"Gar" : distinguishing between negative and positive usage
Interestingly different languages put emphasis on the different meanings - Czech ones upon "complete" , so does the German site Duden whereas English ones more "not at all". Of course sometimes one can tell from context, but not always eg "to describe something as gar prächtig" could mean either. So is there some way to tell; is there a rule of thumb that usually it's reserved for the negative/posirive meaning? Thank you in advance.
Expressions like "gar prächtig" are obsolete; I would expect them in texts of the 19th century. (They may still be used in some regions, though, I think in Bavarian this usage might be possible).
As far as I can tell spontaneously, "gar" is used only in the negative in modern language.
Ich habe gar kein Geld.
Das ist gar nicht schwierig.
Southerner here :)
I don't think anyone still uses "gar" as in "Es ist ein gar prächtiges Haus" ("It's a very magnificent house").
"gar +negative" is also used like this: "Ich denke nicht (!), dass das gar so schwierig ist / dass das gar so ein prächtiges Haus ist / dass das Haus gar so prächtig ist." "I don't think that's all that difficult/hard / I don't think that house is all that magnificent (as you claim / as others have claimed)."
...but from that, you can derive this: "Ist es denn gar so ein prächtiges Haus?" "Is the house really as magnificent as that / as you make it out to be? (I doubt that it is, but what you say seems to imply it)"; "Ist es denn gar so schwierig?" "(Come on, like you can't do that!) Is it really as hard as that (to do that bit of math / to climb that wall)?"
Another outdated usage, but not as outdated as "ein gar prächtiges Haus": "Denkst du gar, ich sei ein König?" "(Do you take me for rich, or noble?) Do you even (also: actually) think I was a king?"
And there's "ganz und gar", which means something like "totally": "Der Wolf verschlang Rotkäppchen ganz und gar" ("The wolf devoured all of Little Red Riding Hood", old-fashioned and rare), "Das ist ganz und gar inakzeptabel!" ("That is totally unacceptable!"), "Das ist ganz und gar nicht dumm/unpraktisch!" (("I think that method is d-u-m-b/impractical.") "That is not d-u-m-b/impractical at all!")
Thank you so much for all these very helpful examples Heike333145, stepintime and tiramisues, really appreciate it!
And haha about the 19th century Heike333145 the poet whom I read the phrase "gar prächtig" is a contemporary Easterner, but he does consider himself "ein archaischer Typ" so I guess that fits :D