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»Seid ihr am Wochenende zu Hause?« – »Ja, meistens.«

Does the above mean that they are at home most weekends, or that they are at home most of the time during the weekend?

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2 Answers 2

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There is room for interpretation, depending on the context:

A)

In »correct« German the question Seid ihr am Wochenende zu Hause? is referring to the next weekend (am is a contraction of an dem). So —assuming that the answering person hasn’t misunderstood the question— the answer should also refer to the next weekend, that is, next weekend they’ll be at home most of the time.

In this case, the answer meistens is a bit colloquial (sloppy). A grammatically correct answer would be for example Ja, die meiste Zeit.. I’m saying »colloquial« because it is not uncommon at all to use meistens instead of the more accurate die meiste Zeit.

If the interrogator wanted to know if they use to be at home on weekends he would have asked Seid ihr an (den) Wochenenden zu Hause? In this case the answer would have definiteley the first meaning ›most of the weekends‹.

B)

It’s not impossible to understand it the other way round (see @Ingmar’s answer): in this case you are assuming either that the answering person has misunderstood the question or that the question has been correctly interpreted by the answering person as a sloppy way to say ›Seid ihr an Wochenenden zu Hause?‹.

Indeed it could be interpreted like this but rather within a certain context. For example: Im Juli und August, seid ihr am Wochenende zuhause? In this case it is rather probable that the question is meant (and understood) as ›Im Juli und August, seid ihr an den Wochenenden zu Hause?‹ and the answer meistens would mean ›most of the weekends‹.

However, without any further context information the most plausible interpretation for the OP’s question is A): ›most of the time‹.

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Man kann's auch kompliziert sagen... –  Robert Aug 10 at 21:12
    
@Robert: Na, ja, etwas ohne Kontext zu lesen, ist halt nicht einfach. Und hier kommt noch dazu, dass die Antwort nicht ganz zur Frage passt (oder die Frage nicht zum Gemeinten). Die Antwort wird in einem realen Sprech- oder Handlungskontext höchstwahrscheinlich eindeutig interpretierbar sein. Aber die Bedeutung der Antwort »meistens« hängt hier eben nicht mehr an der fixen Bedeutung des Wortes (sofern es so etwas gibt) sondern an der Interpretation im Rahmen des Sprechakts. Das habe ich versucht, aufzuzeigen, und welche Interpretation mir plausibler erscheint, und warum. –  tflo Aug 11 at 1:45

The former. Meistens means that they are usually (lit. most of the weekends) at home. Note that in this particular case the question usually refers to the next (coming) weekend: you wouldn't answer meistens then, which is a general reply. To indicate that you will be home most of the next weekend, use something like

Großteils. Den größten Teil.

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Is großteils Austrian German and/or Bavarian? Duden doesn't have a note on this, by I'm sure I've never heard it before. –  Em1 Aug 11 at 7:23
    
To me there's nothing paricularly "Southern" (German) about it, but I really couldn't say. –  Ingmar Aug 11 at 7:41

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