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I took a German course a few years ago, and the instructor said to be careful about using "wieder" to mean "again" in all contexts that you would in English. If I remember correctly, "wieder" insinuates some kind of continuing action that happens repeatedly or habitually, not necessarily something repeating just one more time.

Is this correct? What connotations does "wieder" have, if any? What alternatives are there to use in other situations if "wieder" isn't always appropriate to mean "again"?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Looking at the definitions of again and wieder we're able to figure out which meanings are identical and which are different.

1 one more time; on another occasion

1 drückt eine Wiederholung aus; ein weiteres Mal, wie früher schon einmal; erneut

 

2 showing that somebody/something is in the same place or state that they were in originally

2 drückt eine Rückkehr in einen früheren Zustand aus; drückt aus, dass etwas rückgängig gemacht wird

 

3 added to an amount that is already there

--

 

4 used to show that a comment or fact is connected with what you have just said

--

 

5 (then/there again) used to introduce a fact or an opinion that contrasts with what you have just said

3 gleichzeitig, andererseits [aber auch]

 

6 used when you ask somebody to tell you something or repeat something that you think they have told you already

6 (noch, doch) drückt in Fragesätzen aus, dass der Sprecher nach etwas Bekanntem fragt, was ihm im Moment nicht einfällt

As you can see there are two meanings of again that aren't represented by wieder. In the following sentence you can't use wieder in German.

The cost is about half as much again as it was two years ago.

And again, we must think of the cost.

Side note: There are also definitions of wieder that aren't covered by again; hence, you can't translate wieder to again in every case.

Last but not least: in some sentences German natives would tend to use a synonym like nochmals where again is used in English.

Could you say it again, please? - Kannst du das bitte nochmals sagen.


The last definition is taken from the entry of doch.

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2  
I think people would just say nochmal instead of nochmals... at least in the Berlin area –  Emanuel Dec 13 '12 at 10:02
    
@Emanuel I think both is equally fine. I was thinking of writing nochmal. Not sure but I guess in colloquial we indeed prefer nochmal to nochmals. –  Em1 Dec 13 '12 at 10:14

wieder can always be used as an appropriate translation for again.

Some synonyms for wieder are:

  • abermals (more exact if you repeat an action after some time, not directly after your first try)
  • nochmals (more exact if you do something the second time)
  • erneut (like nochmals, normally used if you fail your first try)

Caution: there is the word wider that has a totally other meaning (it's like against, do not agree etc.)

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I can think of one case where again could be translated as noch einmal. That is, using again to repeat (and emphasize) something, as in:

Again, I'm not saying this to ...

This could be translated as:

Noch einmal, ich sage dies nicht, um ...

You definitely couldn't use wieder in that context.

But the definition of wieder you remember isn't completely correct:

Es fängt an zu regnen, lass uns wieder rein gehen. (It's starting to rain, let's go back inside again.)

In this case it just means that you restore a prior state, which works in both languages.

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