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"Auch diese beiden kommen ab und zu mal vorbei."

February 17, 2013



I have hard time understanding (and there for learning) why does "ab und zu mal" translates to "now and then"


"Ab und zu" is a fixed expression. You can't translate it literally. It means "now and then", "off and on", "from time to time". For a Spanish translation, see: http://goo.gl/tjJRv

For a fun way to remember the expression "ab und zu", I recommend a song from the German version of Sesame Street :) : "Kekse isst man nur ab und zu" (You eat cookies only now and then). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPwbfolmNMM

"Mal" literally means "once". However, in this sentence it is used as a so-called modal particle. It doesn't have a "real" meaning here, it's just used to make the sentence sound more casual. You could also omit it without changing the basic meaning of the sentence. Modal particles are complicated phenomena and it's not always possible or even necessary to translate them. Duolingo's English translation just omitted the word "mal". For more information on modal particles, see: http://coerll.utexas.edu/gg/gr/mis_04.html

Edit: Too late :)


Thanks for the explanation :) And I really enjoyed the sesame street video !


Thank you! Now I will remember "ab und zu" forever and ever. ;-)


Thanks for the Sesame Street clip! :)


'ab und zu' (expandable with 'mal') is an idiom in German which equates the english 'now and then'. They're not the same word by word, but by meaning.

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