Explain to me what "naja" means please?

See title ^

August 5, 2016



  • It might be used as a kind of "well", often in the beginning of a sentence: "Naja, weißt du, es ist ja so..." (Well, you know, it is kind of...)
  • It might also express uncertainty or doubt: "Naja, da bin ich nicht so sicher..." (?, I am not so sure about...)

But it is just as difficult to define as "well". :o)

August 5, 2016

I'd say, just gain exposure to colloquial German (through movies, etc.) and infer the "meaning" that way; naja can't really be explained. Imagine an American explaining y'know:

  • The phrasing y'know is sort of like, y'know, just thrown in randomly, y'know?
August 5, 2016

The last "y'know" does not match with the meaning of "naja", even if your theory quite often works out.

August 5, 2016

Oh no, I wasn't asserting that naja can be used wherever y'know can - I know that naja can't really be followed by a question mark anyway. That sentence was just to ironically demonstrate the difficulty in explaining fillers.

August 5, 2016

Ah, ok :)

Your post is quite clear. Seems like I was reading to fast. :/

August 5, 2016

I think it should be written: "Na ja". Consisting of the answer word: "ja" = "yes" and the exclamation "na". In this context the "na" expresses uncertainty. So you use this if you want to express that you would like to say "yes" but there is a reason you can't. For example: "Es ist doch alles in Ordnung?" - "Na ja..." = "But everything is okay, isn't it?" - "Well..."

But this is only the first interpretation of this phrase and it depends strongly on the tone. If you speak it more sharply for example it can express disappointment: "Ich habe nur eine 3 in Geschichte bekommen. Ist das schlimm?" - "Na ja!" = "I got only a C in history class. Is that bad?" - "[deep sigh and frowning]"

So overall you use it if you want to create a pause before answering a question. And express hereby that the answer is not that simple. It is a bit difficult to use inside of a sentence as you have a "ja" = "yes" which normally only comes in the beginning of a sentence. Yet you don't exactly need a question asked before the phrase. It is sometimes like a shrug: "Sie hat immer davon gesprochen, dass das Rauchen einmal ihr Tod sein würde, und, na ja, sie hat recht behalten." = "She has always talked about smoking being her demise, and, [shrug], she proved to be correct." Here you express that you are not sure how to express it best but the "ja" part of the phrase already hints that there is no surprise waiting ahead.

I hope I could be of help.

August 6, 2016

Good explanation. I'd like to add that though it contains "ja" = "yes", ist usually is more ambigious. It is not only used when you'd like to say yes but you can't right away, but also in cases when you'd like to say "kind of yes, but ..." or "nicht wirklich" ="not really".

The kind of usages can be distinguished by the melody of the sentence. If "na" is lower than "ja" and the "a" at the end is longer "na jaaa", the meaning is more like "well, ..." or "yes, but ..." and usually is followed by some elaboration or that the speaker expects to be asked for some elaboration.

If the "na" is higher than "ja" and the "a" at the end is very short, it is an exclamation in the sense of "not really" or to express dissapointment: "Ich dachte, es würde toll, aber na ja" "I'd thoght it would be great, but now I am dissapointed." In this case, it indicates that the speaker does not want to elaborate an to end or change the topic.

Pretty confusing. In most cases, "Well, ..." works pretty good as an translation.

August 6, 2016

I'd say it's pretty much like "well".

"He is very tall" - "Well, he is at least bigger than you"

"Er sehr groß" - "Naja, er ist zumindest größer als du."

It's usually used in the beginning of a sentence.

August 5, 2016

I believe it would be"... als dich", as the "you" would be in the akk case. Correct me if I'm wrong

April 12, 2018

You are wrong.

The thing after als is in the same case as the thing you are comparing it with.

Here, the thing you are comparing with is er (ist) -- nominative case since it's the subject. Therefore, als du with nominative case.

April 13, 2018 I think Katja does a great job explaining it in this video.

August 6, 2016

Thanks for the vid ! :)

Everyone should see this video to understand 'na ja'. It's fully explained !

August 8, 2016

[deactivated user]

    In most situations it could be translated as "oh well". But I agree with TrioLinguist that it's best to infer the meaning through exposure, as it's a colloquial expression.

    August 5, 2016

    I would say it is like the english "well' as an introductory small word on the beginning of a sentence, in most cases pejorative ....How are you....well, it could be better or did you like the movie?....well, it was ok

    That new restaurant was really great..... Well (,if you think so)

    August 5, 2016

    This "Deutsch für euch" video explains it very well:

    Edit: oh sorry, I didn't notice this had already been suggested...

    August 6, 2016

    How would this be different from 'Nun' that means 'well'?

    August 6, 2016

    "nun" is really just a placeholder in this sense. "Nun, ..." is like taking breath before elaborating on something. You could replace it by: "It is/was as follows: ..." It is a sharper "well" than "na ja" if you want to compare them.

    Also "nun" has other jobs to do as well. It can mean "now", it can be a particle that I don't know how to describe: "Das ist nun nicht so schlimm." = "This is not that bad."; "Das ist nun mal so." = "That is how it is." And it can be the expression for tiredness of waiting: "Nun?" = "I am waiting!".

    I hope I could be of help.

    August 6, 2016

    True, and to make it even more confusing, there is also "Nun ja", wich could be translated as "Well now, ..."

    August 6, 2016

    Nun sounds a bit "higher" or more formal to me than naja. A bit more "bookish", perhaps.

    August 6, 2016

    If you're familiar with NZ English, it seems to be used in a pretty similar way to "yeah, nah..."

    August 6, 2016

    I'm not so sure about that. "Yeah, no" is a pretty prevalent part of American English as well (so is "No, yeah" where I live), but it doesn't seem to mean the same as Naja in enough cases for it to be a reliable way of thinking about it.

    I use "yeah, no" to answer a negative question in an affirmative way. For example, some asks "Is he not going?" and I reply "Yeah, no" as if to say "You are correct; he is not going." From the other comments here, this doesn't appear to be a use of naja at all.

    Perhaps the use of "yeah, nah" in NZ English is different from this? If so, could please explain its use to me?

    August 6, 2016

    Yeah, nah, "yeah, nah" is very different to that (but I guess you could use it that way too, it's pretty versatile). It can mean yes or no (usually followed by further clarification: "yeah, nah, it was good eh.").

    Or it could be used in a context like "today would be a great day for a barbecue eh?" "Yeah, nah, I promised my girlfriend we'd have tea with her parents/yeah, nah, I'd be keen for fish 'nd chips on the beach eh" - "I agree, but I can't/I have to do this other thing/this other thing is great too."

    Or if you're non-committed, or unsure - "did you like Midnight Special?" "Yeah, nah, bits of it were cool but the last part just kinda deflated." (This isn't exhaustive.)

    I wouldn't use it in every situation where I'd use naja, but they seem kinda similar in principle.

    August 6, 2016

    Ah, I see. That's quite different from what I imagined and definitely falls more in line with naja. Thanks for the explanation!

    August 7, 2016

    "Naja" kind of takes the steam out of a statement (not sure if this makes any sense!) It could be your own or someone else's. I think well comes very close to it in many instances. It often expresses a bit of uncertainty in (or even disagreement with) the statement being made (or the one having been made by someone else.)

    A child that fell and got hurt may hear "Naja, das ist schon nicht so schlimm!" (Well, it's not really that bad!)
    Your friend tells you he won't be on time to leave for the movies "Naja, dann gehen wir eben später." (Well, then we'll just go later.)
    Someone tells you to look at that beauty walking by and you respond "Naja..." (Well...) you don't necessarily agree.

    August 7, 2016
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