Word of the Day – “doch”

Hello everyone, picture of a unicorn claiming it exists

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will take a look at the meaning of:

doch (pron.: dogh for now) 

Doch is one those words that give non-natives a really hard time. It has a million  and no translation at the same time, it is even hard to formulate a single concept for it. Yet the Germans are all doch-in‘ it out, when they talk and there is never any confusing as to which doch is intended. Today I will try to boil down this shape-shifter to as few basic concepts as possible.

I am certainly not the first one trying to explain doch. In fact there are scientific books about how to teach words like doch, kaum, halt or schon. The grammatical term for them is particles. Doch can also be an adverb or a conjunction, but let’s forget all the jargon and focus on meaning.
As I said, I am going to try to boil it down as much as possible. My main 3 sources for possible meanings are: my brain, Duden.de and Pons.de (be prepared for some serious scrolling when you go to Pons). Although all these sources are really high quality… … …what’s that weird smell… puh… like … self praise…  although the 2 official sources are really high quality, I have to say this:

 Disclaimer: This post may not be exhaustive and may contain unclear explanation.
The author can not be held responsible by the reader for any experience of being corrected,
laughed at or not understood that occurred due to failed attempts to use the word doch. Use at one's own risk.

So yeah, if you feel like I forgot something or my explanation is not clear, please let me know.
Last thing before we start. If you look at Duden or Pons or any other discussion board or dictionary you might realize that my system here is pretty different. If you disagree with things I say, you are really welcome to comment on this. I am totally open for discussion. I just tried to make as few and coherent categories as possible. It is not necessarily the most precise.

That said let’s get to it. First let me say this: there is no such word as doch in English. Doch translates mostly to some certain phrasing. Different dictionaries offer different phrasings so the best approach is to try to understand the “vibe” doch adds to the sentence.

Doch – Countering a negative statement

First let’s look at the main meaning of doch. As this is so important I have decided to seek external expertise. Thomas and Christian are both students at the Berlin elementary school and are known for their heated discussions. We have the exclusive permission to use one of those debates.

  • Ich bin klüger als du.
  • Nein, bist du nicht.
  • Doch, bin ich doch.
  • Nein, bist du nicht.
  • Doch!
  • Nein.
  • Doch.
  • I am smarter than you.
  • No, you are not.
  • Yes I am.
  • No, are not.
  • Am too!
  • No.
  • Yes.

Doch is THE word to counter a negative statement. This is the main meaning of doch. Of course it doesn’t have to be that obvious. Let’s look at some more subtle examples.

  • Ich habe morgen Zeit.
  • I have time tomorrow.
  • Ich habe morgen doch Zeit.
  • I do have time tomorrow (although I originally thought I wouldn’t).
  • Der Film gefällt mir.
  • I like the movie.
  • Der Film gefällt mir doch.
  • I do like the movie/I actually liked the movie (although I thought I wouldn’t).

So in these sentences doch is inverting a negative. The negative hasn’t been stated but the doch let’s you know it was there. The next examples extend this meaning of doch a bit as seem it is not inverting a positive rather than a negative.

  • Ich habe doch keinen Hunger mehr.
  • Actually, I am not hungry anymore (although I thought/ made you think I was).
  • Ich gehe doch nicht ins Kino.
  • I won’t go to the movies after all (although I originally thought I would).
  • Ich komme doch erst am Mittwoch zurück.
  • Turns out, I will be back only by Wednesday after all. (there was a time, when I thought I would be back on Tuesday).

So how does this fit in the inverting a negative meaning? Well you can look at it as if the statement was a double negative. For the examples above this would be:

  •  I do not have no hunger. – I DO have no hunger.
  • I will not “not go” to the movies. – I will, in fact, “not go” to the movies.
  • I will not “not return” on Tuesday – I will return on Wednesday, so YES, not on Tuesday.

So the doch is sort of inverting a negative but this might be a little abstract.

So maybe we could summarize as follows

Doch is the proper answer to counter a negative statement with the positive opposite as in “No, not – Yes, too.” “Nein.- Doch.”.
Doch can furthermore be used whenever you state something and the statement is the opposite of what has been thought of or stated before …
BY YOU. This is important. Doch expresses that you whatever fact you state is NEW to you and you thought it would be different if not contrary. If you never thought you would be back on Tuesday, the example above isn’t proper unless you lied and pretended to think you could make it.
So if you want to express: “Something is like this, but I thought it would be different till now.” you can use doch. Actually you ought to use doch. If you don’t you are not expression that this information is new to you.

  • Thomas kommt nicht zur Party.
  • Thomas won’t come to the party.
  • Thomas kommt doch nicht zur Party.
  • Thomas won’t come to the party after all. (although I originally thought he would)

The first sentence is just stating the fact that Thomas won’t come. The second one states the fact that he won’t come plus the fact that this is contrary to what has been thought so far. These 2 things are different and if you want to say the second, you NEED doch. There is not really another way to express it.

Doch is not proper however to counter a positive statement that you never agreed with. So this is wrong:

  • “Ich bin klug.”
  • “Doch, bist du nicht.” / “Du bist doch nicht klug.”

While this is correct:

  • “2+2 = ?”
  • “Uhm 5??”
  • “Oh, also bist du doch nicht klug.”

Here the person was of the opinion that the other person was smart. New info contradicts this impression, hence the new fact, that the other person is not smart, is stated with doch.

Doch – The Questionizer – Tone down Statements

Doch often tones the sentence in a way, that can be reproduced by adding a question in English. There is different occasions to do that. One is if you want to soften statements that would sound too direct, demanding or rough without toning them down.
(In the following examples the second English sentence is the version with doch)

  • Wir gehen ein Bier trinken. Komm (doch) mit!
  • We are going  to have a beer. Join us!
  • … . Come on, join us. / … . Wanne join us? / Why don’t you join us.
  • Denk (doch) mal nach!
  • Think for once!
  • Think for once,… why not?
  • Sei (doch) endlich still!
  • Shut up, for god’s sake!
  • Shut up now, will you!

The second example is still pretty rough even with the doch... but it is toned down a little in as far as that the doch stresses the fact that the person talking is really desperately waiting for the other one to shut up.

In other explanations the doch in the last example as well as some of the following are called intensifiers. Though it is certainly not wrong in some cases I chose not to go with this category. In my opinion the cases when doch intensifies are also marked by intonation. The written version does not necessarily sound intensified to me. This is for example the case with the last example we had.

Doch – The questionizer – Seeking affirmation

Another occasion where the tone of doch is best captured with a question is when you want the other person to agree with you, be it because you are uncertain, you want him or her to share your surprise or you want them to agree because it it so obvious to you. The German sentence looks like a statement. and without doch it is nothing more but the doch gives it a certain hunger for affirmation or response, without really asking anything openly.

  • Wir können (doch) heute Abend zum Beispiel eine DVD gucken.
  • We can watch a DVD tonight.
  • We could watch a DVD tonight. Why not?/ Why not watch a DVD tonight.
  • Du weißt (doch), wie sehr ich Pizza hasse.
  • You know how much I hate pizza.
  • Come on. You do know how much I hate pizza. (Yes? Good, so why did you bring me here to this pizza place????)
  • Guck mal, das da drüben ist (doch) dein Professor.
  • Look, that is your professor over there.
  • Look, it’s your professor over there now, isn’t it? (What a coincidence)
  • Mein neues Kleid ist (doch) schön.
  • My new dress is nice.
  • So… my new dress is quite nice, don’t you think? (Agree with me please!!!)
  •  Ich habe dir (doch) gesagt, das der Film langweilig ist.
  • I did tell you, the movie was gonna be boring.
  • See, I did tell you that the movie was gonna be boring before, didn’t I? (Concede that I was right please!!!)
  • Super Bowl? Das ist (doch) total langweilig.
  • Super Bowl? That is totally boring.
  • Super Bowl? That IS totally boring, come on! (You must agree with me on that!!! / Or is it not after all??? )
  • Du kannst (doch) nicht ohne Training einen Marathon laufen.
  • You cannot run a marathon without training.
  • Oh please / come on. You can’t run a marathon without training. (Do you really think you can???)

The reasons why you seek affirmation can be different but what all the examples have in common, at least in my opinion, is that they are more than just a statement of a fact. Doch makes a statement into a statement that you want  the people to agree with … be it because you are in doubt, because you want to for them to be aware of the fact you said or because you think it is obvious.

Doch – meaning depends on intonation

You can say the Super Bowl sentence in a way, that you sound totally convinced and you can say it in a way that you think it is and you are now surprised to hear someone implying something else.
This dependency on melody and intonation applies for doch as a whole.

  • Thomas kommt doch nicht zu spät.

This sentence can mean 3 things.

  • So Thomas will NOT come late after all.
  • Thomas won’t be late, will he?
  • Thomas? HE will not be late, come on.

The first one is a inverting-doch. The person who said the sentence was of the opinion Thomas was going to be late until new info indicates that he will make it in time…  To get this meaning you need to stress the doch pretty strongly.
The second sentence is an expression of uncertainty. Here the stress is on spät and the voice carries the idea of uncertainty. It is a statement but it sounds a bit like a question.
The third example is expressing that Thomas is such a punctual guy that it should be clear that he is not going to be late, how can someone not know that. The stress is on Thomas and on spät and the voice sounds certain.

This is a pretty long post and I hope you can still concentrate but there is one more meaning to come.

Doch – yet and but

As if there wasn’t enough already, doch is also used in sense of yet and but. I am not an English native so I am not certain as to how close these 2 words are but for a German they kind of have overlapping parts… and one of them is doch.

  •  Ich bin müde, doch ich muss diesen Post zuende lesen.
  • I am tired but I have to finish reading this post.
  • Ich rede schnell und doch deutlich.
  • I speak fast and yet clearly.

So… this was the longest post so far. To sum it up, doch is the proper answer in the Yes-No game, it can be used to invert statements, it can mean either yet or but, it can tone down statements and it can turn a mere statement into a statement that seeks affirmation… for whatever reason.

I really hope this is helpful for you. If you have any questions just leave me a comment. If you totally disagree with me, please leave me a comment. If I have forgotten something, please leave me a comment. I will add it to the article, if necessary. And if you have seen a unicorn, please leave me a comment too.

I hope you liked it and see you next time… with something easier… like Auto or  Computer… kidding.. it won’t be something that obvious :)

97 responses to “Word of the Day – “doch”

  1. This is brilliant – thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Doch, that was well explained


  3. Periannan Chandrasekaran

    This was very good and crystallized the essence of doch for me.
    And I realized then that it is really very well matched by the English particles “though”. It is, just as the German “doch”, used in difficult to translate senses. “I liked the movie though” etc.
    It looks like the two are indeed from the same Proto-Germanic word and so it is not a surprise.
    I really thank you very much and congratulate you for having the ability to clarify such difficult word very easily.


  4. Doch has been confusing since the first time I heard it. Ive been trying to translate is using google, books, dictionaries, internet, anything I can get my hands on and none of it made sense till I found you! Thank you for clearing this up for me. It is very much appreciated!


  5. Wonderful!!!!! I have been asking so many people for an explanation…and most of them can’t tell me! I am eternally grateful.


    • Cool, it is great to hear that this does make sense to people :).


      • In your example: Wir können doch heute Abend zum Beispiel eine DVD gucken. To distinguish between the meaning of this sentence as seeking affirmation, or saying we can watch a DVD tonight after all, is it all in the intonation of the sentence? Does placement of the word “doch” affect the meaning?


        • Just making sure first … If by “We can watch a DVD after all” you mean “We can watch it although we thought we couldn’t then the answer is yes :). That depends on intonation then.
          Let’s say you wanted to watch a DVD, then the DVD drive wouldn’t work so you tried to find something else to do, but then someone gave it a last try an it works without problems …
          “Cool, wir können DOCH eine DVD gucken.” STROOOONG stress on doch as it is not seeking affirmation but rejecting a negative here.
          If you don’t know what to do and you and your friends sit around bored and then you say “Wir könnten doch EINE DVD gucken…” that would seek affirmation and the stress would be on what you want affirmed… watch a DVD… not so much on watch though more on EINE DVD. If you stress watch, that implies that the default treatment of DVD is something other than watch… maybe melt or eat … so a stressed doch is rejecting a negative, a not stressed doch is the coloring particle … hope that helps.
          Oh and as for placement… in the example we had here there is only one placement possible pretty much… initial would be possible but clearly rejecting the negative. The seeking doch is usually pretty close to the first verb. even closer than time.

          Wir könnten doch heute eine DVD gucken. is how I talk
          Wir könnten heute doch eine DVD gucken. … well still ok I guess
          Wir könnten heute eine DVD doch gucken… never ever


  6. Pingback: Doch! « RedGlow in another land

  7. Once you know how to use “doch” you’ve taken a huge step.
    It is a tremendously communicative word.


  8. Being a German I found it totally fascinating – I’ve never really reflected on this.
    We all use “doch” again and again – and actually you won’t find any conversation without it –
    but only now have I really understood what a complex word that is. Funny. Thank you.
    A German lesson for a German. Deutschstunde für Deutsche.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One may also add that “doch” at times may reveal a slight tone of warning, if not even menace. Often in questions:
      “Sie werden doch wohl die Rechnung bezahlt haben?” – meaning: “Might for you in case you didn’t.”
      or “Du wirst doch wohl nicht nach fünf Bier noch Auto fahren ?” – implying a serious warning -e.g. “I’ll stop you – You might have an accident.” etc –


      • Hmmm… I agree with what you say, but I think that if it sounds a bit menacing, that is more due to intonation than to doch itself… I can take your sentences and make them sound genuinly worried without altering words in there… anyway, I agree… doch is a real monster… maybe the most versatile of all those particles… but then again… eben is definitely up for the challenge. :)


  9. Oh yes, “eben” is definitely one of my favourites.


  10. I’m a beginner and just came across the imperative mode with my book, where – without explanation – ‘doch’ is used in nearly each sentences, as part of the imperative. Eg.: “Es ist Kalt. – Mach doch das Fenster zu!” How can I fit this usage of ‘doch’ into the above listed examples?


    • Well, as so many times it ultimately comes down to how it is said… in this sentence (and in most other commands for that matter) I see 2 extreme pols… an annoyed one and a encouraging one (including irony of course):

      The translation for the slightly annoyed one would be this:

      – Well, why don’t you open a window, duuhhh… isn’t that obvious???


      – Well, just open a window then (as everyone else would and stop complaining)

      The encouraging one would be pretty similar:

      – Oh, well, why don’t you open a window maybe (yeah, that sounds like a great idea)


      – Oh, you could open a window, couldn’t you?

      In either case, the doch ultimately seeks affirmation in a way that window opening is a good and maybe obvious idea. Without it, it is just a command to open the window which isn’t even necessarily connected to what you said:

      – “Oh es ist so warm hier”
      “Mach das Fenster auf.”

      This sounds a little disjointed to me.
      Hope that helps :)


    • by the way:

      I really suggest not to give too much trust to the usual explanations you can find online like:

      – tone down commands
      – make the matter sound urgent

      Doch can sometimes make it sound urgent but sometimes it can make it sound less urgent than the default so what does that explanation help… (sometimes it does this and sometimes it does the opposite). And then, toning down commands… well, other particles do that too (mal, halt, schon)and yet you cannot interchange them.. so obviously toning down the command is just a side effect of something else the particle does. So … be skeptical :)


  11. I think u did a good job. but your english is weird.


  12. This is incredibly helpful, thank you!


  13. Very helpful! Will I ever master German???


  14. I wish I had read an explanation about ‘doch’ a long time ago. I have struggled (especially when at university) to make sense of some sentences with ‘doch’ sat in the middle of it as if it was just a throwaway word. This was a brilliant explanation of its different uses, and much easier to understand.


  15. i was completely confused when i was looking for some information in the internet about this modal particles. wikipedia, some german language forums and the others such as yahoo answers, but it didn’t really helped me out.

    what i want to say is thank you very much for giving us this explanation.


  16. This was awesome! You did an excellent job explaining something as complicated as this word! I plan on reading this article at least once a day for the next week so I can drill doch’s uses into my brain :D.
    Is there a rule for where doch goes in a sentence, or does it change with usage? I see you using it in sort of an adverb or conjunction position.
    Also, I don’t know if you ever got any feedback on the overlapping of ‘but’ and ‘yet’ in English. So here is my opinion.
    For your examples, the uses are pretty interchangeable: “I am tired, but I have to finish reading this post.” and: “I speak fast and yet clearly.”
    Just off the top of my head, I’d say the meaning of the first sentence might change a little bit if you used ‘yet’ instead of ‘but’, but the second sentence would stay the same.
    Kind of like what you’ve been saying, it’s all about tone, but I’d use ‘but’ if I was dreading finishing reading the article or was being forced to, and I’d use ‘yet’ if I was looking forward to it.


    • Cool, thanks for the clarification about but vs whether… especially the part about the liking/dreading was very interesting … it’s those little tweaks that I need :)
      As for the position of “doch”…. German linguists or grammarian say/suppose that there is one “flavoring partical slot” somewhere in the middle field. And it is true… particles will ALWAYS go in a group and there is also a fixed order to them.Also, particles cannot ever be in position 1… it just doesn’t work.

      – Wir könnten dann [halt ja doch schon mal] losgehen.

      So… if you see “doch” in the beginning or at the end.. it is not coloring… it is either the but-one or rejecting a negative one (sentence adverb):

      – Und sie bewegt sich doch. (Gallileo mumbled this after he denounced his theory of earth moving around the sun in front of the church)

      So… this would be an adverb.

      – Doch, sie bewegt sich!

      This is an interjection.

      – DIe Kirche sagt, sie bewegt sich nicht, doch sie bewegt sich doch doch…. soll ich lügen??

      – Church is saying that it doesn’t move but it does move, doesn’t it… should I ly??

      Here we have 3 dochs combined and it does not sound too weird :)… the first one is a conjunction, the second one is a particle and the third one is an adverb. But it is not the position that makes the type… it is the function the doch has.

      Now the only question left is where is this special particle-slot?
      The answer is, I don’t really know… it is probably right between “thema” and “rhema”… which are text analytical terms for “what are we talking about – thema” and “what new information do we give about the thema – rhema”…

      – Der Mann heißt Frank. Er hat gestern wohl sein Handy verloren.

      The wohl is the assuming-wohl particle here. If I moved it to position 1 it would change to an adverb and become the affirming “wohl” which is close to “well”… and now.. “he (Frank)” is the “thema” in the second sentence… we’ve already been introduced to him. The news about him is that he lost his phone… so that ‘s the “rhema”… and the “wohl” is in between them.
      Anyway… I don’t think this is very helpful as thema and rhema are kind of blurry and also very very theoretical. I only know about them because I read it somewhere. No normal person knows that. It is pure nerd-material :).
      So… just remember that all the particles are somewhere in the middle.


      • Oh this is good! Kann ich “Ach, das ist aber gut!” auf Deutsch sagen? Ich konnte eine/einen (ich weiß nicht!) Post über ‘aber’ nicht finden. Also, I read your post over the da compound words. Would I be able to substitute ‘darauf’ for ‘auf Deutsch’ there? Or would that only work if there was context before it to understand the da?
        You definitely cleared up all of my questions for doch, thanks! We only really ever covered flavoring particles once, and it was in an introductory German class I had a couple semesters ago. We were told to just think of the doch as a ‘yet’ when it was being used as a flavoring particle. (bad idea) Thanks, oh and I’d never heard of thema and rhema before either lol.


        • Yeah, I have yet to write about “aber” which can be a flavoring particle too. The sentence you suggested is possible. It either means

          – “Oh now that is (surprisingly) good actually.”


          – “But that is good.”

          Which one it is depends on whether or not there has been a discussion about the thing being good or not before and ultimately it comes down to tone. The sentence with the flavoring “aber” will sound like a grandma, that tells hew grand child how big it has become.
          As for the “auf Deutsch” -“darauf”… that is a good question :) but it doesn’t work. I think it is because “auf Deutsch” is more of a fixed expression and the preposition doesn’t really feel like a preposition here. YOu wouldn’t use it for the respective question either:

          “Auf welcher Sprache sprichst du?” …. not really :)

          So darauf can not replace “auf Deutsch” but neither can “auf es” … I think you can’t replace language in that context at all. I don’t know about English but the following feels a little tiny bit odd to me.

          – Do you speak English?
          – Yes, I speak it, but I can’t write it.

          IN German, with “es” it wouldn’t sound good, at least.


  17. Das ist gut, dass ich mit Großmütter auf Deutsch sprechen kann, denn Großmütter sind aber schön! ;) Ich habe keine Ahnung gehabt, dass ‘aber’ das bedeutet. Also die Antworte für diese Frage ist “Ich spreche auf (nur der Name der Sprache).”?
    Surprisingly, ‘it’ can be substituted for the name of a language occasionally.
    Your example for example, I think is pretty reasonable sounding in English. You could say however:
    “Yes, I can speak it (perfectly), but I can’t write (in) it.” For some reason, to my ears at least, adding the words ‘perfectly’ (or any other adverb for that matter) and ‘in’ makes the ‘it’ completely reasonable, but either way the sentence seems fine to me. Lol. (me) <——- obviously not a grammar expert so don't take my word for it.
    Thanks again for all the info! Kann ich dich fragen, do you type all these on your free-time? If so, that is amazing.


    • Well… a dialog would probably be:

      “Können wir auf Deutsch sprechen?”
      “Ja, können wir.”


      “Schreibst du auf Deutsch?”
      “Ja, tu ich/mach ich/auf Deutsch.”

      And don’t doubt your judgement. If you’re a native speaker of English then whatever you feel is correct, is correct. Grammar’s job is to describe that and not vice versa. So if it works for you then there is NO doubting that. You’re the boss, grammar is your secretary :)
      Finally… ja, ich mach’ das alles in meiner Freizeit :).


  18. Great explanation! FYI, your second sentence from the last: “And if you have seen a unicorn, please leave me a comment to.” The “to” should be “too,”
    which means “also.” It sounds picky but you seemed to indicate that you would appreciate the subtle differences in English. Thus, the sentence should read: “And if you have seen a unicorn, please leave me a comment too.”


  19. Good explanation of doch :)


  20. May I ask you a question? I have a book, written in my language, named ‘Deutche Sätze’, and there are some words of the author making me confused because he seem to contradict himself.

    At first, he said:

    1, ‘Er möchte das nicht als Lehrer sagen’ means ‘Not as a doctor, he wants to say that’

    2, ‘Er möchte das als Lehrer nicht sagen’ means ‘As a doctor, he doesn’t want to say that’

    Then, he said:

    3, ‘Ich möchte das nicht als Arzt sagen’ means ‘As a doctor, I don’t want to say that’

    4, ‘Ich möchte das als kein Arzt sagen’ means ‘Being not a doctor, I want to say that’

    He also has two other example for this:

    ‘Er liebt sie nicht’ means ‘He doesn’t love her’

    ‘Er liebt nicht sie’ means ‘He doesn’t this girl (but another one)’


    • Hmmm… those sentences left me a bit confused … especially the second two. They are contrived in order to illustrate a point… I guess, the position of “nicht” but they are totally unidiomatic and number 4 is on the edge of wrong. I have to spend some time interpreting the meaning. It is everything but obvious…anyway, let me try… I’ll just give you the translation that best captures the message, the way I understand it. I’ll also try to come up with a context in which this would make sense. Someone else might have a different opinion though…

      1) I don’t want to say that in my function as a teacher (but (rather) as a father)… I am worried about you, Peter.

      2) Being a teacher, he doesn’t want to say that. (for instance the phrase “School is a futile endeavor”… so your translation was perfect here

      3) same as 1)… just replace teacher with doctor… I don’t see a reason why this would mean something different. To me it is the same. If someone else sees a difference… fine… but it is not a feature of German as a whole.

      4) 2 possible readings…

      “I wouldn’t want to say that no matter as what kind of doctor. (because it is just un-doctory to say that… maybe)”

      “I want to say that (despite/exactly because of) not being a doctor.”… for example “This treatment sucks”… I have the right to say that even as “non-doctor”…
      But as I said… this sentence is just really really odd.

      As for the last 2.. that is totally correct. The first nicht puts the whole sentence into the negative, while the second one only denies the person but leaves the action (loving) positive which implies that there is someone he does love.

      Let me know if that helped you or what the exact question is the guy is trying to answer…


  21. I’m so sorry about the first two sentences, that’s a typing error(“Lehrer” should be “teacher”, right?), and you’re so right about the the sentence 4, that’s an example for usage of “kein” before an indefinite noun( so I shouldn’t use it, right?). I was really confused about sentence 1 and sentence 3 when the author translated them into two different meanings, but as you said, people understand them differently although they have the same structure,( just like the author), right? So now, my question turns into “In which contexts, with which you can come up within your ability, can we understand them differently?”
    ( I think that you should use punctuation more carefully, for instance, you should write “to illustrate a point…, I guess, such as the position of “nicht”, but ..” instead of ” to illustrate a point… I guess the position of “nicht” but…”, because this is written language and it shouldn’t have taken me a while to understand what you say. In my first language, Vietnamese, punctuation can change the whole meaning of a sentence).


    • Ops, you’re right… “I guess the position of nicht” is indeed confusing :). I’ll try to pay a little more attention to it, although I do not know the English punctuation rules in detail).
      Now on to your question:

      Honestly, I can’t think of anything. Arzt and Lehrer are both professions and they both have something to do with helping other people. But even with 2 completely different groups I fail to see a difference.

      – Ich möchte das nicht als Frau sagen.
      – Ich möchte das nicht als erster sagen.

      Sure, there are different ways to interpret the sentence but they apply to all of them no matter whether there is teacher or doctor in it.
      The fact that the nicht comes right in front of the function/profession indicates that this profession is meant to be a contrast to some other profession/function… it sort of signals an upcoming “sondern”. And lastly… I am honestly not so sure if “Not as a doctor, he wants to say that” is correct English. If I only read that without having the German, I wouldn’t really know how to understand it. But then again, I am not a native speaker of German.
      So bottom line… to me the sentences are the same.
      If you want to have a second opinion you can aks in this forum:


      It is about German language and it has a pretty high level of quality.


      • ha ha, you’re so right, I’m not sure about “not as a doctor”, too. Thank you for replying to me kindly.


      • Just want to add my tuppence worth in here. The translation of the first sentence is probably correct in some dusty old English grammer book somewhere but, it just sounds completely wrong. No one would ever speak like that. I agree with the other translation given in the first reply. The correct translation would be more like, “He (wants/would like) to say that, but not as a teacher(, rather as a father)”. If that makes any sense at all. It would however require context before it to arrive at this translation.

        Anyway what a great post on such a confusing word. I only knew the “but” meaning before and possibly the yet but now I feel way more confident in its meaning and usage. As we would say in Scotland, “I’ll be bletherin awa like a reel ane afore lang”

        Does this usage work?

        Dieser Artikel war doch lang aber ja nützlich. If used in response to someone else who read it, asking me what I thought about it?

        Vielen Dank.


        • Hah… the Scottish… I spent a good amount of time trying to decipher it so here’s my guess:

          I’ll be talking (blabbering away??) like a real one (real German) before long”

          I’m probably wrong :).

          As for your doch-question…. you have touched an interesting point there because in that very sentence “doch” does not work. I would say either “schon” or nothing. Thing number one is, that there should be some reason to use a coloring word, especially in writing. The “doch” could either counter a negative.This isn’t the case based on the context you gave. Or it could seek affirmation. This isn’t really the case either because the other person asked your opinion. You two are not in a discussion about the article where you’re trying to convince the other person that it was long. So… you could use “schon” to acknowledge the length, which, you know, might be scary for some, but despite that you thought it was good…. like

          It was long, all right, but it sure was helpful (American English)

          The “ja” is also a bit out of place. I haven’t discussed that yet, but what that does is basic to give an argument and the “ja” underlines its validity and obviousness. Other than “doch” a “ja” does not want the other person to agree because it KNOWS that it’s right. “Schon” is somewhere in between those two poles. So … how would I say it?

          Der Artikel war zwar/schon (different degree of how much the length was “lengthy”) lang aber er war auf jeden Fall (no doubt) nützlich.

          Hope that helps a bit. Don’t be discouraged though. Using those words right is damn difficult. I hope you’ll give it another shot some time :)


  22. This was really helpful, thanks! It’s the small words in German that confuse me the most, I still haven’t really got to grips with dazu and dafür for example. I will keep trying!


  23. Sehr schon
    Sie haben doch das gut und leicht erklart :)
    Vielen Dank


  24. doch=though=totusi=однако


  25. Hallo,
    Does doch also work in the following way:

    Ich sage: Ich habe kein Geld! (I have no money.)
    Meine Mutter sagt: Doch! Du hast Geld! (Yes, on the contrary….you do have money

    Vielen Dank!


    • Good question… and it definitely works if you do it as direct speech (the way you wrote it down). If you use real reported speech then it would be a bit different

      Meine Mutter sagt, dass ich doch Geld habe

      This could still be understood the way you intended but it can also be read as though the “doch” is not so much about countering what I said, but countering what was the reality…. like… I had no money but then my mom find 100 Euro in my dirty laundry. For the statement it would be “schon” or better yet “sehr wohl”

      Ich habe gesagt, dass ich kein Geld habe, aber meine Mutter sagt dass ich SEHR WOHL Geld habe.

      Hope that made sense :)…if not let me know and I’ll try to rephrase


  26. hallo,
    one quick question: aber and doch both can be translated to mean “but”, so they are interchangeable when they have this meaning?
    “Ich bin müde, doch ich muss diesen Post zuende lesen.”
    “Ich bin müde, aber ich muss diesen Post zuende lesen.”
    the same thing?
    Thanks you and keep up the good work!


  27. Really? Nobody until now… OK, then I saw the unicorn :)… and thanks for explanation. I am Slovak and we have more similar words for “doch”, but I am learning German from English on Duolingo.com now and it’s hard for me to translate it to English.


  28. Can you place doch anywhere in a sentence? or does it have to be next to the subject/pronoun or verb?


    • No, at least not as freely… “doch” and all the other particles like “halt”, “wohl” or “ja” have a sort of fixed slot in mid-sentence… it is hard to describe where that is and it is not connected to a particular part of the sentence, like verb or subject. It’s between new info and old info.

      – Du kannst deiner Mutter doch einfach das Buch schenken.

      Here, we’ve probably been talking about what to give to mom as a present… so mom is no new info.

      – Du kannst doch deiner Mutter einfach das Buch schenken.

      This was pretty much the same

      – Du kannst deiner Mutter das Buch doch einfach schenken.

      Here, mother AND book have been talked about before. Maybe I was wondering how much to charge my mom for the book and now the other person is like “Just make it a present”. The schenken-idea is new, the rest is old. “doch” is in between.
      It is something to feel out, I’d say :)… as far as the particle-doch goes, it can at least never be in the beginning or at the end.
      Hope that helps a bit


  29. sehr gute Erklärung!


  30. This is really helpful! Thanks so much…
    I do have a question though about whether ‘doch’ is appropriate for a specific case. Whenever I tell a native German-speaker that I’m working on my PhD on late medieval Germany, they usually respond auf Deutsch something like “Oh! You must be very good at German then.” I would like to be able to respond with a statement like “Well, I’m actually really good at reading it, but I can’t speak it very well.” I always thought I could say something like “Ich kann es doch einfach lesen, aber etc. etc.” But now, after reading this, I’m thinking that doesn’t make any sense?


    • And you’re right :). It makes no sense at all and I would be super confused.

      – Ich kann es doch einfach lesen…

      This can be two things… a suggestion or a rejection of a negative. And the suggestion is more likely due to the combination with “einfach”… “ich kann/könnte doch einfach…” is a common pattern.
      I think I would use no particle in that particular example

      – Ich kann (es) ziemlich gut lesen aber…

      Hoffe, das hilft.


  31. Found this very helpful. Been speaking german for 50 years, but as an american could never completely understand how this word was used. Thanks!


    • Ich würde gern mal wissen, wie es ist, wenn man “doch” nicht “fühlt”… das muss so verwirrend sein :). Freut mich, dass ich das etwas aufklären konnte


      • I think anybody who learns much German gets the hang of the “actually, yes” use (countering the negative). Speaking for myself, the other uses don’t really create that much confusion because you’re not likely to respond to them in a way that is inappropriate, you know? I mean, in most of your example sentences, “doch” is in parentheses, and I think that’s just the way you hear it as a non-native speaker. It’s there, but you understand the rest of the sentence fine, and you wouldn’t be wrong to respond to the sentence as though “doch” weren’t there at all, so as far as you can tell it just adds rhythm, or emphasis, or maybe means “you idiot.”

        It’s always been pretty low on my list of things I’m nervous about not really understanding. But this was a great post to help me clear up some things – especially the bit about how you use it to counter implicit negative expectations that YOU had.

        Maybe this should be in a separate comment, but is “doch” a strong enough questionizer that you wouldn’t add other indications that you’re asking a question to your sentence? Zum Beispiel:

        – Super Bowl? Das ist doch total langweilig, oder?
        – Guck mal, das da drüben ist doch dein Professor, nicht wahr?

        Clearly the “oder” bzw. “nicht wahr” is redundant, but are they wrong or weird to include because “doch” is already there?


        • No not at all… I mean “nicht wahr” sounds a bit dated to my ears but “oder” is totally idiomatic. Of course the “doch” to some extend calls for a response but so does pretty much any statement in a conversational environment. We don’t just state things usually :)

          – Look, there’s your professor (both continuing in silence)

          Let’s take the super bowl example… if we just say

          – Das ist total langweilig.

          that’s a statement and we’d expect the other person to react to it. An additional “doch” is pretty much the same as “come on!”, a kind of “arguing by appeal” if that makes sense. The “oder” then takes it all the way to being a question. It would be out of place if I already know that the other person is a die hard football fanatic because… I mean… what’s he or she gonna say. The “doch” alone is fine though, as it just colors it.


  32. hey :) this reminsd me of one similar word in the american language :P its the word aint and people like to use it like ”i aint got no time for that ” :D


  33. A simple(r) question about doch,

    Would you use ‘doch’ when you use ‘but’ as a sarcastic remark? For example,

    John: You want to join the army? It’s dangerous! People will shoot you with guns, bomb you with planes and shell you with artillery! You might die!
    Bob: Yeah, but law school…

    Mary: A bus and a car crashed when they both swerved to avoid a stray dog!
    Sue: Wow, that’s horrible…but the dog lived, right?


    • No, I’d definitely use “aber”… “doch” (in sense of aber) sounds much to distinguished and literary for that… also, I feel like it works better with somewhat longer sentences following.


  34. I got the impression when I was living in Germany that there was another use in which “doch” is a little like “mu” in japanese? eg. “have you stopped beating your wife? / doch!” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_(negative)#.22Unasking.22_the_question). Though it is entirely likely that I was mistaken.


  35. Ich frage mich, wieso “Prügel” “thrashing” bedeutet aber “Tracht Prügel” auch “thrashing” bedeutet. Bitte erklären Sie speziell!
    (P/s: Bitte hilf mir mit den den grammatikalische Fehler)


    • So, think of “Prügel” as a general mass-noun like “water”, or even better “fun”. “Tracht” is one(the only as far as I can think) unit to “count” it or measure it with.

      – Ich kriege Prügel.

      Here we don’t know how often and how much…

      – Ich kriege eine Tracht Prügel.

      Here it is one “set”.
      Ich hoffe, das hilft.
      Dein Deutsch war ziemlich gut. Nur “speziell” habe ich in dem Kontext nicht verstanden.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. In dem Beispiel: “Guck mal, das da drüben sind (doch) dein Professor.” Warum ist es “sind” und nicht “ist”?
    Oder war das ein Fehler?


  37. what about jedoch? is it related to doch!?


    • Yeah, it is. “Jedoch” is pretty close to the “but”-doch in meaning. They’re not interchangeable though because the “But”-doch has to come in first position while “jedoch” can come later.


  38. Dieser Posten ist doch sehr nützlich!
    * The stress is on Dieser and on nützlich and the voice sounds certain :)


    • Glad to hear that :)… one little thing: if you have just a statement outside of a real conversation, the particle-doch doesn’t really work because there is no surrounding sentences and no one you want to convince or get affirmation from. Your sentence by itself would make me think it is the “yes, no, doch”-doch.


  39. Could it be brought together (for the sake of being simplistic and reducing it as much as possible to one thing) by saying that there is an underlying thought or statement (which may imply other things e.g being tired implies stopping doing things), and doch in the ‘follow-up’ statement marks the contradiction of that earlier thought or statement. (In some cases, e.g. when the original thought is unspoken, the earlier thought can only be inferred by the existence of a doch-statement and what it was inferred by the form of its contradiction in the doch-statement.)

    Graphically (for the sake of being simplistic and reducing it to one picture), the earlier proposition (statement/thought) was going along in one direction and the doch-statement pulls things around the other way, because of disagreement or change of circumstances or change of mind or change of understanding.

    <———————————————-(implied) Proposition (speaker's attitude to it: certainly not the case, possibly not the case, not the case)

    It is the "tone of voice" with which the statement is spoken that reveals the speaker's attitude – tentative, very certain, or merely factual "correction".
    It is possible to connect the imperative cases to this. Komm doch mit uns – here it is friendly, more or less tentative (you weren't coming with us, but (why not?) come with us) – a suggestion.

    This is only slightly complicated by the fact that nein, not doch, is used for the bare contradiction of a positive statement.


    • Hmm… I’m not sure actually. First thing is that you’d have to include the fact that “doch” can only ever pull into the positive direction. You mentioned it in the drawing but the aspect was missing in the first paragraph.
      Also, I’m not sure if the particle-doch, the one that seeks affirmation, always implies a (maybe unspoken) opposing view of the other person. I can say

      – Na das war doch mal echt lecker.
      – Now, that was some delicious meal.

      without doubting for a second that the other person disagrees. The point is (in this case) that I want to be agreed with, but not because the other person disagrees but simply because being agreed with feels nice.
      I think the whole “seeking affirmation” thing actually covers all of “doch”, except for the but-one. In essence it just says “Say yes!”, with different intensities.


      • I think the essence of “doch” is correction, disagreement.
        I am not sure that “doch” only ever pulls in the positive direction.
        Thomas kommt nicht zur Party. Thomas won’t come to the party.
        Thomas kommt doch nicht zur Party. Thomas won’t come to the party after all. (although I originally thought he would)
        Here the doch is simply correcting the earlier thought.
        The corrected proposition can be stated (which is easy) or implied (which is why learners find it difficult).
        The attitude to the proposition can include degrees of disagreement. It can express strong disagreement, show doubt (not really sure which is correct), offer tentative disagreement, diffidently suggest a possible alternative, or simply be factual.
        Wir können (doch) heute Abend zum Beispiel eine DVD gucken. – offers an alternative, diffidently (signalled in part by the modal verb).
        In your example above (Na das war doch mal echt lecker), I don’t think “doch” is “seeking affirmation”. I would want to analyse it as being emphatic (more emphatic than the simple statement) because by including “doch” the speaker goes out of her way to disagree with the implied (only to be disagreed with) opposite). Obviously this is a developed use.
        I would analyse the “seeking affirmation” examples as tentative disagreement (very diffident) turned into what is virtually a question.
        Ich bin müde, doch ich muss diesen Post zuende lesen. Here the disagreement is with the propositions implied by being tired (that the person will stop work, etc).


  40. I am so grateful we have a completely similar word in Norwegian. And once again I am amazed over how similar our languages are. Good article, I was wondering if I in fact can use “doch” just the same way I would use our “jo”, and now I’m sure I can! Thanks!


  41. Not sure if anyone has commented on this yet – 80 comments are a lot to look through – but in the cases where Doch is being used to counter a negative statement there appears to be a direct mapping to the English word ‘actually’. Actually can convey that sense of ‘contrary to what I said previously / my expectations / accepted wisdom etc’ that Doch also seems to be carrying.

    Ich habe morgen Zeit.
    I have time tomorrow.
    Ich habe morgen doch Zeit.
    I do have time tomorrow (although I originally though I wouldn’t).
    ACTUALLY I do have time tomorrow.

    Der Film gefällt mir.
    I like the movie.
    Der Film gefällt mir doch.
    I do like the movie (although I thought I wouldn’t).
    ACTUALLY I do like the movie.

    And so on.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. das ist doch einfach! (Is this a correct use of doch? because i was expecting it to be much more hard to understand)


    • That’s perfect.
      Depending on how you pronounce it it can mean two things:

      – Das ist DOCH einfach.

      You assumed it was gonna be hard but then it turned out not to be.

      – Das ist doch EINFACH.

      That would be the “doch” that seeks affirmation… like

      – That’s easy, isn’t it /am I right/ don’t tell me it’s not


  43. on the pizza example, you missed an ‘I’.


  44. Vielen Dank. Doch ist mein Lieblingswort.


  45. Engelbert Humperdinck

    1) A typo: I do have time tomorrow (although I originally ***though*** I wouldn’t) — should be “thought”
    2) As for “Der Film gefällt mir doch”, I think “actually” would convey the same idea that you originally thought you wouldn’t like the film, but in fact you do: “I actually like the/this film”. “As it goes” expresses the same idea (I think, but am not sure, that’s it’s British English usage): “I like the/this film as it goes”.


    • That’s true, “actually” does indeed express the same. The only difference is that “actually” can also be used in a context where all your friends hate on it and then you say “I actually like it.”. “Doch” wouldn’t work in that context. Anyway, I added a version with actually to the post :)


  46. Conceptually the but/yet version of doch actually makes a lot of sense to me because those words conjoin two parts of a sentence that whilst not mutually exclusive would often not be associated with each other. In that sense it works perfectly in my understanding. It is the other elements I’ll have to work on to get my head around!

    Many thanks anyway, this was incredibly helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Thanks, this is really really useful.
    Just a question: in a German grammar I found this kind of examples

    – Wenn du doch nicht immer so arrogant wärest!
    – Wenn mich mein Sohn doch angehört hätte!

    Is this “doch” something else or it could fit into one of the categories you described?

    Many thanks in advance!


    • Phrasings like these express a wish. Kind of like

      – If only you would/were/…

      The sentence would work on its own but the “doch” makes it clear that it is this kind of wish-statement. Without it people might be waiting for you to continue. A bit like the “only” in the English version.
      Does it fit in? Well, it helps express the notion of wish, and that isn’t all that far from seeking affirmation.

      – Wenn du doch nicht so schnarchen würdest.
      – If only you weren’t snoring like you do.

      You would love for the person not to snore like that. You’d love for the person to “comply”
      Hope that makes sense.


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