How many generations of particles are there

Didactics of the particles

This page is part of the particle lexicon and an example of the use of wikis in the 2007 summer semester.


The didactics of the particles is a difficult and important as well as insufficiently processed topic in general linguistics and language didactics. Suggestions for individual categories in textbooks or lesson plans are rare. Contrasting elements would be useful to integrate, but are mostly missing in existing approaches. Many aspects cause the problem of particle didactics. As an example, some problem areas are shown here, mainly with reference to the functionally most complex category, i.e. to the tinting particles:

  • Compared to other languages, the German language has a high particle volume, is particularly rich in particles → problems with translation (s)
  • The language nuances caused by the use of particles are not easy to recognize, understand and implement or produce independently
  • Without the use of particles, the language / the use of language appears "unfinished", "atypical", "wooden"
  • the entries in dictionaries are mostly unsatisfactory (semantic and thus also functional), so there is often no linguistic basis for teaching
  • It is precisely the shading particles that function in linguistic action processes in great variety and are particularly problematic due to their specificity as "illocutive indicators" (Weydt, 1969) and their semantic diversity (homonymy) (risk of confusion; also due to unconscious use, intercultural conflicts)
  • Differences in accentuation are difficult to see / produce

Particles in textbooks and learning grammars

The following is based on two more recent textbooks ("em-neu" and "Auf neue Wegen") or an associated exercise grammar ("em exercise grammar") as well as two so-called "learner grammars" (Dreyer / Schmitt 2001 and Helbig / Buscha 2001) the didactics of the particles are exemplified in more detail. The category of tinting particles (also modal particles) is in the closer focus of consideration due to the problematic factors described (see above).

em exercise grammar. German as a foreign language

2002. Max Hueber Verlag. Ismaning.

The exercise grammar is initially structured according to parts of speech (nouns, article words, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions, particles, verbs). This is followed by a chapter on syntax, in which certain syntactic aspects are described in more detail from a semantic-functional point of view - e.g. different sentence types such as relative or modal clauses - in connection with the types of speech. Finally, there is an appendix that contains 10 sub-chapters with helpful information on certain grammatical areas (list of irregular verbs, conjugation of modal verbs, etc.) as well as the solutions to the exercises.

Already in the table of contents it is noticeable that a separate chapter is dedicated to the adverbs, prepositions and particles (see chapter 5). This includes the following further subdivision:

  • Local adverbs
  • Temporal adverbs and adjectives
  • Local prepositions and alternating prepositions
  • Temporal prepositions: duration and point in time
  • prepositions
  • Modal particles.

The structure of the respective chapters for the grammatical categories is always divided into two parts, which follow one another directly before moving on to the next. The first area always deals with the presentation of the content, which is represented by text parts and supplementary tabular arrangements, followed by specific exercises. In the case of the adverbs, the functions and forms are described and explained. Prepositions are represented in combination with dative and accusative (so-called alternating prepositions) and are sometimes divided into different preposition types (causal, modal, concessional, final, ...). A table with all prepositions and connectors and their meanings or functional aspects - i.e. subdivided according to semantic aspects - can also be found in the appendix (see p. 212 f.). The shading particles - called modal particles there - are differentiated in terms of their occurrence in statements, requests, questions and exclamations. This is clearly presented in table form, which is enriched with examples and explanations of the functions. In a second step, as mentioned, various exercises are offered. These usually consist of supplementary and insertion requests, but also the formulation of sentences or the selection of the appropriate solutions. Regarding the particles (in the broader sense) the appendix offers two interesting and helpful "lists" for learners with special uses of prepositions (verbs with prepositions or adjectives with prepositions) as well as the mentioned table (connectors and prepositions). A register concludes the exercise grammar.

As an example, we will now look more closely at the Modal Particle Subcategory are included in the textbook:

The unit on the modal particles comprises two sides. It begins with the sentence: "That is but expensive! "as well as the reference to frequent occurrences in the spoken language. This is followed by a short definition of what modal particles are used for in German (declaration of intent or emotional coloring of the utterance; cf. for the following p. 74 f.). The short definition also includes Aspects such as combination or idiolect as well as polyfunctionality mentioned, but not explained in more detail. Then four tables are listed, which are sorted according to functional or subject areas ("Statements, prompts, questions and exclamations") ) and function (illocutions such as assertion, request or question, which are known to partially, but not always coincide with the sentence modes) are not differentiated, but mixed up. Furthermore, functional-pragmatic other illocutions such as advice, request, warning or encouragement are shown , which is to be welcomed in principle, but should be clearly explained in connection with the form divided into three columns and contain specific particles with corresponding example sentences (little to no context) and a brief explanation of the various functions of the respective particles in communicative use (naming the respective illocation).

Example statement sentence: Particle: actually → Example sentence: Actually he wanted to come today. → Illocution: (expression of) astonishment, criticism

Example question: Particle: actually → Were you actually ever in the new disco? → Illocution: (expression of) interest

In addition, for the particles Yes the subdivision into unstressed vs. emphasized is given. The inclusion of intonation is generally to be welcomed, but the resulting differing functionality would also have to be explained in more detail or also attached to other examples and thus intensified. Also exist in terms of expression Yes numerous studies (cf. e.g. Rinas 2006 or Hoffmann 2007) that describe its specific functionality in a differentiated manner. The existing knowledge could or should be implemented in didactics.

There are a total of four different exercises for the area of ​​modal particles. In the first task, with given particles (but, times and actually) small dialogues can be formulated independently. For this purpose, an example processing is also given as an illustration. The second, third and fourth task includes the completion of one or more modal particles in given sentences (fill in the blank with different topics).

Example of task 2: Go to the theater - complete but, because, Yes, calm, maybe. Sometimes there are multiple possibilities.

Before: What, there are still tickets for the "Magic Flute"? That's a) Yes Excellent! What should the cards (b) ....................... cost? Only 10 euros? That is (c) ....................... really inexpensive. We can (d) ....................... afford that, I think.

After: The piece was (e) .................. lengthy. I could have imagined that (f) ............ Who (g) ................. still watches operas today? And also: The Queen of the Night (h) ................ sang softly.

Thus, in the context of this textbook or in this exercise grammar, in comparison to other textbooks / learning grammars, quite acceptable information and exercise units can be recorded. The confusing fact that there are multiple options is not explained in detail. Only the correct particle (s) are given in the solutions. But when and why do you use it becausewhen actually? These and other exciting questions, which in my opinion can only be explained by the connection to the core semantics of the respective expressions, are not answered in the grammar.

Textbook: On New Paths. German as a foreign language

2003. Max Hueber Verlag. Ismaning.

The individual lessons are divided into:

  • A view from the outside
  • B life forms
  • C generations
  • Deepening part
  • Grammar part.

These include areas of reading comprehension, listening comprehension, speaking, writing, vocabulary / communication tools, grammar, project and play. Most of the grammar parts include one or more aspects from the field of particles, such as connectors, degree particles, conversation particles, modal particles, etc. In the actual grammar part there are mostly exercises, but there are always references to other pages in the book where specific phenomena are explained and be defined. The exercises are complex and varied. They are integrated into the relevant topics of the lessons; therefore particles are not separated as a topic or only practiced in one place, but appear again and again as required. As soon as a paragraph appears, there is also a precise definition (not just a reference) with a description of the function and position of the respective grammatical phenomenon or aspect.

For comparison, we also go to the here Tinting particles - called 'modal particles' in the textbook - a.

They are combined with the 'sentence adverbs' (which are also called modal words / modal particles elsewhere; cf. next to the chapters on the two different parts of speech here in the wiki also chapter: particle combinations) in a grammar part. In a first step, their functions are presented (expression of different attitudes, expectations and opinions). The syntactic position is further described and statements about the intonation are made (only in the middle field [after the finite verb], cannot be emphasized [with exceptions]). This part is followed by the exercises. Eight exercises are provided in which the particles must be used in independent dialogues. The question of the effect of the modal particles and the resulting meaning should be clarified and filtered out. The reinforcing and weakening effects of modal particles in prompts should be defined and later on, suitable particles must be added to a table and compared. This form of communication has so far been recorded rather seldom, but it certainly tends to be welcomed, as it illuminates the communicative functionality from different points of view and does not neglect formal aspects.

Example task 5: What do the modal particles do in questions? Compare the particles because, actually, about and by the way in the following contexts. Use the examples to try to understand the meaning of the particles in the questions.

__________: subsequent question __________: reproach __________: new question on the subject __________: change of subject Are you a nice boy. What's your name? Unfortunately, I didn't hear your name earlier. What's your name actually? Oh before I forget What's your name by the way? etc.

The note that the particles should be assigned to the respective illocations is missing. Otherwise, the didactics of this part of speech tended to be good.


On the basis of our closer examination of the textbook "On New Paths" and the "em exercise grammar", it can be said that "On New Paths" seems richer to us. The grammar worked on is more memorable, as the material is divided into several parts and is thus worked out gradually in each lesson. Furthermore, this textbook has a more varied and interesting design, as individual subject areas are addressed and concluded there one after the other and, above all, combined with many other communication options. The em exercise grammar is particularly useful if you want to investigate or treat a special aspect, because here all associated sub-points are available and processed in a coherent manner. In addition, the grammar of this textbook offers a clear structure.

Author: Carolin Frenzel, Stephanie Roth

Editing and completion: Jochen Schulz

Particle Games - Suggestions

Action cards

material: Paper cards on which actions / facts are depicted

Social form: All together or individually

Age range: Primary level

learning goals: Getting to know prepositions, practicing their correct application

Didactic advice: The game also offers learners who are not yet familiar with prepositions the possibility of describing the pictures through the simple action illustrations or factual representations.

Course of the game: For example, the children sit in a circle and the teacher shows them an action map. The pupils now have to describe what exactly they see on the card and assign the correct preposition to each picture / card. If you have a good command of prepositions, you can write down sentences containing prepositions yourself or draw action cards yourself and present them to your classmates.

Examples of action cards: Cat jumps from the chair onto the table. The dog is sitting in his dog house. The mouse sits under the table. The woman stands in front of the man.

version 1: Cards are made with the prepositions that appear in the game on them. The children can then assign a preposition card to each action card and hold it up.

version 1: The independent painting of the cards offers a bit of variety, is a little time-consuming, but still fulfills its purpose. For example, the children draw different things on the cards. For example: a cat sitting under a table. A child sitting on a chair, etc. They should describe (on request) what they want to represent in order to encourage orality.

The cube

material: a homemade or bought cube

Social form: all together

Age range: Primary level or secondary level 1

learning goals: Children learn to form sentences or to combine sentence contents with conjunctions that are placed on the faces of the cube. You can also write prepositions or adverbs on the faces of the cube in order to practice the meaning and purpose of these types of words and their specific functionality.

Didactic advice: The prerequisite is that the students know conjunctions, adverbs and prepositions in order to be able to form sentences / facts.

Course of the game: On the respective surfaces of the cube you write or stick pieces of paper with prepositions, adverbs or conjunctions. The pupils now have to form a sentence for each term they roll and name it aloud.

version 1: If the students do not know adverbs, conjunctions or prepositions well enough, you can also write several words on each face of the cube, so the students have the option of choosing which one they can use to form a sentence more easily. In addition, the part of speech and several example expressions could be indicated on the faces of the cube.

Variant 2: If students are also familiar with intensity particles, these can also be written on the individual surfaces and the students have to form a sentence with the term chosen. The functionality of the part of speech must be explained - in all variants of the game - during the game (at a suitable point / situation) or after the game or playfully connected (i.e. as an integral part of the course of the game - e.g. after each "round" by adding a short Reflection phase or the like).

The game of hide-and-seek

material: Cuddly toy, many objects in one room

Social form: all together

Age range: Primary level

Learning objective: The pupils learn to give answers in a playful way and to use prepositions (or intensity or degree particles) correctly.

Didactic advice: To make the game even more fun for the children, they can choose a cuddly toy for this game themselves.

Course of the game: The cuddly toy is placed or hidden in different places in the room - for example: on the table, under the table, on the chair, next to the case, etc. The pupils describe where the cuddly toy is and are later allowed to do it themselves Place the cuddly toy in different places. The others have to say where it is. It is important to ensure that the prepositions are used correctly; specific explanations or comparisons must be given if necessary.

version 1: The pupils can then decide for themselves where they would hide their favorite cuddly toy so that nobody can find it and write down these sentences, for example.

Variant 2: The children describe their cuddly toy using different intensity particles or degree particles that are on the board (and were briefly discussed beforehand) for the description.

Example sentences for intensity particles: It is very nice and very fluffy / cuddly. I think my cuddly toy is really great. I love to play with my cuddly toy so much

Example sentences for degree particles: I only play with my favorite cuddly toy. It's quite big but not too big. My cuddly toy is a little dirty. Even grandpa thinks my cuddly toy is good.

Movement game

material: no material necessary

Social form: all together

Age range: Primary level

learning goals: The study group does not have to sit still, but the people can move around during this game, which loosens up the lessons a little.

Didactic advice: You should choose objects that the pupils cannot injure themselves with during the actions to be carried out, and one has to know the group of pupils well in order to be able to carry out such game concepts (similar to simulation / role-playing games).

Course of the game: The teacher gives instructions on what the students should do using prepositions. Examples: Get on the chair. Hide under the table. Sit down next to the desk.

variant: The teacher can also tell the students a story in which one should do or replay what is / is in it. However, care must be taken to ensure that there are enough prepositions. A more in-depth learning effect is usually achieved through physical exercise.

Tinting particle guessing game

material: different sentences or rather authentic examples in which tinting particles occur

Social form: 2 groups of students

Age range: Secondary 1

learning goals: Listening comprehension and attention training / conveying the functionality of the tinting particles.

Didactic advice: The students need to know roughly what tinting particles are. The sentences / examples must therefore not be too difficult or should be comprehensible so that the students can recognize the particles of shading and their effect / purpose in the communication. The class must also be told that the aim is to win the game with the group. The following example sentences (see below) could be used to introduce the complex topic. In addition, one should use authentic language material with regard to relevant passages in the teaching concept (as it is already dealt with in the more recent textbooks such as "Auf neue Wegen" or "em-neu"), and always treat the shading particles in the context of their use and according to their use Explain functionality - the (specific) embedding of the utterance in the linguistic context of action (cf. GDS 1997: 59) - explicitly and with the inclusion of pragmatic factors such as illocution or intonation.

Course of the game: At the beginning, the various examples / sentences are presented / appropriately presented in which tinting particles occur. Since in this game - depending on the number of students in a class - any number of groups can / should be formed, this is a competition. The pupils should try to find out the respective tinting particle (s) in each sentence / dialogue example. Depending on the sentence / example, there can be a different number of particles. Each correctly recognized tinting particle earns one point. Whoever is correct first, gets the point. The group with the most points wins. It would be difficult but useful if there are additional points if you a) can also recognize / name other particles in dialogue examples or b) can describe the respective function of the (tinting) particles in rudiments. What do you want to say by using the particles, could be a question that could always be answered with (for each example sentence or with regard to the units of the dialogue example or the authentic example from oral communication) or that must be discussed beforehand (this precisely with regard to the illocution or more precise definition of the illocution or the accentuation). If someone answers this question, there are additional points provided that the description / reasoning is correct or roughly correct, comprehensible / plausible.

Example sentences:

Are you but grown up! (Function: expression of astonishment)

Do you have also do not forget? (Function: shading the question (politely))

Where have i just my glasses? (Function: rather "monological-toning")

What's your name because? (Polite, inviting question vs. gruff: what's your name?)

You have to but admit! (Contrast / affirmation)

This works out just no different. (affirmation)

What's your name actually? (similar to because; polite-nice question, context-sensitive or context-dependent)

I had easy no more desire. (more detailed, emotionally colored determination of the proposition / illocution; here the reason)

You have butNotabout given the game away? (specific combination - function difficult to explain: affirmation of the demand or of one's own attitude to the matter mentioned)

My brother is strong. - And mine first! (Intensification)

Shopping costs stop much time. (Affirmation / confirmation / underlining)

Huh Yes from! (Affirmation here too; Yes stressed)

come over times here! (polite request)

What should I just to do? (monological question, cf. just in the example above)

come over calm over. (Toning down the imperative request - courtesy)

You will beautiful see where this is going. (Affirmation / implicit attitude)

That was maybe beautiful. (Affirmation of the facts)

Who has that well written? (Conjecture expression)

A: You have but not seen at all - B: I did well seen! (stressed, contrasting well; Expression of the contrast (in relation to the previous statement) and the affirmation of one's own point of view / knowledge)

Example sentences partly from:

Author: Isabella Noga, Ralf Siepmann

Editing and completion: Jochen Schulz


Dreyer, Hilke / Schmitt, Richard (2001): Textbook and exercise book for German grammar. Revision. A Practice Grammar of German. New Edition. 1st edition. Ismaning: Max Hueber Verlag (English edition; translated and adapted by Liz Nicholson-Goldmann and John Stevens; printed 2006)

Helbig, Gerhard / Buscha, Joachim (2000): Exercise grammar German. Berlin, Munich: Langenscheidt

Hering, Axel / Matusek, Magdalena / Perlmann-Balme, Michaela (2002): em exercise grammar. German as a foreign language. 1st edition. Ismaning: Max Hueber Verlag (exercise grammar for the textbooks em and em-neu for the intermediate level)

Hoffmann, Ludger (2007): About Yes. (in print)

Rinas, Karsten (2006): The tinting particles but and Yes. Semantics, idiomatization, combinations, Czech equivalents. Frankfurt am Main: Lang (Series XXI Linguistics, Volume 302) (also: Würzburg, Univ., Diss., 2005).

Schulz, Jochen (2008): Tinting particles - illustrated using the example of the expression well (Dortmund, Univ., Diss., 2008) (in press)

Willkopp, Eva-Maria / Wiemer, Claudia / Müller-Küppers, Evelyn / Eggers, Dietrich / Zöllner, Inge (2003): On New Paths. German as a foreign language for intermediate and advanced levels. Ismaning: Max Hueber Verlag

Zifonun, Gisela / Hoffmann, Ludger / Strecker, Bruno (1997): Grammar of the German language. Berlin, New York: de Gruyter (Volume 1-3) (IDS-Grammar, abbreviated also GDS) (Writings of the Institute for the German Language; Volume 7.1)