The 3 meanings of German “doch”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day.
This time we will take a look at the 3 ways to use:

doch

And by “taking a look” I mean, we’ll EXPOSE DOCH!
“Oh no, please, don’t expose me!”
Shut up doch, we will expose you! For too long, you have confused learners, but 2021 is the year that’ll end once and for all.
And don’t even think about paying me off like you do with all the other sources and Youtubers. Yes, I know what’s up. You pay textbooks and teachers and websites so they keep putting out unhelpful explanations.
The truth is that that doch actually has a couple of core themes that tie all its uses together. And once we understand that, we can start using like a native speaker.
“Hahaha, not going to happen.”
Well, okay… maybe not that. But at least we won’t be confused anymore and we can explain why it fits where it fits.
So are you ready to clear up one of the biggest myt…
“Hey, Uhm… how owuld you like 10.000 dollars in you bank accou…”
Quiet, doch. You can’t buy me!
“Bitcoin?”
No.
“Shiba Inu coin?”
Hmm… better. But still no.
So… are you ready to explain doch once and for all?
Then let’s jump right in….

First let me say this: there is no such word as doch in English.
Family-wise, it is related to though, and if you analyze long enough, you can find some commonalities here and there. But overall, my recommendation is to NOT think in terms of translations.
Seriously, don’t do it!

You see, what these little particles do is more like adding meta information to the plain “plot” of the sentence. Kind of like tone of voice or the phrasing.
So what we need to do, is the effect that doch has on a sentence… what vibe does it add.
And then we just have to search for a way to express that in English or any other language. Sometimes that might be a word, sometimes it might be the melody, and sometimes, the best match for doch might be to just skip it completely.
So yeah, don’t read to get a translation. Read this to understand the effect.

And with that said, let’s get to the first “function” that doch has.

Doch – Reverting 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.”

  • “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 seen, it is not inverting a positive but rather 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 as follows. The “doch” kind of cancels out the red negative.

  • I do not have no hunger. <-is the opposite of -> I DO have no hunger.
  • I will not “not go” to the movies. <-is the opposite of -> I will, in fact, “not go” to the movies.
  • I will not “not return” on Tuesday <-is the opposite of -> I will return on Wednesday, so YES, not on Tuesday.
    (this is not proper English, I know. It’s just to show how doch cancels out one negation)

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 expressing 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 are different occasions to do this. 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, as is the case with the last example we had.

Doch – 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 could watch a DVD tonight. Why not?/ Why not watch a DVD tonight
    Without: We can watch a DVD tonight.

  • Du weißt (doch), wie sehr ich Pizza hasse.
  • Come on. You do know how much I hate pizza. (Yes? Good, so why did you bring me here to this pizza place????)
    Without: You know how much I hate pizza.

  • Guck mal, das da drüben ist (doch) dein Professor.
  • Look, it’s your professor over there now, isn’t it? (What a coincidence)
    Without: Look, that is your professor over there.

  • Mein neues Kleid ist (doch) schön.
  • So… my new dress is quite nice, don’t you think? (Agree with me please!!!)
    My new dress is nice.

  • Ich habe dir (doch) gesagt, das der Film langweilig ist.
  • See, I did tell you that the movie was gonna be boring before, didn’t I? (Concede that I was right please!!!)
    Without: I did tell you, the movie was gonna be boring.

  • Super Bowl? Das ist (doch) total langweilig.
  • Super Bowl? That IS totally boring, come on! (You must agree with me on that!!! / Or is it not after all??? )
    Without: Super Bowl? That is totally boring.

  • Du kannst (doch) nicht ohne Training einen Marathon laufen.
  • Oh please / come on. You can’t run a marathon without training. (Do you really think you can???
    Without: You cannot run a marathon without training.

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 an 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 the 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.

Oh, and I almost forgot… if you want practice what we talked about and see how well it works for you… I actually have a really cool exercise for that. Well, I don’t know if it’s really cool, but it’s definitely an exercise.
There’s a little recap there, too, so it’s definitely worth checking out:

The meanings of “doch” – the exercise

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 :)

 

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Danke
Danke
1 month ago

Danke! Von einem Kanadier .

Anonymous doch doch
Anonymous doch doch
2 months ago

Wow . Thanks for that great Explanation.
I don’t speak German, some might say I don’t speak native English either, as I am from Scotland ;-)

In seeking to understand a reference to Angela Merkel as
‘Frau doch doch’ I can now imagine a multitude of possibilities!

Two dochs?

Can you aid me with my comprehension defecit?
Thanks.

Anonymous doch doch
Anonymous doch doch
2 months ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Thanks for that, I had niavely imagined double docht might mean 2x for more emphasis.

As it happens, it was only in a Below The Line comment, but in general there is usually a very high calibre of commenters there:

https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2022/03/12/oil-gas-and-energy-producer-profits-are-going-to-increase-40-fold-as-a-result-of-energy-price-increases/#comment-897747

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 months ago

Doch ist doch genauso ähnlich wie ”though” auf Englisch insbesondere von Großbritanien. Das konnte ich mir bestätigen, beim die drei Möglichkeiten der Bedeutung in einem Satz Lesen.

Lassen Sie mir mal die drei Möglichkeiten der though auf Englisch veranschaulichen:

Thomas kommt doch nicht zu spät.
Erstens ist “be going to be” mehr umgangsprachlich Englisch zur Beschreibung dieser Lage.
Genauso in Deutsch als auch in Englisch, kann die Konjunktion “though” in aller drei Sinnen bedeuten

  • Thomas isn’t going to be too late “though”. (A circumstance has changed that makes him not late any more.)
  • Thomas isn’t going to be too late “though”. (Something gives you hope that he won’t be late.)
  • Thomas isn’t going to be too late “though”. (Something gives you conviction that he won’t be late.)
Anonymous
Anonymous
6 months ago

Yo this is totally sussy bakka ya know what I mean yo.

E. Ly Bell
E. Ly Bell
8 months ago

The negative hasn’t been stated but the doch let’s you know it was there.
Are you serious about 2 times using “let’s” when it should be “lets”?

chowb01
chowb01
1 year ago

Hi! Question, Emanuel: um den Beispiel “Du kannst (doch) nicht ohne Training einen Marathon laufen.”, könnte man auch “Du kannst nicht ohne Training einen Marathon laufen, oder?” I’m still trying to imply that the person answering might actually think he/she could run one without training for it. Would there be a difference in interpretation/meaning or is that just wrong? Danke dir!

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Danke schön! das hilft mir sehr.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

i actually had a question that differes a bit from ”doch” and its meanings ,however it is tied to a word that i observe as having a very confusing translation so maybe its on topic
I recently learned about the word ”doll” and as i understand its meaning it can be used in a couple of scenarios two of which caught my eye . Google translate lists the alternate meaning of ”doll” as both ”grosartig” and ”schlimm” . Is it just me or is this the complete opposite thing . Can you shed some light on this mate

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

yeah actually ,thanks mate

Mahdi
Mahdi
1 year ago

Thank you …really

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Ich bin dumb, doch ich kannt Deutsch sprechen correctisch.

Tau
Tau
1 year ago

Hallo von einer linguistisch interessierten Muttersprachlerin, die es faszinierend findet, wie kompliziert das Wörtchen “doch” doch eigentlich ist! Ich glaub, ich darf mich nie wieder über schwammige Bedeutungen beschweren, wenn ich ne andere Sprache lerne…

Die Erklärung war super und passt zu meinem Sprachgefühl 100%. Nach etwas Nachdenken frag ich mich aber, ob man das “seeking affirmation”-doch nicht mit dem “countering a negative”-doch konzeptuell verbinden kann, und zwar so:

In Sätzen wie “Komm doch mit!” oder “wir können doch eine DVD gucken” wird (find ich) implizit die Möglichkeit in den Raum gestellt, dass der andere das nicht machen will/könnte. Das “doch” übernimmt dann seine “normale” Funktion und kontert das. Durch den Kontrast kommt der Eindruck von “ich will, dass du mir jetzt zustimmst!” zustande. Im Gegensatz zu den anderen Nutzen von “doch” wird hier nicht impliziert, dass der andere _definitiv_ nicht mitkommen/eine DVD gucken wollte, einfach nur, dass sich der Sprecher der Möglichkeit bewusst ist… aber ein ähnliches “Gefühl” hat das Ganze eigentlich schon. Oder was meinst du?

Kann sein, dass selbst wenn richtig das alles zu abstrakt ist, um Lernenden in irgendeiner Form weiterzuhelfen, aber ich persönlich find es macht eine nette zusammenhängende “doch”-Theorie. :)

Tau
Tau
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Stimmt, so rum ist es viel logischer – “doch” will Zustimmung, und je nachdem wie betont es wird und in welcher Funktion es gerade arbeitet findet sich die Bedeutung irgendwo zwischen “ich meine, das X der Fall ist, frag mich aber jetzt, ob es nicht doch[1] Y ist – beruhig mich bitte!” und “ich weiß, dass du Y denkst, bin mir aber bombenfest sicher, dass X der Fall ist.” Cool! Die große Theorie des “doch” schreitet voran. ;)

[1] upps, ist einfach so rausgerutscht… man kommt wirklich nicht ohne “doch” aus…

Ich lese immer mal wieder etwas auf deiner Seite (bin durchs Spanischlernen neugierig geworden, wie die Grammatik meiner Muttersprache eigentlich so tickt). Und ich muss echt sagen – Respekt! Deine Erklärungen sind häufig bei Weitem die detailliertesten, tiefgründigsten, und generell besten, die ich zum Thema finde. Auf jeden Fall nicke ich immer “ja, hab nie so drüber nachgedacht aber passt zum Sprachgefühl.”

Besonders bei Modalpartikeln wie eben “doch” sind sehr viele Quellen (find ich) sehr oberflächlich und nicht sonderlich nützlich. Oft gibt es einen Riesenhaufen von möglichen Funktionen/Bedeutung, viel zu grob und ohne irgendeinen Hinweis, wie ein Nichtmuttersprachler herauskriegen könnte, welche gerade benutzt wird. Oder sie raten einfach, die zu ignorieren… was für einen Anfänger vielleicht sinnvoll ist, aber mMn werden sie in der gesprochenen Sprache so viel eingesetzt, dass man ab einem bestimmten Niveau sie schon braucht. Es gibt Sätze, die ich niemals ohne ein “doch” oder “mal” in den Mund nehmen würde, weißt du? Auf jeden Fall war ich wirklich begeistert, jemanden zu finden, der sich die so richtig vorknöpft und versucht, der subtilen aber doch für einen Muttersprachler in der Praxis klaren Bedeutung auf den Grund zu gehen.

Mohd Shaeq
Mohd Shaeq
1 year ago

Dies ist ein sehr großartiger Artikel für „doch“. Ich habe gelesen, dass wann man Wünsche mit „Wenn“ ausdrücken möchte, dann benutzt man die Wörter „doch“ oder „nur“. Man kann auch „doch nur“, „bloß“ oder „doch bloß“ benutzen. Einige Beispiele:-

  1. Wenn ich doch nur mehr Zeit hätte.
  2. Wenn doch endlich Ferien wären.
  3. Wenn es doch mehr Schokolade gäbe.

Also, wie passt „doch“ in diesen Sätzen zusammen?

jake
jake
1 year ago

hi i was wondering ,what vibe does the sentence ”jetzt war erdoch acht Tage in der Stadt, aber jeden abend war er zu hause” provide ? I couldnt really ascribe it to any of the categories with certainty

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

i actually had another little side question if thats ok ,i was wondering why we there is akk applied for der Abend ,turning jede into jeden . Im a bit confused since i usually find akk by seeking what is being affected by the verb, however this is dif in a way i cant really pin point
thank you

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

beautiful ,i do love me some ”’go by feel” language specifics :D

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

meaning i love when languages have this type of ”go by feel” stipulation ,for example ,its not a great example but in bulgarian ,the word for the prateritum of ”come” is ”дойдох” ,which has nothing to do with the verbs original state which is ”идвам” . I cant imagine foreigners learning this being happy with it :D

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

hi ,ive been translating a kafka novel and i stumbled upon the sentence :
”jetzt war er doch acht Tage in der Stadt, aber abend war er zu Hause”
I was wondering what exactly is the vibe on this one since i couldnt with certainty ascribe it to one of the categories

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

hier kommt, wie gewunscht :D ”Wie würde dennGregor sonst einen Zug versäumen! Der Junge hat ja nichts im Kopf als dasGeschäft. Ich ärgere mich schon fast, daß er abends niemals ausgeht; jetzt war er doch acht Tage in der Stadt, aber jeden Abend war er zu Hause. Da sitzt er beiuns am Tisch und liest still die Zeitung oder studiert Fahrpläne.”

I suppose its meant to convey the seeking reassurance vibe but still it doesnt fit somehow in my head, exactly what it conveys

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Yeah it does actually. I imagined it as her seeking agreenment from the other person ,that it follows from what she was saying ,but not becuase i got the doch vibe perfectly ,rather because thats what moms say :D

Berke
Berke
1 year ago

you are amazing, thanks

Osdolai
Osdolai
1 year ago

I really have difficulty understanding how a logical, rational and precise people like the Germans can allow themselves such a horribly ambiguous, contradictory and nebulous word. Anyway, here is a use that doesn’t seem to fit any of the the categories?
You thank someone for a favor and they reply “Das war doch selbstverständlich”. Could it be a ‘but’ of sorts?

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago

This made a lot of things click for me. Especially the part about using it to ask for affirmation. I think I’ve heard a lot of examples that fall into that category, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And the three examples with “Thomas kommt doch nicht zu spät” were really helpful.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

The Blog is not for everyone. The Blog is meant for everyone to pay, never been on this website. Tells me I’ve been on this shittly designed website before.

Roger
Roger
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

This is one of the best designed web-sites on the internet … it is highly entertaining, educational and a delight for German learners at all levels, and proof that there is a sense of humour that is alive and well in Germany. Fantastic effort !!

Roger
Roger
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

I would like to repeat “one of the best designed” sites, for the reason that the bi-lingual voice recordings place the site in the top rank of all web-sites, together with the first-rate quizzing following the exploration of topics in the published content.

It is clear that a great deal of thought and effort, plus sustained energy are invested in the site. The occasional little touches of German influence in the English simply add to the pleasure.
I am sure I am not alone in believing this is one of the
best language sites. I rank it alongside the Easy German videos as a rich and rewarding resource for students.

Mohd Shaeq
Mohd Shaeq
1 year ago
Reply to  Roger

It is indeed one of the best German language resources on the internet, I think. Mr. Emanuel Schuchart’s highly engaging and light way of explaining such complicated concepts as ‘doch’, ‘noch’ and ‘schon’ among others, is a paradigm of language pedagogy and is an evidence of his excellent grammatical command over both the English as well as German languages. Moreover, Mr. Schuchart’s kind-heartedness and lack of avarice can be evidenced through this link.

Mohd Shaeq
Mohd Shaeq
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Mr. Emanuel Schuchart’s highly engaging and light way of explaining such complicated concepts as ‘doch’, ‘noch’ and ‘schon’ among others, is a paradigm of language pedagogy and is an evidence of his excellent grammatical command over both the English as well as German languages. Moreover, Mr. Schuchart’s kind-heartedness and lack of avarice can be evidenced through this link.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

so i saw this video from easygerman ,where they were explaining meanings of doch ,and gave this example :
 
”Belib sitzen” , then said that you can actually put an accent on it as in make it stronger this by adding doch ,as in ”bleib doch sitzen” . This was all fine and dandy until i remembered your example here and how it made for softening the statement .
In this case does it have both functions and it depends on the intonation or do i have it wrong ?

lokiuucx
lokiuucx
1 year ago

Hi,
 
I read you doch-article several times but still I am a bit confused:
 
About the positive-negative sentences, can we use doch to describe a new state to you in a positive/negative sentence, for example:

  • Thomas kommt doch nicht zum Meeting. (I say this to other meeting participants, everyone (including myself) was excepting him to come but he cant come unexpectedly – a new recent fact).
  • Thomas kommt doch gleich zum Meeting. (same situation but this time he was excepted not to come, but he can come after all)

 
Are both this phrases usable with doch (so a new positive and negative state)?
 
Also for me it is unclear the difference between mal and doch in a command?

  • Komm mal mit/komm doch mit/komm doch mal mit!

 
Is there a difference vibe for doch and mal here (do they have different meanings in commands)?
 
Also in this example (from you article absehen) was is the purpose of doch?

  • Ach, passen Sie doch auf. Sie sind nicht alleine in der Bahn.
  • Entschuldigung, das war keine Absicht.

 
Sorry if the questions may seem basic/dumm, but I cant really figure them out by myself,