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Little German Words: Na Ja Posted by on Mar 27, 2019 in Uncategorized

Guten Tag! Today we’re going to look another, kleines Wort (little word). Sometimes these small German words are more interjections than words, so you might hear them and think ‘What do those little sounds mean?’ Today you can find out! The word we’re looking at in this post is na ja.

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Na ja

Sometimes spelt as one word (‘naja’), the closest translation of na ja would be ‘Well’. But, just like how in English the word ‘well’ can be used in different ways and depend on tone of voice, so can na ja in German!

Na ja often comes at the beginning of a sentence and is often used as a dampener for the statement that is about to follow, or if something is not black and white. For example:

-Habe ich das jetzt richtig gemacht?
-Na ja … falsch ist es nicht, aber richtig ist es auch nicht.

-Have I done it right this time?
-Well … it’s not wrong, but it’s not right, either.

You can use it if you’re about to disagree with someone:

Hans ist so nett!
Na ja, so nett ist er auch nicht.

Hans is so nice!
Well, he’s not all that nice.

Do you like potato salad? Na ja..

Another example would be if you are saying something is just OK. It’s not your favourite, but you don’t hate it, either:

-Magst du Kartoffelsalat?
-Na ja … mein Lieblingsgericht ist es nicht.

-Do you like potato salad?
-Well… it’s not my favourite dish.

Na ja can also be an answer to the question ‘how are you’? In this context, it is a way of saying so-so:

Guten Tag! Wie geht es dir?
Na ja…

Hello! How are you?
So-so…

I hope this has been helpful. And if you liked this post on little German words, then you might like this one about a similar word, Tja.

Bis bald! (See you soon!)

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and love writing about German language and culture. I also work as a group fitness instructor.


Comments:

  1. Karen:

    My maiden name was Ecker, which is German, so while I am American by birth, I do have German ancestry. I love listening to the German language, but it’s not easy learning on your own!

    • Constanze:

      @Karen Thanks for sharing, Karen! Welcome to the blog! Perhaps there are some local German lessons you can go to? Around where I live they have casual group conversations, for people who want to learn/speak languages with others. I hope you find something! In the meantime, feel free to reach out if you need any help. 🙂