidas)
deutlich | clearly
die Bundesrepublik | the Federal Republic
die Partnerschaft | the partnership
die fast so alt ist wie | which is almost as old as
doch | but, however
es wird | it will be
mit dem DFB | with the German Football Association
nach 2018 | after 2018
teurer | more expensive
wird…fortsetzen | will continue
zwar | although
The first sentence states that Adidas will be continuing its partnership with the DFB, the German Football Association. Because doch creates emphasis and attitude, it isn’t always translatable as a standalone word. Here, it appears as the word but. This tone implies the following: It’s nice that the partnership will continue. But it’s not cheap.
2. “Doch” can be used to check for agreement
Du verkaufst das Zeug aber doch.
|Du verkaufst||you sell|
|das Zeug||the stuff|
|aber doch||don’t you?|
This last phrase uses two modal particles: aber and doch. Any attempt to translate this phrase literally sounds nonsensical. In this context, the p implies agreement or a statement that both speakers assume is true but aren’t completely sure.
Let’s look at a few more examples. In all three, doch provides color to the literal meaning. Be sure to study the word order alongside the meaning of each word and phrase.
Wir meinten es doch nur gut. | We only meant well.
|wir meinten||we meant|
|nur good||only good/well|
|Doch das half meist nichts.||But it doesn’t help much.|
|half nichts||doesn’t help|
|So kann das doch alles nicht weitergehen.||So it can’t continue any longer.|
|alles nicht||not at all|
Learn more about “doch” and other German modal particles:
University of Texas-Austin’s Grimm Grammar, Modalpartikeln
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